Amazing Jeffo Autobiography
Book Title: Seeing Light in the Darkness -
A Story of Surviving Affliction with Laughter and Grace
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Amazing Jeffo the Blind Magician Reveals His Greatest Secrets in Overcoming Challenges ~ 290 AMAZING pages
About the Book and Author
What happens when light collides with dark? If you’re Jeffrey Smith, laughter erupts! A compelling memoir by America’s only blind, multiply-disabled magician: how life threatening disease and disability ignited healing, laughter, and faith. Smith humorously chronicles his battles with catastrophic colitis, crippling rheumatoid arthritis, total blindness, and a severe speech impediment. Join him in practical jokes on his nurses, wheel chair races on the hospital floor, gambling in economics class, and using a magic trick to propose to his wife.
Rather than wallow in despair, Jeff has chosen to focus on what is possible in his life. The result? A twenty year career as a magician and motivational speaker, more than 3,000 shows and presentations, national engagements, and international media coverage in radio, print and television. His secret? Irreverent humor and faith.
Smith shares the perspectives, principles and practical strategies he used to triumph over seemingly impossible circumstances to provide others with hope to overcome self-defeating attitudes.
Who is this book for? Everyone. If you’ve been discouraged, you’ve been judged unfairly by others, you’ve judged others unfairly, you've been afraid to dream and need a nudge, this book is for you. And simply for anyone who enjoys being entertained!
Jeff lives in Minnesota with his wife, Devon, and their faithful, 4-legged “son,” Krypto.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Jeffrey C. Smith, Phone: 651-457-7300, Email: SeeingLightInTheDarkness@comcast.net, Website: www.AmazingJeffo.com
Multiple Disabilities Are No Barrier for Amazing Jeffo
Comedian / Magician Helps Others Overcome Adversity through His Story
31 July 2012, Minneapolis, Minn. -- Afflicted with life-threatening colitis, crippling rheumatoid arthritis, total blindness, severe stuttering, and life expectancy of 13 years, Jeff Smith, now 55, has overcome insurmountable odds.
Smith is a magician, comedian, and motivational speaker, a.k.a. Amazing Jeffo, who has wowed 3,500 live audiences - hundreds of thousands of people - in addition to TV and radio shows, and given hope and inspiration through his story.
A walking miracle, he’s been through more than 20 surgeries and dozens of outpatient procedures. Not only is he still alive, but he has the energy and tenacity to wear people out, he quips.
His new book, Seeing Light in the Darkness: A Story of Surviving Affliction with Laughter and Grace (http://www.amazingjeffo.com) chronicles the story that has encouraged so many. One friend summed it up, “As good as your magic is, your story is more compelling.”
“People see the joy and sense of humor I have,” Smith recounts, “and they start to look at their own problems differently.”
On stage, Amazing Jeffo mocks his disabilities. “I poke fun at it so openly, but so comfortably, that it doesn’t come across as being angry,” he said. “It’s just fodder for me! People see me and look at their own situation and become encouraged.”
His simple message is: Adversity doesn’t have to be defeating. He aims to give hope for others to persevere through life’s crises. And his own struggles are not over.
“I’m confronting new challenges every year; they slow me down but make me think about life and perspective and where I fit into it all,” he says. He doesn’t hide that his faith plays a big role in his ability to keep smiling and continue on.
“Being created so different from the ‘mainstream’ has given me a sense of precious uniqueness,” Smith attests. He encourages others to see their circumstances as purposeful and not coincidental, that there’s a bigger plan. And, he surrounds himself with encouragers, not letting negative thinking be his master.
“A disability, or any adversity, does not define you, it only describes you,” he says.
“My life tickles my funny bone. God’s sense of humor has taken someone blind, disabled, and verbally disfluent and set him on the path to be a magician and motivational speaker!” he writes.
Magic was one tool that enabled Smith to overcome severe stuttering, but still he had stage jitters. “It took me two years to be comfortable and not be sweaty,” he says. “Now I’m so calm I have to pump the caffeine in!”
And now, with such a powerful message of overcoming adversity to share, he realizes magic is not even the main show. “I don’t have to hide behind magic,” he says. “I have a refreshing message to give to the world as Jeff Smith.”
“I want the book to illustrate that ‘misfortune’ and ‘good attitude’ are not mutually exclusive,” Smith emphasizes, “and where there is darkness, there is also hope.”
Amazing Jeffo lives in Minnesota with his wife, Devon, and their faithful, 4-legged “son,” Krypto.
Press Release prepared by Susan Brill, The Winsome Wordsusanbrill@mac.com
Seeing Light in the Darkness Book Excerpts:
For those of my readers who haven’t had a chance to pick up a copy of my just-published book, Seeing Light in the Darkness, here is a teaser of the Prologue and Chapter 1. Enjoy! (Don’t worry, not all chapters are this serious, there’s plenty of fun and laughter in future chapters.)
