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Ally’s Story: A Reflection of Sound & Its Impact on Life

April 12th, 2008 by | Tags: | 4 Comments »

I recently met Ally through the Cochlear Awareness Network, and we’re just getting to know each other by corresponding through e-mail. She’s currently a bilateral cochlear implant recipient and a pediatric cochlear implant audiologist. Here’s Ally’s story:

Conquering my fear of silence was once a freighting thought,
Many nerves and frustration have now been pushed aside–
For each day now provides new sound upon which my brain remembers well.
The quest of every morning turns my days into indescribable adventures–
Adventures that I never dreamt I’d take!
Looking back upon the many days—scared for all that was ahead,
I can now confidently say that there truly is a reason
For everything that happens each and every day.

I was 3 months premature and born with a mild-to-moderate hearing loss that wasn’t detected until I was 8 years old. I wore hearing aids from age 8-23 and did amazing- unless someone asked me “what are those things on your ears?” I never ever thought twice about the fact that I actually had trouble hearing! We always assumed my hearing loss was due to being premature and having to stay in the NICU for 6 months- no one in my family has hearing loss, so we really didn’t think anything of it until I started falling behind my peers in school and my speech or lack thereof went from “cute” to “not so cute” when I got into 1st and 2nd grade! So I never really missed a beat throughout grade school, high school, and onto college. I have always loved sports and played just about all of them growing up and am happy to share that now that I have my ears back and literally my LIFE back, I’ve returned to the hardwood to play basketball, re-joined my friends on the softball field, continue to hit the road for frequent runs (especially in the park when the leaves & lively insects are out since I can actually hear them now!:), & I also still love to swim laps in silence just as I love to retire at the end of the day hitting the pillow surrounded by peace in quiet:)

In June of 2004 I was heading home from my 1st class of the summer semester between my 1st and 2nd year of graduate school when my life quickly flashed before my eyes and many things about who I “was” became part of the past- it was that very moment just before noon that I found myself among sirens, blood, glass, & tears as my car connected with another full speed, sending me to the hospital with a head injury among many other unforeseen challenges of the next few years. A CT following the crash in ’04 revealed that I was actually born with an inner ear malformation called “Enlarged Vestibular Aqueducts (EVA).” EVA is well known to be affected my head trauma or any other source of increased intracranial pressure. Without getting too “technical” EVA can essentially cause a progression in hearing loss if one already has hearing loss prior to trauma or increased pressure- how long and to what extent the hearing loss progresses is very hard to predict; however, in my case it took close to 1 year before my life went from never skipping a beat with my hearing aids to near silence. Throughout this year of progression I continued to try to go to school as I was working towards my clinical doctorate in audiology and was hundreds of miles away from home (I am originally from Ohio), so my only friends & “family” were my classmates, clinical supervisors, & professors. As I am sure you can relate, words simply cannot describe how scared I was for my future, my relationships with family & friends, my sense of self…the list goes on and on!

When you go from a world of sound and never think twice about it, hitting rock bottom in a foreign land of pure silence is nothing short of an honest disaster and personal crisis filled with what felt like hopeless worry! So like most people who ride the waves of human emotion and eventual acceptance, I finally made my way out of the “black hole” thanks to my now colleagues and lifelong graduate school friends who essentially looked me in the eye and said, “Ally, there is only one thing you can do if you want to continue on with school in pursuit of your lifelong aspirations and dreams- you know more than anyone that we are fortunate to live in a world where at this day in age there is hope on the horizon for those living in utter silence or close to it- get a cochlear implant…you have absolutely NOTHING to lose!!”

So…on Oct. 19, 2005 Dr. Robert Labadie implanted my right ear at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and on November 3, 2005 my right ear (now formally known as “CI Sony”:) was officially re-born and welcomed back into the world I know best…a world full of precious sound :) It was absolutely positively amazing! It didn’t take long for CI Sony to get used to “her” new sound which I contribute to my having very little time between silence and the activation of my right ear- so my brain remembered very well what it “used” to hear with my hearing aids before the car accident…this played a HUGE part in why my world started to sound just like I remembered hearing it within weeks of activation of my right ear.

