Emily M. DeArdo

writer

CI

Seven Quick Takes--The First Draft Exists!

7 Quick Takes, Catholic 101, current projects, hearing loss, Seven Quick Takes, writingEmily DeArdo2 Comments
seven quick takes.jpg

Linking up with Kelly!

I.

The FIRST DRAFT EXISTS!

Yay!

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When I first got the contract information, the fact that Ave Maria wanted a first draft by June 1 was daunting to some people I talked to. “Can you do it in two months?”

HELL YES I CAN.

II.

Why was I so confident?

Because I have journalism training. And political training.

And when you have both of those, you learn to write quickly, on ridiculous deadlines.

Deadlines? WHAT DEADLINES.

So, thank you to Professor Kelly Messinger in college for all the Chimes Wednesday nights where we ate Chipotle and wrote into the wee hours! And edited! And wrote! And edited!

III.

Now, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy, because sometimes….


But then I apply my Maxim: You cannot edit a blank page.

Get anything on the page. Anything. Let it sit there and then come back later and edit it. You never know what can happen.

Chapter 10, for example? WENT OFF THE RAILS. I had no idea where I was going with that one, and we went somewhere I had not anticipated. But there it is!

(It might not stay the way it is. LOL.)

IV.

Speaking of writing—my ebook, Catholic 101, is now $5!

That’s it. Five bucks, y’all.

Go get it!


V.

I also promise to have the Denver travel posts up next week. This week was just nuts, with getting the first draft done….oh, and getting a new CI processor!!!!!!!

VI.

So, if you want more on the CI, you can visit my series here. Basically I was glad to have hearing, but the processor I had had shortcomings. I couldn’t use the phone.

Now….I might be able to use the phone! I mean, what?!

I can listen to my voicemails and understand them!

So far, this new processor is a game changer.


VII.

Oh, one more thing about the draft—a question I’ve been getting a lot is, “Well, didn’t you have to write the book before you submitted it?”

Short answer: No. Most places, for non-fiction, want a proposal, with a chapter sample, but not the whole book. I’ll talk more about the parts of the process later (especially in my newsletter!). But, no. I had to write the book to the proposal specs.




Listen Up! (For World Hearing Day)

essays, health, hearing lossEmily DeArdoComment
(c) Wikipedia

(c) Wikipedia

World Hearing Day was yesterday, and so I thought I’d put up links to the post I wrote last year, about my CI and how it works and ways people can make hearing better for everyone!

So if you missed them the first time:

Part I: How I lost my hearing

Part II: How the Cochlear Implant Works

Part III: Living with a CI

Part IV: Accommodations, i.e., the post that you should read even if you don’t read any of the others!


I am (hopefully!) getting my CI upgraded in the next few months. The current processor I have has been “obsoleted”, meaning that if it breaks, Cochlear (the company who makes my processor) won’t fix it, they won’t sell any more replacement parts for it, etc. Now, they do this, in part, so that insurance companies will pay for new processors, because if it can’t be fixed anymore, then, yeah. Probably need an upgrade. This one should be better and allow me to hear more, but I have no idea until I get it. :) I do know that it will have bluetooth capability so it can stream my iPhone sound directly into my processor, and this might be a big thing. We’ll see what happens and I’ll let you know!

And thinking about my CI is timely because of a conversation I had in a lung transplant group on facebook. We were talking about the toxicity of a certain class of meds, and that they are crazy hard on the body. Some people were adamant that they would never take a drug in that class.

But here’s the thing—all meds are toxic at some point. They just are. Tylenol is! I knew that the ototoxic drugs were destroying my hearing. But I decided I’d rather be alive, than dead with great hearing. It’s about choices. And sometimes, yes, you just have to cut out a class of drugs. The meds I took over the fall for a sinus infection have pretty much messed up my right knee permanently. I’m not really happy about that. But you know, I like being alive, I like that we managed to stop the infection without it 1) getting into my lungs and 2) requiring the big guns of IV meds and /or hospitalization.

It’s a trade off.



Sound and Silence Part IV: Accommodations

hearing loss, healthEmily DeArdoComment

Last Saturday was World Hearing Day, so I showed a few shots of my Bionic Ear on instagram. Some people were shocked to see I had one! So I decided it was time to do a little updated series here about why I have one, how I got it, how I like it, and what life is like with one. Here are the previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

This is the meat and potatoes post. 

First, let's acknowledge that deaf and hard-of-hearing people are often not accommodated. Curb cuts are put in at corners, even when there are no sidewalks. Braille on signs is ubiquitous. (although I know blind people often need things they don't get--like audible crossing alerts!) But captioning has to be fought for. The ADA doesn't require TV stations to caption things unless they get federal funding, for example. 

So the first thing people like me need to do is ASK. And that's hard, I know. But we need to be more comfortable about saying, I'm sorry, I'm hearing impaired. I need accommodation. If we're not asking, we're definitely not going to get! 

With that in mind, knowing what we know now, how can we, as individuals and society, accommodate or adapt what we do for people with hearing loss? 

Here are a few suggestions. Some are for people, some are for institutions. 

1. Be patient. I talked about this in the last installment, but please repeat yourself if you're asked to. Don't get angry. Also, you don't necessarily need to talk louder. Sometimes you need to be clearer. As in, speak slower, enunciate, look at me. Don't hide your mouth! It doesn't necessarily have to be over the top. It might take some adjusting. But please be patient. 

