Toni’s Story

February 28th, 2008 by | Tags: , | 15 Comments »

I received an e-mail from an elderly woman who recently received her CI. I find her story very encouraging for those who became deafened late in life because, in spite of her other health issues, her CI surgery went very well. She is a real trooper! Here is Toni’s Story:

Hello, Rachel! Had a look at your website and was so impressed with your resume! You are one enterprising young lady!What a future, and such an encouragement for us older ones.Read your life story with 2 disappointments in surgery and the eventual favourable outcome! I take my hat off to you!

I have not much of a story to tell you yet, but I may be an encouragement for other elderly folk. I am living in South Africa, Cape town and emigrated from plundered wartorn Holland in 1952 as a 29 year old with my husband and a young daughter of 4. We later had another daughter and 2 sons.I am now nearly 85 and have been a widow for the last 23 years.I feel very blessed with 4 loving and supportive children and 12 delightful grandchildren, one great granddaughter so far but hoping for more!.

Over the last 10 years or so I got increasingly deaf, until it was near impossible to communicate, despite getting stronger and stronger hearing aids (Digital Phonak).Although I am by nature outgoing, a “people’s person” I turned into my shell and avoided contact, shielding myself from hurt and humiliation.When you are old and very deaf, like me,some people automatically assume you are also senile.Talk over your head as if you are not there, patronise you and in general show their impatience. Some are even openly rude, rolling their eyes when you ask them to write down their answers. I resigned from clubs, stopped going to Bible Study and Church,refused invitations, which came fewer and fewer anyway.Thank God for my children and their sweet families who never excluded me and tried to make up for what I missed.

When my eldest daughter accompanied me as my “interpreter” to The Ear Institute (Phonak) in a last effort to have my hearing aids adjusted as they had become virtually useless,one audiologist expressed his sorrow for not being able to improve my hearing.He said there was really nothing he could change in my Hearing Aids and I must resign myself to the fact that this was it.Pressing him to declare that there was really NOTHING I could do he quite hesitatingly said:”well….. unless you would consider an operation!” I jumped! “Anything!! I will do ANYTHING!!” “But Mrs. Leijte, how old are you?” “What’s that got to do with the price of eggs?!This is no LIFE I am living, I just exist!”

He then told us about a Cochlear Implant but added right away that he doubted very much wether that would be an option for me. I was very old, had had heart surgery,a pacemaker. (he did not even know about my diabetes, hipreplacement,Glaucoma operation,cateracts, and I was not going to tell him either). I pressed him to make an appointment for me at a local hospital which had a special Cochlear department. Just to get rid of me, he did! I was determined to hear from the experts if I was a candidate or not. Wanted to “hear” it from their own mouths. Hope sprang up in my bosom!I began to pray earnestly and asked my family and friends to also pray for an answer.

I lived between hope and fear before I was seen by the Audiologist at Tygerberg Hospital.I started by saying:”Look, I am 84 and I do have some health problems, but I just wanted to be 100% sure that NOTHING can be done before I give in.” To my utter delight this young woman declared straight away :”Just your age is NO HINDRANCE. We have other recipients in their eighties here!”

It’s quite a long story from there as you well know yourself, Rachel.Tests, tests, Xrays (I could not have an MRI because of the pacemaker) examinations by the ENT surgeon(who also was very encouraging!),evaluation by an anaesthetist(who painted a risky picture),approval from my cardiologist(who was all in favour), from my neurologist (I had a mild stroke 2 years ago, and he pointed out the risk of a possible stroke and was painting a rather gloomy picture).But there was no stopping me!! In fact I became more and more convinced that it was well worth a try, considering the alternative. I asked God to please make it clear to me if He did not agree.No such conviction came. In fact, I felt such peace at my decision.My children were a bit reluctant at first simply because they could not contemplate my death.But seeing my intense longing, they supported me eventually. My children and I visited some implanted people, some also old though not as old as I am, and came back with such glowing reports and urges to go ahead.

To my great disappointment, my Med. Aid only paid for the hospital and surgery and a small percentage of the Implant. I had to take a great part of my life savings to pay for the Freedom 24 , which is still the newest implant,and was offered a refurbished ESPrit 3G as I cannot afford the new Freedom processor.But so far it is doing fine!

To cut a long story short, I had the implant on the 28th January 2008.I experienced such peace, no nerves!Was in ICU for one night only as a safety measure, one night in the ward and it was just straight sailing from there on.I was quite dizzy for a week but otherwise felt fine.My daughter moved into my cottage to look after me for that first week.After that I was quite OK. Could not wait till the Activation on the 18th February, now just 6 days ago. I knew, and warned myself, that I should not expect to hear much if anything.My 2 daughters accompanied me.Can you believe it! My audi said:”Toni, can you hear me?” I was so flabbergasted I did not answer at first! Then I stammered:”Yes, Gill, you asked me if I could hear you! I DO!!” “WOW!”, was all she could say! Then I even heard my daughters saying to each other;”SHE CAN HEAR!! ISN’T IT WONDERFUL?!” and I did not even look at them!