I also am a very lucky gal in that I have every auditory rehab resource and the advice, support, & never ending encouragement from all of my fellow colleagues and friends who also happen to be audiologists and otolaryngologists that I essentially “practiced” perfecting my new ear from the moment CI Sony got turned on- and I continue to “challenge” my beloved “Miracle Ears” holding them accountable for making sure they’re precisely “tuned” and always putting forth 110% every single day:)

The amazing success of my right ear far exceeded my expectations- in January of 2006 after continuing to wear a hearing aid on my left ear to stimulate my hearing nerve for the “future,” I looked myself in the mirror one night feeling “bad” for my left ear b/c it wasn’t able to experience the day-to-day miracles of learning new sounds and celebrating the many leaps and bounds of success and sincere “relief” that my right ear had just been blessed with…I simply couldn’t fathom living the rest of my life without giving my left ear that same opportunity! So we started the insurance auth. process once again in January 2006 including a personal letter with heartfelt words from my point of view, then we waited…and waited…after 2 months of nothing I started calling (yes, using my cell phone with “CI Sony”- NOT the relay service!:) We finally got an answer in late March- they had approved :) On June 29th, 2006 my new left ear (now formally known as “CI Sydney”:) was “placed” and 5 days later turned on! WOW- there was a REASON we were all born with TWO ears! “CI Sony” was definitely the light of my life, providing me with endless sweet sound day after day…but “CI Sydney” rocked my world! It just so happens that my left ear ended up being my “better hearing ear”- definitely not real evident by the looks of my pre-implant audiogram! “CI Syd’ has simply placed me back into a world of surreal surround sound and with both “CI Sony” & “CI Sydney” back on “the air” my life has come full circle and continues to travel full speed ahead:)

As I reflect back upon my journey out of silence and the many lessons learned, I can say for sure that everything in life truly happens for a reason. My journey has allowed me to discover more of who I really am, it forced me to find patience within myself and others as well as acceptance for those things we cannot change, but rather love. My journey was filled with many twists and turns- all of which filled my heart with strength that taught me the true meaning of perseverance & sheer determination. Amidst it all I was even lucky enough to re-connect with my faith and am forever thankful for all my friends and family- their never-ending love, & support kept the fire inside me alive…one thing you learn without a doubt during times such as this is that you figure out who your true friends really are- they’ll be there no matter what and I thank God for them every day:)

You truly never know how precious the “little things” in life really are until it’s taken away—my sense of hearing was always something that I in some ways took for granted, never having thought in my wildest dreams that it could actually be taken away. The human body is an amazing gift in which we have all been blessed—when one sense is taken away or compromised to such extent, another sense is strengthened so that we can continue on with our lives, adapting to change and persevering despite the odds. My favorite poem of all times is entitled “Grateful.” I pray that others understand and truly appreciate how precious each and every moment of life honestly is—you never know what each day will bring and through the eyes of those of us who are deaf and in the days, months, and years in which we’ve lived in complete silence, it’s the “little things” in life that you end up missing the most…such as the surreal sounds of loved ones calling and the waves that hit the coast.

Grateful
Let us be grateful
for the capacity to see, feel, hear, and understand.
Let us be grateful for this incredible gift of life.
Let us be especially grateful
for the ties of love which bind us together,
giving dignity, meaning, worth and joy to all our days.
This is indeed a day which the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice in it and be glad,
and let us count our many blessings.
-Author unknown-

4 Comments

Elizabeth

April 12, 2008 at 9:47 pm

Amazing story, Ally!

Okay, so, Patty, is it okay if we add Ally to our practice?

Thanks, Rachel! I guess you didn’t know that this website would turn into an employee recruiting service for the A-V center I’m hoping to build a few years down the road!

Rachel

April 12, 2008 at 10:02 pm

LOL! I just noticed too that we have some awesome young professionals here who are inspired to become a therapist or an audiologist or even a surgeon! Jordan, the guy from Jordan’s Story, is pre-med, and I think he wants to become a CI surgeon, but I’m not sure, but I do know that he wants to at least be a surgeon for sure! We definitely need them all to help continue to contribute to the outcome of the success of children’s CIs. Professionals do play a huge role in our, CI users’, lives. I still see my AV therapist often, and I treat her like she’s my aunt.

jodi

April 13, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Rachel!!! SLOW DOWN!!! I can’t keep up with all of your blogs!! lol, Jodi Think we’ll be fighting for the one computer in my house while you’re here???? rotfl.

April 16, 2008 at 9:14 pm

My four kids have EVA/LVAS as well- thanks for sharing your story :) I love Rachel’s blog because I have a 11 year old GIRL who I’m hoping will become as good of a role model as Rachel- Thanks for all you do!