Ben Underwood was a remarkable young man who amazed the world with his ability to see without eyes. He used a technique called echolocation, which involves making clicking noises with his tongue and listening to the echoes that bounce off objects. He could ride a bike, play video games, rollerblade, and even identify different materials by their sound. He was featured on CBS News, People Magazine, Oprah, Ellen, and many other media outlets. He inspired millions of people with his positive attitude and his refusal to let his blindness limit him. But sadly, Ben’s life was cut short by the same cancer that took his eyesight when he was only three years old. Here is his story and how he died.
Ben’s Early Life and Diagnosis
Ben Underwood was born on January 26, 1992, in Sacramento, California. He was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare form of eye cancer, when he was two years old. The cancer had spread to both of his eyes, and the only way to save his life was to remove them. He underwent surgery at the age of three and became completely blind. His mother, Aquanetta Gordon, was devastated by the news, but she decided to raise Ben as a normal child and not to treat him differently because of his disability. She encouraged him to explore the world and to use his other senses to compensate for his lack of vision.
Ben’s Discovery of Echolocation
When Ben was five years old, he discovered that he could use sound to navigate his surroundings. He started making clicking noises with his tongue and noticed that he could tell where things were by the way they sounded. He realized that different objects and materials had different echoes, and he could use them to create a mental image of his environment. He practiced and perfected his skill until he could do almost anything that a sighted person could do. He could play basketball, ride a bike, climb trees, and even identify colors by their sound. He did not use a cane or a guide dog, and he did not consider himself disabled. He said, “I just have a different way of seeing.”
Ben’s Fame and Recognition
Ben’s extraordinary ability caught the attention of the media and the public. He was featured on several TV shows, magazines, and documentaries. He was invited to meet celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Stevie Wonder. He also traveled to Europe and Japan, where he demonstrated his echolocation skills and learned about different cultures. He became a role model and a source of inspiration for many people, especially those who were blind or had other challenges. He received awards and honors for his achievements and his positive outlook on life. He said, “I don’t let anything stop me. I can do anything I want to do.”
Ben’s Cancer and Death
Unfortunately, Ben’s cancer returned when he was 15 years old. It had spread to his brain and his spine, and it was incurable. He underwent several rounds of chemotherapy, but they did not work. He decided to stop the treatments and to spend his last days at home with his family and friends. He died on January 19, 2009, just a week before his 17th birthday. His funeral was attended by thousands of people who had been touched by his amazing story and his spirit. His good friend Stevie Wonder sang his famous “Happy Birthday” song to him at his funeral. Ben’s mother said, “He was a gift from God. He taught me how to live.”
Ben’s Legacy and Impact
Ben’s story continues to spread and to inspire people all over the world. His mother wrote a book about his life titled Echoes of an Angel. His videos are still going viral on YouTube and Facebook, with most posts getting millions of views each time they are shared. His story has been included in textbooks that are used in schools in the US, Australia, Europe, and other countries. He has also been the subject of scientific research and studies on human echolocation and brain plasticity. He has shown that blindness is not a barrier, but a challenge that can be overcome with creativity and determination. He has shown that anything is possible with faith and courage. He has shown that seeing is not only with the eyes, but with the heart.