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June 28, 2005

Deaf and blind celebrate Helen Keller day

From: New Zealand Herald, New Zealand - Jun 28, 2005


By Errol Kiong

Born premature at just over 800g in weight, Stephen Fruean was put on oxygen to help him breathe.

When his breathing machine failed six weeks later, a replacement was not brought in because doctors had written him off.

"He was a little fighter, he just wouldn't give up," said his mother, Annie. "Twenty-four hours after the machine broke down, he was still alive so they brought in another machine."

Oxygen deprivation robbed him of his sight and hearing. But it didn't stop him.

Stephen and his mother were at the Foundation of the Blind's celebration of Helen Keller's 125th birthday yesterday, remembering the work of the first deaf and blind person to graduate from college, who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the blind.

Now 24, Stephen leads an active life. Despite needing a minder to get around, he swims, abseils and rock-climbs regularly. He enjoys nothing better than a rollercoaster ride, said Mrs Fruean.

"He's quite adventurous, but I think it's because he can't see what's happening, lucky bugger."

But he has his occasional bad days, when the frustration of not being able to communicate with the rest of the world gets him down.

Gloria Campbell, from the foundation's Deafblind Services, says about 1500 people in New Zealand are classified as deafblind.

Stephen is just one example of what they can achieve, despite extreme difficulties. "We have many deafblind doing the same things that other people do."

Copyright © 2005, APN Holdings NZ Ltd