Deaf-Proofing My Life: Part 1
“I’m sorry, your daughter is profoundly deaf.”
A doctor says the 7 little words. Poof. My future disappears. My parents are devastated and their world is turned upside down.
I am 18 months old. I don’t understand.
Hearing aids. Hands covering mouths. Am I meant to cover my mouth too? Hands are now fiddling with my ears. I wince, and then frown.
I’m confused. I want to play, but I’m stuck in this padded cell with wires everywhere and strangers looking at me. It feels stuffy in here. Where are the windows?
I fidget. I’ve been sitting down for a very long time and I’m supposed to wait for something to happen. I glance at my mother and she’s pointing at a book and her lips are moving. Oh, play time! I try to interact. I wiggle my lips, but see heads shaking.
My mother tries again. I try again. Lips wiggle. There, I did it… no? Why are we doing this again? Hands move to fiddle with the plastic rims behind my ears.
Now I’m even more confused.
I look down at my costume and I smile. I’m a princess today. I love dressing up, but I have to wear this big box with wires. The wires are connected to the ear molds. I am not sure what they’re meant to do yet. Mummy seems to think it’s important so I’ll just have to wear it with my princess costume. At least she’s wearing a big box too.
Oh no. Mummy’s got her hand over her mouth. I’m not sure what I should do. Mummy’s looking at me, she seems to be waiting for something.
I move to mummy, and move her hand down, away from her mouth. But she doesn’t seem to get my intention, as her hand is covering her mouth again.
I’m so frustrated now. Why is mummy always putting her hand to cover her mouth? Is this some sort of test I need to pass?
I start to cry. I’m shutting down. I don’t want to do this anymore.
The tantrum lasts for hours.
We’ve been going to a hospital regularly. I don’t mind as I get a bright red shiny ring or a lollipop every time my family visits the hospital.
This time, I’m excited as I’m shown into a playroom. I love playing. A doll is handed to me. I start playing with it until I notice the doll has something on its head, it looks like a strange hair clip. Deciding I didn’t like it, I throw it away.
The doll is immediately taken off me and I watch as someone puts the strange hair clip back on the doll. The doll is then handed back to me.
I frown. This is not what I want.
I try again, removing the hair clip from the doll.
The doll is taken away and the strange hair clip is put back on again. I try this a few more times and eventually, I get the message.
Strange hair clip stays on the doll.
Noted. A small compromise since I can still play with the doll. However, this person keeps intervening my play time by pointing at the hair clip on the doll and then to me until it eventually dawns on me: I am to have the strange hair clip, just like the doll.
The last thing I remember is panicking: I did not want the strange hair clip.
Four hour operation and 75 stitches later, I receive my first cochlear implant.
I am four years old.
I feel groggy and very uncomfortable. I don’t know what to do so I’m getting distressed.
I slowly re-focus, and see that there are people in the room. Who are these people? What are they doing here? I suddenly feel shy; I panic, as I don’t know where I am. All I know is I’m not at my house.
Eventually, I see mummy. Then daddy. I’m relieved. I stay in the hospital overnight.
To be continued in Part 2…read on!