It was sports that brought me and this guest together. The year was 1997. The place was Lubbock, Texas. The sport was intramural basketball (and football and soccer).
What unfolded that year at Texas Tech University changed John Grimes’ life forever. In this episode, John tells us about his journey to becoming “ambiguously blind” and leaning on his faith to stay positive, thankful, and inspiring to others.
And, he’s probably the only blind man you’ll see riding a bike around Frisco.
We hope you’ll be inspired by John’s story as much as we are. Listen to more episodes from the Hustle & Pro archives.
- [0:50] Quick hits with John Grimes
- [4:00] Our connection
- [5:40] John’s story
- [12:18] Ambiguously blind
- [14:20] Adaptations
- [18:45] Faith, family and new adventures on the road
Resources within this episode:
- John Grimes: Facebook | Twitter @johnbgrimes | LinkedIn
- Ambiguously Blind Email | Website | Podcast | Facebook | Twitter
- United States Association of Blind Athletes: Website | Facebook | Twitter | IG @usaba1 | YouTube
- Kelly Walker: Instagram @kelly_walkertexas | Twitter: @kelly_walker_TX
This episode is sponsored by:
Xscape Pain: https://www.xscapepain.com | 3110 Main St, Suite 325 Frisco, TX 75033
Text LIGHTMEUP to 972-528-7033 for your free session!
Connect with Lifestyle Frisco:
Welcome to Hustle and Pro season two talking sports and Frisco from youth to pro. Now here’s your host, Kelly Walker.
Welcome to hustle and pro season two, talking sports and Frisco from youth to pro. Now here’s your host Kelly.
Welcome to today’s episode of hustle and pro. John Grimes. How are you?
I’m very well. Kelly, how are you today?
I’m great. I’m excited to talk to you. I’ve talked to you many times before, but I am mostly excited for our audience to hear from you, um, to hear your story. So before we do that, let’s start with a couple of quick hits. Who’s your favorite athlete?
My favorite athlete. I don’t know if I was prepared for that. Let’s go with Troy Aikman.
That’s good. I know it’s a lot of pressure to like declare your favorite athlete of all time, but Troy is a good one. You can’t go wrong with him. What’s your favorite sport?
Soccer. Interesting choice for Troy Aikman. Isn’t it? I should have said Pele
They don’t always align. That’s okay. And sometimes I ask people there’s a difference in your favorite sport to watch, like, versus to play yourself?
Yes, definitely. I don’t really, I don’t watch much soccer. Um, I just don’t. So my favorite sport to watch is either going to be baseball or football.
What about your favorite team?
Well, that’s I don’t have a favorite team. I’ve got a couple of favorites. If that makes sense. It’s like talking to my kids. What’s your favorite color? And there’s like six of them. Um, so I like the Cowboys. I like the Mavericks. I like most of the Dallas teams of course, cause we’re here of course, but I’m from Ohio. So I also like the Cincinnati teams when it comes to baseball and football. And when it comes to football, the Bengals, it’s a, that’s a love, that’s, that’s a tough love situation. Um, I’ve growing up in the eighties in Ohio, you had a Boomer Esiason and, and Ickey Woods and James Brown and all the Sam White, all those guys. And um, so they’re in the AFC Cowboys are in the NFC. So that’s how I balance those favorites. And then the reds are in the, um, national league and the Rangers are in the American league. So they don’t meet that often.
You can do that until the world series or the super bowl, and then you’re in trouble and you gotta pick somebody.
I would probably pick the Rangers cause they need a world series.
Yeah, for sure. For sure. We’re going to have a world series in Arlington this year. It just won’t be the Rangers playing in it. We’re hosting it. It’s here. It’s been announced. It’s official. We’re getting the final, what we’re getting, we’re getting a couple different parts of the playoffs, but they’re doing some different bubbles scenarios and we are getting like the world series at the new ballpark. Yeah, that’s awesome. What’s your favorite sports movie?
Bull Durham. I could recite most of it if you want me to right now.
No, I don’t need you to, but I believe you because I know you are a movies, movies and music guy. So I know that you can recite plenty of things.
