Joseph’s Journey

Joseph wasn’t born deaf, but somewhere between the ages of 3-6 he developed single-sided deafness (SSD) on his left side.

Joseph’s auditory nerves for both ears were abnormal since birth and somehow his left nerve was damaged and quit functioning.  Perhaps it was his numerous trips to the hospital due to pulmonary illnesses during that age. Or it was the time he bumped his head and had to get stitches. Even though we will never know why he has SSD, because of a recent surgery, Joseph’s right nerve will soon receive all the sounds around him through the Baha, or a bone-anchored hearing aid.

Joseph has been through a lot. He deserves this and we were finally able to help him.

Joseph, a 12 year-old going into the 7th grade, had an osseo-integrated device implanted into his skull on his birthday this June. The Baha will be fitted onto the titanium post after it ossifies and is solid enough to safely support the 2×2 inch device. This may be 4-6 weeks after surgery, depending on how well it heals. The hearing aid will receive the sound from the left side and, through the titanium post, his skull will transmit the sound waves to his inner ear on the right side. Technology also allows him to have directional awareness so he will be able to determine where the sound is coming from. We are thankful for Dr. Kryzer of Wichita Ear Clinic for his skill during surgery, for his enthusiasm to help those who are hard of hearing, and for giving Joseph another chance.

Dr. Kryzer performed the surgery at Via Christi at St. Francis. Joseph’s dad and I were with him throughout. We stayed at the Ronald McDonald house the night before since he was admitted at 6:30 a.m., which was a neat experience in of itself. We only stayed one night because, despite the fact that the procedure included drilling into his skull, it was outpatient surgery.

“I was very excited. But nervous that they might screw up,” Joseph said.  Joseph was only nauseous for a little while in the afternoon so he was discharged at 6:30 in the evening. He was greeted by his younger sister and brother, Elizabeth (10) and Cole (7) who were with their aunt Amy. (We sometimes call her Crazy Aunt Amy, a title that she should be proud of!)

Via Christi

These people were amazing.

He is now recovering nicely. “I can’t go swimming yet,” he said. “That’s no fun.” Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Cole feel bad that he has to take it easy for a while, mostly because they can’t rough-house yet. But they are excited for him, too.

Even though Joseph’s dad and I are not together anymore, we worked together to provide this opportunity for him. We were proud of how brave he was before, during, and after the surgery. Everything went so well, we kept looking for what was going to screw up so we could prevent it, but nothing has so far.

Throughout the whole process of doctor appointments, setting the date of the surgery, saving money and gathering funds to try to meet the co-insurance cost of $3500, we have received support from both of our families and people in the Bennington area where I live and the Lincoln area where I work. This came in the form of donations, words of encouragement, prayers, suggestions and ideas.

In fact, I couldn’t keep up that day with all the text messages and communication on Facebook and Twitter. Of course, I kept posting pictures and updates on how he was doing to share with everyone. I was pretty excited for him. I still am. Joseph is not finished with this journey. His healing is ongoing until he’s ready for the Baha.

It will change his life. People don’t realize how much he misses every day from SSD. Even I forget to speak to him on his right side at times, and I’ve been around it for seven years. Most people ask me how he is doing since this is about all I’ve talked about for a month now. I’m very thankful for everyone who has supported him.

He was able to try out a tester Baha on a headband in March 2014. This preview of how it could be for Joseph motivated us to try surgery, something that all parents are weary of for their children. His reaction solidified our decision, though, as I smile through tears to see his face light up when he tried it out, something that will only be better as the real thing. “It was amazing. My dad said my name and I turned to my left,” Joseph said. “I can’t wait to get it for real.”


Wherever you go, there you are

We always take what we’ve learned with us, and much of what I’ve learned came from my parents. Not to displace my mom’s lessons, I want to focus on my dad this time. It’s his 60th birthday today, March 23, but you wouldn’t be able to tell his age from looking at him.

