Going deaf overnight.
I was asked just the other day. “How did you go deaf or is too traumatic for you to talk about still?” Not at all and far from it. Here is how it happened. Sad, perhaps, but, I have lived another forty years since then. Something, really something.
Whilst doing National Service in the Rhodesian army I got a few cuts and scrapes whilst skirmishing and unfortunately these turned septic. By the time I got into the army hospital my heart was starting to play up and this was wrongly diagnosed as Rheumatic Fever and I was treated accordingly. Eight days later I was dying and the Army transferred me to a civilian hospital and it was here that they found I had Septicaemia. I was put on a heavy course of antibiotics which my body rejected. A new drug was then tried.
When you are 18yrs old lying deathly sick in hospital and listening to the top 20 hits from Lourenco Marques in Mozambique and you wake up the next morning, to find that whatever drugs the doctor’s gave you have left you irreversibly deaf. Then life suddenly takes on a new meaning and you instinctively know that from here on it’s going to get tough.
In today’s world, what happened would be seen as a catalogue of errors. This might be true of the Army, but it almost certainly wasn’t true of the civilian hospital.
Even the Doctors are unsure.
Or they are leading you into the bad news.
My going deaf took everybody by surprise, the doctor’s knew about as much about this as I did. It will be about a week before you hear again ok. Then two weeks, then three , then six and about this time it dawns on you, oh oh, this means I’m in big trouble ( apart from the dying of course ) but they haven’t the heart to tell me.
Having said that, I had the highest regards for the doctors who fought so hard to save my life and I always will. One has to
remember that this happened many years ago and within the context of the times septicaemia was a big killer and very few people who got it then, survived. Guess I’m just lucky hey? Even when I met my wife years later ( a nurse ) she went on and on about it should never have happened.
The difference being that I’m the one who went through it. I saw it with my own eyes and I heard it before I went deaf. You see what really happened is that I became one of those people who medicine warns you about. Don’t get involved with your patient. As it turned out it wasn’t just the doctor’s it was the whole hospital.
An example being after the nurses had just given me a bed bath and changed my sheets. The matron would arrive and tell them off for not making the bed and they would have to do it again. She was Irish by the way. When the nurses went on leave they all sent me postcards. The doctor’s couldn’t sleep at night worrying about me.
Believe me, it’s what saved my life.
White light experience.
Fact or fiction?
As it turns out I was watching a re-run of one of the episodes in the television series House, last night and it reminded me of something. Normally I keep quiet about this, but seeing as I’m on ‘moving pieces’ and talking of my life experiences, I have now decided to add this.
I was in hospital for at least four months and it may have been longer, bedridden throughout that time apart from a couple of
weeks towards the end. The correct sequence of events has dimmed in my memory. However I do remember that I was already deaf at the time. One night I woke up to find at least ten doctor’s surrounding my bed. The next sequence is what my mother told me. She was staying in the town Bulawayo with friends so that she could be close to me during this time.
On leaving my bed site the doctor in charge of my case rang her up that night and said that she had better come to the hospital as I wouldn’t make it to the morning.
Now my own words, sometime that night I had a white light experience. Whether this was a hallucination or not is not for me to say. As best I can remember I never went to the pearly gates, I never spoke to anyone but it was the most intense light I have ever seen. I’m not an overly religious person but my mother is.
I woke that morning to find my mother holding my hand. I was still as deaf as a stone, but believe it or not from that day on I started getting better.
Actually they only let me out as my Mum was a former nurse and had spent all this time in Bulawayo staying with friends and visiting me every day and night. The staff had got to know her well.
Eventually I was released from hospital in a wheelchair and so thin that I could fit my hand around my leg above my knee. Then came the slow process of first, trying to put on some weight, learning to walk and finally finding a specialist who had the guts to tell me that I would never hear again.
Bang went my plans of becoming a lawyer and so I was left with going to Agricultural college
Learning to Lip Read.
I had a wonderful teacher.
First of course I had to learn to lipread. Amazingly my teacher had a fiance, who was doing national service the same time as I was. Prior to this I was walking around with a note book for people to write to me on and trying to get off with women like this and being unable to understand;
Was I someone different, a new Spook, a totally different person? Obviously not, but the slow process of being deaf was first felt
hard this way. Ah yes the lipreading. My teacher said that she would not start to teach me, until I told her that I was DUMB.
I could speak perfectly and wouldn’t have it. I held out for a few weeks and then my commonsense told me it was imperative that I learn; so I told her I was DUMB and began learning. Later when I knew her well, I asked her about why she said this to me and I’ve never forgotten her reply?
She told me that of all the afflictions, that deafness had the least sympathy with Joe public and the sooner I learnt that the better and forty years later she’s still right.
Anyway I went to college, passed as well as any normal person and got my diploma. Had a ball and made so many lifelong friends. I’m not bragging when I say, I’ll put money on it, that I was the best liked person there.
Also I was playing first class cricket and more importantly I was finally managing to make it with the women.
The interim years.
So much to be grateful for.
Since then I have married, had three wonderful children, owned my own farm, made and lost an awful lot of money, lived a full life, had a cochlear ear implant, which enables me to hear sound. Was captain of the golf club for two years and here I am in
Ireland back to square one.
There’s no respect for any of my achievements or for my stand; to show that the deaf can be as succesful as any hearing person and sometimes even more so; but no matter what you do or what you accomplish, you are just this dummy.
I am so sick and tired of fighting this and somehow wish I could start a movement, where once and for all we the deaf, could finally get the hearing to understand.
Sometimes I am amazed by them. For example coming up so close to your ear, so you cannot lip read them and then shouting in your ear. Hey hang, on we the silly ones, so how come you can’t work out I’m deaf even though I’ve told you, or in other words if I can’t hear:” Why shout”, so who’s being silly?.
I am going to try and add a bit more to what I have already touched on. As far as I’m concerned I’ve led an interesting and varied life. At times I’ve been very successful and at other times not so successful. I mean this last statement purely from a monetary point of view.
Having said that I also believe that having been profoundly deaf for forty years now, that I’ve been successful from that point of view as well. One must remember that I always competed against the hearing world and you know what, I think I did just as well as any of them and a lot better than lots of them?
To the best of my knowledge I’ve only ever met two other deaf people, one of whom I was able to encourage to have a Cochlear ear Implant, as he was worried about having it done. I’m not sure whether I’m a nice person or not,(probably not),but I must say I got enormous pleasure from doing this and more importantly seeing the great benefits which he got from this.
Actually I’m veering away from what I really want to say. You know when this first happened to me. I always believed that it was up to me; to make hearing people comfortable and not for them to be comfortable with me.
I tried so hard to fight the prejudice and always stood up for hearing people when reading deaf peoples views about them being non caring and thinking that you are stupid and always believed that you have to fight this and bring them around and onto to side.
Now however after forty years of fighting it, just lately, in the last few years have come up against this all over again and at last begin to understand the deaf perspective and sadly, agree with it.
Just going to add a final little postscript here so everybody can get my take on things. You know when all is said and done. The
best thing that ever happened to me was going deaf. I was a far better person after this than I was before. Moreover it taught me many things throughout my life that I never would have seen or learnt without going deaf.
I’ll stand by that statement.