Monday, December 31, 2007

Greatest Moment of the Year.

In my silent past, I have been surrounded by people who can hear water dripping, dogs whining, and bacon cooking without a second thought. My sad reality of it all came to full fruition that no one in my repertoire of acquaintances is able to understand that to me, those sounds just simply did not exist. I felt like I was the lone poodle watching the world absorb sounds while I was pathologically incapable of doing so. I can’t tell you how I longed to talk to someone that knows what it is like to wake up to the sun, lay down to the moon and all the minutes in between missing what we miss. For a deaf chick that has a habit of running her mouth has grown up in what some people have called the “hearing world,” I never found a hearing person who could relate to me and my quirky ways of getting through the day. I have been called weird countless of times and I acknowledge that since I eat pizza with a fork, put potato chips on my hoagies, and I swallow gum. Ironically, I have almost NO experience with the “deaf world” and what little experience I did have I was shunned. When deaf people can talk, there seems to be a common theme that people like me are deaf to the “hearing world,” and hearing to the “deaf world.” Where do we fit in? We don’t. Personally, I feel that there is no such a thing as a “hearing world” and a “deaf world” because it implies that the world is divided by a common denominator, which is a contradiction unto itself. Last time I checked, we all walk on the same terra firma, witness the same solar rotation, and feel the same splash of rain on our face. I don’t define the world I live in as a white or black world, or a Christian or Jewish world, or a Wal-Mart or Target world, so why would I lend to reason that a hearing and deaf world exist? I feel the world is my oyster and I intend to crack it open. I just needed to meet other people that have cracked theirs and I did just that. On November 26, 2007, I entered a classroom surrounded by familiar lily-white walls with one purpose to meet Michael Chorost and Josh Swiller who conducted a reading of their respective books, Rebuilt and The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa.

As I was waiting patiently for the date of my cochlear implant surgery, I picked up Rebuilt and could not put it down. His book was populated with such witty descriptions and technical aspirations about deafness that truly made it a pleasure to read. He offered motivational support and in a sense virtually patted me on the head to be patient. On December 17, he underwent another successful surgery to receive a second cochlear implant after Let Them Hear Foundation persuaded Aetna to revise their policy to include bilateral cochlear implantation. It was a long fight for him to get the chance to run on dual processors. I can only envision that his next book will be revolutionizing the viewpoint on bilateral implantation.

When Michael started the reading, he clearly demonstrated the host in himself. His ease and elocution with public speaking is astounding. As he guided the audience through the moment that he suddenly lost his hearing, his tone acquired a sense of ardent staidness. At first, he thought it was the battery because when that goes, you immediately feel disconnected, but usually another battery will fix you right up. A proper metaphor is radio playing a song and it abruptly stops. In Michael case, no battery in the world seemed to work, neither one of his aids worked, and finally neither one of his ears worked. He was stripped of what precious hearing he had in a matter of hours. I can relate to this dreadful moment as I went in an operating room hearing fine, woke up hearing nothing but my own heart beat that started a flood of rampant emotions that he captured flawlessly in his book. I was thoroughly impressed by the fact he can hear questions and respond to them, one by one, without hesitation his answers flowed in a dignified manner. It is one thing to see words forged one character at a time bound in a book but when there was a time I thought I would never hear anyone speak again, it was truly a memorable experience to be hearing him that day.

Allow me to introduce Josh Swiller, a native New Yorker who has been deaf since he was four. He is barely over thirty and already has a glossary of accomplishments and prodigious experiences. He attended an Ivy League college and went to Gallaudet University where he learned sign language, but he felt lost no matter where he was. He has no shortage of experience in the world because he has been a carpenter, a salesman, a journalist obviously, a Zen monk, a raw food chef, a teacher, a forest ranger and last but not the least, a volunteer of the Peace Corps. I must point out that it is pronounced COR like the beer, apparently, the ps are silent. The Peace Corps shipped him off to Africa with a two-year supply of hearing aid batteries to teach a village located in Zambia how to dig wells. His book has no shortage of feverishly gripping details of the state of deprivation that Zambians accept as their every day life. I was mentally teleported me to a foreign land of fervent heat, impoverishment and rampant diseases but in the end, He found a nook that became his oasis where deafness did not matter.