As an athlete, he took the number 23, a number later made famous by the great Michael Jordan. I always thought it was fate since I felt he was easily comparable to such greatness. He epitomized the mix of hard work and ethical standards. He even surpassed Jordan in that respect. He always did things with other people’s concern in mind. His compassion and respect for life always led to an insightful decision. Once when I was a young teenager, we missed mass to get a few head of cattle out of a bad situation. I was concerned that we missed a Sunday of worship and when I voiced my concern, he told me that God put us in charge of His creations and it was our responsibility to take care of what he gave us. I instantly felt better because I knew he was right.

As a farmer, he cited the best satisfaction was from seeing the results of his hard work coming up through the fields. As a rancher, he appreciated spring time when the new calves were running and playing in the pastures. As a father, he selflessly watches his children with pride play sports, win contests, get married, have kids, yet not take credit for himself.

His strength comes from wisdom. His ability to listen to anyone’s problems does not come from words, but rather to see what is really going on, voiced or not. He understands why people do what they do even if they can’t see it. Then, instead of judging someone, he quietly shows them why it could be that way. He leads by example and has the patience to let us figure it out ourselves.

Proof of his patience comes from the fact that he raised seven willful girls to become strong women. In the mix, he helped two boys become very impressive men. The strength of faith, self-confidence, and love that his children now show comes from his and mom’s parental decisions. He set the bar high, and I am grateful for his expectations that we felt growing up.

His example lives on in the nine of us, and now nine grandchildren. Watching him hold my six-year-old son’s hand while taking a walk on the farm reminds me how much he loves children and how much they love him. Everyone, young and old, knows that they will receive a kind word from him, sometimes in the form of a joke. His humor allows those around him to feel at ease and people sincerely enjoy being around him.

Until I became an adult, I didn’t understand how truly blessed I am to come from such a strong and loving family with no hidden agendas attached. Simply love. Hard work. Respect for one another. And God.

Thank you dad, and happy birthday.


What doesn’t kill you…

Recently, I’ve had a tough go at the game of life. It’s not special or unique, but it’s not at all what I expected. I guess that is life, though. While wallowing in my self pity, my sister called me the other day to let me know of things that are going on in my family. (I had quit Facebook because actually talking seemed to be out of fashion, something I didn’t want to let go of.)

Apparently my first cousin, who has had heart trouble since infancy needs a heart transplant. He’s in his 30’s. His wife was in a terrible car accident 8 months ago and is now partially paralyzed. He had been working three jobs, trying to take care of their three children, and basically worked himself near to death which almost caused him to die of congestive heart failure.

Meanwhile, I am wallowing in my own little world.

I know I have a rough path ahead of me for a while, but I also know that I will get through this. Their family may get ripped apart.

Dean, Lindsay, I think of you guys a lot and pray for you all the time.

In other words, life goes by pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, it might pass you by. (Or so says Ferris Buhler.)

If you would like to, you can contribute to Meal Train for my cousins:

That’s Right

Conversations with some of the brightest kids I know…yeah, I could be biased.

Me: “Joseph, I know what uncle Doug got you for Christmas.”
Joseph (9): “A shotgun. No, a taser cuz that would be awesome.”

Me: “What was your best gift?”
Lizzie (7): “Mom, I got so many Barbies, I bet Ken is gonna squeal when he sees them!”

Aunt Kelsie: “I heard you want [toy] calves for Christmas.”
Cole (5): “You have a barn so they can stay at your house but they’ll still be mine.”


We’re down to the last installment of “reminiscing about my siblings”.

Janell was the ninth child, was born on December 9th, and weighed 9 lbs 9 oz.  The baby of the family.  You would guess that she’s this meek, little girl who does whatever anyone says to her.  She’s used to being bossed around, right?

It’s true, she has a lot paths blazed before her already, but I think she’ll take her own way.  If she can only get over being timid.  When we would ask mom if she would make us a peanut butter sandwich, she would wiggle her fingers at us and say, “Poof!  You’re a peanut butter sandwich.”  Fifteen years later, she instead hops up and grabs the bread, jelly, and peanut butter for her.

