S1: Episode 3 - Chad Duncan

Portrait of Chad

Episode Information

[Intro Music]

Narrator:      Welcome to My Heart is Not Blind. Narrative histories about blindness and perception. A traveling exhibition and book published by Trinity University Press, supported by Gronkowski Charitable Foundation, edited and hosted by Michael Nye. Every person. Every place is a map to somewhere else. Episode three Chad Duncan.

Chad:      People will say to me, You don’t look blind. You don’t act blind. My first reaction is, what does a blind person act like? I think they assume we will be helpless or lost or scared. My name’s Chad Duncan. I’m 42 years old. I’m a social worker. I’m happily married. I’m the luckiest guy to have a perfect partner in life. I loved Curly from The Three Stooges, and Curly would go full force into a wall and fall down. As a child, I had night blindness and that’s what I would do at night. So my parents thought I was doing Curly. So when I fell, they laughed.

I was about nine, and I went to one of the experts and I knew there was something rare about what I had. When more doctors kept coming in the room and they all said, Can I look in your eyes? And then they would whisper and come back and look again. I learned that I had chloridemia. It is an X-linked genetic distal disorder that passes from a mother to a son. The doctors didn’t have a knowledge of what chloridemia was, and they could not tell me how much vision I would have in what would happen when I lost my sight. It happened over a period of three days. I was 38. Within the first 24 hours, everything became blurry. Over the next few days, pulsating flashes and puffs of light, of brilliant colors took over everything I saw for a long time. I could not sleep because imagine trying to go to sleep in the brightest environment possible. And it doesn’t matter whether my eyes are open or closed day or night, I see bright pulses as bright as can be all the time.

I went through the grieving process, and I’m definitely at the acceptance I wouldn’t change anything about my life. And I’m not just saying that, blindness has given me that opportunity to slow down and take the time to listen to what somebody is saying. Listen to the person’s breath, their tone and their pace. That will give you infinite clues to what’s really going on. No one wants to feel helpless. Only once did I feel that people were truly there to help. It was in a blues club, but it was crowded. And a gentleman stepped forward and said, Put your hand on my shoulder. I’ll get you out. He just led me through and gave me some dignity that I hadn’t experienced before.

I had carved out a very hum drum existence when I was a sighted person. As a blind person, you have to fight and you have to be strong and confident. And I feel more alive since I’ve lost my eyesight. I don’t taste things more intensely than you do. I just appreciate what I taste now more than I did, or I hear something, the quality of someone’s voice. I hear the neighborhood when we’re walking, so it creates a visual map for me, just by the sounds or the wind. I originally thought the flashes were a curse, but when I was able to reflect, it’s actually quite beautiful. The colors I’m seeing right now are brilliant whites, electric, blues, electric, yellow, all different shades of in between. In one day it was an amazing sun kissed orange, but it’s pulsing, so, and you almost taste that sun kissed orange. But I’m seeing it and no one else has been able to describe this is what blindness is for them. So for me, I’m grateful this is what my blindness is.

[Outro Music]

Host:      This is Michael Nye, and you have been listening to a podcast of narrative histories. Chad Duncan works as a behavioral health care manager. He said, “When people say I’m blind, I think, yeah, but I may not have eyesight, but I know where I’m going. And that’s a vision that’s more powerful than sight.” Chad grew up around the world. He’s lived in Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Europe. He said, it’s given me the spirit of adventure.

Join me next week. Two new episodes will be released. Please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. You can also go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast for transcripts and other information. There are so many ways. Different ways to experience moments to their fullest. Thank you for listening.