Saturday, June 30, 2007


the founder of the Meningitis Angels Organization emailed me and told me I should fill out a request form for $250 for the cochlear implant evaluation. I'll have to get that sent in SOON, since they only help those that are 21 and younger with grants or whatever help they need after having had meningitis. I turn 22 in September, so yeah. Better get on it. But I am dead serious on getting a cochlear implant if I'm a candidate for one. I know my mom's still leery of the idea, but... I don't want a "cure" and a cochlear implant is not a cure. I know, it may not even work for me. But I won't know until I find out if I'm a candidate and go through the process. And I know that it takes time for an implant to work, for one to be able to hear and understand with an implant. I know that. I've talked to different people that have implants, and I'm even friends with a woman who had been implanted at 2 different times but both times the implant didn't work for her and left her with half of her face paralyzed. But that was YEARS ago when she got the implant and replaced implant, when they were still "new". Now that I know how much an evaluation costs from the Rocky Mountain CI Center in Colorado (I've heard good things about that center, have a friend who was implanted there and had good things to say, and a woman who was an audiologist at the deaf school here for YEARS even knows of that center and recommended it), well, now I want to get going. At LEAST go through the evaluation and find out if I'm a candidate or not. And I'll keep bugging the top editor at work about more hours/work for me, so I can be eligible for benefits and find out more about Lee Enterprise's insurance policy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

late night thoughts

I just talked to my mom tonight while we were having dinner, and mentioned to her that I had emailed an audiologist in Colorado, asking for an approximate cost for an evaluation. Explained to her that if I could get evaluated, and actually be TOLD if I was a candidate, that we could start looking into assistance and insurances. I know the offers CI coverage assistance, but you have to be an actual candidate when you apply, which I told her of. So hopefully, we'll somehow get down to Denver so that I can be evaluated and we could go from there. Even with the's CI assistance program, they only help with the CI components (if I remember right, from reading about this assistance program, the implants are "donated"?), not with the hospital/surgery bills, so that would leave about $15,000. But $15,000 would be better than $50-70,000.

I guess I just brought it up to her tonight to let her know that I was still serious about wanting an implant. I know, it's very costly and a major step, but I just feel that an implant would do be better. And if my left ear could be implanted (I have absolutely no hearing at all in my left, haven't heard a thing and hearing aids have been no help), that might make a HUGE difference for me. With only 1 working ear (when it's turned on), I have no sense of where the sounds are coming from, and it drives me crazy. I literally go around in circles looking for the source of the sound, and most of the time I never find it. But I do know that there's a very good chance of ossification in my ears... as is common with meningitis. But how much there is, I have no idea. I don't even know if the ossification is a factor as to why I cannot hear a thing out of my left ear or not. And I know it's more common to implant the "better" ear. There are days when I think, "oh the left ear should be implanted, then I could hear out of both ears" and other days when I think "no, it should the right ear... I've always been able to hear out of the right ear, and the implant would probably work even better in the right ear."

In a way, I feel like my mom still wishes I would WAIT until technology is so much better, like when the implants can be completely hidden away, or the hair cell regeneration. I know she'd rather I wait for the "cure". So many times I've tried to explain to her and she says she understands, I don't think she does. I don't want to be "cured". I do not ever want to be 100% hearing. I like having the choice of when to be "hearing" and when to be deaf. A very good friend of mine, who also happens to be deaf (she says she probably won't be a candidate for a CI since her hearing aids work SO incredibly well for her and she gets so much benefits from them), she completely understands where I'm coming from with this, so it's just easier to talk to her about the implant. I try to talk to my mom about it, but I just get the feeling like she wants something completely better for me. And I can understand that, she's my mother and she'll always want what's best for me. But this is my life, I'm 21, turning 22 in September, and I know what I want and don't want. My dad, he knows I want an implant, and he says he'll support whatever decisions I make regarding this.

There's also the fact that if I am for sure a candidate, there'd be a lot of traveling involved throughout the process. There are no centers in Wyoming, and Colorado would be closest. And I have heard really good things about the Rocky Mountain CI Center in Denver, so I'm awaiting to hear back from RMCIC from someone about the cost of an evaluation. There would be the issue of "who would drive me to Denver and back?" I'm not comfortable driving myself to Denver, so I would need someone else to do the driving. And flights are just too expensive and pointless.

