Thu, 21 Sep 2017 06:48:17 EST
HearStrong Champion, Mikayla Dodane, knows what it's like to stay tough in the face of great challenges. Born with hearing loss, Mikayla had to learn to navigate a world where her hearing loss was not always accepted. She also struggled with multiple Cochlear Implant surgeries. Among many hardships, Mikayla has grown into an excellent leader, teammate, and role model for young people with hearing loss. Here's her story.
Do you ever feel like that you don't belong? I don't just mean in school; I mean in life. Being Deaf in a hearing world makes you stand out like Superman stood out in Kansas. He couldn't show who he really was because he felt no one was going to accept him. At times, I have felt like I'm Superman, and there's no one willing to accept me for who I am. Not many people know what I've dealt with to get where I am today.
In the fifth grade, my hearing suddenly decreased on my left side. I had been wearing hearing aids since I was three years old, but the hearing aids weren't enough to keep me involved in everyday conversations. I was already asking people to repeat themselves, and now I had to ask them even more. My dad and I went to the audiologist and she confirmed that I was becoming Deaf on that side. They suggested Cochlear Implants. I knew right away that's what I wanted because I saw how happy those kids were in the pictures, and I wanted to be happy.
After my parents stressed and stressed about me getting Cochlear Implants, I told all my friends that I was finally going to hear better. Having that feeling inside was like opening a big Christmas present the day before Christmas. Nothing was going to stop me. I kept a countdown until I had surgery. I was getting excited! My heart was pumping and I was happy! After a month of waiting, I got my surgery. Then after waiting another month, I got my Cochlear Implant turned on. I went through extensive training so my brain could make sense of this new way of hearing. Eventually everyone was happy because not only was I hearing better, but I was TALKING better. Everyday felt like Christmas, until one day...
You might think I'm over—exaggerating but to be honest with you, that one day changed my entire life. My implant shocked me from the inside. It SHOCKED me! I didn't know what was going on. So many emotions were pouring out. Thankfully, my mom worked in the same building. Once I found her I started crying, and I told her that my Cochlear Implant had shocked me multiple times. I was heartbroken and my mom was too. I thought I could be like those kids in the pictures, but I was wrong.
That day changed me. I wasn't Superman anymore, I was more like the "not so" Incredible Hulk. Everything set me off, and I was a really angry kid. I had to go back to the audiologist FOUR times to be tested because they didn't believe me. They thought I was faking it, even when I cried and yelled, "TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFF!" The fourth time I went back, I was emotionally and mentally exhausted, and I had had enough.
At this point in the story, there was good news and bad news. The bad news was that the hearing on my right side was worsening. Man, you have no idea how that made me feel. I couldn't wear my left Cochlear Implant because it shocked me, and now my hearing was getting worse on the right side. I felt like nothing was going my way. Some of my friends weren't my friends anymore because of how I treated them. I wasn't in a good place at all. What didn't help was that my audiologist thought I was faking again, and she didn't give me a proper hearing test.
Now, for the good news! My hearing intervention specialist told me, my ENT, my parents, and my audiologist that I really wasn't hearing. I went to a new audiologist, and he agreed with my hearing intervention specialist. He said that I needed double Cochlear Implant surgery. Whatever he said, happened. I was a happy camper, except I was about to start my second half of sixth grade, and I wasn't going to be able to play sports for a month. That was definitely a disappointment, but I wanted to hear. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices.
After getting surgery and staying home for a week to recover, I could finally go back to school. Just keep in mind that I couldn't hear anything. If you clapped your hands behind me, I never knew it. As I entered my classroom, everyone was coming up to talk to me. I was so overwhelmed. I told them that I could read their lips, but not all at once. They all tried to be understanding.
I was given an interpreter, but I didn't find it helpful. I was the only Deaf person in my town, school, athletics, and family, so I was not fluent in ASL. My interpreter went too fast for me to keep up with, and I wasn't given any academic support in school. I barely passed the sixth grade because I had to depend on my lip reading.
Thankfully, there was more good news. I went through the whole seventh grade without any complications! I got to play all the sports that I went out for. I got my friends back, and I made more friends. I was happy, and most of all... I was hearing. That's what made me happy. Hearing was important to me because no one knew ASL, and no one was like me. I was still Superman in my small town.
I thought eighth grade was going to be perfect! My volleyball team got second in the district, and my implants were working fine, at least I thought so... One day my right Cochlear Implant shocked me during choir class. It took all I could to keep my tears inside. I was known as the girl who never cries and I was trying to keep it that way. I texted my mother, and we called the audiologist and doctor together. My audiologist and ENT said I needed to get surgery again. I had to be out of season for basketball because I chose my hearing over my love for the game. I wanted to hear.
Four surgeries and two failures later, you get annoyed. You become even angrier. You just feel pretty worthless. I wanted to fit in, and I wanted people to accept me. I wanted to be like my friends. I wanted to be like my sisters, but mostly I wanted to be hearing. I didn't want my parents stressing out about having money and contacting the insurance company to make sure that they were helping us still. It was hard to see that I was the reason my parents couldn't go out on dates because they were using all their money for my bills. It was tough.
After all of that happening, you hide your feelings because you don't want to be a pity party and you don't want your family to worry. So, you start to hide more than just your feelings. During soccer season my freshman year, I became aware that another implant was failing. I knew it was happening, but it wasn't shocking me though, it was burning my head. Sometimes I felt like my head was melting and I couldn't stop it. I had to do what was best for my health, and I confessed going into basketball season. It was tough, but once again I chose my hearing over my love for the game.
Being like Superman was a struggle because you have to go so far and do so much just to be like the person next to you. The worst part was that I felt like no one was going to understand. I thought no one would know how to talk to me and how to help me handle my situation. I know it's not a happy story, but it has a happy ending. My whole experience made me want to become a counselor for Deaf kids. I want other kids with hearing loss to know that they aren't alone. They don't have to be upset, and they don't have to go through anything by themselves because someone will be there to help them through it. I'm going to be that person.
When I said that I felt like I was Superman, I am Superman. Not only have I experienced what it's like not to fit in, but I'm helping other people. I'm making lives better every day. Like Superman, I believe I have a unique power to change lives in ways other people cannot. As you go through life, I think it's important for all of us to always remember who you are and how much you can change someone's day. Be a Superman.
- Mikayla Dodane
If you're interested in learning more about how you can educate others in your community, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to help you get started!
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