When I saw Mandy walk by I knew I had to get her into this journey. She is a massage therapist who I have known for a couple years, and she is great at what she does!
Mandy was born and raised here in Omaha. She graduated from North High School and swam for the high school team and for the USA team. She must have been pretty good at swimming, as she participated in two Olympics and two World Championships. For a time, she held a few swimming records.
After high school, Mandy wanted to go into massage therapy, but her mom told her, “You are not going to be a starving masseuse.” So, she attended Creighton University for a while, then landed at Metropolitan Community College before “seeing the light” and moving to the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), where she graduated with a degree in international studies.
Mandy then worked at Qwest for about a year before going back to her passion of massage therapy. She completed training and passed certification on the first try and now does massage therapy at UNO and at a downtown Omaha hotel.
Mandy and her husband, Marcel, have been married two years. I asked Mandy how they met. She said they were introduced by a mutual friend they knew as part of a civil war reenactment group. Mandy’s character was a prostitute (I can’t make this stuff up!).
Mandy always brings her dog with her because she is…blind. Not partially, totally. She was born with congenital glaucoma. She had over 17 cornea transplants and many, many more surgeries. She lost her sight on Christmas Eve when she was 12. Her service dog, Indy, is with her at all times.
I asked Mandy if she has any sensation of light or seeing and she said that her optic nerves still fire and what she sees all the time is a “cross between a colorful kaleidoscope and a fuzzy B&W TV screen”. She overcomes this by mentally mapping buildings and mental imagery. She visualizes things as they were from her last days with sight…her mom is still young and without gray hair, all carpet to Mandy is the same color as her 6th grade classroom, etc.
I asked Mandy what she would like to tell those with vision. “Remember that blindness is not contagious…I can hear, so no need to speak louder or address people around me on my behalf, and don’t touch or even talk to Indy”. She also encouraged all of us to be organ donors! Give the gift of life, and sight, and make the decision to be a organ donor.
Indeed, blindness is not contageous, but Mandy’s great sense of humor and spirt are. It’s great to know her!