We want to share our stories with you! See below the pictures for a more detailed bio of each family.
Full Family Bios
Hattie was 18 months old when she got bacterial meningitis. It started with a really high fever and a visit to the urgent care where they thought it was just a virus. The next day Hattie got sick a few times and I thought it was the stomach flu. I was worried she was getting dehydrated and that evening we took her to the ER. We were lucky that right before they were about to discharge us the ER doctor decided to give her a round of antibiotics...I believe that decision saved Hattie's life. She was in the hospital for 5 days and continued antibiotic infusion treatments at home for the next 10 days. In the hospital, we learned that she had a moderate-severe hearing loss and would need hearing aids. A couple of weeks after getting her hearing aids we weren't seeing much of a response and after a few more visits with the audiologist we were referred for a cochlear implant evaluation. We learned that Hattie had a profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss which explains why she wasn't responding to the hearing aids.
She had surgery for bilateral cochlear implants about 5 months after the meningitis. The first year was really hard as we were entering the terrible two's and Hattie did not want to keep on her processors. Little by little things got better with headbands and eventually ponytail holders, so that has made a huge difference! I kept waiting for the day when she would recognize what she was missing without her "ears," and when she finally pointed to her ears one morning because I hadn't put on her processors, I started crying because I knew she gets it! I will say that there are times that she just doesn't want sound or needs a break and I do respect that, as she can't tell me yet why she needs it so until we get there, I will follow her lead.
This summer we attended the John Tracy Clinic International Preschool Camp and it was amazing to be surrounded by other families on the same journey--our stories may have all been different, but it was magical to be a part of a group that truly understood the highs and lows. Hattie is now 18 months hearing and attends Ponderosa Elementary school in Meridian, Idaho. She is in the listening spoken language classroom and absolutely loves going to school! It has been somewhat of a slow journey, as we thought since she had been hearing for 18 months learning how to listen and talk would come easier, but I just have to remind myself of her hearing age and that her brain has to make new connections in order for her to process all these new sounds. I am amazed at her receptive language and what she understands! Every little step is a victory and slowly she is approximating words and some words I can clearly make out...it is amazing to think that these cochlear implants are helping her to hear!
She loves music, dancing, gymnastics, playing outside, art, books and dress-up...everything children her age like to do! Hattie's resilence has changed who I am as a person and as a mother...I can't wait to see where she takes us next!
Mary was a very healthy newborn with personality and chubby rolls from day 1! She also failed her new born hearing screening. We didn’t know how to process that news as hearing loss was not at all on our list of typical new parent concerns. After being referred to an Audiologist, and many tears, we struggled through our first ABR test hoping that the initial screening was wrong and this test would say her hearing was normal. It did not turn out that way. Mary was diagnosed with mild/moderate bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. The Audiologist explained that she could hear, but not well, and she would greatly benefit from wearing hearing aids. It was devastating news and we worried about so many things… would she hate wearing the aids, would people stare at her, would she learn to speak normally, would she struggle in school and in social situations???
Mary has worn her little pink hearing aids since she was 3 months old. There were times when she liked to pull them out, play with them and loose them, but we got creative and kept her wearing them. Today, she is an amazing 5 ½ year old who speaks wonderfully and is the life of every party. She is incredibly smart, social, funny and a leader. She loves music, dancing, soccer, swimming, and is starting to read! We know that her hearing loss will give her challenges throughout her life, but we wouldn’t change one thing about her because Mary is amazing.
I’m the oldest member of the Idaho Hands & Voices board, and no longer actually in the business of raising a deaf kid. I’m here to help out, in order to “give back” to the older parents who helped me back in the day. My daughter Mavis was born in 1980, long before newborn screening, and it would be another 14 months before we made an appointment with an audiologist “just to set our fears at rest.” My husband Jim was half-way through the Family Practice Residency in Boise, and our ideal future practice location suddenly had some new criteria to be met. We ended up in Jerome, where he could practice full-spectrum family medicine in a semi-rural setting and Mavis could attend ISDB. After graduating, she went to California State University at Northridge, where she double-majored in Biology and Biomedical Physics, then moved to Salt Lake City where she worked as a lab tech and research assistant for a few years before becoming a student again and earning a PhD in Physiology. She’s currently doing a post-doc in Indianapolis, and has a science “vlog” at www.facebook.com/DrMavisASL.
Mavis is profoundly deaf, with no hearing at all above 1000 Hz. We began with Signed English, and evolved toward Pidgin Signed English with ASL flourishes. We spent only enough time on speech to decide it wasn’t worth the time it took away from other learning experiences. She has spent most of her adult life working with hearing people, using interpreters for formal communication at meetings and written notes the rest of the time.
Mavis has two younger (hearing) brothers, Kyle and Ross. Kyle is a sign language interpreter at Borah High School, and Ross a high school science teacher in Colorado.
My name is Jess Stich-Hennen. Many children and families in the Treasure Valley area know me as “Dr. Jess”, a pediatric audiologist at Idaho Elks Hearing & Balance Center/St Lukes. I have been practicing pediatric audiology in Boise since 2006. Over the past 11 years, I have tested thousands of children and diagnosed hearing loss in more than one hundred children (ranging from ages birth-21 years).
In 2009, my son Briggs was born. Briggs passed his newborn hearing screening in both ears. Briggs has had many medical problems over the years including chronic ear infections, severe eczema, plagiocephaly, torticollis, and severe food and environmental allergies. Prior to Briggs starting Kindergarten (August 2014), his left eardrum ruptured leaving him with a permanent moderate conductive hearing loss. Briggs uses a hearing aid for his left ear. Even though I am an audiologist, our hearing aid journey has been up and down. Last month, I washed the hearing aid with a load of laundry. This year in 3rd grade, Briggs started dealing with new issues at school including bullying, self confidence and self advocacy.