I'm No Longer Blind In More Ways Than One!

(By: Dorene Zuege)

Born with a cleft palate and nearly blind, Dorene shares some of her life struggles that God has helped her greatly overcome. How God-glorifying and inspiring her story truly is!

I was born 65 years ago, but was not expected to live, so no one bothered to check the time that I entered into this world. Dad said he was notified at five minutes to midnight on February 14th. Things got pretty busy I guess in the delivery room when they realized that I was born with a cleft palate. I've been told that most children back then died from this birth defeat, or from the complications that can develop from side effects. So it was way after 1:00 AM on the 15th that they decided I was here to stay.  

Only I was not to come home with my mother. My "home" became the hospital. I was born in Manitowoc, Wisconsin and was transferred shortly thereafter to Madison General Hospital, a good 135 miles away. My folks could not afford the trip back and forth, so I didn't get to 'know' my folks until I was over three months old. But I wasn't home but only a few weeks when I developed a high fever and landed back into the hospital again for quite some time. I was back and forth in that hospital the majority of my pre-school years, going through three major reconstructive surgeries to repair the cleft (hole in the roof of my mouth) palate.

Not only was I born with a cleft palate, but I was also born with congenital cataracts. My right eye was so bad that they had to operate on it sometime before I reached the age of five. The reason given my folks was that 'if the human brain does not see light by the age of five, it never will. So my right eye was operated on sometime before I ever started school. In the process of the operation, they discovered that I not also had miss-shaped eyes, but that the jell in the eye that holds the eye in shape, was not a jell, but was in a liquid form. They injected something into that eye to replace the liquid and then told my folks to never allow another surgeon to touch my other eye unless I was completely blind in it. Through the years, there were several doctors who wanted to do surgery on that eye, but I would not allow anyone to touch it as long as I had any amount of vision left in it.  

Meanwhile, I learned to speak as clearly as I could by spending all my summers in Madison, away from all my brothers and sisters and mom and dad, going to speech therapy classes and living with total strangers. Needless to say, I developed a certain shell around me that protected me from feeling the loneliness that would sometimes try and get me down. My folks said that I was bull-headed enough, and that was the main reason I didn't die when other children did in my situation. But my strong will still didn't help my self image when other kids would make fun of my speech and call me "dog face" or four- eyes because of the coke glasses I had to wear in order to see. I got to the point where I refused to stand in front of my English high school class to give oral reports and even flunked because of the fear of not wanting to hear anymore unkind remarks being thrown my way. 

Then, when my mother became pregnant with my youngest sister, she had to be bedridden because of a serious problem with her pregnancy, in order to save the baby. Well, Mom all ready had 6 kids, most of them pre-schoolers, and how was she to care for all those kids in her condition? So we all ended up in an orphanage for almost three years. By that time, I was so used to being separated from my family that it was nothing new to me, except that there were lots of other kids in the same situation as we were. We were placed for the first year and a half in an orphanage in Green Bay that was run by a group of Catholic nuns. It was a great place where they really had it set up for children of all ages. There was a park-like area for us to play in and a steep hill to go sledding and tobogganing in the winter. There was a gym that the boys played basketball in and we learned to roller skate in. In the summer we learned how to square dance out on the blacktop playground from listening to the old fashioned records that the nuns played over the loud speakers.

But all was not fun and games there. This orphanage grew much, if not most, of its own food and we kids had the chore of pulling weeds. I thank God and my younger sister Terri that she would come and help me finish my row, because no one could go swimming in the swimming hole in the nearby river until everyone's row was finished. I couldn't tell if I was pulling out the good plants or the weeds! I hated that job, but loved almost everything else about that place. Still, even only 45 miles away from Manitowoc, my folks were unable to afford the drive there and back to visit us. We only seen them once during our stay there, but my folks then moved to Milwaukee and we were then transferred to another orphanage on the south side of Milwaukee. The two places were like night and day from each other in the way they cared for the children. We were not allowed to play on the grass, only on the sidewalk. There were bars on the windows and a spiked fence all around the premises. The 'caretakers' were very unkind and ridiculed my mother the first night we were there because we didn't know how to wash up without a wash cloth. I was in the fifth grade.

