Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sometimes it's just time

I was talking with my wife recently. Husbands should do that from time to time.

Current management at her place of employment recently laid off 3 employees and eliminated those positions. One the those eliminated was a long time employee of the facility. 45 years, to be exact. This person had started working there while in high school and had built her entire career around this facility. She was highly regarded in what she did.

As you can imagine, this did not sit well with staff and clients, my wife included. In my wife's duties, she worked with this person on a nearly daily basis and said that this person was the glue that held her department together.

And just like that, she was gone.

But this isn't a whine session about how business works, or if this employee was mistreated in being let go a few months short of early retirement age. It is a story about how people respond to things that are thrown at them from out of the blue.

Sure, she wanted to stay on until reaching full Social Security retirement age, but it didn't happen. The day after being let go, my wife had a chance to visit with her. She told my wife "You, know, this may be a blessing in disguise. This place has been draining the life out of me for 45 years. I think it may just be time to cut ties with it and move on." It was though the stress and pressure had just been lifted off her.

A few years before I hung up my milking apron, I had a friend call it quits from being a dairy farmer. His wife had no idea he was considering it until he said something to their lender. A few days later I ran into her and she said he couldn't stop smiling since making the decision to leave it behind.

Again, the relief from the stressors was that big.

And then there was me. Farming was my life. Farming was my career. I lived for my cows. I was burnt out from the stress of running the farm and trying to battle through the worst year with Meniere's. Sad thing is, I had made some decisions that last year that would likely have had a tremendous positive impact on the profitability of my business in the years to come. But the price was a heavy one that first year, and it happened right in the middle of the worst year I ever experienced with this disease. Not a good combination.

So there I was. Physically, I was a mess. Mentally, I was burnt out.

I reached the point I needed to decide something, and I felt the best course of action, at that time, was to leave my career behind.

Probably one of the top 5 worst days of my life was the day I loaded my dairy cows on a trailer. I was upset, sad, disappointed, and felt like a complete failure. That is, until the last trailer left the yard with the last cows on it. Then it was like the world of pressure was lifted off my shoulders. I didn't smile, but I had the feeling come over me that this was OK. I would be OK. My family would be OK. Life would go on.

I shared that with my wife when she was talking about her co-worker. She replied that she could imagine the relief on my part of no longer having the concern over who was going to care for the cows during any future attacks and days in bed.

And I could imagine the relief her co-worker may have felt when she said it may be a blessing in disguise.

There may never be a perfect time, but sometimes it's just time.......

'til next time


Just a guy trying to live with an invisible, potentially debilitating illness

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Boiling Point

I have written about this subject quite a bit, but I am not sure I have dug into it in detail. For this entry in my blog, I want to dig into the reasons behind my decision to go ahead with my Cochlear implants.

In 1992 my world was literally turned upside down. You know the drill, Meniere’s disease. The vertigo came on fast and hard. I began having drop attacks almost immediately. The first was sitting at my parent’s house eating breakfast. Boom! Out of nowhere, I was on the ground. Several more followed. All of them I ended up on my right shoulder…..on concrete. Never a warning.

Sometime in 1993 my ENT had become concerned enough with the frequency and severity of the drop attacks that he began to discuss more serious measures to control them. He offered up the options and his opinion of the options, looked at my audiogram, and suggested we try Gentamicin  injections. The reason he considered this route was due to the results of my audiograms. My hearing was nearly shot from Meniere’s. If memory serves me correctly, I was near 90dB on the true tones test, and it was flat. 90dB across all frequencies. The trial hearing aid did nothing but give me a headache. It was with this in mind that he suggested the equivalent of a chemical labyrinthectomy. He was a full disclosure doctor and warned me that while he was quite confident the injections into my inner ear would reduce the vertigo and the drop attacks, it would likely leave me permanently deaf.

It is rather sad that being left deaf is a better option than living with vertigo, but that was my choice. And it was a rather easy one. Give me the injections.

Over the course of the next three years, I received 3 intratympanic injections of Gentamicin in my left ear.

They worked exactly as he predicted. By the time I received the third one my vertigo had diminished from several attacks per month to a couple attacks per year. It also left me permanently deaf at 120dB.

But that was fine with me. I was young (29). I was getting married. I had one good ear. Most important, I had my life back. Life was good.

Adjusting to only one ear wasn’t much of a problem and I don’t think many people even knew I was stone deaf in my left ear. I learned to position myself so my good ear was toward people when choosing seating arrangements. I learned to turn my head enough to hear people if they were on my bad side, or I moved. A minor inconvenience at best.

Fast forward 10 years and the beast took over my right ear as well. But the hearing loss was subtler and fluctuating. At least the vertigo didn’t return-----yet.

