Monday, October 19, 2009
Strength in Weakness
It never fails that people smash your face in the mud when you are at your weakest moment. Sometimes, it's the people that you care about the most who do this and they do it the best because they aim straight for those areas where they think they can destroy. And sometimes they do. Sometimes for a brief moment they leave you naked blowing in the chilled air. When you have been so down at certain times in your life that you truly feel you will never get back up...and do- you learn the meaning of strength.
I went to Pisa today and spoke to the mom of a deaf child who had received a cochlear implant a week ago. She and her husband were waiting to be discharged. I sat and watched as the father whistled and yelled to get his child's attention. The child could not hear yet the father insisted.
The mom told me her story...He was her third child and at nine months, six days of pregnancy she called her gynecologist to be admitted urgently to the hospital, she felt like something was wrong. He told her to go home and wait. She did. Eight hours later, something was wrong and they called 911. The placenta detached and her baby remained without oxygen for two and a half hours. She sat in agony in the brand new hospital on a bed in the hall for fifteen minutes because the EMTs couldn't find the elevator. Her baby is a living miracle. Despite all of this, he is okay...just deaf.
Her husband is in denial and insists that he hears, even after having gone through the ci surgery. The mother has gone to every doctor visit herself, informed herself and fought for her child's needs...herself. I hugged her and she let it all loose. While she is weak and lost, she is strong for her child...and her husband in denial.
Twenty minutes later I met an adult with progressive hearing loss. I actually met him through an Italian Forum and when he asked me for information about Pisa, I told him I'd meet him there to answer any questions he may have. He was there with his wife- THE MOST ADORABLE COUPLE! We've had some discussions here about deaf and hearing couples, they were so in sync with each other and she kept saying, "I just want him to be happy."
I sat there through an audiological exam of speech comprehension aided and unaided. Such an intelligent, brilliant man. Watching him perform the testing with and without his hearing aids gave me a clear idea of how his hearing loss affected him psychologically. We sat and talked after the exam, and he told his wife how people think that Deaf people are stupid. She disagreed. He explained that while he was walking in the hall, his boss said something to him in passing that he wasn't able to understand. He asked his boss to repeat what he had said and his boss replied, "Is it possible that it's so hard for you to understand anything?" This man responded, "I need you to repeat what you said because I am deaf, not because I am incapable of understanding."
He goes through this difficulty every day of his life. People around him try to render his hearing loss a weakness, but he is a strong enough individual to explain it and educate those around him.
The cochlear implant will change this man's life and he is a candidate. He will gain that extra amount of hearing that will enable him to talk on the phone with confidence. I told him I will be present at the first speech comprehension exam he takes with his newly activated cochlear implant just to see the look on his face after eleven years of adapting to this new condition, eleven years of battling ignorance.
We all fight battles on a daily basis and we all have moments of weakness. Never underestimate the capacity of the human spirit to turn that weakness into an immeasurable display of strength.
One more thing...add another Italian region (Puglia) that will now be performing the Newborn Hearing Screening. Yes, we're playing dominoes here in Italy.
Photo c/o open.salon.com