Until that night, I have never spoken to him but Josh began his reading by cracking a few jokes, which was the appetizer of his jovial personality. He comes from a large family where he and another brother were deaf. He injected knee-slapping banters about growing up with five brothers all throughout the reading. The more he talked, the more I could see that his candor is completely uninhibited, what you see is what you get. Just like his book, Josh articulately guided us on a compelling journey of courage, friendship and most of all self-discovery. The first word that comes to mind is brave. He embodied courage in every sense of the word. To be willing to have your passport stamped to penury in Africa is bold but I understand the need to seek a much simpler way of life. To be deaf and willing to sacrifice a language that you have always known for a new dialect from scratch, in my mind is a daunting task. I cannot understand English half the time and accents are my ultimate adversary, except for a suave Latin man. For him this turned out to be a blessing. To face what he faced, to hear what he heard, to share what he shared is truly inspiring. In the most remote location of Africa, he finally felt at home.

To be able to someone talk to someone who understands this silent path with all the trials and tribulations that life throws at us was the greatest moment I experienced this year.

Gentleman, for that I thank you.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Yuletide Greetings

I have been insanely busy since Thanksgiving and I have so much to tell you all but it is going to have to wait! I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe holiday! I know I am because every day is like Christmas since the gift of hearing has been given back to me.

I bid you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanakuh, Happy Kwanza, Feliz Navidad, Boze Narodzenie, or Buone Feste Nataliziethat. That is the extent of my knowledge regarding yuletide salutations.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My fifth mapping went a little something like this...


About three weeks ago, sounds from my implant began to sound fuzzy, robotic, and barely audible. This means that my brain has gotten use to the electrical output of the electrodes and in simple terms, needs more juice. I know a passing thought must be why don’t I just pump up the volume? I could pump up the volume but then my eye starts twitching at high frequency and hard sounds like SH, CH, S, and dogs barking (especially a certain Italian mastiff name Kane) Therefore, it forced me to keep the volume down so I could enjoy a twitch free day :)

In dire need of a mapping, I met my audiologist Jennifer and Advanced Bionic representative Tammy to see if we can resolve the silly little twitch of mine. They worked their mojo and it was resolved! I was using HiRes-P Fidelity 120 and they changed that to HiRes-S Fidelity 120 and widened the pulse width. HiRes-P was stimulating two electrodes at once, HiRes-S is stimulating one electrode at a time. What exactly does the pulse width do, beats me but I am going to figure it out! All I know that when they switched me over to HiRes-S, I whined that I sounded very digitalized. I had to laugh at myself. They changed my pulse width from 18 to 38 and that solved the digital voice issue. *clapping*

Another issue that could have been related to the twitch is that I had AGC (Auto Gain Control) turned off because I was not fond of hearing an ambulance or my cell phone and then having it cut off. AGC apparently applies a limit to the loudness coming through the processor. To troubleshoot whether this could be a cause, the dynamic duo gave me some homework. They loaded up one processor with AGC turned off and the other one with it turned on. It has been a couple days with AGC on and I notice a difference with sounds cutting off. Next week I will try the other processor with AGC off and report back.

I finally requested a telephone program to be put on my processor. Since I used telecoil on my hearing aid since I was a teeney bopper, I thought I would have it turned on. WRONG! I hated it. I think I had it turned on for all of three minutes before I asked to take it off and give me straight T-Mic. Poor Jennifer, I think she created about five programs for the telephone.

After I left the two girls, I went downstairs to wait for the valet get my car and I decided to call my mommy. Let me explain how the waiting room of the hospital is set up. Marble floors, glass windows, speaker phone blasting, escalator, vending machine down the hall, people coming and going and chatting about toilet paper being on upside down, not exactly a library. Not quite the ideal situation for me to try to make a phone call but this implant is a computer in my head so I am going to challenge the damn thing. I rang the lovely lady up and I heard everything she said, SHE had problems hearing me because it was so loud :)

I have had quite a few moments besides the unbelievable Daughtry concert. You know those moments of when people hear something and they start laughing? I am usually left out in the dark on these moments but I wasn’t this time. I heard my coworker’s cell phone ring who sits on my unimplanted side and to the back of me. I hear a click and her say “Recording!” which is how we answer the phones at work. I started laughing because I was able to figure out that answered her cell with our work greeting and that was something that I was never able to do before unless you were sitting right in front of me.

