I** have been trying to remember how long I have known Lisa but I am not exactly sure. We met when I was an interpreter at a mental healthy facility and she was there completing her College internship. Lisa is super tenacious and fun. She is an amazing athlete having completed multiple marathons and fantastic mother. I hope you enjoy her story. Please welcome her to Sunshine Praises!
This is not just any story, but this is my story. My name is Lisa, and I am Deaf.
At 18 months old, I developed a very high fever and in desperation, my mother threw me in a cold bathtub in an effort to bring the high temperature down. It clearly wasn’t working, so we rushed to the ER where the end diagnosis was spinal meningitis. Spinal meningitis is inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. My parents were told by the doctor, “she will be either deaf, blind, retarded, all the above, or……death. I cannot promise you what will happen in the next 24-48hours.” I survived; I came out of the ordeal “only deaf”, as my parents put it. I also became a fighter.
My father was determined to make me understand that the world is cruel, but I would have to face it just like everyone else does. “Sweetheart, you’re not any more special than other people. You are special to us, but not so much that you automatically have privilege. You have to earn your way through life.” I did just that, learning ASL after graduating high school so I could benefit from interpreted classes in college, and successfully graduated with my Bachelors’ degree.
I met a supercalifragilisticexpalidociously awesome man named Rob, who is also deaf. Although I became deaf at a young age, he was actually born deaf. His mother did not realize it he was deaf until he was almost two years old. She would often try to “test” him when he was on the floor, but when she walked up to him, he felt the vibrations and turned around. That little game went on until she finally got his hearing tested by a doctor, confirming her hunch. He went on to attend an oral school, Clarke School for the Deaf, later transferring to a mainstream public school, then he went on to graduate from college with a Bachelors’ degree. We both grew up “oral”, which means lip reading, being encouraged to speak as clearly as we can, as well as body language decoding. Yes, I can read lips from across the room. Let that be our little secret, ok?
We got married one beautiful autumn in 2007. I gave birth to my firstborn in 2008, and within 24 hours, my perfect baby boy “failed” the hearing test. He was considered deaf as far as they were concerned, but I simply thought of him as what he is- a beautiful child that we created. As he grew, he gained hearing slowly; eventually needing hearing aids at 3 years old to help with speech development. Now, at 5 years old, the latest testing shows that his hearing levels have increased to the point where the hearing loss is, at the very least, mild. Today, he has normal hearing and no longer wears hearing aids.
When it was time for my second born to have his hearing tested, he “passed”. “Yay! Aren’t you so happy?” chimed one audiologist, with a cheshire-like grin on her face, clapping. What a tone-deaf, biased way to deliver news. To this day, it makes my blood boil thinking about it. In my opinion, she should have been neutral. Children are sponges who absorb everything, and I was immediately concerned the audiologist was teaching my child that if a person is deaf, they’re broken somehow. Perfection is an illusion. A dangerous illusion, that can negatively impact a child’s emotional well-being, especially if they know they are “different”. Medical professionals need to be acutely aware of their delivery. Bedside manner is not limited to when the patient is in bed.
People have and still approach my husband and myself asking about how we are able to care for our children, as we are both profoundly deaf. We have adaptive devices triggered by sounds which set off a haptic response that shakes our bed. Others use lights. Other people sleep with their babies, although that is not for me. We all learn how to adapt, overcome, and succeed in our own ways.
Needless to say, my children are happy, vibrant, healthy and spirited. They can run, jump, eat, hug, draw, count, sing, help one another, and most importantly, smile and laugh. They speak in both ASL and spoken English. They communicate effortlessly with both hearing children and deaf children without missing a beat. My greatest hope for them is to not see race nor disability, but rather see people for who they really are. “be the change you wish to see in the world…” –Mahatma Gandhi
Life is but a journey. This is my journey, and that of my family. Deafness isn’t just limited to the person who can’t hear– deafness becomes an identity that affects family, friends, and coworkers. Thank you for reading my story.