Imagine seeing your family, friends and even your very own reflection for the first time in four decades.
Davis local Michael May will give a free lecture tonight on how he regained his eyesight from a cornea transplant and stem-cell treatment after 43 years of complete blindness. The lecture, hosted by Explorit Science Center, will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Davis Musical Theatre Company, located on 706 Pena.
“Many people think it’s kind of biblical, a blind person gets their sight back, but it’s really more complicated than you would think,” May said.
He said his lecture will delve into the science involved in regaining his vision and the psychological impact of the procedure. He’ll also speak about the alternative tools and technology involved in adapting to life – particularly in terms of sports, business and travel.
May will tell the story of how he lost his eyesight due to a chemical explosion at age three.
“At that point, his brain wasn’t fully developed,” said Karen Adams, communications coordinator at Explorit Science Center. “Apparently what happens during those cases is that other parts of the brain develop more fully to compensate.“
May relied strongly on his sense of touch, smell and hearing, Adams said, as he learned to get around in the world.
“At a very early age, he didn’t let lack of vision affect him,” Adams said. “He has a very can-do spirit.“
Although he was blind for most of his life, May was able to start four companies, break a skiing world record, meet Stevie Wonder, join the CIA and start a family with his wife, according to his website sendergroup.com.
May’s friend Bryan Bashin of Sacramento, who is also blind, has known May for 15 years and considers him a role model for the blind community.
“If you grow up and you’re blind, you are looking to meet other cool blind guys who are doing something exciting in the world, and Mike was one of them,” Bashin said, adding that the two would go hiking, skiing and bike riding together.
May is the CEO and president of Sendero Group, a Davis-based company that develops GPS navigation products for blind and visually impaired individuals. During the lecture, May will be explaining further about how the products can help people get around in their everyday life.
May was perfectly content with his life and didn’t think that seeing would make his life better, Adams said. It was just by happenstance that he met up with an ophthalmologist and learned he might be a candidate for surgery.
“After exiting the operating room, he suddenly could see his wife and two sons for the first time,” Adams said. “And that was the reason he did the surgery in the first place.“
Friends say May has changed a little since the surgery but appreciates his restored vision.
“He is absolutely the same Mike as before, he’s just as adventurous as a sighted person,” Bashin said. “[He] has added a new layer of experience and adventure to his [life] by being able to see.“
May is also a UC Davis alumnus, graduating in 1976 with a degree in political science.
For more information about May or his lecture, visit senderogroup.com.
THUY TRAN and ANNA OPALKA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.