Sports movies are tough because it’s really hard to get sports, you know, fake sports caught on, on video, you know, like play a baseball game. I mean, as a good sports in the movie. No, no, no, but that end, um, what’s the movie, other baseball movie, um, with the Cleveland, the Cleveland Indians. Major league. So I would say Bull Durham, um, and major league. Yeah,
Baseball wise. You got, you got major league and field of dreams and like a lot. I love a little kids, all movie, no good sports actually happening so much in the movies, but they’re just fun to watch. Yeah. All right. So I want to explain to our listeners, uh, I mentioned how we know or that we know each other. So how we know each other before you and I even know each other, you, um, knew my husband know, knew my husband, Ryan. That’s correct. So, and then
We went to high school together.
I went to high school together. And then you and I met in college in Lubbock at Texas tech. Correct. So you and Ryan were roommates your first year or? Okay. I can’t remember. It was so long ago back in 97. Right. So and so you and Ryan were high school friends that first? Yes. Alright. So you and I became friends there probably in 97, which is when I got there and our, our long sports connection. It’s kind of random, but intramurals at Tech.
Football and basketball, right?
Yeah. So yes. You coached my sorority teams I think. Right? Correct. I’m like you said, flag football or powder puff. I don’t remember. Yeah. And our basketball team. And I feel like you might, you, were you involved in our softball, intermurals at all?
I don’t think I played softball. I remember being there watching, but I didn’t, I didn’t
Watching when with Ryan, he was there when I got knocked out?
I don’t, I wasn’t there. I remember that though. I do.
That’s my, you know, my famous, um, getting hit in the head with a softball by a man or a guy and getting knocked out and go to the hospital and having a concussion, like two months into college. Go me. Way to start. Yeah, it’s off to a good start. Alright. So I want to talk about, um, your life changing semester in Lubbock at tech. Um, so tell us a story of what you went through in, what was it the winter of 97?
It was the winter late winter, February of 1998. There wasn’t really a point where I can say something started, but it was like a middle of the week. And I was not, I kind of felt like I had a cold or kind of severe cold feelings, not real bad, but I didn’t feel real good. And I remember going and getting some medicine at the, uh, store, like some sinus cold and sinus medicine, um, like on a Wednesday and didn’t feel much better on the following day and at a, at a test on that Friday. And I didn’t do much studying, didn’t eat much dinner that Thursday night. Cause I just didn’t feel too good. And it was, it was February flu season. So I kind of felt like maybe I had, maybe this was the flu I was getting and went to bed somewhat early that Thursday night and really long story short, woke up seven days later in the hospital.
Yeah. Yeah. My, my piece of remembering this and we’ve talked about this a lot, um, was that we all, we, as in your roommates and the girlfriends in tow went out and we’re doing our normal go out like college kids thing and you stayed home because you were too sick and um, and then another friend of ours ended up, you know, finding you at the, at the house. And um, like you said, took you to the hospital and then you didn’t wake up for seven days. So when you woke up, tell us what, what the effects and outcomes were.
Well, it, I was so as in coma and it’s not like a movie or something where you just kind of come out or at least for me, it wasn’t, I just, all of a sudden I’m asleep and then I’m awake. Um, it was, it’s hard to describe really. It was kind of cloggy, cloggy, strike that, cloudy kind of cloudy and just bizarre. So the part of the reason why it was why it was cloudy was because, um, in addition to lots of muscles, like a lot of things in my body didn’t work the way I had expected them to, uh, I’d been laying down for about seven days. So I had a lot of atrophy, atrophy and muscles and just, I don’t know, it’s, it’s hard to, I was, I was a mess and I didn’t know why. And when I came to, um, I really couldn’t see much either. It was a little bit interesting because, um, as, as the result of the end result was I lost about 75% of my vision during the seven day period at some point. And the, my right eye is totally blind or zero vision. My left day, I have a 2300 vision, which I don’t know if you know what that means. We could talk about that if you want, it’s kind of a technical term, but it’s legally blind,
Blind in general. It’s like, it’s, like you said, you lost 75% overall. So you have in, in your, in your left eye about half.
