Turning the Page of a Book to a New Chapter
My baby came to us when he was 5 yrs old, after a long, intense battle to bring him to America. Being a child of color, more aged, and a boy, his odds were against him ever getting adopted. See, little black girls turn into sweet gorgeous black women. Little black boys turn out to be thugs, murderers, etc. There is a sad stigma, and that does not mean it is just in America. There is racism in the country of Ethiopia as well. Suppose a male child is three or younger and “caramel” in color. He is an excellent child to be adopted. If a male child is four or above and darker, that is a lot of odds.
How can one look at that face, those eyes, that smile and say he is going to be ANYTHING but a child of the King and a warrior for His kingdom? This baby, this baby, I cannot even. My heart bursts with love, pride, gratitude, and thankfulness for what the Lord did in our story. I seriously cannot even.
Discovering He Was Deaf
We did not know he was deaf for almost a year, LOL. He was learning the language and how to live in a family and acclimate to the USA. That was his only job. To learn to be loved, to know he is safe, to help him with his loss and grief of not being with his family and beautiful country. He was, at one point, trilingual. Oh, and he was LOUD. He could speak and worked hard at his broken English until he mastered it. After almost 6 yrs, he still says a few words wonky, LOL.
“I No Hear In That Ear.”
On his birthday, my mom calls to sing to all the kids. She always calls in the morning. I answered the phone, and I knew it was her, so I went ahead and called him upstairs and handed him the phone. Now, remember, he is an Ethiopian who had only been home for eight mths. I put the phone up to his right ear so he could listen to her sing. When I did, he said, “mommy…I no hear in that ear.” I laughed and said he was a funny boy, and I raised the phone to his right ear again. He said, “Mommy, I no hear in that ear.”
Understandably, he switched ears and smiled as she sang. He is a man of little words, so as he was grinning (he thought she could see his approval), he handed me the phone. I was sitting there, with my mouth opening, looking at him like he had an eyeball that had just sprouted up on his forehead. I held the phone and could hear my mom speak, but all I could say was, “what do you mean you can’t hear in that ear?” He said, “I no hear in that ear.” I could’ve caught flies with my mouth.
I’m Sorry, But What???!!
I put the phone to my ear and said, “Martha….he says he can’t hear out his right ear…I gotta go and figure out what the heck he is talking about.” We got off the phone, and I looked him square and said: “WHAT THE HECK DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T HEAR OUT OF THAT EAR?” He took his hands and clapped them on my cheeks. J pulled my face, nose to nose with his face, and said: “MOM, I NO HEAR OUT OF THAT EAR.” I asked if he heard out of that ear in Ethiopia. He waved his hand like it was nothing, saying, “No. I no hear in that ear in Ethiopia (that is how he pronounced it).”
I think I sat there staring at him for 30 minutes. I’d plug one ear and talk. He could hear me. I would plug the other ear and talk. He could hear me. I did not get it. At all. I turned all the fans on, made him turn around, and whispered. He heard me. I am stumped. In a last-ditch effort to understand what was happening, I got in the van with him, turned up the radio, lowered all the windows, and whispered. Guess what? He heard me. Either he was insane, or I was insane.
ENT Part 1
I took him to an ENT. We did hearing tests. He was in the “soundproof” booth, and the lady said some words, and he repeated them while one or the other ear was plugged. He did it. She said he was fine. In another moment, “I am such a bad parent because if he is hard of hearing in that ear, I didn’t know. Also, I didn’t do anything about his inability to hear. The audiologist said he was fine, but I want a second opinion from a friend. She is good at what she does and she is free. I will leave this alone. If she tells me that he is fine, I will assume I am nuts. Also, I will assume he is nuts. We are all just nuts.” Yes, that is the long run-on sentence in my head.
ENT Part 2
I headed to see my friend Susan Brown. She did her initial stuff and then put him back in the booth. I sat in the booth with her. This time was different. She said things, but she covered her mouth. When she did that, we discovered that he was stone-cold deaf in his right ear. I didn’t realize that he was reading my lip and everyone else’s lips. Most people are deaf from either their outer ear to their eardrum OR from the eardrum to their brain. J is deaf from the external eardrum to the brain. He has all the mechanics of a “good” ear….he is just deaf. We are guessing he was born this way, which explains SO much.
ENT Part 3
J was pretty stoked when I took him from Susan to the NEW ENT. I told him we were going to see Dr. Jones. With his wide eyes, he said: “We are going to see DR JONES?” I said yes, we are. He is going to check your ears. I asked why he was looking at me like that, and he said, “Dr. Jones? As in Indiana Jones?” I smiled and said, “No, Dr. Shawn Jones.” Let down.
As we talked, I asked Dr. Jones if this could be hereditary? He said it could be, and why do I ask. I explained to him that my mom was born without a bone in her ear and that she was deaf. I told him that she had surgery, and they placed a metal plate there; now she can hear. At that moment, the dr was staring at me, the nurse was staring at me, and J was silent. I couldn’t figure out the silence.
Dr. Jones leaned WAY into me and said: “Brandi, is your mom black?” I said, “No. She is a little short redhead. Why are you asking me if she is black?” He smiled and said, “Brandi….your son is black.” Duh, I forgot. I don’t think about things like that, so I felt pretty stupid. After many visits, many types of hearing aids that did not work, and learning some sign language to help him in crowds, five years later, yesterday was the day we turned the page to a new chapter five years later.
ENT Part 4: Surgeon
We were in Louisville for Dr. Severtson to perform a BAHA surgery yesterday. Usually, this surgery would have a titanium screw, and in about six mths or so, once it is healed, you snap a hearing aid on behind your ear. The sound bypasses the ear canal and goes straight to the brain. The post requires A LOT of attention and maintenance. We were going to do that because the older J gets, the more it bothers him about his hearing. I get that. Our dr was recently approved to do a new type of BAHA hearing aid.
Instead of the titanium screw, he put in a magnet. This takes 2-3 mths to settle in and heal. Once that is healed, we go back to the processor. His hearing aid will also have a magnetic on it, and it will just stick to his head, behind his ear, and it does the same as the original. This is good because there is zero maintenance. You get your processor quicker. He is the first in our area to receive it, so we can hopefully help other families. More importantly, he will be able to hear out of both ears for the first time in his life. How freaking cool is that?
The recovery is not fun. He has to keep his head wrapped for three days. Also, J cannot wash his hair for a week or so. In the end, it will be awesome, and that is what I have to remind him. I am so stinking excited. He is excited too, but he is hurting pretty good, and his incision site itches. Which is driving him bonkers. All in all, welcome to his new and improved HEARING story 🙂