At Lei’s audiology appointment on Tuesday, the audiologist gently asked how we were doing. She listened to Lei about how she has been feeling, and thoughtfully absorbed the suggestions for programming we had come up with in our meeting with the d/hh team at school.
Finally it was time to take the plunge. I handed over the left processor and the audiologist connected it to her computer on one end and to Lei’s head on the other.
And Lei could hear. No static. No roaring. For the first time since September 10, Lei could hear with her left implant as if nothing had ever changed.
The audiologist set all the levels conservatively, erring on the side of making things just a bit quieter than “just right.” When I asked her how she compares the quiet environment of the office with the noise and confusion of a lunch room or gym full of kids, she said, “I know this is just an approximation, but we try to make some educated guesses and go from there.”
She created two programs for Lei, one with ClearVoice set to high to cut down background noise, and the other programmed to give Lei input from the FM system at 70 percent, background noise at 30 percent. And she gave Lei volume control so in any situation she can raise or lower the volume by 20 percent.
Through all this, Lei was calm and confident. She didn’t seem at all worried about whether she would be able to hear on the left as well as the right. When I asked her how it felt to be hearing bilaterally again, she smiled, shrugged and said, “Pretty good!”
To celebrate we went to the hospital gift store and I bought her a vial of Mars Mud, which I have to admit is the coolest of all the many kinds of silly putty and slime she has had in her brief but fidgety time on Earth. But I digress.
For myself, I was stunned at how quickly she recovered. I had had no idea what to expect. I could see that, having gotten a chance to open up about her fears, retreat into peaceful silence and rest at home for a bit, Lei was feeling better about everything. But I didn’t want to get my hopes up. These things can take a long time to resolve and I was extremely grateful for her being able to hear on just one side.
But my girl amazed me once more. She overcame through her capacity for imagining herself as the hero of her own story and her ability to sort things out with the right support.
Wednesday she came home from school triumphantly holding the thick drumsticks that her dad gives to all the beginning drummers so they can build up their strength and endurance as they learn the basics. Playing on a roll of paper towels, she showed me one of the patterns she had learned. Yes, I imagined her as the next Evelyn Glennie.
She said the FM program feels really good in class, and so far she hasn’t complained of anything being too loud.
The following day marked one year since that left implant was activated. She dug into her allowance and ran to the corner store to buy cheesy popcorn and lime-flavored chips so that we could have a celebratory treat while watching an episode of Doctor Who.
My girl has been through a hell of a lot, and all of those hardships have left their marks on Lei. Yet she continues to rise. Armed with a passion for justice, a desire to create and an emerging sense of her spirituality, she is stronger than ever.