Yeah. That’s, that’s the layman’s terms. I put it in, then I call it, I take half out. Cause I lost one eye and I got about half the vision in my, my other eye. Yeah. And so when I woke up though, what was weird was as all this muscle stuff had happened, just got just totally wacky. I couldn’t smile. Like my facial muscles weren’t they were out of whack and my eyelids, my left eyelid wouldn’t open, but my right eyelid would, so I can feel that my, my eyelids open, but I can’t see anything. And then what I would actually do is I’d like pinch my, you know, reverse pinch my eyelid open to see out of my left eye. And then I couldn’t understand why I’m doing this on my other one, but I don’t need to. So then I was like, Oh, I can’t see out of that eye.
So what was your actual illness?
I’ve thought about you a lot lately with all of the COVID, you know, how things spread and if you get exposed here and there, you know, all of the, all of the topics. Yeah.
It highly infectious of all the people that I came in contact with. Nobody else got it. So I was the lucky one.
It’s really amazing. I mean, I was thinking back to, um, I mean, we had to take horse pills. We always joke about saying that because we were in contact with you, but I mean, we, we were playing basketball. We were on the same basketball court that week, I think, or probably before, whatever. Um, and yeah, it is amazing because that could have been a big, major problem on campus.
It could have been really big the way it spreads, especially like, you know, as we know with COVID now, um, meningitis is similarly highly infectious, but for whatever reason, I was the chosen one.
And you went home, um, back to Plano right after, after…
In the hospital for 21 days in Lubbock. And I went back home. Um, so for that would have been March through about my most of the summer and I returned to Lubbock in August. And you finished school? I did. It’s pretty. It was, it was a trip.
Yeah. I mean all the things that you have adapted to, with vision loss that you’re, you know, legally being blind is really incredible. Um, especially coming from, you know, thinking back to that night, knowing that when we, not me, um, people there called your parents. And then I think we were told that they might not get to Lubbock in time to even see you still alive.
Yeah. My parents were from Plano and by the time they were notified, they, it was a pretty grim situation and, um, fatalities, usually results. I mean, this, this is usually a deadly disease, so I am blessed and very thankful for everything that I have and the vision I do have. And, it, I don’t know, there was some, somebody was watching out for me, so yeah,
For sure. And I mean, it’s, that’s, it’s amazing to see what, you know, gosh, that was a long time ago now, um, what you have done and what you’ve still been able to accomplish, even just going right back to school and finishing and everything. And, um, you said even with some or that you’re blessed to have some, some vision. Um, so ambiguously blind is a term that you use and you even have a podcast that you talk about different things about being blind. And so why, why ambiguously blind?
Well, because I, that’s how I describe myself because it’s really unclear whether I can see or not. So I recently I’ve picked up riding a bike again, through some, some cool interactions with my kiddos. And if I tell you that I’m blind and you see me riding the random bike down the street, and I’m like, wait a minute, this guy’s not blind, but I am. Um, it’s again, it’s, it’s not total blindness, but it’s, it’s I have, I have little vision and that’s a relative term too. So it’s really hard. I don’t know. It’s hard to describe. That’s the biggest thing I have is I just like to talk to people about it. Sometimes I think people think that I don’t like to talk about it, but the more I talked to people about it, the better, because I want people to understand, you know, I do have some limitations and there are some things that I can do. And there’s some things that I can’t do.
You have an awareness of things that some people that were born blind will never know, like you’ve driven a car and you, you have experienced, you know, everything in life that you can revert back to and recall those images and experiences and sort of understand them, even though you might only see ten percent.
Yeah. The last person I spoke with on my podcast is totally blind and he lost his vision at nine months old. He had cancer in his retinas and they removed his retinas when he was nine months old.
He has no recollection or anything.
Do you remember from when you were nine months old? Right. I mean, obviously he, he saw things, but he has no recollection of that. So yeah. Colors and shapes and people’s faces and those types of things are, I, I know most of those.
I know that you have interest in things like technology and music. And so I do think there’s probably probably some of those things that have helped you adapt right. And get through back to school and, um, working in your, in your day job. So tell me about those things and that, that some of the tools that you use in your everyday life.