Because of my poor vision, it was decided to send me to a public school where they had 'sight-saving' classes. So I was the only kid in the whole orphanage who went away to school. I was also the only kid in the whole orphanage that wasn't with all the rest of the kids when they changed their dirty underwear right after school on certain days of the week. I can't tell you the number of times that I was locked up in a closet as punishment for being a 'pig', forgetting that that was the day that we were to change our underwear. Thankfully, I was not afraid of the dark, and even thought how stupid it was that I was being punished for something that I couldn't remember, that not another kid there had to remember all by themselves. But I know that there were other kids that were afraid of the dark and they were terrified when they got locked away in that closet. May God have mercy on the ones who thought that that was appropriate child care and training.  

Well - childhood turned into young adulthood when one day I found myself on the street without a place to live. My mother had just kicked me out of her home because I had made the very bad decision to tell her that if she'd "discipline my youngest sister for not keeping up with the dishes, then I wouldn't have to". NO ONE EVER talked to your parents in that tone of voice or in that manner of disrespect back in those days, and out the door I was sent!

Now I have to tell you, that even when we don't know the LORD, HE KNOWS US! And HE LOVES US AND CARES FOR US EVEN WHEN WE DON'T KNOW HOW TO OURSELVES. I was walking down the street crying, and telling the LORD that I didn't know what I was going to do or where I was going to be able to stay, when a car  pulled over and a lady called me over to the car and wanted to know what was wrong, as she had noticed that I was crying. I then realized that I had just met this lady the week before through one of my younger sisters who lived upstairs from her. This lady was my sister's landlady.  

She invited me to come home with her and she asked her husband if I could rent out the spare bedroom that they had in their flat. Of course he said okay. Now, just because I was praying in desperation, didn't mean that I really believed that God was going to help me. Nor does it mean that I really KNEW the LORD. BUT HE KNEW ME AND LOVED ME LONG BEFORE I EVER KNEW HIM! HE HAD THE ANSWER BEFORE I EVEN HAD THE NEED! (See: Isaiah 65:24). That lady NEVER had a reason to drive down that street, but just felt like it that day, at that particular time of the day. CO-INCIDENCE? I think not! MY GOD IS ABLE TO SUPPLY ALL MY NEEDS ACCORDING TO HIS RICHES IN GLORY. IT would be many years before I would learn that scripture, Philippians 4:19, but oh, how thankful I was at the time that that elderly couple took me into their home. 


It was at that time in my life that I decided that something in my life had to change. All the guys I dated were only interested in my body and not my brains. I can't tell you the number of times I thanked God for tight girdles, for they were the instruments that God used to protect me when in my need for wanting to be loved by someone, I didn't know that I was going about it the wrong way, and was ending up in back seat struggles to save my virginity.

So, I decided to give up on guys. And I began going to church every day. After about a year or so, I was talking to the LORD and telling him that I wasn't getting any younger, that all my sisters were married, except my baby sister, and all my girl friends were married and here I was, an old maid at 22 years old. Back then in the neighborhood I grew up in, most of the girls were married by the time they were 19 years old. None of them went to college. None of our folks had that kind of money to send us off to college and we were all just average kids in school, so none earned a scholarship to anywhere!

So there I was, telling God that I would like to get married, but if HE didn't want me to get married, OK, but if HE wanted me to get married, then HE would have to find the guy, cause I WASN'T LOOKING! Coming out of the church that day, I was walking down this long set of steps to the street level, when all of a sudden this very strange thought came into my mind, that I would have to move away from where I was living. It so shocked me, that with one foot already raised up to step down, I paused in mid-air and said, "MOVE AWAY!  WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD I WANT TO MOVE AWAY?" After all, I had it made in the shade living with my sister's landlady and landlord. It took me about a month just to convince that sweet old lady to "PLEASE, DON'T HAVE A FULL FLEDGED COOKED DINNER WAITING FOR ME WHEN I GET HOME AT 1 AM FROM WORK." She also changed my bedding and washed my clothes and saw to it that if I had lost a button off my coat, that she'd find one and sew it on. I could not get out of the house without my winter coat all buttoned up, and I also had to have gloves and a scarf or hat on in cold weather and it was through that couple that I learned about waterproofing boots. So you can see why moving away from there was not one of my own thoughts.  

