The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

August 10, 2012

Touching story: Massage therapist doesn’t let blindness hold him back

Kelly Urban
kurban@tribdem.com

DAVIDSVILLE — Rick Roth may be blind, but he absolutely refuses to let his disability rule his life.

“I would have never dreamt this would happen to me,” the 54-year-old said. “I’m not going to lie, I was devastated when I went blind and kept asking ‘why me, why me,’ but this has taught me you can do anything if you put your mind to it and there is nothing you can’t accomplish.”

Roth’s problems started in 1991 following an accident while working at a Johnstown axle company. He hit his head and also suffered a neck injury.

Years of persistent pain led to a few surgeries, and eventually he had bones in his neck fused together.

“I was complaining about my hands being numb, so I had an MRI done and it found that the screws in my neck were loosening and needed to be tightened,” he said.

The outpatient surgery was supposed to last four hours.

But little did Roth know that Jan. 16, 2002, would be the day his life forever would be changed.

“I was face down for 11 1/2 hours,” he said. “There wasn’t enough blood and oxygen getting to my optic nerve and because of that I’d gone completely blind.”

Roth was in the hospital for 22 days, and upon being released went to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and an eye institute in Philadelphia, but the outcome was the same – his vision was not coming back.

“We tried everything to restore my eyesight, but there was nothing that could be done,” he said.

As the days went on and reality set in, Roth admitted there were times when he’d just sit and cry and feel as though his life was over.

A vision service professional told him he needed to go to a school for the blind so he could learn how to function independently.

“I told her I could deal with this on my own, but she said if I don’t get this training, I’ll never make it through life,” he said.

Reluctantly, Roth went to visit a school in Pittsburgh.

After spending a day at the facility, he decided to give it a shot.

The course was six months long and covered everything from reading Braille, to using a talking computer and mastering the white cane.

But the hardest thing for Roth was learning how to eat.

“The first thing we had was spaghetti. I had more on my shirt than in my belly,” he said.

“They taught us all these techniques. It was hard at first, but as time went on it got better.”

During the final week of the program, Roth had to live in an apartment and do everything on his own including grocery shopping and preparing his own meals.

“It was challenging, but I really enjoyed it,” he said.

Once he came back home he knew he didn’t want to sit around and do nothing, so he decided to look at getting into therapeutic massage.

In January 2007, Roth enrolled in Laurel Highlands Therapeutic Massage in Ebensburg. He took classes four days a week during the eight-week program.

“I really enjoyed it because I like helping people, so I put my heart and soul into it,” he said.

After becoming a licensed massage therapist and giving it some thought, Roth decided to go into business for himself.

A year ago he opened Out of Sight Therapeutic Massage in the basement of his home, which is located at 207 N. Main St., Davidsville.

He came up with the catchy name while taking a business class at the massage school.

“I like to joke and clown around and I can’t see – I’m out of sight,” Roth said.

Roth offers clients Swedish massage, hot stone therapy, prenatal massage, chair massage and spa services. He said he can help people suffering from migraines, fibromyalgia and sciatic nerve pain.

He also takes continuing education classes on a regular basis so he can stay up to date on new massage techniques.

“I thank God I have this business. I’m going to keep learning,” he said. “I’m not afraid to take chances.”

Although it’s been 10 years since Roth lost his vision, he firmly believes that one day he will see again.

He’s on a list for an experimental procedure at Johns Hopkins where stem cells would be used to rejuvenate the optic nerve.

“The Lord is in the miracle business and I’m not giving up hope,” Roth said.

For more information on Out of Sight Therapeutic Massage call 254-6185 or visit the website at www.outofsightmassage.massagetherapy.com.

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