As the applause begins, adrenaline courses through me, and at that moment, I am no longer disabled. The pain of arthritis is gone, the embarrassment of my ileostomy has disappeared, and my stutter has vanished. “Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen! I am the Amazing Jeffo, a magician who happens to be blind…long time, no see!”
After the performance, as my driver leaves the university heading to the next show, I reflect how grateful I am and how amazed I am to be here despite doctors’ predictions I wouldn’t live past age 13. Much like the Israelites in the desert, God has been leading me through a rocky, perilous, sometimes overwhelming, landscape where I would come to know and trust Him and experience His amazing power to transform.
As we accelerate onto the freeway, pictures flash in my mind like an old silent movie, with ever-increasing speed. I settle back into my seat and let contrasting images of my life wash over me: grand hotels and medicinal-smelling hospital rooms; running around outside with buddies and the feeling of warm, wet plaster hardening around my leg; joyous family parties where time seemed to fly and lonely hospital stays lasting months; reading super-hero comics before bed and struggling to learn braille with twisted fingers…and then, one day, watching a B-movie that, unbeknownst to me, would foreshadow the direction in which God would lead me.
Let the show begin...
Chapter 1 - Intestinal Fortitude or “The Week from Hell”:
My first five and a half years of life were typical in every way, but that changed suddenly one evening in the early spring of 1961. My mom had just fed my siblings and me before taking a quick shower with plans to leave us with a babysitter.
“Mama,” I said faintly, entering the bathroom.
“What is it, Jeffrey? I’m trying to get ready,” my mom said through the shower’s spray. She looked out from the curtain and saw my stricken face.
“What’s wrong, honey?”
“I went icky poo in my pants,” I said.
“Accidents happen,” she reassured. “We’ll clean it up, and I’ll take your temperature.”
She dried off and put me in the shower. After I was clean, I said, “I feel fine now, mama, but I had a stomach ache before.”
Shortly afterward, I announced “I need to go again” and soiled my pants seconds later. While cleaning me up, my mom noticed blood in the diarrhea. But the shower raised my spirits. “I feel good now, Mama.”
“I don’t think we should go out,” she said to my dad. But he assured her they weren’t going anywhere far. The babysitter and he convinced my mom everything would be fine.
When they returned home later that night, they were instantly overwhelmed with a sick odor.
My mother was irritated.
“Why didn’t you call me?” she snapped at the babysitter.
“I didn’t want to disturb your evening. Jeff’s been going all exclaimed. Every stitch of underwear, sheets, blankets, and pajamas in the house was either soaking in the basement washtub or lying on the floor. “I feel fine, mama,” I said, trying to defuse the alarm.
The next morning (Sunday), my mom called Dr. Harold Flanagan, our family pediatrician, who said to call back first thing in the morning. I refused to eat because I figured out eating made me go in my pants. Diarrhea continued throughout Sunday night, and Monday was a nightmare. Barely after daybreak, we called Dr. Flanagan. He squeezed us into a packed appointment schedule for early afternoon.
While waiting for the appointment, my mom began the monumental task of washing all my “accidents” from the night before. Between one of the wash loads, she called my Aunt Alyce, a registered nurse. “Alyce, can you look at Jeffrey? I don’t know what’s going on.” Alyce agreed and took off for our house.
“Please Jeff, you have to eat something!” my mom encouraged.
I had a small bowl of rice. Minutes later, I was in the bathroom.
“Just stay right there. I’ll be right back, Jeff. Your Aunt Alyce is here.”
No way am I going to leave this toilet, I thought. I overheard my mom showing Alyce a sample of the dirty linen.
“I have seen this before, Martha, but not in someone Jeffrey’s age,” Alyce said. “I don’t want to alarm you, but this looks like ulcerative colitis.”
The bouts of diarrhea continued throughout the morning. In less than forty-eight hours, I had transformed from a healthy five year old to a pale, gaunt, listless child.
Dr. Flanagan listened intently to the details of the severe and hemoglobin count, Dr. Flanagan said, “Mrs. Smith, I don’t think we should wait on this thing. Jeffrey needs to be hospitalized as soon as possible for blood transfusions. His hemoglobin is dangerously low.”
That evening, I was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital to begin a series of tests. My parents canceled hosting Easter dinner the following Sunday. I stayed in the hospital the entire week, and on Easter I was lonely. My parents visited me in the morning, but when they left I felt glum, mostly because I couldn’t hunt for my Easter basket of chocolate eggs, suckers, and jelly beans.
My parents were barely gone when I was surprised by guests. My mom’s parents - Charlie and Helen Bumgarner - spent the afternoon with me. Nonnie Helen and Papa Charlie - not realizing the status of my volatile digestive tract - were loaded with Easter candy, fruit, and a big stuffed animal. Their goodies were banned, but their presence more than made up for the “candy-free zone” of my hospital room. They kept me from dwelling on being away from my family that day.
