Marri Murdoch had what is called a silent stroke in 2017. Silent strokes occur when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain but does not cause any symptoms.
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“I didn’t have any symptoms except my vision loss. So I didn’t even know that I was having a stroke. It was very strange,” Murdoch said. “And I knew something was wrong, but I really couldn’t pinpoint what it was until I went to the eye doctor, because I’d convinced myself that something was wrong with my Lasik. Like it deteriorated. And they said, you don’t have an eye issue, you have a brain issue.”
Eventually, Murdoch developed an excruciating headache and was left with permanent, partial vision loss.
“Essentially, I’ve lost half of my vision in each eye. So, the brain does not communicate with the eyes. There’s literally nothing wrong with my eyes at all. That’s why they move around and dilate and like I could look at you, but not really see you. So whatever I focus on, everything to the left just completely disappears,” Murdoch said.
Murdoch is an avid runner, clocking three miles a day prior to her stroke. But doctors ordered her to take a break to give her artery time to heal. It was a frustrating few months for Murdoch, but as soon as doctors cleared her to return to normal activities, she started running again.
“It’s a stress reliever for me, it gives me endorphins, I love being outside, the sun… It’s still strange, and it’s still… I don’t know if I’ll ever fully adjust because it’s such a weird form of vision loss,” Murdoch says. “I’ve always ran with my dog anyways. And she transitioned so flawlessly from becoming my running partner to my guide dog. And she was really attentive to me, she knew that I’d had the stroke, she was with me when it happened. Just having her guide me around. Basically, what she was doing anyways on leash as I was running.”
Today, Murdoch regularly runs with sighted runners, but she also runs alone in her familiar neighborhood.
“Here in my quiet, neighborhood streets, I try and go early in the morning when there’s fewer people. However, I will say that I still struggle. I just stick to my typical routes,” Murdoch adds. “I have sideswiped bushes, that’s a common thing for me to do in my blind side. Or a low hanging branch I don’t see, just smacks me in the face, and it’s like okay, whatever, keep going. Once into a parked car but it was in my blind side. Other than that, I’m pretty good. I have gotten lost, even though I’m pretty well aware of this area. It just takes a little bit of not paying attention and all of a sudden, I miss my turn, it was on my blind side.”
Last year, Murdoch started running in races with guides who run alongside her. She has completed the 25k and 30k so far this year and will run the half marathon this weekend, before tackling the Honolulu Marathon next month. She would like to support the visually impaired and blind community in their effort to overcome challenges and reach for their dreams. So, Murdoch created Travel Visions Aloha for the Blind, for which she is founder and president.
“I’m trying to be a role model for the blind and visually impaired community, and really show people that your limitations don’t have to limit your abilities or inhibit you from conquering your goals and dreams,” Murdoch said. “I was feeling this way myself, kind of just lost and alone, and not really doing a lot around the island. And I thought to myself – if I’m feeling this way, I guarantee other people who can’t see are feeling this way too. So, I dug and dug, and I found a lapse in services. Very dedicated to the same cause in uplifting and empowering the blind community to really get out there and not only conquer your goals and dreams, but live a mental, social, and physically active lifestyle.”
Eventually, Murdoch would like to branch out to neighbor islands.
“I could bring my running over there as well and try to motivate other visually impaired or blind people to get active through running or surfing, or… we’re going to do a ton of different activities – exploring the island, hiking, visiting botanical gardens, boating, whale watching, all sorts of fun things.”
If you would like more information about Travel Visions Aloha for the Blind and the services provided, email email@example.com or visit their website.