2. Provide alternate means of contact. If you run a church or volunteer organization, for example, don't just provide a phone number. Provide an email address. If you just provide a phone number, I can't contact you, and then I can't help out. Say if texting is acceptable, too! (This last tip is for older people, who might have landlines only. Tell me if it's a cell number. If it is, then I'll try texting.) 

(And a note: I can leave messages on voice mails. That's because I know to leave a message at the beep or when the voice stops. That's different than trying to talk to a person. Does that make sense?) 

3. Provide a chat interface. This is mostly for businesses. If you only provide a phone number, I am screwed. And don't say, "Oh well we have a TTY!" I don't have a TTY.  It's $250-600 for a TTY. Also, TTY use in general is declining as people have email and text. Folks. Come into the 21st century. Provide a chat interface on your website! (It's like how cars had tape players in them well into the early 2000s. Huh? A tape player? What?) Chat interface, the ability to place requests on a website (like AAA!), customer service email, apps....it's a wonderful new world of technology. Use it. Please. Look, if Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, The Disney Store, AAA, and just about every other e-commerce site can provide a chat interface, you can too, government people! 

And do not tell me that it's not secure to do it any way but over the phone! I email my transplant nurses all the time for stuff--we're sending highly "private" health information over email. My bank has chat. I send sensitive financial information over chat! Come on! Don't tell me that the retirement agency or SSDI or whatever can't do the same thing. You can. You're lazy. That's what it comes down to. You. Are. Lazy.  Don't be lazy. 

Let me illustrate what happens when you are lazy, companies and agencies: 

It means that I have to ask my parents to translate the conversation for us. It means that I have to fill out paperwork saying that yes, my parents are decent people and aren't going to lie to you about me. It means that I can't communicate with you on my own. It means that we have to set up times for me and a parent to talk to you, so that we can get something done. This means that my dad has to leave work early, or work from home, or leave for work late, so that he can help me here, or that my mom has to rearrange her day. It is a HUGE inconvenience to everyone. 

If you provide chat interface, then we have none of these problems. It's all easy. And simple. And, dare I say, secure. (My dad is an IT professional. He deals with this stuff all the time. He knows. He can tell you the whole "It's not secure" argument is crap.) 

4. Provide transcripts or closed captioning. If you're doing an online course, please provide captions or a transcript of what you're saying. 

Video is tough. The sound isn't great, a lot of the time. The best way for me to understand someone, in general, is for me to "learn" your voice, and the easiest way to do that is to read captions while you talk. (Obviously, this is not in a real life scenario. :-p In real life, the more I listen to you, the more I learn your voice, your cadences, your vocabulary, and that helps me understand you better.)  But until you get to that point--caption videos, or provide transcripts. 

Also, video companies? Caption ALL THE THINGS. Don't just caption the movie. I like to watch the special features! And it should be illegal to release a video in the U.S. that doesn't have captioning. I mean, come on. TVs do have captioning--most of them. Some older ones don't. But that doesn't mean that they automatically caption videos or TV shows. They do not! 

TV and movie folk: please caption your shows and your channels. Some of you don't. That means I can't watch you. Fix that, please. 

5. Turn the captions on! If you're in charge of a waiting room, please turn the captions on the TV. It is so annoying to hear just mindless sound. Imagine a jackhammer going off around you constantly. That's what it sounds like. Or a baby crying. It's just NOISE. With captions, it's not noise anymore!

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In the same vein: 

Movie theaters: Provide captioning devices. Please. I like the movies too! (Marcus Cinemas does, for every movie. It's a godsend. So thankful they're my local chain!) 

Airports: Provide a messaging board at all gates and in the concourses, so people can see updates. Provide a transcript of the safety talk. Really be aware of your hearing-impaired passengers and make sure they get the information they need. Write it down if you have to! It's no good for me to tell you I'm hearing impaired, and then you look at me like I have lobsters crawling out of my ears. 

6. Put in a telecoil system. This is mostly for churches and other gathering places where people are using microphones. Telecoil systems are great! 

Sign indicating my church has a hearing loop installed. This means I can understand the homilies! Yay! 

Sign indicating my church has a hearing loop installed. This means I can understand the homilies! Yay! 

7. Use microphones There are few things in the world that irritate me more than people who do not use microphones, when a microphone is easily available. Do not do the crappy, "oh, the acoustics are fine." THEY ARE NOT. You are being silly and denying people the ability to hear and understand you. Especially if the place has a telecoil system installed, use the microphones! Otherwise the telecoil system is no good! 

If we're in a place that's echo-y, like a big meeting room or something, and you don't use a microphone, I'm lost. Most people do not know how to project. After a few minutes, I get very irritated and cranky because I have to work so hard to understand you. And if you do this continually I will stop coming to these events, because I will get irritated and angry, and sad, because I cannot hear and understand. And sadly, this seems to happen a lot with church stuff. So....yeah. I might be a leeeeetle annoyed about this. 

Also, face out. Show me your face! If I can see your mouth, that helps. (See the last entry, which talked about lip reading)

If you don't have hearing problems, I want you to imagine being surrounded by a swarm of bees and trying to listen through that. Or being underwater, and trying to hear someone speaking above you. Now imagine that happening for an hour, two hours, three hours....you'll start to get some idea of what it's like to try to hear and understand people in this situation. It's mumblemumblemumblemumble. How long would you want to put up with that? Not long, I'd wager. 