On the way home I could hear my daughter who was driving (I now drive myself again) speaking. looking at her sideways.Discovered that traffic is very noisy and heard passing cars. The indicators make a ticking sound!(thought they were just lights).We stopped at a restaurant for lunch and could converse!(but it was a quiet Mondaymorning and no music) Could even tell the waitress my order and discuss it! I heard my children’s voices quite clearly but they had an echo and sounded tinny. My own voice was loud and awful! Especially my laugh! That has improved much although speech sounds quite artificial, not natural. But hey! It is only 6 days!! I even can make out the TV News announcer saying the headlines if I know the subject.Can’t follow anything else yet and the telephone is out, don’t hear the voice,just a warbling sound. But my daughter lives on the seafront and standing on her balcony I can hear the sea and the seagulls!! What a wonderful world!!Thank you for MY NEW LIFE, Lord!!


February 29, 2008 at 1:03 am

(sigh) What a wonderful story! :-) And she hears seagulls again. I remember those.

another mum

February 29, 2008 at 2:03 am

WOW – amazing story. What a go-getter lady, may she have many more years filled with all those sounds, including the seagulls.

Karen Mayes

February 29, 2008 at 6:09 am

Amazing… reminds me of my mother-in-law… she also got CI a few years ago(at the age of 68 or 69 year old, I don’t remember which… she is also late-deafened.) She told me that she could hear things that she had not hear since she was a child and it was confusing and exciting. She loves her CI.

Huh, no, she knows NOTHING about sign language, deaf culture, etc. She was and is fully immersed in the hearing culture.


February 29, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Wow. And she is using the 3G. Imagine what she will get out of the New Freedom processor. I wonder if Cochlear Corp would help with that? I want to be like her when I grow up.


February 29, 2008 at 12:41 pm

I’m glad it works for her.

A growing number of elderly citizens who have lost their hearing have opted for cochlear implants and are generally satisfied with the results. I think that trend should continue as why would they suffer in silence, not understanding what their beloved family and friends are saying? Social isolation is a serious problem among the elderly and addressing the hearing loss will help alleviate the isolation and loneliness.

Karen Mayes

February 29, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Good point, mishkazena, considering that the suicide rate is higher among the elderly people.

I do remember my grandmother losing her hearing and she refused to think about getting a hearing aid, so we the family members had to shout to make ourselves heard.

Ivan Haycock

March 2, 2008 at 4:20 am

My wife and I have known Toni for a number of years and fully endorse all that she has experienced and coped with. We have always regarded her as a remarkable person and what she has written and how she has expressed herself is a great tribute to a lovely lady living out her life bravely and gracefully. We are sure that this story will be a source of great encouragement to similarly afflicted persons.

Marie and Ivan Haycock. St. Albans, England

Toni Leijte

March 2, 2008 at 2:30 pm

I am gratified by the gracious comments, but I feel that I should have honoured my eminent and charismatic surgeon Dr. Derrick Wagenfeld of Somerset West South Africa and my competent and encouraging audiologist Gill Kerr of Tygerberg Hospital, Capetown SA.Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Toni

James Williams

March 3, 2008 at 3:37 am

I know Toni (Mrs. L) personally and am so proud of her!! She is an inspiration to us all. I can’t wait to see her again and have a “chat”!


March 3, 2008 at 3:23 pm

Im so proud of my Oma! She is an inspiration to all! What a strong woman! A true rolemodel!

Deb Brooks

March 3, 2008 at 7:37 pm

Just read Toni’s story, She is a remarkable woman, and yes Amy, you should be proud of your Oma! Her story brought happy tears to my eyes. Saw her picture and she does not look anywhere near her age. What I see when I looked at her picture was true peach and happiness. Wish we could bottle it and pass it around the world. Toni has a great attitude and that in itself will keep her young to say nothing of the love and support she has from her family.

Debbie Brooks

March 7, 2008 at 12:42 pm

Oma i am so happy for you, cant wait to see you again in person and speak to you again!!!
Missing you so much, you made me so happy by reading your story!!

May 11, 2008 at 5:44 pm

Toni, on this mother’s day here in the USA I salute you! You will be having another Mothers Day in South Africa ( I live in Johannesburg) and it comes in June. I had my CI in Nov. 2005 and like you was told my the ‘experts’ in the hearing aid field there will never be any further development for deafness and if the latest device does not work, well so sorry…..( you were lucky they told you) mine did not, I had to meet a lady in America ( Rosemary Armstrong) who told me all about it and here I am…..hope to meet you in December when I come to Cape Town…..lots of love Sharon

debra robinson

August 16, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Hi Toni, I just found you on this site and read “your story”. You definitely are a real trooper. Shame on the docs that said they couldn’t help. I also was told nothing could be done, but here we are. I love my ci too. Life is so much better, love Debra

Judy Carelse

October 28, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Hello all…

This is a wonderful story Toni, as i myself have been through a tough time with my health ..i am please to read that you are doing well an able to hear…I will agree with you when you say they are encouraging,helpful and friendly Gill Kerr (My Audiologist as well)& Dr Wagenfeld (Did my CI as well)WNDERFUL People they are indeed..it`s amazing how the Hearing device technology has improved to assist myself and many hard of hearing people…I trust that you are enjoying the world of sound and the world of silence..Keep well.