Cy Lugo recalls the morning after Monday Night Football, 14 years ago, when he woke up blind. Due to an autoimmune deficiency, Lugo became visually impaired but continues to push himself to become a better person, father and counselor to others.
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Cy - My name is Cy Lugo. I’ve been a consumer with the Department of Rehabilitation starting in 2004. I was watching Monday Night Football and the next morning I woke up blind - I could not see. It was due to an autoimmune deficiency – basically my white blood cells. I guess my soldiers got the wrong orders and attacked my eyes. After 28 years of 20/20 vision, that morning when I woke up, I couldn’t see a thing. I was in darkness – I was blind. So, immediately, I woke up and I was illiterate. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write, I didn’t know how to dress myself or even pick out clothing, I couldn’t clean, I didn’t know what I didn’t know about what it takes to be a person that is blind. The Department of Rehabilitation stuck by me the whole time (and) showed me that there was a way of navigating through life with no vision.
After eight days in one of our local hospitals with mega-doses of steroids and immunosuppressants, I had to come to the realization that this was going to be a long and hard road. And after about two years of sitting on a couch, listening to sports and not doing much with my life, nothing positive I would say, someone asked me, “Have you ever heard about the Department of Rehabilitation?” and I didn’t. I had no idea what the service was or what it did – who it served. I like to say that it took me to go blind to see life 20/20 for what it really is.
In my first few weeks of learning braille, it was for my children. I didn’t have an opportunity to read them bedtime stories at night and that took a lot away from me. I really take a lot of pride in being a father and teaching my children. So, not only did I have to learn how to navigate the world non-visually, I had to teach my children that just because I’m a person that happened to be blind, or with visual impairment, that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. It took a lot of time for me to understand that although we were born with two eyes to see out of, the fact that I can’t see, doesn’t make me different, it doesn’t make me weird, it just makes me, me. It makes me unique.
I think about my daughter often. She’s 13 and I’ve never seen her. I’ve never seen her face. When she used to draw her pictures for me, I used to hold it up to the light and say, “Oh how pretty,” but even as a four year old, she knew I was blind. She’s only known me as a person of visual impairment. So, when I used to hold it up to the air, she says, “No Daddy, you have to look at it,” and I says, “It looks so pretty,” and she says, “No, Daddy.” She puts the piece of paper down and puts my hand on it and says, “You need to look at it,” guiding my hands over the picture because she knows I was a tactile feeler – I was a tactile seer.
The advice that I would give somebody that was very much like the position I was in at the time is: remember who and what you are. Come to grips with who and what you are now and if you are the same person you were years ago, chances are you haven’t grown - and I’m not done growing yet.