Celebrating the Miracles
Recount of Cochlear Celebration 2007
San Antonio, Texas
Following a short break, the conference proceeded with different concurrent sessions covering a variety of topics that were of interest for the attendees at the event. Most parents of young children attended the session by Dr. Don Goldberg of the Cleveland Clinic, entitled “Charting the Course for CI Success.” He went through different ways to ensure the child is being successful with their cochlear implants, not to assume the cochlear implant is providing enough benefit on its own, but how speech therapy and time spent with the child reading and speaking is vital for the child’s success. He pointed out the most important rule to keep in mind as a parent of a child with an implant, “A parent is worth more than 10,000 schoolmasters.” He taught how to properly evaluate the child’s progress monthly, and gave other tips and resources that are useful in teaching the child language and listening skills. The session ended with a long Q & A session that lasted long beyond the allotted time as many parents took advantage of the guidance that was being made available for them.
Another topic that was quite popular with parents was the session entitled “Bilateral Cochlear Implants: How two ears are better than one.” Dr. Bob Peters, Medical Director of the Dallas Otolaryngology Cochlear Implant Program introduced the medical and clinical research demonstrating the advantages of bilateral implants. His remarks were followed by an emotional recount by Mark Doshier, an employee of Cochlear, who received his bilateral implant from Dr. Peters as part of a study, where after some time he had to turn in his second implant for a period of 3 weeks to show how the implant affected their lives. He exclaimed that those 3 weeks were the worst in his life. As a means of explaining the need for two implants, he asked everyone what you would feel like if you stood on one leg for a few minutes. When you put your other foot down again, it feels a lot better. Hearing from both ears is the same way, he exclaimed. We have two ears for a reason. His first person account gave everyone a real glimpse into the true benefits that are provided by having bilateral implants.
There were many other great informative sessions held on the following topics: Adults and Cochlear Implants, How an Implant is made, Bilateral Rehabilitation, How to Maximize the Features of the Nucleus Freedom™ processor, Insurance Reimbursement, Music Appreciation, and The Power of Advocacy. The latter session was particularly moving as individuals with cochlear implants related to the audience their passion to advocate for the cochlear implant and the great benefits it provides. One would be hard-pressed to find another medical device that has users so committed to advocate for its use like the cochlear implant. The passion and strong feelings that most of cochlear implant users have for it are truly remarkable.
On Saturday morning an informational expo was set up, which was an informal displays of different aspects involving life with the use of a cochlear implant. There were displays on topics ranging from: troubleshooting the processor, using the accessories to maximize benefit, improving telephone skills, and other topics of interest. This was also a great time to meet the other attendees and share with each other our experiences with the cochlear implant and how it affects ours and our children’s lives.
Saturday afternoon there were additional concurrent sessions held, most of them were repeats of the day before for those who didn’t get a chance to attend them.
Sea World® San Antonio
“Hey dum diddly dum, Shamu here we come.”
Clearly, for many of the attendees, the big highlight of the event was the outing to Sea World. On Saturday evening, excitement mounted as everyone boarded the many chartered buses that brought us all to the park. The excitement was clearly felt by all as we arrived at the world-famous attraction that was closed to the public and was opened exclusively for our event. The kids (and many of the adults, including the Cochlear top brass such as Jim Patrick and Chris Smith) ran off to ride the 2 roller coasters that were operating. There was a large dinner party and a live show with dolphins, and of course, the Shamu® Show. What stands out from the show is a truly amazing event that clearly shows the power of what parents can really do for their child with cochlear implants. The Shamu trainers called up a very cute 7 year old girl with bilateral implants named Mackenzie from Alabama, and had her stand up in front of the entire crowd. The theme of the Shamu show is “Believe”. As she stood in front of everyone with great confidence, the trainer had the two whales jump out of the water and lie still right in front of her. She stood there tall and unflinching, all alone without any of her parents beside her. The trainer, standing next to her, asked her a series of questions, which were broadcast over the theater’s speaker system. Mackenzie was able to make out every question clearly, and was able to answer all of the questions immediately without hesitation. This was an inspiration to all of us there what we can do with our children. Most of all, we went away with Shamu’s message ringing in our ears, “Believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything, and that Dreams Really Do Come True!”