I also mentioned to my mom that I'm seeing my new audiologist next Thursday afternoon to get a new earmold made, and to get some adjustments done to my hearing aid. She got to telling me that I should ask her if she knew anything of the new hearing aid that my mom had come across as an ad in the newspaper. Right now, I'm not interested in a new hearing aid. I have a powerful digital hearing aid that I'm happy with, it just needs to be tweaked with a bit to make any difference to my hearing. Can a hearing aid really actually "zoom" in on a voice, like the ad claimed the hearing aid could, and actually automatically filter out what is noise and voice? It just sounds like this hearing aid is "too good to be true" in my mind. I currently have Phonak's Supero 13AZ hearing aid, which I have been very happy with for the most part, it just needs to be adjusted every once in a while. I also told my mom, before scoping out new hearing aids, lets at least do the evaluation and find out if I'm a candidate first. If I'm not, then we can consider looking at other hearing aids, but until then, I'm not going to worry about it. Not until I know for sure if I'm a candidate or not.

Monday, June 11, 2007

my first article for the Star Tribune

Deaf alumni share memories at weekend reunion
Editor's note: Star-Tribune community news desk clerk Meghan Watt attended Wyoming School for the Deaf from 1991 to 1998, and says if it weren't for this school, she wouldn't be who she is today. She attended the school's reunion this weekend in Casper and wrote this report.

It has been 50 years since the Wyoming School for the Deaf started, and former students and staff decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary by having a reunion. The reunion started on Friday in the gym at the Wyoming School for the Deaf building, with everyone socializing for the majority of the day. More than 50 participants arrived, and stories and memories were shared of the days spent at the school.

The reunion continued on Saturday with even more socializing. There was also a “Guess Who” photo contest, where everyone would look at old photographs and guess who was who. Money was given as prizes to those who guessed the most correctly. In the evening, a banquet was held in the School for the Deaf gym, in which speeches were made and a deaf mime Billy Carwile did skits in between presenters. Some of the presenters included Kathleen Holmes, the coordinator for the reunion, Thelma Holmes, a mother of two deaf kids and Mary Mayes, a retired teacher of the deaf. Everyone who attended were anxious to see former principal of many years, Norm Anderson. He was unable to make it, but did write a speech, and a former student was able to make the speech for Mr. Anderson. At the end, old films of the days at the School were shown.

Sunday was such a warm and beautiful day that a picnic was held outside at Huber Park. AEveryone enjoyed burgers and hot-dogs for lunch. Group photos were taken, and addresses and numbers were exchanged with promises of staying in contact with one another. In a way, everyone who attended the School for the Deaf throughout the 50 years is part of the “family." It didn't matter how old one was or when someone graduated, he or she is part of the family anyway.

The last reunion was held 25 years ago. This year, the reunion committee decided that a reunion should be held every five years. With the participants' opinions and votes, the next Wyoming School for the Deaf reunion will be held in July of 2012 in Cody. The committee will stay in contact with one another via emails and video phone as they plan for the next reunion.

Before the school started, former students said, many parents wanted to keep their deaf children close to home instead of sending them to an out-of-state school for the deaf. These parents banded together and decided they would do what they could so that their deaf children received the education they needed. A program for the deaf started in the fall of 1957 with two pilot classes, one in Sheridan, and one in Casper. The next year, the Sheridan class joined the Casper class, with another class added on at the new East Junior High School. By the third year, a group of Casper businessmen purchased a house across from Pineview Elementary and rented it to the state. Classes were held in this house for three years. In 1961, the legislature appropriated $250,000 so that a new school building could be built adjacent to Pineview school so that the deaf students could be integrated with hearing students whenever possible. On January 3, 1963, the staff and students moved into the new Wyoming School for the Deaf building and deaf education continued.

The Wyoming School for the Deaf was an oral school at first, school historians said. Deaf students were taught how to speak and to lip-read. Sign language wasn't accepted in those days, and many thought the students would be better off learning how to speak. Since these students were constantly being taught how to speak, one teacher, Rod Laird, did everything he could to keep students motivated.

Since speech training was so constant, tiring and boring, Mr. Laird made his classes fun and interactive by taking students on field trips and doing various experiments and activities. This kept the students motivated and taught them that learning can be fun.

By the late 1980s, total communication was adopted by the school, in which students would continue speech training and also learn and use sign language at the same time. Signing Exact English (SEE) was the sign language that was used. SEE is strictly based on the English language, and ASL is not.