In answer to my question, another thought came, "There are no young people in the neighborhood." I thought about that for a minute or so and had to agree that I hadn't seen any young people around either. So then I said, "Where am I supposed to move to?" And another thought, 'Look in the newspaper for a girl to share an apartment with." So that's what I did. It wasn't until years later that I realized that I had not been reasoning with myself, but that my God, my HEAVENLY FATHER, who I really didn't yet know, was guiding me by His Holy Spirit. I was 'hearing' the voice of God in my spirit, but not audibly. This - before I even knew the scripture that says, 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.'  (See: John 10: 27)

It took several months, but I eventually found just the right place to rent for only $12.50 a week and I had my own room! The rest of the apartment went with the room. One week after I rented the apartment, another gal answered the landlord's ad and she really like the place, and the landlady had told me that I could decide who would live with me. We hit it off right away, and through that gal, I met my husband, Tony. God sure knows how to work in mighty ways!  

Tony grew up on the North side of Milwaukee in a neighborhood much like the one I grew up in on the south side of Milwaukee (after getting back home from the orphanage and going into the seventh grade). It just took God to get me up on the north side of Milwaukee in order for me to meet Tony. And it was almost love at first sight.  

We were married the following spring and this spring (2019) we'll be married for 53 years. And what some years they have been! God provided for me an excellent husband; one I couldn't have found better if I'd tried. And I did try, and all my efforts were bummers! He's been an excellent provider, even though I was never able to work because I eventually went legally blind and was thus blind for about 18 years.  

During those 18 years, we had three girls, each about two to two-and-a-half years apart. When I delivered my third daughter, I wouldn't allow the doctor to put me to sleep, as had been the case with my first two. I wanted to be fully aware of what was going on. So, when my daughter did not cry right away, I knew something was wrong. The doctor finally came and told me that she was born with a cleft palate and immediately I thought, "Well, if I could make it, she can too!"  

Little did I realize how difficult it would be in caring for her in her first year before she had reconstructive surgery. I learned in a hurry just what my mother went through with me! It took me two hours from the time she would wake up to change her and then get her dressed for her feeding "ordeal" as well as get me all dressed up in the hospital gowns that the hospital provided for me when we took her home. I also had to wear my hair completely covered because I had to feed her with a syringe with a rubber tubing on the end through which I had to aim it towards the inside of her cheek while she was screaming bloody murder, with her food spewing out all over her and me. Then came the clean-up! Of both of us!

Because all she wanted to do was suck on a bottle, which she never got until she was a year old, she had to sleep on her stomach until after her surgery on a mattress that was raised at the head. It didn't take her very long and she was rolling over onto her back, just like I did when I was her age, and we had to put her in restraints like a strait jacket that went over her torso and the strings went from the back and were tied to the crib. I actually remember being in the same type of strait jacket as an infant. I also remember the padded boards that they put on my arms after I was a toddler when they did the surgeries on my mouth. They were to keep my hands out of my mouth so it would heal properly. My daughter did not have to wear those after her surgery. My husband and I had some difficult times when we first brought her home from the hospital. He didn't realize just how much time it would require in just taking care of her, let alone caring for my other two pre-schoolers. After a neighbor arranged for the public health nurse to come and check out our home situation, the nurse was able to get a home health care helper in to keep our house clean, do the laundry and the cooking while I expended my energies on my three girls and their care. I truly thank the LORD for HIS KINDNESS to me during that period in my life.

Life went on and my sister Teri was telling me about some books that she'd been reading and was trying to get me to read them. I didn't really have any money to be buying even paper back books. Finally, after a few marriage counseling sessions, Tony was advised to give me an allowance, and to never ask me what I spent it on. He was and is, so good at keeping track of the finances that he wanted to know where every red cent was being spent. I, on the other hand, spend the money on what I thought was  necessary and promptly forget how much I paid for it and generally could care less: it's spent, it's gone, so forget it.  