8. In design, think about acoustics. Places where there are metal floors, metal ceilings, metal everything? That's terrible. There is nothing to absorb the sound. It's one big sound magnifier. The ADA requires places to have wheelchair ramps and access*. Do the same thing for the hard of hearing. Think about it. It might not be "trendy", but you'll make me a lot happier. Have some carpet. Have some wood. Have things that absorb sound and don't make it so loud. (in the same vein--braille menus, y'all. Come on. Large print, too!) 

9. Be understanding. It can be hard to have to work at hearing. Because really, it's work. When I've been in a group of people for a long time, I have to work hard to understand people, what's happening around me, etc. So if I say, hey, I gotta go, or I'm going to bed, don't be all "but it's EARLY!" Or whatever. My brain is very, very tired. I probably have a big headache. Just let me go. :) 

10. Inclusion. We talked about this before. But if you're in a group with a hard of hearing person, make sure to include him in the conversation. If I ask you what's being said, please tell me. Don't ignore my request. It makes me angry. I love to talk. If I'm just sitting there, not talking, chances are it's because I have no idea what's happening and no one's cluing me in. This. Is. Sad. Please don't do that. :) That doesn't mean that you have to be all over me every five seconds. But do make an effort to talk to me! Because otherwise, SADNESS!

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I think I've covered everything...is there anything else you want to know? Drop it in the combox and I'll answer!

* Doesn't mean they do it well....see my series on the ADA about this. 

Sound and Silence Part III: Living with the CI

hearing loss, healthEmily DeArdoComment

Last Saturday was World Hearing Day, so I showed a few shots of my Bionic Ear on instagram. Some people were shocked to see I had one! So I decided it was time to do a little updated series here about why I have one, how I got it, how I like it, and what life is like with one. You can read the other parts here: Part I, Part II. 

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So let's talk about my day-to-day CI experience (and a little bit about accommodations, at the end, but we'll talk more about that tomorrow.). 

There are times I don't wear my CI: 

  • When I'm sleeping (although I can--it's just not really comfortable. But when I'm in the hospital, I do.) 
  • When I'm swimming * 
  • When I ride certain rides (roller coasters? It comes off. I really don't want to have to look for it later...) 

There are also times when my head just hurts. Keep in mind--there's a magnet in bone. That's going to hurt sometimes. On those days, I have to take the CI off and I'm deaf for most of the day. It's not fun, but it's not terrible. It's inconvenient. 

I do have to keep the hair there cut short, or the magnet has trouble connecting. I don't shave it, but I do cut it reaaaallly close. 

Currently I'm having issues with the magnet. The outside processor doesn't always like to attach correctly so there are times when it will shift and I'll have to move it in place to get it to work again. That's irritating, but it should stop when I get a new processor. 

That's a fun process, by the way, because insurance companies don't like to pay for new processors. The one I currently have will be declared obsolete next year, and then insurance companies will have to pay for an upgrade, because my current one can't be fixed anymore, and there won't be parts made for it anymore. But until then, they won't. Well, they will. We'll just have to fight them on it. (Here's a trick, guys: Never assume that insurance won't pay for something. Don't just pay the bill. ARGUE WITH THEM!)

Why insurance companies do not pay for hearing aids, or CI upgrades, is beyond my understanding. It's so ridiculous. Hearing is just as important as sight, but hearing gets shafted. (Part IV is going to be all about accommodations. So more on that then!) For example, insurance will pay for an entire evaluation and surgery and a processor for my right ear, but they won't pay for an upgrade for my left ear. Which is cheaper? Which is better for everyone? And which will the insurance company pay for? Yeah. sigh. 

Cochlear implants cost about $5,000. Now, the first one is covered. If you have surgery, then the surgery, the implant, the processor--all that's covered. But upgrades aren't. About every five years or so, you can try and I've had luck with insurance paying then. This year is my five year mark for my current processor. So we will either try this year, to get a new one, or try next year, when it's more likely we won't have to argue as much! 

Think about cell phone or computer updates. Every time there's an upgrade, it's better, right? CIs are the same way. The one I have now is much better than my first one. There are not just cosmetic things (i.e., it's smaller) that are "better", but also in terms of power, of programming, of what it can do. So it's not like upgrading to be "cool". It really is a substantial difference, usually. 

The batteries are around $200-250 each. At some point they stop holding a charge and you have to replace them. I currently have three, but one is cracked so I don't use it on a daily basis. It's an emergency battery. The two I have I rotate, so they'll last longer. 

There are other parts, like microphone covers, and ear hooks, and things like that, that have to be paid for. You get some of these things when you upgrade, or get your processor, but often I have to buy more. 

In general, my CI is great. But like I said in the last installment, I can't use the phone. Everyone sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher. (That goes for people like my parents, too. I should know their voices better than any other--and I do--but I can't call them on the phone. That should tell you how terrible my hearing is on the phone.) 

I do rely on lip reading, a little bit. But not many words are lip-readable. I think around 10% of English words are uniquely identifiable in lip reading. Go talk to yourself in front of the mirror and notice how many words look similar. Really, for me, lip reading helps in context. But on an airplane? Forget it. There's way too much noise for me to understand what the flight attendant is saying, even if she's leaning right over me. I can guess that it's time for beverage orders because she'll  have the little pad out. :) Flying is sort of rough, when you're hearing impaired. **

FaceTime is a godsend. That's really the only way I can use the phone. Do I have a cell phone? Yes. :) But I don't use it as a phone, most often. I FaceTime people, and I text. And I did take ASL in high school, just for fun--God prompting, there....

