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Alberta man born legally blind gets his driver’s licence

Alberta man born legally blind gets his driver’s licence
WATCH ABOVE: Getting your driver’s licence comes with a sense of freedom. A man from Benalto, Alta., is really embracing the open road as he never expected to get behind the wheel. As Jill Croteau explains, in this case, seeing really is believing.

It was an indulgent dream Mike Schickerowski only ever fantasized about. It was something he wasn’t willing to give up on. At 44 years old, that vision became a reality.

Schickerowski got his driver’s licence just two weeks ago. The father of three from Benalto, Alta., passed his test on the first try.

“It was overwhelming to think I was doing it at that age, but I did pretty well and I just couldn’t believe it,” Schickerowski said.

The reason it took so long to take the test is because he was born with nystagmus. He had been legally blind his entire life.

Mike as a young boy.
Mike as a young boy. Courtesy: Mike Schickerowsky

“It basically involves involuntary movement of your eyes,” Schickerowski said. “If you’ve ever taken a photo with your camera and moved it slightly or the object moved and it’s a blur, it’s the exact same symptoms.

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“My brain would never interpret the image as a steady picture — it was always a blur.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Toronto’s blind community calls for common sense amid distancing guidelines 

Up until October 2018, he had come to expect the vision he had. But Schickerowski signed up for an experimental trial to correct his vision.

Mike at the clinic in California.
Mike at the clinic in California. Courtesy: Mike Schickerowski

He travelled to the clinic in California where the surgery was performed. It worked.

Mike, post-surgery.
Mike, post-surgery. Courtesy: Mike Schickerowski

“It’s been mind-boggling and it’s absolutely incredible,” he said. “I’m seeing absolutely everything for the first time.

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“It was beautiful to see, but it was more the realization of what I missed my whole life.

“It was emotional breakdown. My mom was bawling and my wife was ecstatic. It was never supposed to happen.

“There was a sad moment of how much history had gone by and how much I had suffered, but [I was] still excited for the future.”

Mike’s wife Angie was always supportive of her husband and was beyond thrilled to see him seeing so much around him that he never had experienced before.

“Witnessing all of those firsts at the age of 44 years old, it’s been a miracle,” Angie said.

“Watching him see things in three dimensional for the first time was unbelievable — things like fireworks, there’s all these things.”

Being a newly-minted driver, Schickerowski had his sights set on a flashy sports car and invested in a Corvette, the colour racing yellow. He bought the car before he got his driver’s licence and purchased it without even laying eyes on it.

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“I just had to have that and bought it, sight unseen,” he said.

“Some people said, ‘Oh, it’s Alberta, you need a truck,’ and sure I like trucks — they’re nice — but everybody’s got a truck,” Schickerowski said.

He gets a lot of stares when he’s out driving, attracting a lot of attention, but it’s the simplest of things that make him smile.

Mike’s corvette.
Mike’s corvette. Jill Croteau/Global Calgary

“It’s just a sense of freedom and the ability to be able to go out and do what I need to do now,” he said.

“I took my son fishing last week. I was never able to do that before on my own. I took my daughter for ice cream. It’s unbelievable.”

He’s grateful and is looking forward to the future with his family.

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Mike, his wife Angie and their children, Cassie, Lincoln and Savannah.
Mike, his wife Angie and their children, Cassie, Lincoln and Savannah. Jill Croteau/Global News

“I’ve lived a wonderful life and enjoyed every moment. This is just the awakening to possibilities of the future and the opportunities that are there,” Schickerowski said.