I began to pick up a few of those books that Terri had told me about. Books like "The Late Great Planet Earth" by Hal Lindsey, and "Satan is Alive and Doing Well on Planet Earth" and eventually I read a book called "The Beginning of the End" by Tim LaHaye. All these other books were about the end days of the earth under human government, and at the end of those books, they'd have a prayer. I'd read that prayer, just like I read every other prayer in my prayer book, (with no real meaning or thinking about what I was praying), and would then slam the book shut and that was the end of that! 

Well, Tim LaHaye's book was very different from the others in that he was using different words in every single chapter inviting the reader to give their lives over to Jesus Christ. At least that's the impression I was getting. After about two-thirds of the way through the book I put the book down and said to the Lord: 

"LORD! Look here! Here it is again! Am I missing something here or what? Am I not understanding something that I need to understand? I tell you what LORD, I'm gonna do this thing. So-o-o-o, what you see LORD, is what you get. Here's my house, and here's my wealth, and here's my honey and here's my kids, and here's everything I am. Do with it what you want!'

I still really had no clue what I had done. Years earlier I had given the Lord the right to decide whether or not I would get married, and to choose the guy, and didn't realize back then that that is exactly what it means when we call Jesus 'LORD'. A 'LORD' is a boss, or an OWNER. When we call Jesus 'LORD', we are actually calling him our boss, or our owner. And all Jesus is waiting for is for the human race to acknowledge Him to be who He wants to be: our Lord, our Master, our Boss, our Lover. When I gave him lordship over picking out a husband for me if He wanted to, Jesus gave me the best husband that would work out for the best in both of our lives. When I turned my whole life over to Jesus to do with as He willed, things began to change in my life that I didn't even try to change!

In turning my life over to the Lordship of Jesus, the first thing I noticed was how I was now able to kiss Tony goodbye at the door when he was leaving for work and then turn around and not feel lonely. That horrible feeling of loneliness was now forever gone! My JESUS was filling that void within me. Another thing I noticed that left me was my words of swearing that I had occasionally used. Another thing was that I no longer had the fear of going down into my basement after midnight. I had this strange feeling that bad things happen in basements after midnight! Well, that fear left and has never come back! Praise God! It's great to be free from fear, including the fear of dying. That's gone too!  

Once when we were merging into another lane on the freeway, we were coming from the south and turning to go west, and another vehicle was coming from the north and going west. I had been worshiping the Lord quietly and had been saying HALE---LU--IA as this other vehicle slammed into our rear end. I instantly knew, that if I would have gone through that windshield, I would have finished the word in front of my PRECIOUS JESUS! I never screamed; I felt no fear; I just finished what I was saying!  

I have been in quite a few car accidents since coming to know Jesus as my SAVIOR. What is a savior? It is one who saves another from something. One accident Jesus saved me from certain death was on a Friday night. It was a spring day, and we had had an ice storm that day. When I came out of work, I had planned on going to a special training session at a church about 30 miles out of town. I took one look around and said out loud, 'Wow!  Satan must not want anyone at that meeting! Well, guess what? I'm going!' And going I went!  

It took twice the time to get there as traffic was crawling at only 5 -15 miles an hour. The meeting turned out to be really great and when I got back on the freeway to come home, the roads were in good driving condition, as the meeting had lasted at least three hours. But at one point, in my drive home, I 'heard' the LORD speak to my spirit and say, 'Slow way down, because the ramp is still icy,' as I was approaching the turnoff towards Chicago on the southwest side of Milwaukee.  

So I slowed way down. There was a white car in the left lane - I was in the middle lane. We both were on the ramp, when the white vehicle - which didn't slow down - lost control and hit my car and was pushing me into the rail. All I could visualize was me flying over the top and down into the traffic below.  

I screamed, 'JESUS!  HELP ME!' and it was like someone else took over driving my car. I came to within a quarter inch of hitting that rail/wall. Before the accident was all over, there were six vehicles involved, including the cop car that had stopped to help; it too was hit. There was absolutely no damage to the right side of my car; only on the left side where I was initially hit.  

