Wednesday, August 17, 2022

A Deaf Person’s Second Chance at Life Through a Mother’s Love

My mother and I in Ridgeland, Mississippi
My mother and I

My mother gave me a life that would’ve been unimaginable back in the 1990s when my parents learned I lost my hearing.

Our story begins on October 9, 1991 two hours past noon when I was pulled via C-section from my nearly-dying mother who learned too late she was allergic to certain hormones involved with childbirth. She endured seizures and hours long labor only for a nurse to scold her, saying she wasn’t ready to hold me yet. But death, while rattling, didn’t defeat my mother, so she made the nurse bring me to her.

My deafness, like death, rattled my mother, but her stubbornness triumphed: nothing could separate me from her.

The diagnosis of my hearing loss at 18 months validated my mother’s concerns for my first two years. During the routine checkups, I passed my hearing test, a couple claps behind my back, but my hearing was on its way out months after I turned two.

In a span of a few months, she listened to my baby noises change from rapid “da-da-da” and “mamama” to guttural sounds stuck in my throat. Something wasn’t right, she thought as she clanged pots as I gazed out the window, oblivious to the racket, at our house in Little Rock, Arkansas. I don’t remember that home, only able to through a few pictures, because my parents moved to Mississippi to enroll me in Magnolia Speech School, in Jackson.

There I began wearing hearing aids, little squealing things that tickled my ears, but they weren’t as useful as anticipated. My hearing rapidly went away as I got older and finally one day, I was diagnosed profoundly deaf. I couldn’t hear the rickety trains on the tracks through Ridgeland, couldn’t hear the neighboring German Shepherds’ bellows and least of all the vacuum that Mom sometimes used during nap time. To her, my life could be spent in silence, never to hear my father quietly sing as he played the guitar, or my extended family’s merry-making ways or even the birds chirping on bright mornings in our backyard which was her favorite way to spend weekend mornings.

She made an easy decision: get my hearing back. I was four years old, one of the youngest in Mississippi, when I underwent surgery to get a cochlear implant on my left ear. A few weeks later the audiologists turned on my cochlear implant. Mom stood behind me that day, and she breathlessly said, “Callie.” I turned and looked at her, and she wiped away her tears.

Mom faced a challenge on the decision to install a cochlear implant one day in a grocery store. I had my cochlear implant in a harness back in the days when it was a bulky gray box slightly smaller than the first GameBoy. Two people approached her, one signing and the other speaking. They told Mom her decision was paramount to abuse, that she took away my right to choose between the Deaf life and the life she wanted for me. Mom told them, “I want her to be independent so that one day she’ll live her life without an interpreter.”

My mother taught me independence even as she kept close by, accepting a job as a director of fundraising at Magnolia Speech School. She took me to conferences, audiologist check-ups and always kept track of cochlear implants’ latest developments. She always popped my processors on first thing in the morning so she could tell me anything from how pretty I looked to the importance of eating breakfasts.

There were stumbles in my hearing journey, but Mom always believed in me more than myself. She was unshakable in her faith that I could and would one day order my own meal at McDonald’s without an interpreter. She helped me understand how the world worked and yet celebrated my differences. She was ready to give me a push out of the nest yet she was underneath the tree with her arms open, ready to catch me from falling.

Now 20 years or so later I have a life that completely relies on communication, a life Mom always worked so hard to help me earn. It was a daring goal as a child, and now it seems like an obvious reality all because Mom refused to give in and inspired such courage in me.

She gave me my hearing back.


Callie Daniels is a staff writer/reporter for HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at callie.daniels@hottytoddy.com.

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