After morning worship services today we went to Nashville for the League for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing picnic. There was a good turnout...I'm very comfortable saying there were probably 200 people there, and likely more. One thing that struck me right away is that I seemed to be in the minority: I don't sign. Fingers were flying all around me, and I had no clue what was being said. I was grateful to find my "twin", Shari (and her hubby and her mama and her mama's butterscotch Krispie squares...YUM!), and we found a few more from the HLAA group and kind of stuck together. It was kind of disconcerting to realize that as deaf as I am...no hearing at all when I take the processor off at night...I didn't quite fit in with that group. I seem to be stuck in that in-between world of "hard of hearing": too deaf to manage well in the hearing world, and too dependent on lip-reading and what little hearing I have to manage well in the Deaf world. There were sign interpreters all around...but they did me no good at all...and I was often too far away from whoever was speaking to be able to lipread and hear what was being said. Most of the people there were right at home signing...many of them didn't speak while they were signing, so, no lips to read. The Deaf have a culture all of their own...a comfortably quiet one, where sign language is the primary means of face-to-face communication. It's a beautiful language, but, like any other foreign language, it excludes those that don't know it from participating in the communication process. I felt safely at home with the few HLAA folks that showed up...many of them are in the same boat I'm in...knowing a few signs here and there, but speaking and listening as their primary means of communicating. However, I felt a little awed and even out of place in the larger group...I just wasn't one of them...what a strange feeling!
I did get to meet a couple of other CI users...there weren't many of us there, though. I talked to one of the audiologists that I met last year when I was researching CIs and told her that I had been approved for my second implant by BlueCross...we had a little discussion about that, and a little later I was able to share that information with one of her clients, who has one implant and is pursuing another one. I think that he and his wife were encouraged by that news and he is more excited about getting a second implant now.
I also got to meet a few people who hadn't ever really seen a CI processor before (I know that a lot of you haven't, either, and I only saw my first one last year). I had a great time taking it off and showing it off and explaining it. One fella expressed surprise that it was as small as it was...CI processors used to be big, bulky boxes that were strapped on or worn on the belt. Body-worn processors are still available (although now they're very small and discreet, looking like a pager or something), but more people elect to go with the behind-the-ear processors now, which just look like hearing aids. He went on to say, "I feel better about them now!" I understood completely. A few years ago, if you had asked me what I thought about cochlear implants, I would have told you that they were fine for other people, but not for me. I didn't know anyone that had one, and all I knew (or had heard) was that you had to strap on a huge boxy processor in order to hear...and I wanted no part of that. My first hearing aid was one that looked very similar to this: It was worn clipped to a pocket, or to a vest. I don't remember how long I wore it...I do remember liking the little behind-the ear hearing aid that I graduated to much better, because it wasn't as noticeable. For anyone who worries about someone being able to see their tiny in-the-ear hearing aids, imagine wearing one of these, and be incredibly proud that technology has made hearing aids so much smaller and better!
Anyhow, after wearing that, and also the Phonak FM system (which helped me hear AMAZINGLY well in the classroom, but was HUGE, and, yes, worn strapped to my front) I never wanted to wear anything but my little hearing aids again. Ever. So when the little hearing aid finally wasn't good enough to do the job anymore, imagine my relief when I found out that cochlear implant technology had improved...and downsized...to the point where I could wear a little behind-the-ear processor! My pride and vanity were so happy to hear that news! And now, I am enjoying spreading the news, because I think there are quite a few other people out there that are a little nervous about the unknown: What do they look like? How do they work? Would they work for me? Some are at the point where I was last year...the point where it's just about the last viable option for hearing...and are nervous about their futures. I LOVE sharing my story...and hope that for some people, at least, I can take some of that nervousness away and make it a more appealing option, rather than something scary and dreaded!!
We stayed at the picnic until about 5:30, then found a bathroom and washed the girls up (the little ones were filthy from playing in the dirt) and got everyone dressed for church. We visited a congregation in Brentwood, TN tonight and were surprised to see some people we knew! We got there just as services were starting so we sat in the back of this HUGE auditorium. They were having a singing service, thankfully...otherwise I wouldn't have known a thing that went on...from where we were sitting, if the speakers even HAD lips, I couldn't see 'em, let alone read 'em! ;)
From there we drove around Wendy's to pick up dinner for the girls and around Starbucks for a cup of coffee for me (I had too much at lunch today to be hungry!)...then we headed home. There was an incident with the laundry after I got home that rendered my fingers purple (it's ink, and it's good ink, too, so they'll be purple for a while...*sigh*...thankfully no laundry was injured in the inking).
The girls go back to school tomorrow, after a long weekend off...so I'm headed to bed...6:30 will be here before I know it!! Love y'all.....