The following Sunday, I was telling my sister, Alta Monte, about the accident, and she proceeds to tell me, "Oh yeah, I know all about it." I asked her, "What do you mean, you know all about it?  I haven't told anyone in your family about it yet." She smiled at me and said that she had been in prayer the week before and God had given her a vision of the accident happening and impressed her to intercede on my behalf!'

Just a week ago, I went with a friend up to northern Wisconsin and on the way home she got pretty tired from driving, so I took over. I'd been driving maybe an hour or so and was driving over an overpass, when all of a sudden I noticed the semi in the lane next to me was moving over into my lane! I had nowhere to go except I was able to pull over into the emergency lane, but it was not wide enough for the full width of the car. It had those groves in the roadway that let's drivers who are falling asleep to wake up because they are so loud. The semi driver had either fallen asleep, or I was in his blind spot. He must have either seen my lights bouncing all over, and/or heard the noise from the groves, so he pulled back into his lane. 


But here is the wonder of it all. I had absolutely no fear. There was complete peace in that car. No screaming, no anxiety, just the peace that passes all understanding! Jesus is my peace! Oh How I love Him! His name is so wonderful, so lovely, so rich!  

When I first turned my life over to the Lord, I never understood what the people were talking about when they made similar statements about the name of Jesus. It never made any sense. But as the years went by, Jesus has proved Himself over and over again, that HE IS EVERYTHING THAT WE NEED HIM TO BE, WHEN WE NEED HIM TO BE WHAT WE NEED HIM TO BE. And, as the old hymn says, "I keep falling in love with Him, over and over, and over and over again. He gets sweeter and sweeter as the days go by, oh what a love between my Lord and I.  I keep falling in love with Him, over and over, and over and over again.'  The author of that song surely must have known my precious JESUS, because those words are exactly mine!

You may be wondering how a 'blind' lady can be driving. Well, that is just another of the wonderful things that Jesus did for me. After my vision got so bad that I was constantly bumping into doorways and walls and such,  I decided that I had nothing left to lose, so I consented to having my left eye operated on to remove the cataract.  

After the surgery, I kept asking my doctor if my eye was good enough yet to drive, and he'd keep saying, "Now Mrs. Zuege, you can't expect too much." Well, I had two prayer groups praying for me, and friends, and I wasn't giving up the hope of being able to see well enough to drive! Finally one day, the doctor said that yes, I'd be able to drive. So I promptly went out and got my driver's license, then the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation paid for me to go to school and I went for nine months of computer training and office work and at the same time, went to Bible School for two years and then landed my job with the State of Wisconsin, Department of Corrections, in Community Corrections (better know as Probation and Parole). I love my job and though it has been very stressful at times because I worked in the sex offenders unit for many years, I found myself praying for many of the victims as well as the perpetrators.

I was working several years when I received a call from my doctor's office. This really surprised me as I had no occasion to see him for quite some time. When he got on the phone, he asked me if they could put my 'story' in their newsletter. I was unaware that they even had a newsletter and then I asked him, "What story?" I wanted to hear it out of his own mouth!  

"Mrs. Zuege", he said with somewhat of an exasperated tone to his voice, "I don't know if you're aware of it or not, but I consider the fact that you can see, nothing less than a miracle. Anyone who was blind for as many years as you were should not be able to see, let alone see well enough to drive. People who are blind for that many years, when we do surgery on them, never ever get to see like you are able to see. Mrs. Zuege, you should not be able to see well enough to drive!"  

Well, I consented to them putting that story into their newsletter under one condition. "What's that?" he asked. "Only if you give GOD THE GLORY and don't take the glory for yourself." 

"Absolutely!" he said. "I was only the surgeon, but only God can do the healing like He did for you." So when their reporter called long distance from down south somewhere, I proceeded to tell her that there is a song that many people are well aware of in most churches called Amazing Grace. One of the verses reads, "Once I was blind, but now I see." Those words mean so very much to me, that I usually end up crying when we sing those words, because unless you were ever physically blind, you will never know the joy of truly being able to see again. I can see the deer in the fields now that my husband points out to me as we're driving down country roads. I couldn't even see them when they were in the ravines right next to the road before! I'll never forget the night I looked out of my front door window across the street and was able to see everything clearly. I cried. And I'm crying even now as I'm relating this. God is so good and so gracious!  


