Editor's Note: Monroe massage therapist Charles Crawford was charged in Snohomish County Superior Court with a felony count of indecent liberties on Sept. 7, 2016, with additional charges pending, after three alleged victims reported inappropriate touching during their massages.

When Julie Johnson first started seeing Monroe massage therapist Chuck Crawford, the range of motion in her left arm was so limited, she could barely lift it above shoulder height. Now, just over a year later, the blind masseur has not only helped to restore her mobility, but has succeeded in helping to transform her spirit. 

Crawford’s blindness, said Johnson, has only enhanced his ability to do his job.

“In some ways, Chuck’s blindness seems to be an asset to his work,” Johnson said. “With his knowledge of bones, muscles and nerves, he is able to, what I call, ‘see’ with his fingertips. He feels where the problem areas are, then sets out to correct them.”

Crawford, a licensed massage therapist, is going into his ninth year of practicing at the Wellbeing Center for Health in Monroe. Newly owned by Patty Glen, the clinic takes a holistic approach to overall health by providing a well-rounded range of services including massage therapy, chiropractic care, intuitive readings, biofeedback, reiki, acupuncture, counseling, nutritional coaching, naturopathic medicine and yoga.

Johnson’s transformation, said Glen, has been truly remarkable.

“She lights up our clinic when she walks in now,” Glen said. “She really does. She walks fully upright, she has a command of the room – every time I see her she's smiling. If I happen to be in her walking path I get a hug, which it’s always good to get free hugs. It's just such a huge life change.”

Johnson came to the clinic for help with a multitude of issues related to post traumatic stress disorder from childhood and adult trauma. She described her stress level as “crippling,” and suffered from debilitating anxiety in addition to the issues with her mobility. She was unable to lift her left arm without pain, and her right side was only marginally better. Johnson is low-income, so she scraped together the money for her first appointment, since Medicare does not cover massage therapy.

Crawford focused on several key areas, including her hips, chest and shoulders. When he saw how well she responded to the therapy, the two worked out a financial arrangement that worked for Johnson, so that she would be able to continue receiving treatment.  

“She now has almost full range of motion without pain,” Crawford said. “It's been an amazing year. Her personality has totally changed in that year.”

Johnson feels strongly that Crawford’s blindness has enhanced his ability to heal.

“A lot of folks do,” Crawford said. “I seem to have the intuitive touch.”

Crawford began losing his vision about 10 years ago due to a form of macular degeneration that caused hemorrhaging in the retina of his left eye. The vision in his right eye was already impaired due to a childhood accident, and treatment for the hemorrhaging in his left eye resulted in blind spots. After 35 years in the heating and air conditioning business, Crawford knew that had to find another career.

He settled on massage therapy, because he felt it was an occupation he could do regardless of whether or not he could see.

“It's something that's tactile. It's not vision-oriented so much,” Crawford said. “And I figured even if I totally lose my vision I would still be able to do it.”

With help from the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind, he enrolled in a year-long massage therapy licensure program at Ashmead College in Everett. Since then, he has maintained the mandated level of continuing education requirements, and broadened his level of expertise by taking an intensive course in Mana Lomi, a form of massage developed in Hawaii. Mana Lomi, directly translated, means “Hawaiian Spiritual Massage,” and involves energy movement, compression and stretching.

Crawford incorporates different elements of Mana Lomi into his massage technique.  

“I use a lot of Mana Lomi in my treatments but also a lot of Swedish and the treatments that we were taught in school,” Crawford said.

He acknowledged that losing his vision has been a significant challenge. Not being able to drive, said Crawford, was a huge adjustment. He and his wife Marilyn live six miles outside of Monroe, and since he is no longer able to drive, many household tasks such as shopping and other errands have fallen on her shoulders. Married since 2003, Marilyn has been at his side throughout the entire process.

“She's such an angel,” Crawford said. “She's so great.”

The couple bought a large flat-screen television earlier this year, and he is able to make out images if he sits close enough. Reading is difficult, said Crawford, even with a magnification device. He is able to make out the lines on the pages of his patient charts, but once he’s written his notes he isn’t able to read them. He relies a lot on his memory, his wife and his service dog Guinness, who helps him navigate his surroundings when he’s at church or out in the community.

Crawford hasn’t let blindness slow him down, particularly when it comes to one of his greatest joys in life, which is playing music. Crawford plays the guitar, and for many years he played in a bluegrass band called Convergence Zone. The band frequently played gigs at Eddie’s Trackside, a Monroe music venue that closed in 2013. 

Despite the major adjustments he’s had to make due to his blindness, Crawford has maintained a positive attitude.

“It's been a blessing in one sense,” Crawford said. “I'm much more grateful; I appreciate life more. I appreciate what I can still do.”

Johnson said that she found Crawford’s ability to overcome the challenges in his life to be inspirational, and that his strength has helped motivate her to overcome her own challenges. He didn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself, said Johnson, which is something that really resonated with her.  

“Chuck inspires me every day to go the extra mile, and to live life to the fullest,” Johnson said. “He tells me, ‘We must never give up no matter what!’”

The treatment she has received at the Wellbeing Center for Health, said Johnson, has been exceptional. She commended Glen, who has owned the center since January of 2014.

“The environment she has created inside the old library is amazing. As I open the door I feel the peace and tranquility. The running water, plants, skylight and aroma of essential oils set off the mood,” Johnson said. “I would love everyone to experience this place like I do.” 

For more information on the Wellbeing Center for Health, please visit: http://wellbeingcenterforhealth.com/.