In restaurants, I want to sit against a wall, or in an area where there won't be sound coming from behind me. I'll generally adjust my CI settings, but I try to make as "optimal" an arrangement as possible for me, to help out. If you're walking on my right side and talking to me, I'm not going to hear you as well as I could. 

The other thing about the CI is that there's a little bit of a lag...a few seconds. So sometimes I'll ask someone to repeat something, and then I'll understand what they said, because my brain has caught up. 

Also, please folks--repeat what you said. Don't say you said "nothing." You clearly said something. Don't huff and puff if I ask you to repeat yourself. If you do that, then guess what? I don't ask you anymore. And then things get worse. And then people say, well, why didn't you ask for the person to repeat it? BECAUSE PEOPLE GET ANGRY. So please, do not roll your eyes or sigh or be like, why aren't you listening. I am. Believe me. 

It is very, very, very irritating to be left out of conversations. A lot of the time, especially in large groups, I don't know what's going on if people don't keep me in the loop. So, please do that. Tell me what we're talking about. Include me. Imagine you're at a table with people and everyone is talking around you. It's not fun. It makes you not want to do things! So please include people. 

My CI is much better than my hearing aids ever were. But there are still things I can't do, and there are still accommodations I need to make. It's not magic. It's awesome, and I'm glad I have it. But it's not perfect. I'm underlining that point so people really understand that. 

*There are things I could do to swim with the CI--there's a waterproof cover, for example. I just don't. But I could get one of those. 

**Flight attendants are just part of it. The safety thing? I can't understand that speech at all. Everything the pilot says? No idea. And we won't even TALK about how airports don't always have message boards, so I can miss important announcements about flight gates being changed, etc. If my friend Mary hadn't been with me for our California adventure, I probably would've missed my flight home, because they changed the gate! It is TERRIBLE. Fortunately airports let you take a "support person" back, so I have people wait with me before I board. I can--and have--flown alone. It's just stressful because I have to be on constant alert for any changes. 

 

Sound and Silence Part II: The Cochlear Implant

health, hearing lossEmily DeArdoComment

Last Saturday was World Hearing Day, so I showed a few shots of my Bionic Ear on instagram. Some people were shocked to see I had one! So I decided it was time to do a little updated series here about why I have one, how I got it, how I like it, and what life is like with one. Here's part one. 

So, what the heck is a CI, and how does it work?

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I'm going to keep this really basic. I'm not an audiologist and I don't play one on TV.  But this handy chart should help. You see the external bit, but yes, there are things in my head other than my brain. There's the magnet, to hold the processor on, and there's the wire that goes into the cochlea. Remember that the reason my hearing sucks is because my hair cells are dead. The hair cells live in the cochlea. So the wire replaces them, in a sense. The wire has an "array"--I think mine has 24--of sound things. I know that's super technical. I forget the real name. But there are24 different entries on that wire that can be individually fine-tuned. (More about that later) So instead of hundreds of hair cells...I have 24 electrode arrays. Now, it's better than nothing! But I note this to illustrate that CIs are not perfect replacements for real hearing. 

I had my surgery in May of 2008. Post transplant I had a lot to deal with--I had a skin graft surgery that November, and then we had to try hearing aids first, and then I had to get myself to agree to having a CI, and so with all that, it was a long-ish process to actually getting one. 

The one great thing is that I was "post-lingual"--meaning, I knew how to talk. (Boy howdy, can I talk.) If you have had severe hearing loss for a long time, or if you're a baby getting one, then there's hearing therapy involved. Even now, there are sounds I hear and it takes  me a minute to figure out what it is. (While writing this, with my CI on, I heard a crazy loud, scary noise. What is that?! It took me a few seconds, but I figured it out--crows.) Everyone knows the person who is hard of hearing who speaks loudly because she can't hear herself. I can hear myself. I'm just loud. (There are times when I can't hear myself as well--when I have the telecoil on, for example, so in church.) 

My ENT is fabulous. I've had him for years--he works a lot with CF folk, and more and more CF folk are having CIs put in. (ENTs also do all our sinus work. We have a lot of sinus work...I am lucky in that area. My sinuses tend to behave.) If you're in the central Ohio area, Dr. Willett, Ohio ENT is my guy and I adore him.  

So the day of surgery was just like any other surgery. Port accessed. Ready to rock and roll. You stay over night, of course, because people are putting things in your head! My audiologist, who is also at Ohio ENT, actually stimulated the CI during surgery to make sure it "worked" and that it had been put in correctly. That's a key part of the process, because I didn't get to attach the processor for a month, due to healing. You don't want to attach the processor and have it not work! 

For 21-30 days, your head heals. I wore my hearing aids, and waited for activation day. This is the day you see when those videos are posted to Facebook or YouTube where a kid or someone hears for the first time. Mine was not that dramatic. But instantly, small sounds came back--the sound of the turn signal, typing, things like that. 

(When your hearing goes, it's usually the upper registers that go first--high notes, high voices, likes kids and women. And fainter sounds, like turn signals, things beeping, etc.) 

My audiologist then programmed the CI. You can have up to four programs. Again, I don't want to get super technical, but I have all four slots on my CI filled with programs. There's a tiny button on the processor that I hit to cycle through them. The first is my "normal" program. That allows sound in from all sides, and is good all-purpose. The second is focused on who is directly in front of me, and cuts out side noise and background noise to an extent. This is good for  noisy places and restaurants. I have another program that focuses this even more. The fourth program is a richer program that's generally for music, but I can use it as an everyday program, too--you get a wider range of sounds and frequencies. 

