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Inspiration in a world of darkness - Central Oregonian

June 8, 2012
Crook County High School

“If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.”

That quote, by Frank A. Clark, has special meaning to Christian “Doogie” Turner, who will graduate with the Crook County High School class of 2012 this weekend.

Like most high school graduates, Doogie will have a graduation party. He sent out invitations for the commencement exercise to be held on Friday evening, and he will walk with his class. One thing does make Doogie unique, however. He is legally blind, and has been blind since he was approximately eight years old.

This is a very small part of the story of this remarkable young man. Turner went to live with his grandparents when he was three years old. From the very beginning of his life, he seemed determined to beat the odds. He only weighed 1 pound and 10 ounces at birth, and was only given a 5 percent chance of living, and a zero percent chance of a normal life. He was born with cerebral palsy and underdeveloped lungs and eyes. His retinas detached twice when he was very young, and by the time he was eight years old, he had lost his eyesight in both eyes.

He currently faces an ominous threat from an inoperable tumor on his brain stem — which so far has not grown or become a problem.

“I’ve survived a heck of a lot. It’s hard to get me down on anything,” said Turner.

Doogie is nothing short of a miracle. The only disability that holds him back is the fact that he has absolutely no vision. Doogie uses a cane to get around, and he had a Braille instructor throughout his school years. He also uses CDs and audio tapes to supplement his Braille books. His biggest struggle has been with math, which according to Doogie, is a difficult system to navigate through for blind students.

According to his grandmother, Sandra Corona, Doogie is the first totally blind student to attend Oregon public schools from pre-school to graduation. He has also maintained good grades while attending Crook County School District. Due to the tenacity of Doogie, his teachers, and his grandparents, he is graduating on time with his class.

Despite many obstacles to overcome, Doogie has proved that he can accomplish the goals that he sets out for himself. He will attend Washington State School For the Blind, in Vancouver, Wash., for a two-year vocational program in the fall.

It is his dream to support himself — and someday a family. He wants to have his own home, have his own job, and have a normal life.

“I hope I get to learn everything I want to learn and need to learn,” said Doogie.  “I will probably go off to college after that too.”

He wants to go into the law enforcement field as a dispatcher or into the medical field as a transcriptionist.

In addition to his long-term goals, Doogie still has the challenge of daily life associated with blindness.

When Doogie goes to a new building that he needs to become familiar with, he goes around the perimeter of the building to get a general idea of how big the structure is.

“Then I start looking around for details, like how many doors are in a hallway, and where the stairs are,” he said. “Shopping is kind of easy, because all I have to do is go up to the customer service desk and ask for shopper assistance.”

He said that they provide someone to give him a guided tour, and he remains one step behind, while holding onto their arm.

“I haven’t heard of one yet that doesn’t provide it,” noted Doogie.

He spent some time at the Oregon School For the Blind (which is now closed) when he first lost his eyesight. Corona said that there were a lot of students that required 24-hour care.

“He did not feel like he belonged there — nor did we.”

Corona was born with progressive congenital nerve deafness. She had already taught herself to read lips when the state wanted to put her in the school for the deaf. Her disability has made her a strong advocate for Doogie, and they ultimately decided to put him in public school.

“We decided to mainstream him so he would fit in,” said Corona. “The teachers here, at first, were not sure how to teach him, because they had never taught a totally blind student,” recalled Corona. 

The fact that he is graduating on time makes a statement of its own, and the schools have made accommodations and helped Doogie be successful.

Doogie had already started Braille when he was in second grade, because there was always a strong chance that he would lose his eyesight. For every page of homework, he has three pages of Braille.

“Braille has never been my strong suite,” said Doogie. “I am better at reading things than writing.”

Turner uses an i-Touch and a small recorder for many daily tasks. He can scan his dollar bills ahead of time, so he can be prepared when he goes shopping. He can use the same scanner to find out what kind of food packaging he has access to when he is shopping. Turner said that technology has changed his lifestyle.

Turner has to remain active to keep his cerebral palsy from relapsing, and to keep his muscle strength. He must wear special glasses to block out any light from his ultra-sensitive eyes. Although these may be challenges most people won’t ever have to overcome, he just sees them as small hurdles that he gets over every day.

Corona said that Doogie has been an inspiration for other kids to follow.

“If he could go ahead and do the work, they could.”

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