Fast forward another 8 years and all heck broke loose. The vertigo returned with vengeance. The hearing loss became more pronounced and fluctuated wildly. The drop attacks re-appeared. And worst of all, people became nasty and unaccepting of my losing my hearing.

I can’t even remember all of the people or the comments that I heard concerning me being stubborn about not getting hearing aids. “Get it fixed.” “Why don’t they cure you?” “You can’t tell me that in all these years, they don’t have a solution.” “All you need is hearing aids.”

I’m sure there was more.

What people refused to understand was that I had gone down this road before. 1992, to be exact. I knew what was happening and I also knew that there wasn’t a hearing aid in the world that would do diddly squat for my hearing loss. Besides, that wasn’t even my biggest concern. I just wanted the horrible vertigo to stop. I. DID. NOT. CARE. HOW!

This disease causes enough stress of its own on a person without the unknowing, or should I say “all knowing” general public telling you how you should suck it up and move on.

It’s rather hard to “suck it up” when you are spending the vast majority of your day trying to not throw up.

The drive to seek help was getting rid of the drop attacks, first and foremost, and the only reason I went back to my clinic after a 7-year absence. I knew this disease was stealing my hearing. I was ready to accept that.
Activation day!

The day I found myself sitting in the exam room, I had not planned to ask about my hearing loss, yet I did. I am not sure why I did, but I did. Yet I remember well that I sat there feeling all the stress that had been on me from the vertigo, drop attacks, going deaf, and people, that I blurted it out at the end of the appointment. “Is there anything that can be done for my hearing loss?” 

I was ready to hear “no.” That would have been comforting at that point. It at least would have given me validation for what others considered stubbornness.

Instead I got what have become some of the sweetest words I have ever heard. “You would be an excellent candidate for cochlear implants.”

Now, here I am 4 years later and, although I have changed careers, I have my life back once again, and my hearing. You don’t know how much that means unless you were at the point I was when I blurted out my question.

4 years ago, I had no idea what my future would be like as a deaf person. Today I have graduated with high honors with an associate degree in accounting. I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the same major. I have 2 (or 3, I lose count) jobs. I get to spend time educating and mentoring others about advanced hearing solutions and I get to speak to groups of people that want to hear my story.

Giving a presentation
But most important, I have my life back.

If you have reached your tipping point with your own hearing loss (please don’t wait until it becomes a boiling point), explore your #WakeUpCall by clicking here

‘til next time


Just a guy trying to live with an invisible, potentially debilitating illness

Views expressed here are my own. Consult your hearing health provider to determine if you are a candidate for Cochlear technology. Outcomes and results may vary.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Powerful and Inspiring? ME?

Image result for powerful and inspiring images

Yeah, those are a couple of words I have heard tossed my direction lately. I really am at a loss on how to accept them.

As I close all of my posts, I'm just a guy. Really. I didn't start doing what I am doing because I am some narcissist. I keep doing it because people make the comments in the title. I started this whole adventure in blogging as a self-imposed therapy. I felt I had something to share: something to get off my chest and out of my head, so I wrote. I also picked up a few small speaking events, and volunteer and mentoring opportunities followed. None of this is by design.

But powerful and inspiring?

It really is tough to see myself as that. I am just sharing my story.

I recently had a chance to share that story in a college speech class I was forced to take in order to get into the college of business for my bachelors degree. I say forced because I intended to test out of this class. I felt I did not need to take an fundamentals of speech class. I am in my 50's, for heavens sake. But when I applied to the college for admittance, they replied I needed a letter grade on my transcript, not a pass/fail.

So I begrudgingly went, and I left with a much greater appreciation of the craft of public speaking. And an A.

The professor was amazing. The classmates were incredible. I actually am going to miss going there this week.

But the most touching thing I got out of this class was a comment following my persuasive speech. In this class, three classmates are assigned to be the official listeners to a speech and give feedback. The first comment nearly brought tears to my eyes.

"I have seen your speeches become so powerful in this class. You have taught us all so much about hearing loss. Keep doing this."

There it is. Powerful.

My goal was to educate while honing my speaking ability. To obviously move fellow students in this way is incredibly humbling.

Someone once asked me if I had any idea how many people my story has touched. I have no idea. It's just my story. I'm shocked people read it. Yet, so many times, I get a message or a comment how my story has been so inspiring to them and has encouraged them that there is life with this illness. It blows my mind. It also pushes me to continue.

I have never claimed to have the answers to living with this disease. I never will.

I am only here to keep telling my story to those that will listen.

Apparently that makes you powerful and inspiring.

'til next time


Just a guy trying to live with an invisible, potentially debilitating illness