What if one day you could see the world crisp and clear, and the next day your vision suddenly disappeared – and then twenty years later it spontaneously came back? That would be quite the story, right? Well, it is the real-life story of Kevin Coughlin, and it is chronicled in the breakout book “Unblinded: One Man’s Courageous Journey through Darkness to Sight. “
At the age of 36, he lost his sight due to Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, a rare genetic condition, one he had no idea he had. Then out of the blue 20 years later, it returned because his optic nerve spontaneously regenerated on its own without medical intervention. Kevin’s story is compelling, heart wrenching, and full of hope. Traci Medford-Rosow is the co-author of this book. Together they crafted a book, which should be at the top of your fall must-read list. Recently they were gracious enough to answer some of our questions about everything from Kevin’s story to what’s next for these amazing authors.
What was the first thing you thought of when you realized you were getting your vision back?
Now, I’m going to have to learn digital photography. From the age of 14 to age 36 when I lost my vision, I had been passionate about photography. I had always shot with a Canon AE1. I was used to dealing with aperture settings and shutter speeds, not image resolution numbers and memory capacity. I’ve not yet picked up a digital camera, but I look forward to someday soon shooting all the skyscrapers that have gone up in the last 20 years.
I know you live in NYC, which was hit by Covid-19 particularly hard. What was that like? Did you draw on any of the things you learned during your past challenges that helped you get through it all?
My experience with Covid 19 in NYC was eerily similar to my early days of dealing with the sudden blindness. Particularly, I’m speaking of the isolation. Both events were characterized by intense loneliness and long stretches of introspection. However, the greatest gift of living through the blindness is that I do not have fear. As difficult as that might be to believe, after facing the scariest experience in the world and surviving—I no longer fear anything. Not even a pandemic.
You really did experience a miracle when you got your sight back. What was that like? Also, what was it like to relive those years you were blind while writing Unblinded?
The miracle of regaining my sight was extraordinary! There are not words large enough to hold the joy I experienced at that moment. Each time that I realize that I am suddenly seeing something again, for example the Empire State Building out my window; I’m blown away by the enormity of it!
At the time of the onset of my blindness and for more than three years following, I was an active alcoholic. Due to that fact, I did not truly experience much of the pain and loss. Whenever I could sense a difficult feeling coming on, I reached for the bottle of vodka to protect myself from the pain. Consequently, when I was sharing my story with Traci, because I was now sober, I truly experienced all of the pain—all of the unfathomable loss. There were several times when we had to take a break so I could have a good cry. Frequently the tears would be sprinkled with joy, as I was for the first time acknowledging and giving myself credit for what I had overcome.
You developed a meditation practice while you were blind to deal with the anger you were having. What methods did you turn to in order to get your practice started, or did you develop one of your own?
The development of my meditation practice evolved over many years. Initially, I was inspired by my dear friend Les whose commitment to meditation/yoga was awe-inspiring. My first attempts involved merely searching for any semblance of quiet in the noise-filled world of New York City. What has morphed into my daily spiritual practice has been influenced by three powerful spiritual leaders. Wayne Dyer taught me the importance of affirming my intentions. Basically, verbally stating what I want to manifest in my life. From Deepak Chopra, I came to understand the powerful mind/body connection. In summary, a happy and healthy body equals a tranquil mind. Finally, from Jack Kornfield, I learned that judgment has no place in meditation. He has a great quote: “it is helpful to understand that the mind has a mind of its own, and it is only natural when meditating, for it to wander to random thoughts such as –what do I want to have for dinner.“ He further taught me that each meditation, regardless of duration, or level of distraction, is unique and perfect.
On a personal level Traci while working on “Unblinded” did you learn anything new about yourself that you can share with us?
While helping Kevin to write his story, the most profound thing I learned about myself was that I was happiest when I was focused on someone other than myself. This led directly to my efforts to help the homeless men and women of New York City during the pandemic which in turn led to the writing of my third book—UNSHELTERED LOVE. As Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
“Unblinded: One Man’s Courageous Journey through Darkness to Sight” is available on Amazon.