COLUMBIA, Mo. - A University of Missouri senior has spent the last five years putting the shattered pieces of his world back together.
At 17, Paul Heddings found himself facing a debilitating medical condition that would forever change his life.
But now, as a drum major for "Marching Mizzou," the University of Missouri's famed marching band, Paul Heddings is living his dream.
PHOTOS | Blind Mizzou student leads marching band http://bit.ly/TwyNhH
It's a new dream because his original dream of playing professional baseball was disappearing.
On Sept. 7, 2007, the 17-year-old woke up and his world was changing.
“Everything was just a little blurry,” says Paul. “It didn't seem like anything was wrong.”
But something was terribly wrong. His retinas had detached and started to tear apart in both eyes.
“They didn't know how much vision I would lose,” says Paul. “I didn't know how my life would change, what I'd be able to do what I wouldn't be able to do.”
This is something that has the potential to continue to happen over and over.
“I could potentially go completely blind,” says Paul.
Paul says this was not caused by disease or trauma, but genetics.
“This has happened to my mom, my grandmom, a couple uncles,” says Paul. “Even my little sister is having similar issues.”
They didn't lose much vision.
Paul on the other hand, is now legally blind.
“My left eye has blind spots,” says Paul “My peripheral vision is great and that's why I'm so high functioning. The right eye is just kinda there to be honest. “
He says family, friends and music saved his life.
He made the Mizzou drum line, first playing cymbals and then after an extensive interview process, clinched the coveted drum major spot.
Most in the band didn't even know he was legally blind.
He's suffered three detachments and cataracts in both eyes. One has now been removed.
Heddings hopes his time on the ladder will change the perception of visually impaired people.
“I want to be able to say when I leave here that I did something special and that I didn't let this hold me back,” says Paul.
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