God says that all sin is worthy of the penalty of death. His Word tells us that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. But God so loved the world (that's you and me!) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life!

Well! What in the world does it mean to believe in Him? What am I supposed to believe? I believe that GOD exists. I believe that JESUS exists, that He became a man and that He died and then came back to life three days later. I believe that He later went back to heaven.  

But what does it mean when you hear someone say, 'Jesus died for your sins.' What does that mean? This is the Good News! Jesus paid the death penalty; He took my place; He took YOUR place that perhaps you should have suffered in the electric chair for because you hated someone and God's Word tells us that if you have hated in your heart it's like you have committed the sin of murder. (See: Matthew 5:21-28).

My precious Jesus suffered MY punishment! He suffered YOUR punishment! And he did so gladly! So that you and I can be seen in the eyes of Father God as being perfectly clean! No blemishes will be found in us when we stand before the Judge of all the Earth! Why not? Because Jesus is not only our Savior, but He is our Judge as well, and He is also our Mediator, our Lawyer!  

He is everything we need when we stand before our God at our physical death. But we can have that freedom now, in this life. We don't ever need to fear physical death either, because we won't ever die! We'll just change this body house of ours for a spiritual body clothed in the righteousness of our Lord's glory! Praise God! How I love Him, and thank Him! Over and over I will never be able to tell enough how much He means to me.  

My question to you now is: Do you know my Jesus? If not, just ask Him to take control of your life. He will never take what you refuse to give Him. But you will find out, just as I did, that He will be with you and He will never leave you, nor will He ever forsake you. Friends come and go; family moves away and often die, but Jesus never ever leaves you. He'll be your friend forever. And you will be able to hear His voice in your spirit just like I can in my spirit. And everyone who trusts in the Lord with all your heart, with your whole being and understanding, and leans not to your own understanding, but acknowledges Him in all your ways, He truly will direct your path throughout this life. (See: Proverbs 3:5-6)

May the Lord Jesus Christ guide you now as you make the most important decision of your life. Shut down your computer and start talking to Jesus. Tell Him what's on your heart, and don't be surprised when you hear Him speaking about what's important to Him, what's on HIS heart! You'll never live to regret one moment of your decision to give God control of your life. I did, and wow! What a life I've had ever since. I've only begun to touch on a few things in my life and how Jesus makes the difference. Perhaps I'll share some more at another time.  

God bless and keep you forever smiling in joyful union with Jesus! 

My email:  dorenejzuege@yahoo.com 

Dear Reader - are you at peace with God?  If not, you can be. Do you know what awaits you when you die? You can have the assurance from God that heaven will be your home, if you would like to be certain. You can even have that assurance RIGHT NOW!  Either Jesus Christ died for your sins, or He didn't (He did!). Are you prepared to stand before God on the Judgment Day and tell Him that you didn't need the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross to have your sins forgiven and get in right-standing with God? We plead with you...please don't make such a tragic mistake. 

To get to know God, to be at peace with God, to have your sins forgiven, to make certain heaven will be your home for eternity, to make certain that you are in right-standing with God right now ... please click here to help you understand the importance of being reconciled to God. What you do about being reconciled to God will determine where you will spend eternity, precious one. Your decision to be reconciled to God is the most important decision you'll ever make in this life, because in Christ, it is impossible to put a value on the worth of your soul in light of eternity.


JESUS DID IT! and...


Remember: All that we do in this life comes back to our God-given purpose which is to serve and glorify God. The money and assets we accumulate, the fame and power we've attained or seek to attain - all of the things of this nature will one day pass away, but those lives of others we impact for Jesus Christ will last for eternity, and we will be rewarded for the part we helped play by impacting those lives ... for eternity. (Matthew 6:19-21 is our assurance)