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one should never assume that any student is going to have a barrier, an obstacle, that they can’t overcome,” he says.Sandy Roof, the nurse practitioner who worked with Cordes in a clinic in the town of Waterloo, wondered about that.The next day, he saw the boy’s father, who said, “I think you did a great job.(But) when my son got out, he asked me, ‘What’s the dog for?“I just think that you deal with what you’re dealt,” he says.“I’ve just been trying to do the best with what I’ve got.Tim Cordes leaned over the patient as his professor and a team of others closely monitored his every step. Cordes was just 5 months old when he was diagnosed with Leber’s disease.Carefully, he positioned the tube, waiting for the special signal that oxygen was flowing. He wore glasses by age 2, and gradually lost his sight.
Though he spends 10 to 12 hours a day in the lab, Cordes also carried the Olympic torch when it made its way through Wisconsin in 2002 (he runs four miles twice a week) and has managed to give a few motivational speeches and accept an award or two.The young medical student was nervous as he slid the soft, thin tube down into the patient’s windpipe. Without sight, Cordes had to learn how to identify clusters of spaghetti-thin nerves and vessels in cadavers, study X-rays, read EKGs and patient charts, examine slides showing slices of the brain, diagnose rashes — and more.It was a delicate maneuver — and he knew he had to get it right. Several times over two weeks, Cordes performed this difficult task at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics. He used a variety of special tools, including raised line drawings, a computer that simultaneously reads into his earpiece whatever he types, a visual describer, a portable printer that allowed him to write notes for patient charts, and a device called an Optacon that has a small camera with vibrating pins that help his fingers feel images. “Sometimes you can psych yourself out and anticipate problems that don’t materialize. You can sit there and plan for every contingency or you just go out and do things. That was the best way.” That’s been his philosophy much of his life. Any one of these accomplishments would be impressive. And now, there’s more luster for his gold-plated resume with a new title: Doctor. There are only a handful of blind doctors in this country. Many barriers to overcome In a world where skeptics always seem to be saying, stop, this isn’t something a blind person should be doing, it was one more barrier overcome.
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Cordes says some of his most valuable lessons came from doctors who believed in showing rather than telling.