There is also the telecoil. This cuts out all sound except what you hear through the telecoil system, which lets in whatever's coming in through a microphone.* This is what I use in church, and it's amazing. It's like someone is speaking distinctly and clearly into my ear. You are also, supposedly, able to use this for the phone. That is not my experience. (More on that later.) Of course the issue with the telecoil is that the other person has to have the microphone on, or the system is useless. (It does work for lecterns, too, or stand microphones.) 

Now, I have one implant. I don't have one in my right ear, because I want that 20% of real hearing that I have. When a CI is implanted, it removes any residual hearing you have left. I am truly deaf in my left ear without it. But I don't wear my CI all the time, so I need some residual hearing. This allows me to hear my alarm clock and other loud noises. There are also times when the batteries will inexplicably die. (This happened a lot with my first processor, not so much with my current one.) The 20% also helps out my CI, in a sense. It gives me some sense of directionality--where a sound is coming from, although not a lot. When I'm swimming, I can hear loud things. If I know your voice REALLY well--meaning, you're my parent or my best friend or my sibling--then I can decipher what you're saying, sometimes, with just my right ear. 

I use rechargeable batteries in my CI. I have three of them, and I rotate them. They get put in and can last about 15-24 hours on a full charge. I tend to not put my implant in early in the morning, because I sort of like the silence. But that's changing as I switch my workout routine to being in the morning. I need to hear the video. 

I'm using "hear" here, but what I really mean is "understand". I can hear lots of things. That doesn't mean I understand them, or process them. For example, I heard the crazy bird sounds this morning, but I had no idea what it was. 

Also--and I'll talk about this more in the next piece--but everyone's CI experience is very different. Rush Limbaugh has a CI, and he said he can't learn new music. I can, because, as we saw, I was very musically inclined and my ears had been trained that way. My brain still knows that language, in a sense. I work hard to learn new music. Instrumental music is difficult because it all sounds like noise, at first. But I can learn new songs and new vocal pieces with the CI--I just have to approach it differently. Some people with a CI can use phone adaptation stuff. I can't. I don't know why. But more on that next. 

*The telecoil can be "mixed"--basically, you can determine how much sound you want to get through the telecoil. Mine is 100%, when it's turned on. But you can do 50/50, 75/25, 90/10....whatever. 

Sound and Silence Part I: How I Lost My Hearing

hearing loss, healthEmily DeArdoComment

Saturday was World Hearing Day, so I showed a few shots of my Bionic Ear on instagram. Some people were shocked to see I had one! So I decided it was time to do a little updated series here about why I have one, how I got it, how I like it, and what life is like with one. 

I was born with normal hearing. 

Actually, I was born with really great hearing. My mom used to get irritated because I'd hear her whispering things to dad in the next room and yell, hey, I want to hear about that! 

As a singer, and a musician, your hearing is important. Obviously. A lot of my voice lessons involved listening. Intervals, pitch-matching, etc; all of that is a huge part of the musical art. 

In college, people started to notice that I wasn't hearing them when they were talking to me. Now, some of that was just that I tend to get really absorbed in things--a book, something I'm writing. But people would call my name, and I wouldn't answer. 

I went to the audiologist at Nationwide Children's, and I did have some hearing loss. Not a lot, and probably not enough for hearing aids to help. But it was showing up on the hearing tests. OK. I just shrugged and went on with my life. 

In between 2003-2005 (pre-transplant), I was on a lot of drugs. Hard core, IV meds, in order to keep me alive and breathing. Some of these were ototoxic--meaning they killed the hair cells in my ears, the hairs that conduct sound to the cochlea. Without these hair cells, you don't hear. 

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(Here's a brief explanation: 

When you are exposed to loud music or noise, it is your hair cells which are damaged. Hearing loss occurs because loud sounds are really just large pressure waves (like when you stand next to a subwoofer and can "feel" the bass). These large pressure waves bend the stereocilia too far, sometimes to the point where they are damaged. This kills the hair cell. Since cochlear hair cells can not grow back, this manifests as a permanent hearing loss.) 

In my case, it wasn't loud noises. It was the medication. Once hair cells are gone, they do not grow back. They are gone forever. 

And the more I used these drugs, the more hair cells died, in both ears. 

By the time of my transplant, my hearing had gotten worse, and we were starting to think about hearing aids. I was fitted with my first pair soon after transplant. Hearing aids are not covered by insurance. I needed the most powerful kind, the behind-the-ear hearing aids, and they were fit to my ear shape. 

They were also a pain in the butt. 

Hearing aids just magnify sound. It's like turning up the volume on everything. But it's everything. It's not discriminate. Things like pages turning were incredibly loud. In a crowded room, I couldn't focus on one sound. Everything came in, all the time. 

The other problem is that hearing aids break. The outer ear part would separate from the part that went in my ear. I was constantly trying to put them back together with tape! 

In 2007-2008, I got sick again--and more ototoxic meds. Now the hearing aids weren't really helping at all. It was time to think about cochlear implants. 

I didn't like this idea. One, I didn't like the idea of a magnet in my head. I didn't like that it would take any residual hearing away from the ear that had the CI. I didn't like the idea of surgery and weirdness. 

