People often ask writers where they get the inspiration for their work. On Saturday, inspiration came to me in the form of a lovely woman, named Patsy. This delightful, spunky woman spiraled into deafness over a ten year course. Patsy is profoundly deaf. Hers has a genetic cause, and though others in her family were hearing impaired, Patsy was the only one who suffered the trauma of deafness.
What I learned about deafness from books and the internet, in preparation for my current novel-in-progress, was no where near what Patsy was able to teach me. Of her isolation; of people’s reactions, good and bad; of the day her house alarm went off and she never heard it. She had to give up her job. She couldn’t go to a movie. Or a concert.
Deciding to be proactive, she and her husband attended a seminar on cochlear implants. Within two months, she underwent the surgery to place the receiver under the skin behind her ear. From my research, I had already become a fan of the cochlear implant. Though the outcome isn’t always complete restoration of hearing, most people receive some gain. Imagine not hearing a bird’s song, your loved one’s voice, a Willie Nelson ballad—or whatever music you like. And then one day, the audiologist turns on the first level of your cochlear implant and you hear sound. Imagine how wonderful. Patsy made her husband keep talking on the way home from her second level adjustment, because it had been so long since she heard his voice.
I was amazed as we chatted that Patsy could hear nearly everything I said. When she took off the outer parts of the cochlear implant to show it to me, she could hear nothing. Complete silence.
Patsy is an inspiration to people who are deaf or handicapped in other ways, because she made her story public. I am grateful to my friend Sandy who arranged for me to meet Patsy. I am heartily grateful to Patsy for sharing her moving story.
If you have time, please read Patsy’s eloquent comment below.