In this book, the reader will also meet Morris Frank, one of the Founders of The Seeing Eye, Inc. and the Seeing Eye trainers, all of whom demonstrate the highest professional excellence and do so with elan and good humor.
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7 Seeing Eye Miracles
By Joseph Dean Klatt
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Joseph Dean Klatt PhD.
All rights reserved.
INDEPENDENCE WITH DIGNITY
In 1929 with the founding of The Seeing Eye, Inc. the dream of independence with dignity for all blind persons with the requisite mental and physical agility and strength began. The work of the founders of The Seeing Eye is told by Peter Brock Putnam in his books, "Keep Your Head Up Mr. Putnam", "Love in the Lead", "The Triumph of The Seeing Eye", and, "The Miracle of The Seeing Eye." "Freedom Found" begins in 1967 when I was a first time student at The Seeing Eye. I lost my eyesight in a single car accident at 12:44 A.M. on Sunday, May 21, 1967. My injuries were so severe there was little hope expressed by my physicians for my survival. Recovery was an even more remote possibility. The fact that I was leaking spinal fluid through my broken nose from an inoperable spinal lesion made my prognosis a dire one. Without medical intervention the lesion sealed itself, the spinal fluid stopped leaking and I suffered no paralysis. On June 14, 1967 I was released from the Intensive Care Unit of Scripps Hospital. I was taken home where, with the help of my Mother, Naomi, my Grandmother, Neomi, my sister Katherine, my brother James and many friends, I had the best chance of as full a recovery that might be possible. I had contracted pneumonia while I was in the Intensive Care Unit and Inhalation Therapy was administered in conjunction with heavy antibiotics. I recovered from my bout with pneumonia and it was better that I not be further exposed to pneumococcal infections in hospital. Recovery of my eyesight was never in doubt. My optic globes burst on impact. I was permanently blind.
Readers of this book may wonder about the advisability of releasing me from the hospital intensive care unit to go directly home. I am sure it was the best thing for me at the time; unusual, yes. I must explain that my Grandfather, Walter Wisnicky, had been a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. My Mother, Naomi, assisted him with many surgeries during her teen years. When World War II was declared, my Mother joined the U.S. Navy and was sent directly to Hunter College in New York for nurse training. Military and medical educations for men and women in the armed services of the United States were accelerated and compressed as a result of the national need for medically trained professionals in both the European and the Pacific Theaters. Upon graduation from Hunter College my Mother was assigned to the burn hospital in Corona, California where she cared predominantly for Navy personnel burned by gasoline and other flammable substances released when Japanese pilots crashed their aircraft with fuel tanks fully loaded onto ships in the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet. The Kamikaze pilots inflicted considerable damage to U.S. Navy warships and to the crews, many of whom were killed and many others who were burned severely. The Navy air lifted its burn victims to Corona, California where specially educated and trained doctors and nurses tried to save their lives. The story of the heroism of these WAVES needs to be told, but, it will not be told here. Suffice it to say that my Mother had seen and nursed back to health men and women whose injuries were even more severe than mine. At the time of my accident my Mother was in hospital administration with what is now known as the University of California at San Diego Medical Center. It is unlikely that the fact the UCSD Medical Center had the best burn victim facilities in the County was just a coincidence. In her position with the UCSD Medical Center my Mother knew and selected the best physicians for me. In turn, these physicians knew of my Mother's medical training and were willing to release me to return home when it would otherwise seem ill advised to do so. I would return to both Sharp Hospital and Mercy Hospital for more surgeries in the months that followed.