But eventually it got to the point where it hurt to hear. The organ at church was painful. Listening to people was awful. I didn't like to go to crowded places. I couldn't go to the movies, and I love the movies. 

That's when we decided it was time for a CI. 

IMG_6626.JPG

A cochlear implant is vastly different than a hearing aid. A hearing aid, as I said above, just amplifies sound. A CI helps my brain decipher and understand the sound. It directly stimulates the auditory nerve, so they bypass all my damaged equipment and go right to the source. 

I had to have some tests done: you can't have a CI unless you have a certain amount of hearing loss. You need to have moderate to profound loss to qualify for it. Insurance does pay for a CI and the surgery.* I had a CT scan and MRI** on my head, to make sure they could implant the magnet, as well as  more hearing tests, to determine the extent of my hearing loss, and also, which ear would receive the implant (I didn't get bilateral CIs. More on that next.). My right ear has slightly more hearing than the left, so the left ear was the "winner", and has the CI. 

Surgery was scheduled for May of 2008. 

In the next installment, I'll talk about surgery, recovery, and how the CI works. 

More about insurance coverage in the upcoming installments. 

**Last MRI ever, because, with a magnet in my head, they're contraindicated from here on out. Yay! 

 

 

 

Seven Quick Takes No. 105

7 Quick Takes, drawing, healthEmily DeArdo4 Comments

I. 

The snow is melting! The snow is melting!

Really, I don't mind snow--around Christmas. I do mind it when it's crazy cold and I have to scrape off my car whenever I want to go somewhere, and deal with the ice around my car. But it's going to be 50 today, and almost 60 tomorrow! Yay!

II. 

I'm glad about that 60 in particular because tomorrow is the Columbus Catholic Women's Conference, and last year a huge snowstorm kept me from getting there. It starts at 8, but you have to get there early to get a decent seat--and registration opens at 7. So that means you get up early. And getting up early plus dealing with snow? Just, no. But this year, no snow! No ice! Yay!

I'm especially excited because Jen Fulwiler is one of the speakers.

At Edel with Hallie Lord (L) and Jen Fulwiler (center)

At Edel with Hallie Lord (L) and Jen Fulwiler (center)

III. 

This week I went to my audiologist and got my cochlear implant (CI) tuned up. That's not the technical term, by the way. I hadn't been to see her in awhile, so I went it and we "reprogrammed" my processor. 

The big difference between a CI and a hearing aid is that a hearing aid just makes sound louder, while I CI helps you understand what the sound is. And if you're like me, and your hearing is basically shot, you need the CI, and not a hearing aid, becaus making sound louder won't help you. The cells in the cochlea have been destroyed, and thus the sound isn't getting processed correctly by my brain. Thus--the CI. An "array" was threaded into my cochlea during surgery, and that relays the sound I get directly to my brain, bypassing the broken bits. 

So anyway, with the programs, I can have various settings depending on what I need at the time. I generally use one that allows me to get a wide array of sounds, but there are ones for when I want to focus on quieter sounds, or when I want to focus the microphone to just the person or people directly in front of me (meaning, where my head is pointed is where I'm going to pick up sound.) 

After we fine-tuned the programs (they're called MAPS, if we're being technical, but I forget what that stands for), my audiologist took me to the booth where they run hearing tests. If you are hearing-impaired, these booths are generally awful because you feel like an idiot. But with the new program, I was able to hear a really wide range of sound at various levels (meaning I detected the sound--I could hear it at all) of pitch and volume. So yay! 

IV. 

The other thing about CIs? They're covered by insurance. Hearing aids aren't. 

V. 

I've been doing a TON of drawing this week. Bust out the paints and pencils! 

This is my Atlantic Puffin. I didn't get quite the result I wanted on the black parts, but I did it on watercolor paper, which has that grain. So, whatever. But how cool is this animal? Orange eyes!

I'm also working on sketching and painting teacups. I need to take some pictures of those, though, to show you. 

VI. 

Reading: Not a whole lot, sadly, other than my Lent books. But when one gives up book buying for Lent...also, the library hasn't had any interesting books on the ebooks roster lately. I love that you can borrow ebooks. No worries about returning things on time!

VII. 

This week in CCD we're doing Sacraments--we've broken them up into parts. The book does a chapter on the Eucharist when we talk about Holy Thursday, so that's coming up. This week we're covering Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. Next week: Marriage, Confession, and Anointing of the Sick.  

 

 

Making the Country Accessible: Churches, Catholic Schools, and the ADA

Catholicism, ADAEmily DeArdo3 Comments

Yesterday, I wrote about the ADA as it celebrates 25 years, and what it's meant to me, personally, as well as what still needs to be fixed. 

Today, I'm going to write about a specific segment of life and the ADA: churches. Specifically, Catholic churches and schools. 

The ADA mandated that buildings erected after the law went into effect had to be what we call "handicapped accessible," meaning people in wheelchairs or crutches or what have you could access them. But, like this piece in the Cleveland Plain Dealer says, it didn't say how that had to happen. And sometimes it could be a little ridiculous. 

At my school, for example, there were ramped entrances--but you couldn't access the second floor of the building, where the 3-8 grade classrooms were. The bathrooms weren't handicapped accessible. One of the girls' restrooms on the first floor required going down a short flight of stairs to get to it.  This is the sort of thing that made one ponder common sense--didn't the builders of the school ever think someone might be injured and need an elevator to get to class? Or, at the very least, make the first floor of a building all one level? What sense does it make to have to go down three stairs to get to the bathroom? 

