Thursday, May 18, 2006

Following the footprints across the pond

There is a bit of folk wisdom some of you will already know that my Dad taught me when I was growing up in Newfoundland, where winter temperatures fluctuate a lot and rarely dip as low as -10C. When you have to cross a frozen river in winter, he told me, check to see if there are footprints in the snow of those who have crossed previously. Assuming they go all the way to the other side (!) you can see that the ice there has been strong enough to support a person's weight, at least since the last snowfall. Walk in the footsteps of someone who's already crossed, and you have a better chance of making it safely to the other side.

The last time I went for a tune-up, I was asked to meet with another CI candidate who lives in my area, though not in my town. I suppose the correct term for what I'm doing is peer counseling, although I hesitate to use the terminology lest I inadvertently give the impression I know what I'm doing. What I am doing is showing people my footprints and trying to point out where the good thick black ice is, and where what Newfoundlanders call "rotten ice" is.

At any rate, I emailed the lady in question and yesterday spent about an hour and a half with her.

Her path has been very different than mine, despite losing her hearing in almost identical fashion and on the same weekend. (She has a minute amount of hearing left in one ear.)

She has had a much, much more difficult adjustment, which is the reason she is now going for a second assessment to determine her candidacy for an implant. She was visibly nervous when she came to see me (imagine someone being nervous at meeting me! I would've laughed if I hadn't felt so sorry for and protective of her) and for a long time we just talked about the experience of going deaf in adulthood. She cried with relief when I reassured her about how normal her experiences were - the tinnitus, the being scattered, the forgetfulness, the inability to retain names, the overflowing sinks, the burned food, the unintentional isolation and exclusion by friends, the impact on one's marriage and family life. About the unintentional slights and hurts. The shock of becoming almost literally invisible to certain people who simply can't cope with you so don't engage or acknowledge you. About when to understand and let things go, and when to protest.

We talked for a long time about the surgery, the implant, the models available, what to expect post-surgery... She is feeling much stronger now and while I'm no professional, I think she's psychologically ready for the implant now and I wish her the very best of luck with her assessment. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for her.

And sometimes, I've discovered, people will ask other laypeople the simplest and scariest questions they just haven't screwed up the nerve to ask the professionals they've been dealing with... you should have seen the look on her face when I told her that the implant surgery was not done, as she had believed, while the patient is conscious!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Ronnie,

I came across your blog via Google Blogsearch when I was looking for a personal story about hearing loss. I think it's fantastic that you're offering support to others both in person and via your blog. I've featured your blog at Genetics and Health:

Hearing Loss and Blog of the Week: hearing/loss

All the best!

6:50 a.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Thanks v. much, Dr. Lei! How exciting! :)


9:49 p.m.  

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