When I met Faye for the first time, I was in awe in front of her fantastic vitality and her will to do everything to make cochlear implants famous throughout Australia. And now that I'm writing the script of the talk I had with her (coming soon), I can't help but feel lucky to have known her and got a bit of her endless energy to enjoy life.
This is her story.
Faye's only regret in life was that she had to wait so long to hear. If only someone had said years ago, 'why don't you find out about getting a Cochlear Implant?' she would not have had to struggle so long with profound deafness. Now a Bilateral Cochlear Implant user Faye is living a full life and she wants to share her story with anyone who is hearing impaired so they can benefit from this wonderful invention just as she has.
Words cannot properly express the gratitude Faye feels towards Pr Graeme Clark, Cochlear Ltd and her surgeon, Pr Gibson, for giving her "the gift of hearing again".
My grandparents, parents and siblings are all hearing impaired to some degree. I was born with this same hereditary hearing loss and so grew up with two hearing aids from my early school days until aged 47.
As a teenager I spent 5 years learning to Lip-read through Better Hearing Australia. This was a wonderful experience and improved my communication and allowed me to develop what many have called "a remarkable memory". It also gave me an advantage of "watching and understanding" people's conversations. Travelling home from work on public transport had a whole new meaning and became "interesting". Did I have some great stories to tell!
When I was 25 years old, I had an accident in the snowy mountains that resulted in a profound hearing loss in my right ear. I was forced to rely on just one hearing aid in my left ear and this made life very challenging. In 2003 (aged 44) I suffered a medical problem that caused me to lose most of the small amount of hearing I still had in my 'good' left ear. This caused major communication and personal problems simply because now I was profoundly deaf.
2004 and 2005 were probably the hardest years of my life. During these years I worked for an IT company managing all the Sydney Outsourcing Service Desk Operations for many major corporations. This involved managing IT support for thousands of users throughout Australia and 39 countries worldwide. I had a large number of staff, an extremely high pressured job around the clock and lots of responsibility. I loved my job and worked hard at maintaining world-class standards in service management to my customers, but at this stage in my life, I was seriously considering throwing-in-the-towel because my hearing had become so bad. Everything was just too hard.
In April 2005 I had my first Cochlear Implant operation at Sydney's RPA hospital performed by Professor Gibson to whom I am ever so grateful.
The surgery went without a hitch and I was only in hospital overnight. Back home the next morning I was feeling pretty good. Surprisingly, the incision behind my ear was very small.
This is what the operation site looked like upon returning home one day after surgery.
I knew this would be the start of something great. I didn't know exactly what to expect at switch-on but I was nevertheless eagerly waiting for this special day to arrive.
At first after "Switch-On", everything sounded a bit robotic, but my brain quickly responded and within 24 hours people started to sound normal … well as normal as I can remember.
Day one was unbelievable …I could hear the birds calling in the trees, the blinkers clicking in the car, and I had no idea that flushing the toilet was such a noisy event! Filling the kitchen sink with water sounded like Niagara Falls and my little dog barking was unbearably loud.
Oh, then there's the Computer MOUSE ….. What a noisy little creature. Working in computers (as I did) you often say "CLICK on this" or "DOUBLE CLICK on that"…… well I had just discovered that the mouse actually does make a CLICKING noise. YES, with the implant I can now hear the Mouse. Typing on the keyboard is also noisy and, let me assure you, I do lots of that.
Obviously, over time my specialists gradually extended the level of noise so I could establish a comfortable threshold for listening. I was really over the moon with happiness in the very first week with the Freedom Speech Processor – and then it just got better.
After experiencing great success with my first implant sadly my left ear deteriorated to a level that I was again experiencing some difficulty. So, it was time to "go for it" again and have a 2nd Cochlear Implant.
Some people weigh up the odds at this point in their life and say, you have one working well, why not leave it at that. But the way I looked at it was, are two ears better than one? And for me the answer is DEFINITELY YES.
Professor Bill Gibson giving the 2nd gift of hearing to Faye in 2007.
My second operation was at Sydney Mater Hospital in April 2007 again peformed by Professor Gibson. I took a little longer to recover this time and switch-on wasn't as good because my brain needed to click in for me to understand sounds. However, with plenty of practise and perseverance I was soon hearing so much better with two ears. Having two processors allows me to have a better idea of what direction sounds are coming from.
If I had my life over again, knowing what I know now, I would have had my first implant 20 years earlier. I had no hesitation in getting the 2nd implant, and now I am a successful and happy user of Bilateral Freedom Cochlear Implants.
When I go to bed at night, I find it an advantage to take my processors off and then I cannot hear anything. No matter how big a thunder storm or how noisy a neighbouring party is, I always get a good night's sleep. (Deafness does have advantages some times.)
Thanks to Cochlear I can now hear better than I have ever heard in my whole life. I have regained my independence and confidence, I can communicate much better at work and at home and I couldn't be happier.
For me, the world is looking AND HEARING, great!
Why put off living and hearing for today ?
I guess I've always had a positive outlook on life. Even with my deafness my mottos are "everything is possible … and … never say can't".
This is what my staff say about me.
"Faye is a very special person! A model employee/manager – whose passion, dedication, professionalism and many other qualities shine through to inspire others to achieve greater things in life. Faye has been an excellent role model for many people who have been fortunate enough to work for and with her, or simply just known her."
Even through the most difficult year of my life when I was waiting for my first implant and when my hearing was at its' lowest level, my Company rewarded me with a "People Manager of the Year Award" for Excellence in People Management. This honour helped to make all my hard work and dedication worthwhile.
I enjoy helping people to achieve their goals and succeed. I am a born leader, a motivator and very hard working. I have achieved a high level of personal career satisfaction without letting my hearing disabilities get in the way.
In order to succeed I have not been shy in telling people upfront that I am hearing impaired and therefore fellow staff and colleagues make sure they talk TO ME instead of talking away from me. It's that easy!
I am also passionate about everything I do. Life is too short, and even if I have had to journey through some difficult times personally, it has made me a better person for it.
Receiving my Cochlear Implants and the "Gift of Hearing" has been the best thing I have done in my life so far.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you, and if you would like me to tell you more of my inspiring journey, or you know someone that would like to talk to a recipient to learn more, then please contact me.
Many thanks to Faye for sharing her wonderful story with our readers !