Blind woman finds karate is path to independence

March 14, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

Five months ago, Lucy Miniard called Annapolis Karate Masters to inquire about lessons.

Owner and instructor Steven Kerstetter explained his program, answered her questions and invited her to come and take a look.

Then Mrs. Miniard told him she is blind.

Mr. Kerstetter was undeterred. So was Mrs. Miniard. This week, she will try for her first belt in tae kwon do.

"I'm amazed," said Mr. Kerstetter, who had never had a blind student.

To earn her black tip belt, Mrs. Miniard will have to show her mastery of four combination moves and one form in which she moves in four directions. Mrs. Miniard cannot check her form in a mirror. She cannot see her opponents' moves, but she can hear and feel so keenly that she has become one of the best beginning students.

"When people find out she's blind, no one can believe it," Mr. Kerstetter said.

For Mrs. Miniard, 23, of Davidsonville, the tae kwon do lessons were a way to recover some of her independence and self-confidence after she was blinded in a traffic accident in December 1992.

She, her husband, William, and their two children were returning from Christmas shopping on winding Queen Anne Bridge Road in southern Anne Arundel County. Her husband, who was driving, lost control of the car on a turn, sending the car into an embankment.

A tree root crashed through the passenger window, striking Mrs. Miniard in the eyes. Mr. Miniard and the children were not injured.

The accident left Mrs. Miniard completely blind in one eye and with only 5 percent of her sight in the other. She can see light and some motions, but no more.

Mrs. Miniard said she was not depressed when doctors told her that she had lost her sight. "I saw it as a second chance of life."

In the ensuing months, Mrs. Miniard had to adjust to her second life, one in which she could no longer drive, no longer admire the sights of nature, no longer see her children's faces.

With the loss of her sight, she found that other senses became stronger. Her hearing became so acute that she could hear the hum of the television even with the volume off. She could feel slight movements in the air, a sense that helped her anticipate strikes in tae kwon do.

She learned to cook again. She memorized recipes or put them on a tape recorder. She arranged spices on shelves so she could find what she wanted by the size of the container.

She began learning Braille and how to walk with a cane, although she doesn't like carrying the cane.

And she has readjusted her career goals. Originally, she wanted to be a pediatrician. Now she plans to study children's psychology.

While overcoming the physical barriers has been a matter of practice and persistence, the psychological barriers have been more difficult for Mr. and Mrs. Miniard.

Mr. Miniard said he cannot get over the guilt he feels for causing the accident. "I remember every sight. Every sound. Every smell. I can't get it out of my mind," he said.

Mrs. Miniard, an independent woman before her accident, has found it difficult to adjust to depending on someone for transportation and to guide her in unfamiliar places.

The couple plans to separate this spring. Mrs. Miniard plans to live with her family in Michigan for a while.

She wants to enroll in college and eventually get an apartment and take care of the children.

Mr. Miniard, an Air Force sergeant, plans to remain in Maryland and to seek counseling.

Mrs. Miniard said she plans to continue her tae kwon do courses in Michigan.

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