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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Campus

Becoming blind helped a student quit drugs, start new life


Blind Mikey Fields with his wife Lenora Fields, and their two kids Mikey Fields junior and Michael Fields. Mikey Fields has gone from a former drug dealer to a college graduate.

Mikey Fields with his wife Lenora Fields and their two kids, Mikey Junior and Michael. Fields has gone from a former drug dealer to a college graduate. | Richard Fletcher Jr./The Cougar

Houston native Mikey Fields has been blind for eight years. Since then, he met his wife, had two kids and graduated in summer 2017 with an associate’s degree from Houston Community College.

He began taking classes at the University in spring 2017 and now expects to graduate by spring 2020 if all goes right, he said.

Fields was a heavy drug user and dealer and struggling to keep employment before he lost his vision. The now 35-year-old graduated high school in 2001, and in the nine years that followed, he was arrested several times and bounced around, living in different areas of Houston.

Fields’ transformation from a heavy drug user and dealer to a public relations junior with a wife and two kids came after years of loss and depression. Changing his life for the better came from a combination of help from his closest loved ones and being forced to by becoming blind.

“If you would have saw me back then, you really wouldn’t have liked me,” Fields said. “You wouldn’t have wanted anything to do with me. I probably would have stolen something out of your car.”

Before the blindness

After graduating from Smiley High School in 2001, Fields worked at McDonald’s and joined a rap group called Livewire. He says his mindset then was “get high, get high and make some money.”

Livewire performed throughout Houston and even had a few performances in Louisiana and Mississippi. In the summer of 2001, Livewire, along with Fields, was traveling to Louisiana for a performance. The group rode in a minivan with four people and an SUV with three people.

Fields was riding in the minivan but wanted to switch over to the SUV. The people inside the SUV — while drinking and smoking — had a louder music system and fancy rims. Fields thought being in there would “make the ride a lot easier.”

He switches from the minivan to the SUV. Driving down the interstate, the minivan in front of the SUV calls and says a state trooper spotted them.

The SUV’s driver hands Fields, who’s sitting in the passenger seat, a beer, and he hides it under his seat. The state trooper pulls them over and pulls the driver out of the SUV. About 30 seconds pass, and the state trooper goes to question Fields.

The state trooper questions Fields’ lack of seat belt and asks for his ID.

“Right when I was putting my hand in my pocket, he started fumbling first, and yelled ‘FREEZE FREEZE, PUT YOUR HANDS UP,’” Fields said.

Fields puts his hands up, and the state trooper asks him to move his seat belt away from him slowly. Fields moves the seat belt with his right hand and looks to his left.

“I look to the left and see a gun on the dashboard, and I’m like, what the hell is this,” he said. “This is why he’s weirding out like that.”

There was a small revolver on the dashboard. Fields spent a lot of money in the aftermath of his arrest, and that’s when things started going bad for him.

“I think about this situation a lot,” said Fields, who left Livewire when he was 21. “When young brothers get killed by the police, that could have easily been me.”

After the incident, Fields says he hung around the wrong people even more. He began using cocaine in high school, and at that point, he started to use PCP and ecstasy.

Fields was arrested again in March 2003 for selling marijuana. He lost his job at McDonald’s a few months later. The 20 days he spent in jail for the drug charge were some of the worst of his life, he said.

“I was hanging around people who would steal and rob,” Fields said. “ I think that’s the most dangerous thing, when it becomes normal.

Home life

Now Fields lives at Lighthouse Living Center 2 on the southwest side of Houston, his home of seven years. Lenora Fields, his wife, drove for METROLift — a transportation service for people with disablities — when they met.

The couple has two kids, Mikey Junior, five, and Michael, who is one. They say Michael is the “boss of the house.” Junior runs around the house stirring up trouble.

Lenora married Fields in December 2012, a month away from giving birth to Junior.

“When I met him I decided to be serious with him. He’s not a ‘blind man’ to me,” Lenora said. “He’s a man who happens to be blind.”

Lenora — an HCC student — said her main goal was for her husband to go to Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center in Austin to gain independence before they got married.

