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Sellers overcomes disability with happiness

By By Steve Gillespie/staff writer
Feb. 17, 2002
Bruce Sellers of Meridian often greets people with phrases like, "you look familiar," or "nice to see you again" not uncommon except that he's blind.
Sellers, 41, lost his vision as a child, due to a condition that caused fluid to build up in his brain and the pressure damaged his optic nerve.
At the age of 7, a shunt was put in Sellers' head to let fluid drain from his brain normally, but after 33 years, the shunt deteriorated. During surgery to replace the shunt two years ago, Sellers said he died on the operating table.
Sellers said Jesus told him he had to go back, but he didn't want to. When he asked why? Sellers said Jesus told him, because I have answered someone's prayer.'
Humor, music and CPR
Sellers hasn't forgotten how to laugh, either.
And, his music never left him. For 10 years Sellers played with the band Southern Storm, which often fronted the group Diamond Rio. He said he quit the group two months ago. In the 1970s, Sellers said he played music with Keith Tibado, best known as Little Ricky on "I Love Lucy."
On Friday, Sellers cranked out some country, blues, southern rock and gospel during a recognition for volunteer instructors held at the local chapter of the American Red Cross in Meridian. He was accompanied only by his Fender Stratocaster guitar.
Sellers is the first blind person to be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) through the Key Chapter of the American Red Cross. He said he was certified in CPR for a couple of reasons. He and his wife, Tonya, who were married last weekend, are both massage therapists with Soothing Hands Massage Therapy and CPR certification is now required to get a massage therapist license from the state.
Although Sellers said he wouldn't have been able to save his sister with CPR, her death made him want to learn it.
His sister, the late Vicki Thompson, lived in Shady Grove. He said she died from a blood clot in her heart.
Gordon Stewart, health and safety administrator for the Key chapter, certified Sellers in CPR. Part of the process includes using specially made mannequins to practice with.
Love and hope
Bruce and Tonya were childhood sweethearts.
Sellers' family moved from Shady Grove to Pearl when he lost his vision so he could be closer to school in Jackson and Tonya was his next-door neighbor.
But, after the Sellers' house burned, the family moved and the two lost contact with each other. Sellers got in touch with her again after talking to her sister, who was at his sister's funeral.
Tonya, who is also a certified nurse's assistant, was living in Michigan and going through a divorce.
He calls her his, beautiful wife' and says things like, to be a blind man I've got good taste.'
Asked how he developed his humor, Sellers said:
There is a chance he may be able to see again.
Tonya has been in contact with the Nobel Institute, regarding the development of an implant that attaches to the eye's optic nerve and transmits pictures to the brain.
With an estimated cost of $80,000 for the operation, the Sellers' are looking for fund-raising opportunities because they say insurance will not cover the procedure.
Tonya said preliminary tests, done at University Medical Center in Jackson, showed her husband to be a perfect candidate for the surgery.