Massage therapist relies on her touch

As a student in Romania, Coca-Ioana Vladislav mastered gymnastics.

Yelena Kibasova

Patients coming in for massage therapy at Boynton Heath Service find themselves enchanted by the energetic Coca-Ioana Vladislav, a blind massage therapist with a master touch.

“They know a person with vision impairment has better touch,” Vladislav said. “You have to close your eyes, be practically blind in order to feel the muscles.”

Vladislav, who is legally blind, has been working with Boynton since 1999 and is its only massage therapist.

“She has brought a lot of enthusiasm to the massage therapy program,” said Dave Golden, director of public health and marketing for Boynton. “She’s very dedicated to the profession and to her patients.”

Vladislav also lends her services to other organizations and departments at the University such as Gophers After Dark, where she gives massages to students.

“Sometimes organizations will… buy a couple hours of her services to come in and do chair massages,” said Mary Alderman, director of clinical operations at Boynton. “She has been really good at… getting Boynton out into the community.”

Vladislav came to the United States from Romania in 1988. She never has perceived her blindness as a problem. In Romania, she attended a school where disability was not considered a limitation. As a student, Vladislav mastered gymnastics.

“I was raised to not accept the “poor me (attitude),’ ” she said.

Golden also has never considered Vladislav’s blindness a concern.

“It doesn’t seem to get in the way. She really makes it a non-issue,” Golden said.

Besides working at Boynton, Vladislav has her own business. She owns Coca’s Therapeutic Massage, based in Minneapolis.

Julia Trachy, nursing sophomore and president of the Disabled Student Cultural Center, said Vladislav is a great example of the capabilities disabled people possess.

“Some places are nervous about hiring people with disabilities because of the accommodations that they’re required to provide for them,” Trachy said. “But a lot of the accommodations cost less than $100.”

Trachy talked to Vladislav about her disability during a massage appointment.

Boynton was really good about accommodating Vladislav’s disability, Trachy said.

Victoria Yin, a first-year pharmacy student, had a Tuesday appointment with Vladislavto treat persistent neck pain.

“It felt really good, and I think (the massages) are a good deal for students,” she said.

Yin was surprised by Vladislav’s sense of touch.

“What I found that was really amazing is that she could tell from massaging my back that I was a dancer,” Yin said.

Alderman said Vladislav often is regarded as a mother figure and a good influence at Boynton.

“She has such a good work ethic… she spreads her good work ethic to others,” Alderman said.

Vladislav said she got into massage therapy because she knew she had something to contribute to society.

“It’s a wonderful feeling when you know you are contributing to the health of a patient,” she said.