I’d spent many years working with children who had special educational needs. I’d spent years studying autism, deafness and deaf awareness, dyslexia, dyspraxia, sensory processing disorders… Nothing, however, could prepare me for the world I now found myself in.
My tinnitus at times was debilitating. Yet I was profoundly deaf. In the safety of my small room in the hospital, I was cocooned from reality and with the tv on quietly, and my door shut to the noise of the hustle and bustle of hospital life, hearing loss didn’t pose too much of a problem.
Thankfully, the nausea was settling a little. I busied myself with my physio, and doing what I could to move around using furniture as a crutch. My physio came daily, and within a couple of days I could shuffle along the corridor for about 10 metres… supported either side.
He told me that I would need to pass the stairs test before I could go home. So, I insisted on doing it there and then, although the 5 minute walk to the stairs (that would probably take 30 seconds for anyone else) exhausted me before I’d even started.
Looking like a pirate, with my eye patch, one physio in front, and another behind, I proved that I could go up and down the stairs. I still can’t believe just how alien everything felt. I had been going up and down stairs probably since the age of 3, and yet here I was, some 40 years later, having to learn how to do it all again.
Exhausted, I was taken back to my room. And then he said it, “I think you should consider using a walking frame… I can arrange for you to have one to take home.”
A colleague from work always used to say that she could tell exactly what I was thinking by the look on my face. I think my reaction to the physio’s suggestion was just as apparent.
“I can see you’re not really liking that idea” he added.
I took a breath and responded with something along the lines of, “Look, I walked in here on my own, and I will be walking out of here on my own.”
The walking frame was never mentioned again.
That afternoon, I had visitors, Neil, my mum and dad, who are divorced and don’t speak to each other, my aunty and uncle, Neil’s parents and Sue.
Now I was about to truly realise what unilateral hearing loss was really like. I can only describe it as torture. Everyone was talking but the “noise” was overwhelming and excruciating. I couldn’t focus on what one person was saying in the group; it was just noise. Some were speaking English, others Spanish, but I couldn’t pick out what one person was saying in the group. I hated it and in my head I was screaming at them to shut the f*#k up. I couldn’t wait for them to go. And when they did, I cried, and cried, and I cried myself to sleep.
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