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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Day by Day: The Chronicles of a Hard of Hearing Reporter

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The most significant experience I have had, proving that building internal habits of self-advocacy is important, was on December 1, 2005. We had moved to Ohio from Seattle and the basement was full of unpacked boxes. Because of my multiple sclerosis, stairs and I are not good friends. Even so, I chose to go downstairs and play seek-and-find with the myriad of boxes. Not only that, I decided to put things on the steps and take them up the stairs, one step at a time.

With my cane in my right hand, I used my left hand to “march” the boxes up the steps and shove them on the kitchen floor. But when I reached the second step from the top, my balance proved unworthy and I started falling backwards. Falling down all of nine steps, which I counted days later, I felt sure I would not survive and the last thing I remember was yelling, “Oh my God.” Some unknown minutes later, I woke up with a broken right arm and a cell phone that would not work in the basement.

To make a long story short, somehow I pulled and pushed my body up to the very step I fell from and called 9-1-1. I told the operator where the EMS people could enter the house. With my back to the life-saving team, I quickly told them I had a cochlear implant and if the batteries died, I would be instantly deaf.

Barb Brown, a neighbor I had met once, came over to help and she called my husband’s cell phone. She also cared for our dogs that entire day as I was in the hospital. I asked her to get the box of batteries from the kitchen drawer and I took them with me. How I was clear headed enough to think of that had to be that I had ingrained tactics inside to tell and explain quickly. It was second nature. Later in the Emergency Room, I repeated this talk with the technicians doing x-rays and the CAT Scan, even though by then I was in shock. I also wear a medical ID necklace telling of my implant in my right ear.

I broke my arm, dislocated my shoulder and was bruised for weeks—but I survived and my advocacy is stronger today after this experience. You never know. Make it an internal language and it will spill out when needed. I promise.

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