(This strange phenomenon I've also seen in older public schools. What was this about, architects?) 

In the many churches I've been in, only a few have had dedicated spaces for wheelchairs in the sanctuary, and no, open space at the back of the church doesn't count.  I've seen one handicapped accessible confessional in my entire life. 

Some church restrooms might have grab bars, but how would a person get into the bathroom? There's no button to push, and the maneuverability required to get in is truly amazing. I was a member at a parish where to get to the bathroom, one had to open a door, which led to a very small hallway, then open another door to get to the bathroom. How is a wheelchair user supposed to do that in a space that's probably not wide enough for a stroller? 

Doors that separate the vestibule from the sanctuary--are they handicapped accessible? Most likely not. Sure, they might be propped open, but what if they're not?  (My church, not to brag, is really good about this. We have handicapped accessible outside doors and inside doors.) 

We've all seen churches that hide their handicapped entrances so well that it's like a scavenger hunt for someone to get in. Couldn't we make God's house a tiny bit easier to access? We've already talked about handicapped parking spaces, and these are especially important in a place like church. 

I've never been to a church that provides homily notes, and I'd like those a lot. Some churches have telecoil systems installed that can help people with hearing aids, or even CIs like mine, if you have the right equipment or programs on your processor. But homily notes on websites would be nice, as would appropriate speaker systems, so everyone can hear. Use the microphones, guys! Also, bulletins in braille? I've never seen that. Does that even exist? Or hymnals or missals in braille? Never seen those, either. (Assuming there's a demand for it....I mean, I'm guessing there are a few blind Christians? :) )

The worst, though--and I hate to say this--are Catholic schools. Very few of the ones I know provide appropriate help/accommodations for physical or intellectual disabilities. The thought is that if you need those services, you have to go to your public school.  What does that mean for parents who want their children to have a Catholic education?  Homeschooling, I suppose. 

Here are two excerpts from a local, independent Catholic school's handbook (Independent meaning they aren't part of the diocesan school district): 

[Name of school] does not have the resources to provide evaluation and intervention services. Referrals will be made to the student’s district of residence.
[Name of school] does not have the facilities for students with serious disabilities.

So, if you have a child that might be in a wheelchair, or needs additional services--sorry, you can't send your kid here. (And also, who defines "Serious disabilities"? Ten bucks says it's not a medical professional... ) 

(In a quick look around of my diocese's school district website, I couldn't find anything on accommodations for disabled students. My elementary school did provide intervention services, and I know they've beefed this up since I graduated. So this is an area where strides are being made.) 

This isn't something that's just limited to elementary schools. No one will make the argument that there's an overflow of orthodox Catholic colleges. So the fact that one of them, Wyoming Catholic College, can make being physically in shape--and in good shape--part of their admissions program is reprehensible to me. 

The following is from their website: 

I am disabled and cannot participate in the Outdoor Leadership Program (OLP). Can I still attend WCC?
A
Unfortunately, the College cannot accept students unable to meet the physical demands of the OLP, which is an integral part of the College’s academic program. An applicant who is denied medical clearance cannot be accepted into WCC.
— http://www.wyomingcatholiccollege.com/about-wcc/faq/index.aspx

This makes me angry. Really angry, actually. WCC has a reputation of being a top-notch, orthodox Catholic college--and I wouldn't have been able to attend. Nor could anyone else who has, say, cerebral palsy, or is blind, or has any other number of physical disabilities. We can't attend because the school has a program that is unaccessible to anyone who wasn't blessed with good health and physical ability. 

I realize that they are a private school, and have the right to impose standards for admission, just like all colleges do.  But the fact that a Catholic School--which serves a God who accepted everyone, no matter their physical ability--has standards like this, is maddening. Truly, deeply maddening. Maybe if there was an abundance of excellent Catholic colleges, this wouldn't be so bad. But there isn't. And this isn't just a standard like a GPA, or an ACT/SAT/AP test grade for a scholarship. This is a line about basic physical ability. 

Public schools can't have standards like this, because they receive federal money, and thus they're prohibited from doing it by the ADA. But when did Catholic schools become places for only the super- intelligent and able-bodied? I realize that funding is an issue. I'm not naive. But shouldn't the message be that however God created you, there is a place in our school--which has Christ as its reason for existence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making the Country Accessible: Thoughts on the Americans With Disability Act

transplantEmily DeArdo1 Comment
President George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. 

President George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. 

Although I don't generally call myself this, I'm a disabled American. (And no, I don't use a wheelchair.) The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) made my life a lot easier before transplant--but post-transplant, I see a lot of places where it needs some work.  The Act is 25 years old, so it's a good time to think about this. 

I'm inspired to write about this because most people, when they think about the ADA, think about people who are mobility-impaired--mostly, people in wheelchairs, or who use crutches or canes, or people who are blind. But let's think about people who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing, and people who have respiratory or heart problems. Let's broaden our scope. 

Pre-transplant, I used a handicapped placard for my car. I came upon it rightfully, because the amount of distances I could walk, especially after my stint in the ICU my sophomore year of college, was very limited. Walking around my college campus could be difficult, especially with my backpack full of books. But if you looked at me, I didn't "look" handicapped. I looked fine. I also had about 20-25% lung function. 