I remember walking into my room and to my familiar bed. I climbed under the covers and went to sleep instantly. I was so relieved to be home. I spent the weeks that followed, in large part, in my own bed sleeping. Somewhere during that time frame I came to realize that I could not and would not ever see again. My body had been fighting for its very survival and nothing else. Hours before the auto accident I weighed 185 pounds. My body was well conditioned as I had been a San Diego City Lifeguard stationed at Mission Beach Tower 4 during the summer of 1966. When I was released from the Intensive Care Unit after 24 days, I weighed 117 pounds. With time, my higher thought processes began to return. The night I understood I was blind came during these weeks. I left my familiar bed and walked through the living room and into the TV room. I must have made some small noise because my Mother called my name, "Joe?" I stopped and waited the few seconds until she stood beside me. I said, "Mom, I'm blind." Putting her right arm gently around me she said, "I know." I put my left arm around her and we both cried. We stood there for a few minutes. I began to tire and said, "I think I will go back to bed now." This is the extent of my memory of this important moment in my recovery. In that brief exchange I acknowledged my blindness, the first step in dealing with my new life challenges.
The days and nights which followed were spent reviewing my options. They were few. I considered the possibility that I might allow myself to become dependent on my family. I rejected even the thought of that possibility. I thought of how I would get to the places I would need to go. I remembered seeing a blind man with a white cane. In my visualization, the blind man was tapping his white cane which he held out in front of him. He was moving slowly and his eyes were looking down. I didn't like the idea the blind man I remembered could be me. I thought again and remembered seeing a blind man walking quickly, standing tall and straight holding a harness with a German Shepherd Seeing Eye dog at his side. "Yes!" That was it! I would travel with a Seeing Eye dog! I didn't share my breakthrough thought with anyone.
After my follow up surgeries were finished, I began to lift weights again. I started to learn touch typing and Braille during this time. A teacher was provided by the State Department of Rehabilitation. Mr. Ben Johnze was assigned my case. We would discover that my fingertips lacked the necessary sensitivity to read Braille. My friends stood by me and came by the house to visit with me frequently.
One day my Mom announced that she wanted to take me to Point Loma on Sunday afternoon to meet someone. Sunday was quickly upon us and Mom drove us to Point Loma to meet a man named Sam Hecsh. He graciously invited us into his home. Sam showed us into a large room and invited me to sit on a couch. He oriented me to the couch by lightly slapping the couch seat cushion with the palm of his hand. Sam invited my Mother to sit in a chair opposite from me and Sam sat in a chair to my left. He asked me questions with a particular focus on my future. "What do you plan to do?" Sam inquired. I replied, "I want to go back and finish college." Sam asked me other questions until he had satisfied himself sufficiently to announce his conclusion. Sam declared, "You are going to get a Seeing Eye dog." Sam himself had a Seeing Eye dog named Belle. I later learned that Sam had lost his sight while working at a military aircraft assembly plant during World War II. He went on to study law and to become a well respected San Diego lawyer. Sam had given me my marching orders. I would get a Seeing Eye dog. Sam shared some very important words of wisdom with my Mom that day. Sam said, "Don't ever help Joe unless he asks for help first."
At this juncture in this narrative I must pause and clarify the previous paragraph. To say or to write the words, "I would get a Seeing Eye dog" should not mislead the reader. The process begins with a written application. My Mother wrote to the Seeing Eye at the address Sam Hecsh provided to request the application forms. Within a week my Mom's letter was received by The Seeing Eye and they responded by sending the appropriate forms. Mom read the application to me and helped me fill out the form. A physical exam was required and was to be sent in separately by the applicant's physician. I had my physical exam by my Medical Doctor, Dr. James P. Kiely, and it went well. I had gained back about 50 of the pounds I had lost and by lifting weights each day my muscle tone was returning. My family, my friends and even Dr. Kiely were excited for me and my anticipated Seeing Eye dog. I, too, was excited about the future. Graduation from The Seeing Eye was not assured. Graduation is hard earned. Not only must a handler meet the proficiency requirements and the Seeing Eye dog must meet the proficiency requirements, but, working together as a team the handler and the Seeing Eye dog must, as a unit, meet the proficiency requirements for graduation.
