Sometimes, after giving nearly two dozen haircuts on a Saturday, Keeley Kossof would collapse in her car and cry from exhaustion.
The hairdresser and make-up artist reveled in making clients happy. She listened to them like a psychologist, with the heart of a friend. Occasionally, she even primped celebrities for local appearances.
All the while, her customers were unaware that she is the daughter of renowned hairstylist Teddie Kossof, owner of Teddie Kossof Salon Spa in Northfield where she worked. Her business card simply read Keeley.
At the height of her career, Kossof married, became a mom and moved into a new home. Life was good, and then, “boom, literally in the blink of an eye, it was gone,” she says.
Her son Adam, 9, was just four months old the day she began to lose her eyesight while driving to work. Diabetes, coupled with preeclampsia during her pregnancy, was to blame.
She had emergency surgery and became blind in her right eye. The doctor told her to come back tomorrow, because he had to operate on her left eye, and warned her that she probably wouldn’t see again.
That night, the 38-year-old recalls, her house was like a Shiva. All of her friends and family came to visit, because it was the last time she would see them.
For six months following her surgeries, she had to stay in a face-down position. With 10 percent vision remaining in her left eye, she became depressed and her marriage ended. In time, she relearned how to do everything and hired an aide to assist her.
Meanwhile, friends and clients urged her to cut their hair. She was surprised by how naturally it came back to her, like riding a bicycle. Yet, she realized, “No one is going to call the salon and say, ‘I want a haircut by someone who can’t see.’”
When a night out left her freshly shampooed hair smelling like cigarette smoke, an idea came to her. She would develop a product to make hair smell fresh without the fuss of shampooing it. “Mane Intentions” (maneintentions.com) will hit the market this spring and return Kossof to the industry she loves. “Insane Mane,” her line of professional grade hair-care products for children, will follow.
“Even though you can suffer a loss, a tragedy, become handicapped, it doesn’t mean your life is over,” Kossof says. “I had this unfortunate event. It changed my life completely. And here I am.”
For more information on visual impairment and resources to assist those who are blind, visit The Chicago Lighthouse.