Yeah. Technology is huge for most people with different levels of ability. Technology can really, can really help in those areas. And, um, most of my communication is done, if we’re not talking to somebody like we are now, um, most of it is done through a computer. And I mean, through, um, digital, I should say digital communications, things that can be read from a computer or like in this case, or in the case that I use is an iPhone, which really is a game changer for lots of people. I think just in general, how the technology changed a lot of people’s lives, but for people, especially with vision challenges, the iPhone totally changes the game. Um, most, I think the iPhone came out well, it came out like 2006, but in 2009, the iPhone 3 GS came equipped or built in with a program called voiceover, which is Apple’s screen reader. Same is true with computers. Um, there are, I use a screen magnifier as well as a reader.
You can still visually read what’s on your screen if it’s large and lit enough?
If it’s large enough. However, I, my, my eyes do atrophy from reading things because I have to get them so large in some cases that I’m looking at like two or three letters at a time. And it’s hard to read a paragraph when you’re trying to form the letters into the word that I can get a sentence. And so for screen readers where the, the app outputs, the audio of what it’s reading to you, then it’s so much easier. So things like audible for books has just been a game changer. We have books on tape and CD and all that, but now that it’s more, more accessible to more people, things like audible, the iPhone, for instance, it’s just, again, I’ve said it already, but I cannot stress how much and people that I talk to that are in the visual impaired community, pretty much all say the same thing about the iPhone
That voiceover you talk about. So is that how you basically get the information off of your phone? Most of the time is it’s regular. Yeah.
The phone is so much smaller than, I mean, my computer screen is probably like 30 inches, so I can get things physically pretty big on the screen, but the iPhone, you know, is a handheld. So it’s a smaller screen and I, yeah, that’s 95% of the things I’m using the iPhone for are going through voiceover.
Read aloud to you. So you have no privacy to read your text or your email.
You get AirPods easier buds or do something like that. But yeah, there are some privacy concerns with that. It’s kind of a funny story that this would have been, let’s see. When was this? Probably in 2010? Um, I had fallen in love with what is, what is now my wife and I was coordinating with a really good friend of hers to get her ring size. And there was a surprise visit involved where we were going to get the ring size for the ring and things. And her friends sent me an email with some information about when she would be meeting me and what we were going to, where we were going to go and how we were going to do it. And I was in the car with her when I got the email. Didn’t think anything of it. And voiceover starts reading the email. And I think, Erin, I don’t know if she, I don’t know if she knew it or not. Cause I don’t know if I can get a straight answer out of her or not, but I’m pretty sure she heard maybe the gist of it. So there have been situations like that, where, where there are some privacy concerns with that, but just get the, uh, get the earbuds or the,
Yeah, she probably heard it, but is smart enough to say she didn’t or play it off so that it does not disrupt your plan to go ahead and figure out her ring size and get that ring for. Yup. And the rest is history with you guys. You draw a lot on your faith, right. And your family. So can you tell me about, about that part of this?
Well, I’m a pretty strong Christian and I believe in Jesus Christ and my, he and my family are really what, the reason I’m here today. They, they prop me up and keep me going.
So your parents and you are, well you also have a brother here in town? You guys got your, you got a lot of locals. I know you’re from the old Chillicothe.
Chillicothe Ohio. That’s correct. Which was the first capital of Ohio. The great state of Ohio.
I feel like you’ve mentioned that to me before. Um, but, but you guys are all here in this area, right? So you have brother here and your parents are here and your wife, Erin, and you have three. This is right. Three little girls. That’s correct. Okay. Three little girls. So when you fast forward to today, um, you know, as a husband and a father, um, these increasingly active and independent little girls of yours got you on to something new. What you mentioned earlier is riding a bike. So it was, this did this stem from them learning how to ride a bike. And you’re like, Oh wait, hold on. I can maybe get back into this.
Yeah, the oldest one, uh, for the longest time she rode the tricycle quite a bit and really never wanted to give that up. And we tried to move her to the next level of balance bike or something. And, uh, she, she had it for about a year, the balanced bike and then showed zero interest. And then all of a sudden, like in February or March of this year, she decided she’s going to ride it. And she wrote it in like two days she had it down and she was flying. So we thought, okay, now it’s time for a regular bike. And with COVID bikes have been tough to come by. That’s pretty amazing. Um, all the things that are hard to get, right? So it took us about two months to get the bike the day she got it because she was so good with it.