Lesson 1: Don't judge someone's handicapped status by the way they look

I was very grateful for elevators in my lecture halls, and in other places. There was no way I was going to be climbing lots of stairs (just ask my friend Chris, who had to carry me up the last few flights of the Empire State Building when we visited NYC during Christmas break our senior year. Yeah. Let's all be glad I only weighed about 95 pounds at that time.). My high school also had an elevator--which I never used, but it was good that it was there for students who broke legs or ankles. My elementary school wasn't accessible at all, and students who couldn't go up and down stairs had to be carried by their parents to their classrooms. Not great. 

Even post-transplant, I still used my placard. When I went back to work four months post-transplant, I was still working only half days. I still looked sort of sick--my skin was very pale, I was extremely thin, and my hair hadn't developed the healthy sheen it has now. If you cared to look at me closely, you'd have noticed that I was either sick with something, or recovering from something. Since I worked at the Statehouse, we had Highway Patrol officers that provided security for us, including patrolling the garage. I never paid them much attention to them until one stopped me as I went to my car, shortly after I had returned to work.

"Is this your car?" 

"Yes."

"Why is it parked in a handicapped spot? Are you handicapped?" The tone in the officer's voice indicated that he didn't think I was.

"I just had a double lung transplant."

There are few things more satisfying than watching people realize they've just had a major Foot in Mouth Moment. 

Now, I don't have one anymore. Now I walk across the parking lot with all the rest of you. But let's please remember that there are many invisible disabilities. Arthritis? Check. CF? Check. Autoimmune disease in general? Check. Epilepsy? Check. Diabetes? Check. Etc. 

(also, little side note: CF can cause arthritis. Yeah. That's a fun little holiday treat, as they say in Family Man. One of my friends has terrible CF related arthritis. Mine was not as bad as hers, and there were still days when my joints were so tender and so painful that the thought of putting any pressure on them--the though of even standing--was out of the question.) 

Let's talk about my life now. 

I have a cochlear implant.[ It is only by sheer dumb luck, or God prompting, that I took two years of American Sign Language in high school. I can use it if I have to. Normally, I don't. But I can.] There are so few accommodations for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people! 

Marcus Theatres is the only cinema chain around here--and I live in one of the largest cities in the U.S.--that provides captioning for every movie it shows. AMC doesn't (AMC is our other big local chain). When I want to see a movie, it has to be at the local theater, and if it's not showing there, I can't go, because I won't understand it. Apparently, AMC doesn't think that Deaf people or people like me might like movies. 

The system I use at Marcus is called Captiview. Marcus has about five of these systems and all I have to do is ask for one at the box office. It's easy to use and it's not distracting to others. They can't see the light from the captions (My friends and family have tried to read the captions when we're at the movies, and it's only if I turn it to face them that they can). Sure, it's a bit unwieldily to carry around in the multiplex, but it works. I love movies, and now I can go out and watch them in the cinema like everyone else. I get to see movies, movie theaters get my money! Yay! But if all movie theaters provided captioning, I could see a broader range of movies--and I'm lucky that the theater that is closest to me provides this service. And they're not a nationwide chain. They're Midwest-based and only in states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. So if you live somewhere else, then I hope your local theater has something similar, or you're out of luck. 

Some cable channels aren't captioned. YouTube videos, or online videos? No captions except "automatic" ones, which are about as useful as captions in Swahili to me. Warner Brothers, especially, incurs my wrath, because they do (Pardon my French, here) half-assed captioning. When I watch The Wizard of Oz and the captioning automatically comes on, it doesn't translate word-for-word. It gives a summary of what the character is saying. 

Lesson 2: Deaf and Hard of Hearing People Like TV and Movies. Please caption things for us--COMPLETELY! 

Seriously--the next time you watch anything from Warner Brothers, turn on the captioning, and you'll see what I mean. I know they're leaving words out, because I can hear the dialogue. (Not understand all the dialogue. There's a difference.) 

Some DVDs don't even have functioning captions. What is that about, guys?

Captioning like this isn't covered by the ADA. The only thing that must be captioned are channels that receive federal funding. Well, thanks. 

Normally, I'm a small government person. But this is ridiculous. Provide a basic service that is inexpensive (see the Captiview site I linked to--that's one of the selling points for their technology), easy to use, and not at all inconvenient to other patrons. 

Another area that needs work? The phone. People, not everyone who is Deaf or hard of hearing has a TTY. I don't have one. I don't know how to work one. But if a website provides chat services, I'm fine. We can communicate just great. I use email most of the time because if you call and talk to me, you will sound like Charlie Brown's teacher, unless I know your voice really well. (Meaning, you're my parent. And even then....)

AAA, for example: when I got a flat tire a few years back, I couldn't call them. I had to text my Dad to have HIM call them to come help me. It was ridiculous. Can't we come up with an app that will allow texting to contact services? This is the 21st century. We have apps for everything. Or not even an app--a number that could be reached via text message. 

This is especially true in health care. Oh my gosh. When I have a call with a case manager, my mom or dad has to sit and translate for me, because the case manager can't email me. It HAS TO BE over the phone. What? What sort of sense does that make? If you don't want to email, then set up a chat window on a website, like my bank has, or like many shopping sites have. If Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and the Disney Store can have a chat interface, then medical and insurance companies can, too.  Don't they ever think they might be working with a person who has a hearing disability? 

The law did a lot of good things, but there are plenty of things that still need work, especially in the realm of hearing, as I hope I've shown you. 

Tomorrow I'm going to write about accommodation in a place where you'd think it should be second nature--churches.