A week or so after The Seeing Eye had received my application and medical report a letter arrived from The Seeing Eye. My Mother read it to me. Its essence was that The Seeing Eye had received all of my required application forms, they were in order, and, I would be receiving a further written communication from them. I channeled the burst of energy the letter produced to lift heavier weights and to do more repetitions. The dream of training with a Seeing Eye dog was somehow much closer now. I would soon be free to go wherever I wanted to go whenever I wanted to do so.
The next letter from The Seeing Eye informed me that I had been accepted into the training class that would start October 28, 1967 and end on November 22, 1967. Included with the letter was a list of suggested clothing I would need for Class 11. It would be cold and snow was likely. Another list was included. It contained some suggested exercises. Seeing Eye students were expected to be in condition commensurate with the demands training with a Seeing Eye dog would place on them.
In 1967 there were no non-stop San Diego to Newark flights. The Seeing Eye arranged my American Airlines non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Newark. The Los Angeles International Airport was 140-150 miles North of where I lived in the City of San Diego. My Mother and I talked about driving to Los Angeles. I suggested we use my Pacific Southwest Airlines credit card and fly to Los Angeles instead. I made the arrangements by telephone for the flight reservations; one ticket to Los Angeles one-way and one San Diego to Los Angeles round trip ticket.
With the dawn of each new day, the time to fly East to Newark, New Jersey drew closer. The nightly television news broadcast reported civil unrest in Newark, New Jersey. Many commercial buildings had been burned to the ground during the riots. The riots began on July 12, 1967 and continued through July 17, 1967. Law and order had been restored before I flew East, but, burned out commercial and industrial buildings were still prevalent when a Seeing Eye chartered limousine drove me through the burned out areas of Newark en route to the Morristown, New Jersey Seeing Eye campus. The Newark riots called into question the ideals of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society program.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 28, 1967
After the Convair 990 airliner landed in Newark, Pam, the stewardess who had been very attentive and kind to me during the flight came to my assigned seat to ask me to remain seated while the other passengers deplaned. "I will be sure you get off the plane, don't worry." The seats all around me began to empty as passengers collected their carry-on luggage and departed. When all but a few passengers had deplaned, stewardess Pam came for me. She very kindly made sure I had all of my carry-on luggage. Satisfied I was leaving nothing behind, Pam gently took my hands in hers and, as she stepped backwards, walked me to the airliner's door. An American Airlines Red Cap was waiting outside the aircraft for me. Pam told me she was handing me off to airline personnel who would assist me to the luggage area and coordinate meeting my limousine. I thanked her and smiled. As I started to turn in the direction of the open aircraft door, Pam lightly put her hand on my shoulder to stop me. She came close and kissed me on my left cheek. "Good luck!" were her last words to me. "Thank you, Pam" I replied with a big smile. My Seeing Eye experience was starting off exceptionally well! In 1967 passengers deplaned by way of a portable stairway that ground crews would bring to each airliner after it had come to a standstill very near the terminal and the aircraft's engines had fully stopped. After Pam's sincere kiss I seemed to float down the stairway. I have never again encountered Pam. I hope she will read this book some day. Pam, thank you.
When the limousine pulled to a stop in front of The Seeing Eye I was greeted by Miss Paula Pursley, the Director of Student Services, who welcomed me to The Seeing Eye. Miss Pursley took my arm in hers and escorted me into Seeing Eye headquarters. Other Seeing Eye personnel followed quickly behind us. As we entered Seeing Eye headquarters, Miss Pursley described the interior of the building to orient me. Several steps beyond the entrance door to The Seeing Eye Miss Pursley said we were entering the main hallway. She told me that someone would show me my room. She explained that it was Seeing Eye procedure that, once inside the building, I would learn to navigate the building without the aid of a sighted person. At this juncture Mr. Gary Mattoon greeted me. He identified himself as, "Mr. Mattoon" and suggested I turn to my right, follow his voice and he would show me to my room. Mr. Mattoon addressed me as, "Mr. Klatt" for a specific reason. It was the policy of The Seeing Eye to do so as a part of the goal of inculcating independence with dignity in each student. In this small way and in many other small ways The Seeing Eye began to build personal confidence in its students. I had been blind too short a time to acquire what are termed, "blindisms" which generally may be described as a blind person's behaviors manifesting a timid approach to life's daily challenges. In his first book about The Seeing Eye, Peter Putnam was admonished to, "Keep Your Head Up, Mr. Putnam" by a Seeing Eye trainer. Those words became the title of the book. With that single admonishment Peter corrected his downward gaze and forever after kept his head up and looking forward.