She, she wrote two miles without training wheels on this bike. And so my wife and I are looking at her like, this is awesome. How are we going to keep up her? Now we got to follow her much. And so mama and I didn’t have a bike. And we had to, we had to change that. So mom gets a bike and that took about a month of try and find one and get one and all those kinds of things. And we did. And then I saw her riding it and was a, you know, an adult bike. So I was like, I’m going to give it a try. I’ve ridden bikes before. And you know, the old saying, never forget how to ride a bike. It’s true. I’m here to tell you it’s true. So I get on the bike and it is terrifying and exhilarating second, the second, like from one second to another. And I, I really can’t see that well, but I can see well enough to be what I would consider myself dangerous.
I was going to say safe. I was hoping he were going to end that sentence and safe. Like in your neighborhood streets and everything now is Erin. She has to be terrified when you’re like, okay, I’m going to hop out on the bike, go out on my own
Originally. But I think she’s over it now. Um, so her bike’s pink or it’s, it’s got pink on it. And I was, and plus it’s not as, I’m a little taller than her. So I thought, okay, it’s time for me to get a bike. So we go through that process and I get a bike. I got it about a little over a month ago. And after I got the tracker for my distance, cause now I’m keeping track of this stuff. You’re big time about I’ve, I’ve written almost a hundred miles. And that’s the only about 80% of it. Cause I didn’t have the tracker and the first week or so that I had it. We go and it is awesome to ride. Um, it’s really priceless for me and the oldest daughter, the only one that rides a bike, she loves going with me. And quite honestly, it’s something I’d never really thought I would do. I didn’t think I necessarily wouldn’t do it. I just never really, I just kind of assumed that that wasn’t gonna be part of my, part of my deal with, with the kids, but it is. Um, so I do have some limitations. I don’t go on the main streets, but I do ride. We have a pretty good sized neighborhood. So I’ve, I’ve explored just about every square inch of our neighborhood.
That’s so awesome. Does that, does your daughter, does she know and is she like aware to, to, to help you and watch out for things that might surprise you
She’s aware, but not really yet. I mean, she knows about my vision as much as a five and a half year old can, but she, I mean, she still follows me most places. Yeah.
Wow. That’s really amazing. So are you going to get hooked into, um, like, uh, hopefully there’s people in this community that I don’t know have resources or tools or
I’m going to, yeah, I’m going to find out with the bike stores around here and on a upcoming episode of my podcast, I just spoke with the U S ABA, which is the United States, um, United States association for or of blind athletes. And they have cycling is one of their sports. So there are some people I think in this area I just joined in fact today and I’m waiting for some, some details on it, but I think there are some, some people in the area that surely I can do that. I’d like to take a ride, um, you know, like a, like a bike ride. I just can’t do it by myself. Cause that would be, that’d be problematic to get out on that, get on the road. But I do have a plan. Um, maybe the next couple of weeks I got to rally some support and some people, and I’m hoping that maybe I can, um, organize something.
Well I’m in, I’ll do something. Let’s do it. I’ll do whatever. The old basketball group out, we got some basketball hoops.
Get the squirrels back together- coed, intermural soccer.
We were good. I’m pretty sure
We, we were very good. I don’t mean to brag, but, um, we, there was only one team that, that, um, the got us was the Blitz.
Oh my gosh. I didn’t remember that name. Yeah. I mean it’s somewhere. I think I have this squirrel’s shirt still somewhere, but we were good. We had our ringers, you know, you were allowed to have a couple club players and Tech players and we had a couple girls that were really good. And then my husband that’s that’s I think that’s why, you know, why we’re married now is because he was our soccer ringer and I’ll never forget him joining our squirrels team halftime one game after he had just come back and won the national championships for the tech club men’s club soccer team, you know, after that, it was all
He’s pretty good. Yeah. He’s pretty good. Yeah. We were pretty good. That was a lot of fun though.
I forgot about the squirrels. Yeah, we could, we can get some squirrels action going again. Awesome. Well, John, thank you for coming here and talking with me, um, telling us your story. I know it was, it was short, but we, we did get the gist of it and I’m just talking to us today, so thank you.
Yep. And I got to get you on my podcast. We can continue that discussion.
Yeah. I don’t know what in the world I would offer to your podcast, but I’m game. All right. Thanks John. Good to be here. Thank you.