My next moment was that I was driving with my friend as a passenger on Saturday night. Anyone who is deaf will know this is not an ideal situation either. Normally in order to have a half-decent conversation, I have to turn my head towards them, which means my eyes are NOT on the road. Surprisingly, this does not bother my friends. I was actually watching where I was going, my friend was still gabbing away, and I realized that I heard what she was saying. I just let her keep talking to make sure I wasn’t fooling myself and hot damn, I heard her without turning my head! I have never been able to do that in the 10 years that I have had my license. That was an amazing accomplishment for me :)

This moment is not a CI moment but it has to do with the possibility of going bilateral. I was on my way to the hospital (both eyes on the road of course) listening to the radio and all of the sudden all I heard very little road noise. I thought something happened to my radio but it turned out to be my processor battery died. I replaced the battery and everything was right as rain. Technically, I should have heard at least some noise from the radio from my hearing aid and I got hardly anything. I should start to do some serious thinking about getting the other ear done. I will start looking into this next year, one ear a year :)

There is a couple CI surgeries and an activation that I would like to highlight. Jeff had an amazing activation yesterday! :) Stop by his blog and give the newest bionic man some praise. When I posted my activation video, it was only a visual for him. After his second mapping today, he was able to hear just about everything that my audiologist said. Jennifer continues to astound me with how well she is doing with Thing 2 as she calls it since she is a bilateral belle :) Geo had his surgery and is due for activation next week, I think he should move it up because quite frankly my electrodes are going to burst if I have to wait any longer! :)

Now I am off to find a WII, the wonderful WII of all!!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Chris Daughtry

As a teenager full of angst, I took heed to rock and roll, never mind sex and drugs. I spent most of my time banging my head to the astonishing depth of Led Zeppelin, the depressing tranquility of Kurt Cobain, the pure rawness of Guns and Roses, and the culminating riffs of Pink Floyd. I craved the thundering of the drums, percussive tone of the bass guitars, and the thought-provoking lyrics. Like most deaf people, I would spend countless of hours passionately trying to learn the lyrics, if I was lucky, they were printed on the insert. When the lyrics were not printed, I sought the soundless gum flapping renditions from my friends and the rare event of close captioning on MTV and VH1 music videos. I had a better chance of seeing Halley’s Comet. Then the mother lode entered my humble abode, the internet and I was formally introduced at a ripe age of sixteen. The world and the lyrics were at my fingertips. Finally, I was content because my lip-syncing ability exceeded my friends. I felt that I proved that I was no different from anyone else, but then again no one else spent hours listening to the same song repeatedly committing the words to memory. Rock and roll was my ultimate solace while my hormones were running amiss until the pleasant tone of guitars started to wither away from the melody.

Rock and roll never sounded the same, it died. A proper analogy is that you could never look at a smashed mirror the same again after seeing countless of pleasing reflection. Rock and roll and all the esoteric elements slipped away. I hopelessly wondered from genre to genre discovering that I could hear mostly bass. At least I could still hear voices. When I heard Chris Daughtry’s voice for the first time on American Idol, I knew he was going to go places even after hearing that he was voted off. His voice had the passion and soulful resonance of successful rock and rollers before him. Just hear that kind of voice again stirred up of emotions that lied dormant for years. Then his voice and all others started fading from songs replaced by white noise. They began to fade from the telephone and the television. Eventually voices faded from people that were fifteen feet away, then ten, then two. Music was never heard, only felt the sensations from that point on.