The Wyoming School for the Deaf remained open until 2000. By 2000, there were very few deaf students left at the school, and the State of Wyoming felt like the School for the Deaf was no longer necessary. Currently, part of the School for the Deaf building is used as a library and resource center. Many of the former students and staff expressed disappointment over the building not being used as a school for deaf children. Most feel like deaf children would do better if they could attend the local School for the Deaf.

This reunion was a pretty special weekend for the participants. A great time was had by all, and they all left with wonderful memories. Most hadn't seen one another for many years and were really glad to come and see everyone.

Mary Mayes enjoyed teaching these former students, and she mentioned that being at the reunion made her teaching career worthwhile after seeing how well many of the students had turned out.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

deaf school's 50th reunion

Well today was interesting. Got up close to 10:30, got ready, and mom and I left for the deaf school. We registered, and immediately my mom was feeling lost. So she went to the deaf school library to visit with Jo while I stayed at the gym to visit with.... people I didn't know of. I only knew very few that showed up, most of them I had never met in my entire life. But it was just fun and interesting. Fun to watch everyone interact with one another and such. After a while I went to the library and bugged Mom and Jo. Mom left to get her cell phone, and ended up going to lunch with Rob. Turns out they weren't serving lunch at the reunion (and looking at the schedule, you would think they were!). So then mom came and took me home, then went to the flower shop to help with the flowers for Craig Thomas' funeral. I had some lunch, let the LinCare guy in to take away the oxygen machines and whatnot.

Then went back to deaf school to the library, to find Jo and a woman, looking up phone numbers and what not. Turns out Jo was talking to someone at the Casper Star Tribune about doing an article about the reunion.... Well, with it being Thomas' funeral tomorrow, and since it was such an incredibly short notice as well, they weren't sure if they would be able to send a reporter out to interview and such... So I actually jumped in and told Jo that I could possibly do it. So I pulled out my Sidekick, and sent Sallyann an email. Sally forwarded my email on to Barbara (this was who Jo talked to on the phone), and Barbara replied, saying it would be great if I could do the article. So she gave me a list of what the article should include, and that they want to publish it into Monday's papers.

By this time, I was excited about having been given the opportunity to do a report. Makes more sense to let a deaf reporter do the report about the deaf school reunion.... That way, the reporter can get the quotes directly without interpreters getting in the way, and have a better understanding of why this or that was said... There was 1 thing Barbara wanted me to mention for the article, and at first I couldn't make sense of it. So I shared it with Jo, and she was able to explain it to me. Are deaf school reunions different and more special than hearing school reunions? I had no clue, but after talking to Jo, it makes sense now. Yes, they are different, and the deaf school reunions are also more special too, in a way. I'll have to see how I can word it in the article so that it makes sense for the readers.

So now I had my own pad of paper (Jo gave me one to use) and started taking some notes. I haven't done any interviewing today, but I have tomorrow and Sunday to interview random people about their experiences at the deaf school, why they went to WSD and how that experience has helped with their lives, or something like that. I'll even interview former teachers as well, since some of them did come. And more people are expected to arrive tomorrow (some couldn't make it today cause of it being last day of school and all).

I'm really excited! Got to talk to people I never met before (ok, signed with), saw some that I hadn't seen in a LONG while (like oh.. E.B.).... yeah, it was great! I loved it today, I really did.

I'm anxious for tomorrow now. Megan C. should be there, and Josie as well.... Ooo! And if Janine and Mrs. Ratcliff are there, GREAT! I'll be able to share my reporting news with them. I know they'll be really happy. I mean, Janine and Jo both worked so hard to teach me English.... Out of all of my classmates (those that were in the same grade as I was)... I was the only deaf student to be at normal or advance level, the others were behind (even those that was 1 grade ahead). I mean, I remember starting on 6th grade english the last month or 2 of fifth grade, and it was Jo that tutored me. They both really did everything they could to make sure I learned and understood. So I know Janine will be really pleased to hear that I'm doing my very first newspaper report. I've been with the Star Tribune for 6 years, and finally I have that opportunity to do a report!

So on Sunday, I'll probably leave the reunion a bit early (everything should end by 4ish) and head out to the Star Tribune to write the story, so that they can run it in Monday's paper. And hopefully Barbara will be there too, just so I can bug her if I had questions about whatever. This is my FIRST article for the newspaper, EVER. It's a pretty big deal to me. And I want it to be as perfect as possible.