I followed Mr. Mattoon up the stairs, past the telephone booth at the top of the stairs, through the map room, into the common lounge and into the hallway which had dormitory rooms on either side. Mr. Mattoon stopped outside the second door on the right and told me that this was my room. Mr. Mattoon knocked on the door. A voice from inside responded, "Come in." Mr. Mattoon greeted Mr. Mitchell, my assigned roommate. Mr. Mattoon said, "Mr. Mitchell, meet Mr. Klatt." Mr. Mitchell stood and extended his hand. As he did so he said, "My name is Henry T. Mitch Mitchell, Junior; call me Mitch." As we shook hands I said, "Call me Joe." Mr. Mattoon then went about orienting me to the room. "Mr. Klatt, here is your dresser, your bed and over here is the bathroom." As he referred to each item, Mr. Mattoon slapped the item with the palm of his hand to orient me by the sound to their locations. Mr. Mattoon explained the basic rules all Seeing Eye students were expected to follow. Mr. Mattoon asked me if I would like to have something to eat before retiring for the evening. American Airlines had served a complete dinner during the last hour of the flight to Newark. I shared this information with Mr. Mattoon and thanked him for asking. I thanked him again and he departed leaving Mitch and me to get acquainted. Mitch was at The Seeing Eye to train with his third Seeing Eye dog. Mitch was in Mr. Roger Taylor's class. Mr. Mattoon had eight students and Mr. Taylor had eight students.
Excerpted from FREEDOM FOUND by Joseph Dean Klatt. Copyright © 2013 Joseph Dean Klatt PhD.. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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Table of Contents
Training Table.................... xiii
Chapter 1: INDEPENDENCE WITH DIGNITY.................... 1
Chapter 2: RANI 1967.................... 23
Chapter 3: SNOWFLAKES.................... 41
Chapter 4: SO MANY ROADS TO CHOOSE.................... 63
Chapter 5: PEGASUS 1976.................... 119
Chapter 6: ATC AND SHE'S BEAUTIFUL.................... 161
Chapter 7: 21,600 MILES—THE TIME TO SAY GOODBYE.................... 239
Chapter 8: MARVEL 1986.................... 257
Chapter 9: THE MARVEL EXPRESS.................... 311
Chapter 10: THE JOURNEY HOME—EXPRESS MALE.................... 345
Chapter 11: CHURCHILL 1992.................... 363
Chapter 12: CHURCHILL—THE CHICK MAGNET.................... 391
Chapter 13: SEEING EYE RETIREMENT AND A NEW CAREER—MY GOLDEN BOOK.......... 429
Chapter 14: KEN 2000.................... 443
Chapter 15: THE IDITAROD ROOM.................... 463
Chapter 16: OUR LAST WALK.................... 487
Chapter 17: LAWSON 2006.................... 493
Chapter 18: RACING WITH THE WIND.................... 507
Chapter 19: RIDING HIGH IN APRIL—SHOT DOWN IN MAY.................... 529
Chapter 20: ENYA 2010.................... 547
Chapter 21: MY LITTLE ROCKET DOG.................... 565
Chapter 22: EMAILS TO ROBIN.................... 583
Chapter 23: I REMEMBER THEM ALL.................... 611
Chapter 24: THE SEEING EYE—THE MISSION CONTINUES.................... 613
Appendix: CHRONOLOGY OF IMPORTANT DATES.................... 617