At 37 years old, Mark Dowdy of Gainesville saw his wife’s face in detail for the first time.
“It was amazing, I already knew I married way up,” Dowdy said. “I can’t put words to it. And, to see my kids for the first time was just a joy.”
Before his successful cornea transplant surgery, Dowdy said he lived only seeing out of one eye, but with severely limited vision. He compares his former blindness to looking through a foggy shower door. Dowdy said for nearly four decades he could only see blurry colors and shapes.
Now 55 years old, Dowdy said he still has days when he looks at a particular thing for the first time. When he wakes up, he enjoys counting the blades on his ceiling fan.
“I have as much, if not more passion and desire to learn new stuff now,” Dowdy said. “A lot of people my age are thinking about retiring, but I’m gearing up for the next chapter.”
Feeling inspired by his friend and author Eric Blehm, Dowdy hunkered down and wrote an autobiography about his life called “Blind Faith.” Dowdy said he started working on the book in 2013 and finished it a year later. During this time, he was also working as a fulltime music producer and raising his two kids.
Dowdy said he credits the book’s completion to his wife, Michelle.
“Anybody that knows me knows that it would be hard for me to write an entire book by myself,” he said. “I have sight in one eye, and that sight is limited. It’s pretty tiring to sit for long periods of time and write. My wife, who’s a great writer, she’d help me write. She took the stories and wove them into what it became.”
After going through a series of revisions, Dowdy said the book remained untouched, waiting for a publishing company to bite. Finally in early 2020, Christian Faith Publishing picked up the autobiography.
Growing up legally blind
The book, which is written from Dowdy’s perspective, begins with his accounts of successful cornea transplant. He said it then rewinds to his childhood and shares his memories of growing up in Gainesville.
For the first 10 years of his life, starting when he was less than a year old, Dowdy said he underwent 13 unsuccessful eye surgeries. Unlike today, he said surgeries in the ‘70s entailed a longer recovery time in the hospital. From his experience, Dowdy said he would spend a couple weeks in a medical center and remain out of school for over a month.
At 10 years old, Dowdy said he was in the hospital with his parents for a surgery to reattach his retina in his right eye.
“At that point, they said, ‘Whatever happens with this, if we do anything else, we want it to be your decision,’” Dowdy recounted. “After that, I was ready to be a normal kid and not have to worry about spending time in the hospital.”
Deciding to live his life to the fullest, Dowdy said he pushed past the disappointment of his 13 surgeries and set his sights on pursuing his passions.
“There was so much to be done, and so many things that I wanted to do,” he said. “I was never a shy kid, and I always wanted to be like everybody else.”
As a teenager, Dowdy became the first blind Eagle Scout in Georgia. For his final Eagle Scout service project, Dowdy said he added Braille signage in the old “Federal building” across the street from Gainesville’s courthouse.
Dowdy said one of his proudest achievements serving in the Boy Scouts entailed earning his marksmanship merit badge, which he wrote about in “Blind Faith.”
To help him pinpoint the destination, he said a cowbell was placed over the target and connected to a cable that extended to the shooter’s platform. Someone rang the bell, and Dowdy, who was 13 at the time, shot his gun.
“Not only did I hit the target, I also shot a hole in the cowbell,” Dowdy said. “I still have that cowbell to this day. It has a big bullet hole in it. It was a pretty major accomplishment for somebody that had less than 20/4,000 vision to be that accurate.”
“Blind Faith” also shares Dowdy’s journey of falling in love with music at a young age and becoming the audio engineer, songwriter, musician and producer that he is today.
Underneath the title of Dowdy’s book reads the subtitle, “Believing Is Seeing.” Dowdy said ever since he was a kid, his faith in God has played an important role in his life. His autobiography doesn’t shy from expressing his Christian beliefs.
“I never want to shortcut what my faith means to me,” Dowdy said. “I hope that it ties in beyond that. Even with someone who may not have the same faith, I still want them to read the book and get something out of it.”
When people read his 186-page book, Dowdy said he hopes they find themselves both challenged and uplifted.
“Maybe they feel like there are some circumstances they can’t get past,” he said. “I just want them to take away from this that if you put your mind to it, and you do believe you can get through it, you can do it. There’s nothing through faith that you can’t do.”
People can purchase “Blind Faith'' at Barnes & Noble’s website, amazon.com and worship360group.com. Dowdy said an audio version of his book — which was read aloud by his son, Graham — will soon become available.