Bay Area guitarist doesn't let finger amputations keep from playing

LAFAYETTE, Calif. -- An East Bay guitarist is making a musical comeback of sorts at a benefit in Pleasant Hill. He's had to re-teach himself to play after a frightening disease cost him the tips of his fingers, and almost cost him his life.

Mark Stanley of Lafayette now plays the guitar different from how he originally learned. It's not the way he played in hundreds of concerts and several recordings, but it's the way he must play now, after accompanying his daughter on a fourth grade field trip in 2001.

"I came back two days later from the field trip and collapsed on Saturday morning with a fever and terrible sore throat," he said.

His diagnosis was bacterial meningitis. And worse, the disease was cutting off the circulation to his fingers and toes. Doctors told him eight fingers and six toes had to be amputated.

"It was like I went numb when I heard those words from them," Stanley said.

Fingertips are essential equipment for guitarists. Without them, making notes is painful and making chords seems impossible. Without them Stanley stopped performing professionally and got a job as a teacher's aide. Her never stopped teaching himself to play differently, using his knuckle and thumb instead of fingertips.

"So the first song I learned was "Eleanor Rigby"; it only had two chords," he said.

Stanley says he's not the player he once was. He doesn't have the same dexterity, but, he plays quite well and even taught me a song.

He's the subject of a new documentary called "Living in the Light."
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