A Parent’s Story

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Candice as a toddler and young woman.

A Parent’s Story

by Cheryl Ray Franklin

Our second child came into our lives at a wonderful time. Her older sister was four years old and thrilled with the idea of having a new sibling. Our neighbors had a baby girl born on the exact same day and it seemed to be one big party after another. Of course, our daughter seemed more beautiful and smarter than our friends’ children. She was the perfect “Gerber Baby” with big green eyes and lots of blonde curls. She seemed to do everything early – walking, talking, while smiling all of the time. Strangers would stop me and comment on her cheerful dis- position and good looks. While her sister was also bright and beautiful, Candice was exceptionally happy and  charming. When Candice was 13 months old, her father and I took our older daughter to a friend’s farm for a weekend visit. Candice stayed home with my parents. When we returned, I called my parents to tell them we would be there soon to pick up our daughter. My father answered the phone and told us to come immediately because something was very wrong with our baby. While we were gone, they had taken her to the doctor. Candice was diagnosed with the flu, but she remained very sick. Two days later, we rushed Candice, now in a coma, to the hospital. She was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and we were told that she might not live. After two sleepless weeks, she was discharged from the hospital.

Our Lives Were Never to be the Same

Looking back now, I realize that  I would not trade  the path  on which Candice’s illness and recovery sent us but at that time, our lives were in turmoil. When we left the hospital, my happy, walking, talking child could not walk, sit, talk, or even hold up her head. She had frequent seizures and violent headaches. Her rehabilitation, including physical and speech therapy, was long and hard. And, we learned that our daughter had a permanent hearing loss. In addition to everything else, my beautiful happy baby now had to wear hearing aids. Although my educational background was in speech and audiology, I was not prepared for my very own deaf child. My first reaction was, “A mild hearing loss – we can handle this.” Her father’s first thoughts were, “We will fix this.” As Candice’s hearing deteriorated from a mild to a moderate to a profound loss, we experi- enced many emotions. And, each family member went through them at a different pace and to a different degree. Denial is the most common initial reaction. Candice’s father and I both suffered greatly from denial. “She will be put back together just like Humpty Dumpty, the egg.” When our doctor told us that Candice’s hearing was getting progressively worse, we moved beyond denial to a proactive “research” stage. We searched for help all over the United States, finally deciding on a clinic in another state. She had exploratory surgery, then returned later for fistula surgery. Still we watched as our daughter’s hearing slipped away. An epidemic of helplessness and guilt swept through our family. My parents thought they had done something wrong while Candice was in their care. We felt that we should not have gone away for the weekend trip. Inevitably there were also feelings of anger. “Why my child?”. People would ask, “How did she get meningitis?” I wanted to scream in response, “How do I know?” We struggled, we worked, we cried, we laughed, we pulled together and we pulled apart. Yet, the process and the result have been worth it. We still cry and laugh about her deafness. We still have to explain a lot of things to a lot of people. However, we have met wonderful people we never would have had the privilege of meeting. And, we have learned valuable lessons that we would never have learned, especially compassion and patience. In the beginning, I wanted a crystal ball; I wanted someone to tell me what the future would hold. Now, after 20 years, the questions that I asked others and myself have answers:

  • Will my daughter be able to talk?
  • Will she be able to learn like other children and go to college and support herself?
  • Will she have friends?
  • Will she go to the prom?
  • Will she dance and listen to music?
  • Will she laugh and tease and play like a normal child again?
  • Will she grow up to be happy?
  • Will she accept her deafness? Will I accept it? Will her father accept it?
  • Will she have a good relationship with her sister?

These are really the same questions all parents have about their children. But when a child has a hear- ing loss, the need for answers seems much more urgent and intense. Of course, the adjustment process is slow and the answers are revealed a little at a time. At this point in time, Candice’s future looks quite bright. She is a very happy and successful young woman.

Everything has not been easy for Candice. She has not had the same high school and college experience as her older sister enjoyed. However, she learned from her experiences, acquiring  skills that most people need a lifetime to learn. Her hearing loss – and her ability to accept it and compensate for it – has helped  Candice develop into the patient, loving, kind, and resourceful young woman that she has become.

Today, Candice is a junior in college. She recently signed a contract  with a large modeling agency  – a lifetime dream. When Candice asked a friend in the modeling business to identify the single most important factor for a successful modeling career, the response was: “The ability to handle rejection.” “Wow,” I thought, “Candice has that down pat.” I don’t mean  that in a sad way, rather  in a very proud  way.

“Raining in  the Kitchen”

We have a family story titled “Raining in the  Kitchen”. It summarizes Candice’s winning attitude about  life. One day, when she was in elementary school, Candice was making a  sandwich in the  kitchen. Suddenly, water  began pouring from the  light fixtures. Candice  got on the intercom and  started yelling, “Help! Help!” Eventually, I came to see what the problem was – only to find Candice still making her sandwich, surrounded by pots and  pans  to catch  the  falling water. Candice’s explanation? “It  was just raining in the kitchen, but every- thing is fine now.” That sums up one  family’s entire experience in dealing with a hear- ing loss; it rained in the kitchen for a while – but now, everything is fine. The story about  Candice is my personal story. Every family’s journey is different  – each of us has our own dreams, and each child  is a unique  person. On the following  pages, other  parents  of  children with hearing loss share their thoughts and  feelings. Some of the children described are now teenagers or young adults; others are in school or preschool. You may find  some experiences and ideas very similar to your own;  some may be very different.  We include this “parent-to-parent” section in the hopes  that you might learn from these families. These parents share the same road with you; they are just farther along on their journey with their children who are deaf or hard of hearing. May their stories reassure, and  inspire you.