June 2nd, 2011 by Rachel | Tags: CI User Story, Cochlear Implant, Pediatric Cochlear Implant Pioneer | 2 Comments »
Krista Donaldson first received a cochlear implant in 1989 as part of the clinical trials at the age of four years old. She is the tenth person in Canada to receive the cochlear implant.
My mother realized that I could not hear when I would be sleeping in my crib and nothing stirred me. She tested this by vacuuming around my crib and banging two pots together over my head. Sure enough, I did not hear a thing. I was diagnosed as profoundly deaf at the age of nine months, and never knew what caused it as there is no family history of deafness. I will talk about this later in the story of my life with my Cochlear Implant.
Once learning I was deaf, my family all went to class to learn how to sign. I was fitted with hearing aids for a year and half. During this time I was attending aural rehabilitation therapy with the goal of learning how to use my residual hearing to develop oral speech and language. However, it was discovered that I did not have satisfactory residual hearing to develop in the hearing world.
My parents did not have an easy time deciding whether to get me implanted with the Cochlear Implant. It was so new, and not yet approved by the FDA. The deaf community made things more challenging for my mother as they publicly rebelled her on television and in newspapers. They felt that my parents should wait until I was old enough to choose for myself. My parents felt it was important to give me all the opportunities a hearing child would have, and as well, safety. Through her research, my mother heard of stories that some children implanted with the CI would resent their parents for it, and would choose to live in the deaf culture without the auditory device. My mother decided that if I made this choice, she would respect it and know that she gave all opportunities possible to her daughter. I am so grateful this was her decision, or I’d never be where I am today!
In 1989 when I was four years old when I was implanted with the Cochlear Implant in New York City as they did not yet do the surgery in Canada. I was the first person in Canada’s capital and the tenth in all of Canada to receive the CI. We had to make many return trips for therapy and programming. My mother became a stay at home mother and spent countless hours working with me, teaching me how to listen and speak. My sister, Melissa (2 years younger) was always my advocate and best friend. She would tell me if people were talking to me, and despite having no issues with hearing, she signed her first word before speaking!
I have been in the mainstream educational setting all my life with the help of a Teacher of the Deaf (weekly) and a FM System. My latest Teacher of the Deaf (high school) also had a Cochlear Implant. Lori was a very important part of my high school education and was my inspiration in becoming a Teacher of the Deaf. As I was often one of few hearing impaired students in my school, I never had much interaction and friendship with other deaf people until Lori.
I went to Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario with the goal of acquiring my teaching certificate. I first took a Bachelor of Science in Biology and then a Bachelor of Arts in Geography. I completed my Bachelor of Education in April of 2009 and am a qualified teacher with the Ontario College of Teachers. I am presently pursuing my Teacher of the Deaf diploma through York University in Toronto as I work in the sleep medicine field.
For this course, I had to take two levels in American Sign Language. I found a tutor in North Bay who was willing to teach me ASL one-on-one. He wore hearing aids, had very little speech, and used sign language for communication. He told me how he had drifted from his family as he could not communicate with them. In one of our later sessions, I asked him whether he would consider a Cochlear Implant, and his response shocked and still bothers me. He quite simply said back to me, “Don’t you feel like you’re a machine sometimes?” I will never forget this moment has I had never thought of that or felt that way about the Cochlear Implant. It has always been a part of me and always will. I relate it to people who have artificial hips or knees; they are not considered machines are they? This made me understand what my mother went through with the deaf culture back in the 1980’s when I got implanted, and what she sheltered me from my entire life.
Now, back to the reason why I was born profoundly deaf. I only found out five years ago when I was in my second year of university. I had just started dating someone (still with him today) and was loving university life. One weekend before final exams my mother came to see me (home was four hours away) and we got a hotel, which I thought this was odd as we always stayed with my grandparents. She told me that my worst fear was happening; I had been diagnosed with something called Usher Syndrome, a form of retinitis pigmentosa. This disease was the reason why I was born profoundly deaf and causes peripheral vision loss. I was devastated but have kept on going with life. They say whatever does not kill us makes us stronger.
I am SO grateful and fortunate that my family chose took the risk (back then) and chose for me to have a Cochlear Implant at the peak of my language development. My new sensory challenge makes me even more grateful to have a Cochlear Implant. As Rachel (administrator of this website) pointed out to me the other day, imagine if my parents did not go the route of the Cochlear Implant and taught me sign language instead? I would have to rely on my vision to read signs and communicate, which can be challenging with tunnel vision. Before Rachel mentioned this, the thought never crossed my mind! I will never be able to thank my mom enough for fighting so hard for me, allowing me the opportunities hearing individuals have, and teaching me for countless hours how to listen and speak. I am starting to really consider getting bilateral implants to assist in my additional challenges. It makes me nervous to go through the surgery but I know it will be worth it. I am excited about having sound localization and even better hearing!