Dr. Graeme Clark Scholarship Awards
At the closing session on Sunday morning, the scholarship awards named in honor of Dr. Graeme Clark were presented to 5 college bound young adults, all profoundly deaf and cochlear implant users. Each of the awardees gave a short acceptance speech as they outlined their goals and visions. The proud feelings were tangible as Dr. Clark together with Heather Whitestone, Miss America 1995 and a Nucleus User, presented the awards to the winners. It was an inspiration to see how these young adults have worked so hard to reach this stage, as they get ready to enter college. The challenges of being deaf have been tremendous, and through lots of hard work that their parents and they themselves have put in, they have reached this momentous milestone. As Dr. Clark noted, these children are an inspiration to him, and he is certain that they will accomplish great things with their lives. The audience was very moved by the accomplishments of these young adults, and the inspiration they are for all children with cochlear implants.
Jim Patrick gave a short talk about the future of cochlear implants. Although he wasn’t permitted to go into great detail about the projects as they involved highly confidential trade secrets, he did present some general idea of the areas that the company is focused on. It gave us a clear indication that Cochlear is deeply committed to producing new and improved technology to help the deaf and hard of hearing.
Chris Smith ended the conference with a startling message – how almost 90% of people with a hearing loss that can benefit from a cochlear implant do not receive one. He showed a clip where a reporter went on the streets of downtown Denver (where Cochlear Corp’s US Headquarters are located) asking people at random if they had ever heard of a cochlear implant. Most of them never did. When asked to guess where on the body it would go, the responses were just hilarious. (One person even answered, “I hope its not where I think it is!) One of the respondents who had a personal hearing loss and was going for hearing aids had never even heard of the option of cochlear implants. His plea to us was to get the message out of how Cochlear Implants are dramatically changing the life of so many people for the better. Sadly, so many people who could be helped with implants are not doing so. The more people that are made aware of the promise that cochlear implants hold for the deaf, are people can be helped.
What was the Celebration all about?
Cochlear aptly named this convention a Celebration. The feeling amongst the attendees was that it truly was a Celebration. From tiny infants to elderly grandparents, the cochlear implant has so dramatically improved the quality of life not only for its users, but for their friends and family. The event provided a much needed opportunity for those who benefit from the Implant to meet each other, share in their experiences, and learn how to do even better. Meeting each other was probably most important function of the event. We came away with the feeling that we are part of one big family of cochlear implant users across the country. As parents of a young girl who has bilateral implants, we felt connected to the hundreds of parents who attended Celebration with us. The common thread bonding us together was the mindset that was evident in all of us – that we do all it takes to make our child succeed.
In closing, we believe that the Celebration was not just about the Cochlear Implant itself. Although the implant does provide tremendous opportunity, it does not work on its own. All the parents that we met shared with us their common belief, that even with cochlear implants, if not for the hard work that they put into their children, they would not do well at all. The Celebration is about all the effort put in by all the people to ensure that the use of cochlear implants is a success. From the determination of Dr. Clark to produce a means of bringing sound to the deaf, to the hard work of the research team and staff at Cochlear to constantly improve and update the technology available, to the physicians and audiologists who implant and program the devices, to the speech pathologists and other teachers of the deaf who utilize the implant to teach language and auditory skills; and finally, to the users of cochlear implants and their families who constantly put in extreme effort and hard work to be able to use the cochlear implant to its fullest abilities. It is the human spirit and determination to succeed and overcome the challenges that deafness presents that we have come to celebrate. And that is truly an accomplishment worth Celebrating.