Monday, March 31, 2008

Kindergarten way...

Finally back to good Tennessee after a week vacation to moms. Glad to be back.

Before I left, my wonderful niece Paisley(named after Brad Paisley), called me and asked if I would teach her class sign language. How do you say no, I don't know enough.....I said yes, of course.

So I went to Pay's kindergarten class armored with my ASL book and an ABC book to teach with. I explained why people use ASL and why I am learning. I showed them my speech processor and cochlear implant. Then I read the ABC book and taught the ABC's. We sang happy birthday in sign language. Then we learned feelings, parents, and food names. The kids were so excited. I mean they ate up each sign and could not wait for more. I wished I was more fluent. I guess by the time Pay is in Middle School, I should have it down pack.

The highest complaint was when the children went to lunch and they were trying to sign to each other. I heard one girl say, signing takes the place of your voice. Let's practice. Another one said, I can't wait to get a book at the library. I want to learn more. I was so happy just to see the smile on my niece and my daughter's face.

Jenna and I had a wonderful trip. I can't wait to go back next month. I had a CI moment at mom's. I was in another room and mom made tea. She called Valerie come get tea. Oh course, I heard her the first time, but I was interested reading my blogs(Micheal's blog). She called again and said, Valerie you can't pretend you don't hear me anymore, I know you heard me. I laughed that mom knew I heard her. So I went to drink my tea and laugh.

So now we are home and trying to get going this week. I plan to post a blog on IEPs. I want to address the foundations of it. I also plan to post a blog on rigor and relevance and data in relationship to education philosophies.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What I want for Christmas?

Sunday night my Bionic Buddy, Abbie and I were chatting. I told her we need to bling out our CIs - you know put our fake diamonds, rubies and pearls. The good stuff. So I google "Bling cochlear Implant". Look what came up, a bling out hearing aid. Wow, I want one! It is only $50,000. Since I wear two it is only $100,000!
Showed my husband that I found my Christmas gift. I had to have it and I'm giving him a long time to save. He fell to the floor and his mouth dropped. Then he said will insurance cover any of this??????? No, response.
So I'm off to Walmarts, since that is all I can afford, to find something to bling my CIs. Wonder if Foxy Brown has one (Abbie's comment).

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bilateral Cochlear Implants

Why did I decide to do bilateral cochlear implants and also do them at the same time?

My process started 5 years ago, when I was finally realized that hearing aids were not going to help my hearing. It took 4 years to accept that I was going deaf. When I finally called for my appointment at Vanderbilt Medical Center, I had reached my point - accepting the next step. My appointment was June 6, 2006. I went through a series of test with my Audie, a CAT scan, and a doctor's appointment with Dr. Labadie. By 3 o'clock I found out I was approved for Cochlear implants. I know people who go through months to find out if they are even candidates. I found out within hours. Then I met with Dr. Ladabie. He explained my choices - one or two implants. He explained about risk and procedures. I listened and asked one question - what is the differences between one and two implants? He brought up sound location and noise discrimination. Then I asked this, if I wear two hearing aids then why not wear two cochlear implants? He said most people wear one, but research states two can be a benefit. To me it was a no brainer, get two now and not do one at a time. Plus I also hoped to get in a research project to help with the cost of surgery. So I left Vanderbilt with my three kits one from each company - Med El, Advanced Bionics, and Cochlear. Off to research and decide.

I chose Advanced Bionics. My reasons behind it was not research base or technology. I'm sorry to say I went with two things the rechargeable battery and the looks. I loved the look of the T-Mic and the batteries. I figured this, I have to wear these for at least the rest of my life, so why not pick something I like the looks of. I felt all were fantastic, but go with looks. I am so thankful I did make this choice, they are fantastic.

Denied, Denied, Denied.......My insurance denied my second implant based it being investigation. Vanderbilt filed several appeals for me and each one was denied. My next step was to asked for help. Let Them Hear is an organization in California that fights insurance denials for cochlear implants. They took my appeal and fought for me. They kept in contact with me, even as I was making the decision to just do one implant and move on. I must also say my insurance trust also was involve with the appeals and working with BCBS to have this approved. I can't express how many people put time and effect to get this done. I am overwhelmed to this day at the people at Clarksville Schools and Let Them Hear Foundation, who did this. They were so unselfish in this quest. My quest.....thank you.

I finally had surgery July 19, 2007 and activation on August 8, 2007. These are two dates that I will forever remember. They are embedded into my mind just like the birth of my daughter. What has bilateral implants given me? It gives me a surround sound, location of sound, and two ears that work. Separately the ears don't seem to give a complete crisp sound, together they work together. Music is easier to listen too. I can tell which child is talking in class or asking for my help. I hear this pss....Mrs. Deleon how do I do this.....pss....can I go to the restroom. So in my career it is a benefit for bilateral.
I hear this all the time, the myth and the questions. So the choice was mine. My family assisted in deciding, but in the end it is my ears, my body, my choice. I also chose to support families that make this choice for there children. I know how hard it is to make this choice. I took me 5+ years.
The big differences in my success and failure were my expectations. I know I don't have "normal" hearing. My expectations were to be able to have a hearing conversation with my daughter. My cochlear implants have given me more than that.
This blog has allow me to accept my deafness and the journey it leads me on. I have met some fantastic people. I have changed my views on a lot. One thing has not changed, that cochlear implants are a personal choice and we as a community should provide support and accept others. Discrimination either deaf/Deaf, Hard of Hearing/hard of hearing. hearing/Hearing just destroys Culture and Communities, we can't let it destroy or divide ours.
I want to include a few articles and web sites that provide resources that I use.
There are so many more, this is just a few. My favorite blog in the whole Internet

Thursday, March 20, 2008

And just like that.....