Criss Cole taught Fields how to navigate city streets, use a computer, cook and care for himself. Learning how to use the computer being blind was the most important skill he learned, Fields said.

Lenora doesn’t like when Fields plays the blind card when it comes to home duties. One day, she was taking all the groceries inside and became dog-tired doing it without any help from Fields. She made him start taking the groceries inside.

It was challenging for Lenora, learning to live with Fields. “I’m pretty positive about everything, and I had no idea it would get as challenging as it has,” she said.

Numb the pain

In 2003, Fields met who would be his girlfriend of four years, Karla Youngblood. They were close. They would get high together all the time, and neither would stop one another from going too far.

Youngblood died from an overdose of a combination of cocaine and prescription medicine in March 2007. Fields feels partly responsible for her death.

He got a call about Youngblood’s death from her uncle. “I already knew what happened,” he said. “I knew how high she would get.”

He went outside the apartments he was living in at the time with her and began crying. He fell into a depression over her death.

Fields went to live with Youngblood’s sister at Cuney Homes Apartments in the Third Ward, and he stayed for a few months. Around this time, Fields started having inflation and pain in his eyes. “Like having a really bad toothache in your eyes,” he said.

He went to the doctor to receive medicine for the pain. He was diagnosed with uveitis, or inflammation of the eye. He didn’t have insurance at the time, so by summer, he had no way to deal with the pain other than taking drugs.

Moving to grandma’s

Fields’ turning point came when he was living at Cuney Homes in August 2007. He walked outside one late summer morning and saw three pregnant women looking for crack rocks on the ground.

It broke his heart.

Fields, who now attends church regularly, felt Jesus spoke to him at that moment. He says he was told that those babies didn’t have a chance, but he did. With the way things were going, he said, he was “either going to go to jail, be on crack, die and go to hell.”

The next morning, Fields wanted to get out of Cuney Homes. He was let on a METRO bus with no ticket and ended up riding it to his grandmother’s house across town. His grandma took him in. He was not working for a while and still dealing with pain in his eyes.

But after seeing the pregnant women looking for crack and now living with his grandma unemployed, Fields made himself not take hard drugs again, and he hasn’t, to this day.

‘Saving his life’

Fields developed glaucoma in 2008. His vision worsened over the next two years before he became totally blind. Glaucoma occurs when the nerve connecting the eye to the brain is damaged, and it affects 2.2 million people in the U.S., according to All About Vision.

Fields jokes that the worst part about becoming blind was he couldn’t play the Grand Theft Auto anymore. He would dream about playing the video game after he went blind.

When Fields started receiving disability income for his blindness, he made sure to pay his grandmother every month for taking him in and “saving his life.” Fields started hanging with the people he did for years less often, which helped him stay out of trouble.

Fields started becoming more aware of the services offered to disabled people, having learned from others after visiting the doctor so often for his health concerns. He moved into his current house — Lighthouse Living Center Apartments — in 2011 after living with his grandmother for three years. Drugs — outside of marijuana — were no longer a part of his life.

Looking forward

Being blind on such a large campus has its challenges, Fields says. He gets help from his classmate Celeste Cornett walking between two of his classes, but the rest of the time, he navigates campus he uses UHPD’s escort service. He takes his tests online or at the Center for Students with DisABILITIES. He’s at school to sharpen his skills.

Fields is over a decade older than the average student at the University. He’s not bothered by it and says he connects with others easily. But he wishes he would have gotten here earlier if he hadn’t been getting in trouble before.

“Darn dude, you were tripping, you could have got this out of the way,” Fields says to himself about going to college now.

Lenora says being blind helps him see things from a different perspective, and it’s his unique trait. His grandmother, who was there helping him the whole way, passed away from cancer in December 2016. Fields thinks she knew she had cancer but didn’t want to receive treatment.

Fields was saddened by her passing but felt he did right by her with cleaning up his act when he moved in with her. Before she died, he told her the “little shack in the middle of the hood” felt like a mansion to him. He was safe there. The walls of her home were rickety, and people could feel the outside breeze inside the house.

His grandmother worried she hadn’t done enough to help him, but he reassured her right before her death.

“Just always know your shack, with your kindness, you saved my life.”

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