“Mrs. Smith, we’ve decided exploratory surgery is necessary on Jeffrey,” Dr. Flanagan announced. “I’ve scheduled it for tomorrow morning.” Despite St. Joseph’s strict policies on visiting hours, Dr. Flanagan arranged for my parents to stay with me the night before surgery.
“I did this for you, Mrs. Smith, because I fear Jeff might have cancer, and I want you and Mr. Smith to spend as much time with him as possible.” With tears in her eyes, my mom hung up the phone, trying to absorb this latest news.
She (Mom) realized she hadn’t spoken with her mom, Helen, since their visit to me on Easter. She called her.
“Hello?” my grandmother answered weakly.
“Mom, is everything all right?”
“Yes, Martha,” she sighed. Her responses were detached, but my mom thought it was because of my illness. “I need to wash my hair, Martha, and do the laundry.” My mom was alarmed because normally Nonnie Helen had these things finished by early morning. “I don’t like how you sound, Mom. I’m getting someone over there.”
She immediately called Aunt Alyce.
“Alyce, you need to check on Mom right now. I know this is terrible timing, but I don’t like how Mom sounds, and I don’t have a car!”
“I’m on my way,” Alyce exclaimed with rising fear. My aunt had just returned from her honeymoon and was in the midst of opening wedding gifts with friends and family. She ran out the door, apologizing to her guests as she left.
Twenty minutes later, Alyce called my mom, hysterical. “I can’t get into the house! I got a ladder from the neighbor, looked through the window, and saw Mom lying unconscious on the floor!” My mom called my father, who was an insurance agent in the Lloyd F. Smith Insurance Agency started by his father in 1933. Lots of times, he’d be on the road, but fortunately this time he was at his desk. He met my panicked aunt. “I’ll try to knock in the door,” he said. Alyce looked at the massive oak door with uncertainty. He took a run at it with his powerfully built frame. They heard a sharp crack, but the door stood firm. He hit it again, but the door remained intact. Grunting in disgust, my father ran at the door with everything he could muster. The solid oak door, frame, and plaster came crashing in. They rushed into the house, and Alyce started CPR. My dad called the police who sent an ambulance.
Miraculously, my grandmother responded to the CPR. She weakly asked, “Lloyd...Alyce, what are you doing here?
I need to get up…get my chores done.”
Alyce smiled, wiping away tears. “Mom, we’re taking you to the hospital.”
My dad’s father, Papa Lloyd, drove my mom to Miller Hospital where Nonnie Helen lay in the ICU. Our neighbor watched my siblings David, Dana, and Stephen. At the hospital, my mom was stopped by a business representative. “We first need to verify your current insurance information.” Astounded and irritated, my mom took off for the elevator shouting back, “I guarantee you’ll get paid! In the meantime, my mom is likely dying!”
She found my grandmother in an oxygen tent fighting a severe case of pneumonia. Once assured her mother was stable, my mom tracked down her father, Charlie, with the help of his secretary.
“Get here right away, Dad,” she said. “I think Mom’s dying.”
Nonnie Helen held her own through Tuesday, the day of my surgery. Very early that morning, my mom approached my grandmother’s bed. She wanted to give my grandma the best chance of fighting the pneumonia. She knew her mother had already been very upset about my condition. “Good news, Mom,” she fibbed. “The doctors found out the problem with Jeff. They removed a little polyp that was causing all the bleeding. He’s all right.” One tear came out of my Nonnie’s eye. She smiled and fell back unconscious.
At nearly 2 a.m. that morning, while my parents and grandpa were anxiously waiting for news about my grandmother, a grim faced physician approached Papa Charlie. “Charlie, I’m sorry, but Helen didn’t make it.” Papa Charlie gasped and collapsed on the floor. My grandfather was immediately taken to the ICU, the very same unit where his wife had just died. Doctors feared my grandpa had contracted the same Friedlander’s pneumonia that had just killed his wife. My parents reeled. Throughout the next few days, everyone’s nerves were raw as doctors repeatedly alerted the family of my grandfather’s impending death. He did pull through but not until recuperating in the hospital for three months. Numbly, my parents tried to digest the death of my grandmother and my grandfather battling for his life.
With my grandfather stabilized for the moment, my parents decided to go home for a couple
of hours of sleep before returning for my 7 a.m. surgery.
“Lloyd, I’m losing my whole family!” my mom said as they drove back to the hospital the next morning. They arrived looking haggard, but after the surgery they were rewarded with the news that I did not have cancer. The doctors discovered I had a large diverticulum, which is a pouch in the intestines filled with infection. They removed it and hoped they had solved the problem. “No matter what it costs, we want our son kept in 24-hour intensive care,” my dad said, knowing this level of care would make it possible for them to leave me and attend the funeral and care for my grandfather in the days thereafter. My parents and Aunt Alyce rushed off to attend Nonnie Helen’s funeral.
Doctors kept me in the hospital for several additional days fearing I might have contracted the Friedlander’s pneumonia from my grandmother.