Friday 16 November, 2018

Blind masseuse finds new vision for the sake of her children

At 22, Tamika Carruthers lost her eyesight after she was misdiagnosed and prescribed medication for a condition she did not have.

A mother of three at that time, the former trained chef who was studying nursing with the aim of becoming a dietitian, was forced to adjust to a completely new life.

Today Carruthers, who was born in Clarendon, Jamaica, is a trained masseuse and entrepreneur running her own business, Emerald Gifted Hands Spa.

Her children, she said, have been her motivation.

“I didn’t stay down because I was already a mother of three kids at the time. They were 6, 2 and 4 so I had to move on with my life,” the now 33-year-old told Loop via a telephone interview.

“So I called up HEART (the Vocational Training Institute) and they told me about the massage therapy course and I went and graduated at the top of my class,” she said proudly.

Reflecting on what led to her blindness, Carruthers said she was getting severe headaches which were diagnosed as meningitis. Turns out it wasn’t and the medication resulted in the young mother suffering a stroke and losing her eyesight.

“It was hard at first but I got in touch with the Society of the Blind and they taught me to walk with a cane and use the computer. There is a programme called JAWS, a screen reader, which we use and that is how I was able to attend HEART. I don’t read braille, I tried very hard but it is difficult for me, I can’t move from Level One,” she said.

Though she tried to sue over the wrong that was done to her, Carruthers said the loss of her sight actually gave her a vision for her life and direction.

“As a blind person I am more successful, I am more focused. I have my children, I am a mother, I have to work hard for them,” she said, noting that her children, five of them now, would be embarrassed to see their mother begging at the side of the road.

 Carruthers started her business six years ago when she graduated from her massage course. She currently operates as a mobile business while she looks for a brick and mortar set up.  She works strictly by appointments and offers her services to corporate clients as well as individuals.

“You don’t need sight to do massage,” she said when asked if doing massages is challenging for her.  “It is more in the touch and what you are feeling and I know the body. I do all type of different massages. I did a hot stones course and topped the class. I do aromatherapy, body scrubs, Shiatsu and Reflexology.  People love when I massage them,” she said.

Carruthers employs two other blind workers and her 17-year-old daughter does facials and other beauty treatments.

As a blind entrepreneur, Carruthers’ main challenge is getting financing from the banks.

“When you have a disability no bank want to lend you any money, they look at the disability before the ability,” she said.

Not one to be deterred, she has expanded her brand with her own line of massage oils and body scrubs made from coffee and chocolate.

Her intention is to get her products known across the world.

Carruthers also wants her story to be told all over the world to inspire others. She recently launched a book chronicling her journey.

The book, From Darkness to Light, is about her struggle and how she is overcoming it. The title, she said, is deliberate.

“When I could see I was in darkness,” she said. The book is available on Bookophilia or from Carruthers.

Asked what lessons she wants people to take away from her example, Carruthers said perseverance is the key.

“Persons should use their challenges as a stepping stone to move on, be focused and work towards your vision, not your dream,” she said.

A woman trained in many skills, including that of telephone operator and information technology, Carruthers also believes strongly in having a vocational skill and teaches her children the benefits of that.

“I tell them that it doesn’t matter how much CXC you have, get a skill. It doesn’t matter how many Masters and a PhD you have to get a skill because a skilled person can work for as much in one day that a person with a Masters will make in a month.”

You can find Carruthers on Facebook and Instagram at Emerald Gifted Hand Spa.