Crashing Through : A True Story of Risk, Adventure, and the Man Who Dared to See
In his critically acclaimed bestseller Shadow Divers, Robert Kurson explored the depths of history, friendship, and compulsion. Now Kurson returns with another thrilling adventure-the stunning true story of one man's heroic odyssey from blindness into sight.
Mike May spent his life crashing through. Blinded at age three, he defied expectations by breaking world records in downhill speed skiing, joining the CIA, and becoming a successful inventor, entrepreneur, and family man. He had never yearned for vision.
Then, in 1999, a chance encounter brought startling news: a revolutionary stem cell transplant surgery could restore May's vision. It would allow him to drive, to read, to see his children's faces. He began to contemplate an astonishing new world: Would music still sound the same? Would sex be different? Would he recognize himself in the mirror? Would his marriage survive? Would he still be Mike May?
The procedure was filled with risks, some of them deadly, others beyond May's wildest dreams. Even if the surgery worked, history was against him. Fewer than twenty cases were known worldwide in which a person gained vision after a lifetime of blindness. Each of those people suffered desperate consequences we can scarcely imagine.
There were countless reasons for May to pass on vision. He could think of only a single reason to go forward. Whatever his decision, he knew it would change his life.
Beautifully written and thrillingly told, Crashing Through is a journey of suspense, daring, romance, and insight into the mysteries of vision and the brain. Robert Kurson gives us a fascinating account of one man's choice to explore what it means to see-and to truly live.
From the Hardcover edition.
Blinded in a childhood accident, Mike May never hesitated to try anything--driving a motorcycle, hiking alone in the woods, downhill skiing--until the day, when May was 46, an ophthalmologist told him a new stem-cell and cornea transplant could restore his vision. As Esquire contributing editor Kurson (Shadow Divers) relates, the decision to have the surgery wasn't easy. May, always a "pioneer in his heart," had never really felt he was missing anything in life. The surgery also had a few risks: the restoration of sight might only be temporary; the immunosuppressive drug was highly toxic; May might never adjust to the changes having sight would cause. Previously, patients had become depressed, their lives ruined because, while it might seem strange to sighted people, these patients found that the idea of vision was better than the reality. May went forward, only to find that, even though his eye was now perfect, his brain had forgotten how to process visual input. Fascinated by colors and patterns, he had difficulty discerning facial features, letters, even men from women. How May adjusts to his medical miracle, living with the disappointments as well as the joys, makes for a remarkable story of courage and endurance. (May 22) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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May 15, 2007
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Excerpt from Crashing Through by Robert Kurson
Mike May's life was near perfect when, on February 11, 1999, he
made his way to the dais in the ballroom of San Francisco's St. Francis
The forty-six-year-old businessman had been invited to present
the prestigious Kay Gallagher Award for mentoring the blind, an
award he'd won himself the previous year. Dozens in the audience
knew his history: blinded at age three by a freak accident; three-time
Paralympics gold medalist and current world record holder in
downhill speed skiing; entrepreneur on the verge of bringing a
portable global positioning system (GPS) to the blind; coinventor of
the world's first laser turntable; mud hut dweller in Ghana; husband
to a beautiful blond wife (in attendance and dressed in a tight black
top, short black skirt, and black high heels); loving father; former
People watched the way May moved. He walked with a quiet dignity,
effortlessly negotiating the obstacle course of banquet tables
and chairs, smiling at those he passed, shaking hands along the way.
There was more than mobility in his step; his gait seemed free of regret,
his body language devoid of longing. Most of the people in this
room worked with the blind every day, so they knew what it looked
like for a person to yearn for vision. May looked like he was exactly
who he wanted to be.
He was accustomed to public speaking, and his messages were
always inspiring. But every so often a member of the audience would
turn on him, and it usually came at the same part of his talk, the part
when he said, "Life with vision is great. But life without vision is
great, too." At that point someone would stand and jab his finger
and say, "That's impossible!" or "You're not dealing with your inner
demons," or "You're in denial." The objections came from both the
blind and the sighted. May was always polite, always let the person
finish his thought. Then, in the warm but definite way in which he'd
spoken since childhood, he would say, "I don't mean to speak for
anyone else. But for me, life is great."
That, however, would not be the message for this evening. Instead,
the tall and handsome May spoke glowingly about the award
winner, about how much it had meant to him to win the Gallagher,
and about the importance of mentoring. He seasoned his talk with
jokes, some tried and true, others off the cuff, all to good effect. Then
he presented the honoree with a plaque and a check and returned to
his seat. When he sat down, his wife, Jennifer, told him, "You made
me cry. You look beautiful in that suit. That was a lovely talk."
May and Jennifer stayed at the hotel that night. Ordinarily, they
would have awoken and made the seventy-five-mile drive to their
home in Davis, California, each needing to return to work. But Jennifer's
contact lenses had been bothering her, so she had scheduled
an appointment with a San Francisco optometrist-not her regular
eye doctor, but a college friend's husband who had been willing to
see her on short notice. Though May was itching to get back to his
home office, he agreed to accompany Jennifer to the appointment.
The morning was glorious as the couple strolled San Francisco and
enjoyed that rarest of pleasures, an unhurried weekday breakfast at a
The optometrist's office was nearby, so May and Jennifer, along
with May's Seeing Eye dog, a golden retriever named Josh, walked up
Post Street to make it to the morning appointment. Jennifer assured
him that the visit would take no more than thirty minutes. May had
never accompanied his wife to an eye appointment and was pleasantly
surprised to learn that they would be out so quickly.
The waiting room grabbed Jennifer's attention straightaway.