And just like self-confidence, self-esteem, and hard work was ripped from under me.

Slap..tears...voice cracks....shaking.........

As a special education teacher one of my responsibilities is to assist in making the transition from elementary to middle school. It is always a difficult time, I'm letting my "babies" go off to the big new school. So this year I scheduled a meeting with the middle school to discuss the transition and programs for my students. So far so good.....I had no problems with any speech or understanding since it was in a closed room with only two people. Then the LEA came into the meeting to discuss a student. She asked the name of two of my students who are Hispanic. I told her. She looked at me and said - are you sure?

yes....She said say it again...I did....She said it is a L not a T......heartbeating....voice cracking....she questioned me again.....this time I said that is what she answers to when I call her.....heatbreaking....heart hurts.....Took everything I could to just pick myself up and leave the room.....failure......

I have known the LEA for years and I know she does not know I am deaf or had cochlear implant surgery. I know that she did not mean it that way, but my heart felt all my hard work just slip away. I felt less then a teacher at that moment, no less than a person. All my life I have dealt with people like that. Everyone has there horror stories of discrimination. It is not the discrimination, but how we deal with it.

I made a few mistakes in life in dealing with situations like this before. I cried...I argued...I bullied....I filed lawsuits(that is a good thing).....But in the end, did I make myself a stronger person? No....but this time...I will.

I'm done crying, heartbreaking, and allowing others to make me feel belittled. I am taking back my life, I am taking back my pronunciation of words and my heart....I am going to go over to the school at the next meeting and talk to her in private and let her know how it made me feel. I don't need an audience or an argument, I just need to let this person know I'm deaf and the questioning was inappropriate. I don't want an apology. I just want her to know that it was inappropriate and STOP IT.... then walk away.

What do you think? I am open to suggestions that require dealing with this one on one. Also tell me how you handled any situation in the past.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What have I learned?

After a trying day of teaching 5th graders how to figure the area of a triangle, a square, and a rectangle, I'm exhausted! No matter how many ways I explained it, or how many examples, or even how many days I went over it. They still had this puzzled look on their faces. I have come to a realization that it is not my teaching it is that they automatically see it as hard, so they shut me out. It is just like life. If you leave the door open, more can come in. If only a crawl space is open then not much can even make it in. We limit ourselves by not listening, seeing, or reaching out into the world. We are not the keepers of knowledge, in order to teach we must be willing to learn. Now what have I learned.

I have learned so much in this journey. Wow I can't believe that 7 months have past since my surgery. My surgery is not only important to my choices for cochlear implants, it is also the time I decided to reach out to the Deaf Community. I needed to talk to other CI users and deaf people. I wanted to learn as much as I could about what it is like to be deaf. Even though I have been deaf for 36 years, I felt I did not know how to be deaf. So here is what I have learned not only about the Deaf Community, but my family.

*Once you identify yourself as deaf, you no longer see yourself as hard of hearing or hearing impaired. It took 36 years to view myself this way. It really is a very easy to see myself as deaf. I'm at peace with it.

*I am a hell of a lot stronger than I thought I was. Not only has my whole life changed in terms of hearing, but who I allow inside my life has changed. I found true friends. Ones who accept me. I also found a group of fantastic people online. They know my thoughts, they answer my questions, and most importantly they understand what it is like to go through what I am going through. My nightly chats with Abbie are the highlights of my day. I sometimes think we are twin because we think alike. Just wish I had the words she has.

*Families accept you. My whole life I thought I had to be better, be smarter, be wiser, be funnier. Little did I know that my family has always accepted my deafness. They accepted me with or without implants. Mom and dad love me for me. And as aways mom always knows best.

*Families part II. My husband and daughter also accept me. My daughter's favorite comment is daddy loves you for who you are not if you can hear or not. You know what even 9 years old get it right.

*Work, school, and my career are not just jobs. I found I love teaching again. I really can focus on teaching without worrying about hearing. I found I miss the interaction with students and can't wait to get to school each day. (most of the time, right now I n-e-e-d spring break only 2 days).

*Most importantly what I have learned is there are good, bad, and ugly in all groups of people. We make a choice to accept who we want into our homes, who we want to be friends with, and who we spend our time with. What I have learned it sometimes we can't keep out the bad and the ugly. We have to face it. What makes it a learning experience is how we handle it. Do we learn from it and grow, do we attack it and cause more damage, or do we allow it to hurt us? I chose to learn from it. We learn as much from a bad experience as we do a positive experience. The choice is yours and I quote our school news show. This is Val make it a good day, or not, the choice is yours.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Just Family Time

Jenna is keeping me so busy with dance and school. She did not win the Science Fair, but she learned about my cochlear implants. She is just a fantastic gal. We are off to a dance competition today. Jenna has two dances, Shop Around and Footloose. Mom gets to do makeup, hair and all the great stuff. She gets to dance and enjoy being her! Go Dance Force!!!

I have not posted a picture of my husband, Alex or the dog, Brandi. This picture speaks volumes. Brandi it so spoiled she things she is human. No, the dog whisper can not solve her problems. That is okay, she is the best dog we have ever had. ***Hope Alex does not see picture, he will get me.**** :)
Enjoy the weekend, remember sing loud, dance like no one is watch(or in Jodi's case, dance naked), and hug the ones you love.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

How can a word cause so much pain?

I want to share with you my experiences. I can't wait to explain the changes in my life, since my cochlear implants. Better I want to tell you about how wearing hearing aids as a child really helped. How I am having a difficult time learning ASL.

Oh well,