In his 20’s, Doug was losing vision…and he didn’t know what was causing it. He wasn’t aware that he had Retinitis Pigmentosa, because no one in his family knew what it was at that time. His sister also had vision issues. Doug later learned about RP and that it was hereditary.
He needed glasses to drive, and his night vision was a problem. The disease progressed slowly, even as Doug completed college with a marketing and insurance degree. He then landed his first full-time sales job with Metropolitan Life.
Driving became more of a challenge, and Doug was forced to avoid nighttime travel. He was in a car crash when his wife was pregnant with his first child. It happened on a dark, rainy night. Doug made a left turn in front of an oncoming car that he didn’t see. He went home, broke down and cried.
A car was essential for his job. He had driven 20,000 miles each year for work. With this accident, Doug’s feeling was that his “life was done”.
He didn’t have an “official” diagnosis of RP until meeting with doctors at the Kellogg Eye Center at UofM. Doug’s diagnosis also came with the reality that he would go blind by his late 50’s-early 60’s. Nothing could be done to change it.
So here he was, married, had children and a new career just beginning to take off.
And, Doug’s hard work paid off. He was offered a minority ownership with a small, but growing commercial insurance company. His partners understood his vision challenge and accommodated his workplace needs. They supported him and nurtured his hard work. To them, Doug’s lack of sight wasn’t an issue.
His and his partners’ success paid off. One retired a few years later, then sold his share to Doug and his other partner. Those following years were tough, but the new team grew their business. Doug ascended to the presidency of the company. And it wasn’t many years until they were purchased by his most recent employer, The Campbell Group. He continued with work and commercial insurance success and just recently retired.
In his later work years, Doug became involved with other individuals challenged by vision loss. Doug joined VIPP (Visually Impaired Persons for Progress). He learned from them, and he felt respected for who he was. Doug also received mobility/ transportation, Braille and computer training from the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons. At that point, Doug was liberated. “I felt back in my game…back in my element”. “I discovered that the people I worked with—partners and customers—who respected me, helped me”.
Doug has taught his kids to “never give up”. As he says, “the rules are different (being blind) from everyone else…and they change. Just tailor the game to fit your rules”.