The cochlear implant rescued me from a world of silence. Music returned better then ever and victory was ever so sweet. To celebrate, my wonderful and incredibly thoughtful friends surprised me with SECOND row tickets to see Chris Daughtry’s concert this past Friday! It was simply breath taking and an absolutely amazing experience to hear. Daughtry intimately approached the microphone and began to serenade the audience that just so happens to include one happy bionic woman. His sultry voice possesses Herculean power that tickled every single electrode of mine that was happily downloading his every pitch. His dulcet tones are incredibly diverse that ranged from savory sweet that had the power to beat your heart to powerfully rockonian with a just a drop of southern comfort. He performed an acoustic rendition of “All These Lives” that when I closed my eyes, I felt that he was sitting right next to me soulfully playing the guitar. His passionate performance brought the memories of jejune moments of the yesteryear. It was so surreal.

When it was over, I left knowing that rock and roll was still very much alive.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Never ceases to amaze me.

People bob and weave of your life for a reason because I feel that it is written right smack dab out of the womb. Humans have the ability to make you smile, wink, cringe, cry, laugh, and curse and if you are talented all at the same time. With the exception of Tarzan, babies tend to be molded by direct influence and environmental conditions. They even say that genetics play a part in forecasting the personality traits of a baby while it is hanging out with the umbilical cord all safe and sound in the tum-tum or tube depending on how you got here. I have met a number of different traits such as the social butterfly, the wife beater, the tree hugging bohemian, the techno nerd, the import car consumer, the Tourette princess on the corner, the hammer wielding construction worker, the gold digger, the closeted alcoholic, the smooth talking guido, the angry artist, the man in the closet, the chubby kid, the future Ms. America, the nurturing mother, the Einstein of the 21st century, the mascara king, the future librarian, the baby boomer generation, the real life popeye, the quirky doctor, the drama queen, the bionic men and probably somewhere along the way I have met John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. Every single one of those souls has had a direct influence on the person I am today.

Adding to the list is a couple of wonderful women that I am proud to have in my life. If you all read this post of when I could not get tickets to the Chris Daughtry concert this Friday because they were sold out in 3 days. Since then, I have followed up on some suggestions which none of them panned out. I resigned to the fact that I was just going to set up camp in the parking but not without a lot of whining and pouting and threatening to join a convent. Therefore, I let it rest before I did something with some potential legal action involved.

That was until today. Natalie and Katie asked me last week to go Christmas shopping with them on Friday. Like the avid shopper that I am, of course I said yes. I was told that the Chief wanted to see me in her office for a couple minutes, which is nothing new to me. After that, I come back to my office and I stop a moment to talk to Natalie, Katie and Michelle. Michelle tells me she has something to tell me and presumes to walk into my office. Ok, why walk away if you want to tell me something. Natalie pushed me in my office telling me that Michelle wants to talk to me. I follow Michelle to my sunny little cubicle with Natalie and Katie right behind me and she hands me a brown inter-office envelope and thanks me for downloading her pictures off her camera. I was thinking that she got me a card for downloading the pictures for her, which I felt was no big deal. All of the sudden I felt eyes. I look up and everyone was staring at me even the Chief, cell phones were pointed at me, and for once in my life, I was camera shy. I opened up the envelope and pulled out this silver snowflake with a TICKET TO THE CHRIS DAUGHTRY CONCERT! I screamed, I hugged, I cried, I did the bunny hop :) I took notice of my sunny little cubicle that they decorated it with pictures of Chris Daughtry.

Today was the first day ever in my life that I was completely surprised, blown away, flabbergasted, overwhelmed, speechless, and stunned. Totally beside myself. I don't know how Natalie and Katie pulled it off but they managed to get three tickets for us to see CHRIS DAUGHTRY! I was useless for the rest of the day. I still cannot get my head around it. I don't even know how I am going to hold myself together until Friday. Good thing I have a magnet or I would forget to attach myself. I am over the moon that I am going to be able to hear CHRIS DAUGHTRY LIVE but more importantly, I am so unbelievably blessed that I have such wonderful and thoughtful friends that went through the trouble to get the tickets with maximum WOW factor. I have been molded in to a better person today because of that moment. They revealed to me the truly gratifying feeling of being surprised and that is something in itself that I would never trade in for a million years. How do you even begin to thank someone for that?

“The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.”

I've been seized.