She stayed with me one summer during harvest.  She was too little (around nine, I think) to do anything productive in the fields and I was off for the summer, being a teacher and all.  She lasted a few days while Janell, my kids, and I went to the playground, the pool, or shopping.  Once at the playground, I made up an obstacle course she had to follow under a stopwatch.  It was supposed to be fun until the course took her over a tall dome where she proceeded to lose her stepping and half fall into.  She was crying, and I felt horrible since I broke my little Janell.  Just a scrape along her shin bone, but I felt horrible none the less.  We had to go see what harvest was doing, so about two days after she called mom, homesick, we spent a few days at her house instead.

Mom did make her call all of her sisters to ask permission to get her ears pierced six months early so they would be healed before volleyball began in the fall.  I pretended to give her a hard time.  She wasn’t 13 yet, and by god, I had to wait and so could she.  I made sure she called everyone else first, which mom wouldn’t do for her.  That naturally took a while so after some interrogation and a few days, I relented–which was my intention the whole time.  Hmm.  Not too long after that she pierced her ears again, but I didn’t receive a phone call on that one.

One summer, my six-year old daughter thought Janell’s jewelry was just pretty damn awesome.  So awesome, in fact, she decided to take it home to admire it after we visited for a weekend.  Janell was gracious enough to let me teach my daughter a lesson the right way and didn’t go off on her, like she probably should have.  “But mom, Janell said I could have it!”  Um, no she didn’t.  She apologized, and gave it back with proper humbleness.

I love this picture. Janell and my youngest in 2009.

Janell is always in charge of her nieces and nephews, which won’t last for too much longer.  They LOVE her as she is pretty cool to them.  We can’t exploit her youngness for too much longer.  She’ll take them on horse rides, slide down the hill on a home-made slip-n-slide, play video games with them.  Heck, the oldest nephew is only around five years younger than her.

Not too long ago, when Janell was in junior high, she happened to have a mean girl in school.  Shoot, all grades have at least two mean girls.  I believe it stemmed out of a seventh grader (Janell) playing basketball over an eighth grader (mean girl).  Janell is freakishly tall.  At least for our family; now she hands clothes down to me.  But none of her sisters actually had any physical altercations over it.  (Mel did see a mean girl find shaving cream in her shoes.  Mel claims she didn’t do it, but I also believed for ten years that she didn’t drink in high school.)

To make matters worse, Janell had been training and sparing with Doug when he was home to visit, and he had messed around with that kind of workout in a Kansas City gym.   (I hope I didn’t inspire in him that choice of workout.)  She even had sparing gloves.  After a few weeks of that, the mean girl should have known better.  It had been building at school and online, and of course that nasty little girl had no idea that Janell had a brigade of sisters and cousins to take their turn at burning that nasty little girl back.  We were smart enough to really make a point with her, but obviously not smart enough to realize cyber-bullying can be serious.  And traceable.  We talked about it as a family, since it took months to build up to an actual fight anyway.  We all agreed that she shouldn’t start anything, but she shouldn’t be pushed around.  Mean girl tried to jump talk to Janell by following her into the bathroom during school, yelled a little bit, and then pulled Janell’s hair.  Janell ended it with a few good punches to the face.

Oh, and mom works at the school.  Nice, Janell.

They both were suspended for a while, but everyone was in disbelief of how it went down.  As a teacher, I understood that she had to be suspended, as did the other girl, but I was proud of her standing up for herself.  Mom and dad felt the same way and she didn’t get into trouble at home.  I think in her position I would have tried to talk my way out of it and then avoided that girl even if she would still be nasty.  I think Janell’s way worked better.  Besides, that girl moved away not too long after that.  Problem solved.

Now Janell spends her free time during the summer riding her horse, Ace, and training it.  She had been bucked off a few times, so mom wanted her to use a helmet, and moms are always right.  None of us had to use a helmet on a horse, but only her and Kelsie had actually trained young horses and Kelsie had a nasty accident with one once.  So Janell wore the helmet.  For a little while.  Mom wouldn’t let her take it off unless she could trot without any problems.  What does Janell, a product of cell phones with video, do?  She records herself trotting on the horse saying, “See mom?  No problem.”  But it worked since there is no more helmet.

She has a few years left to figure out who she really is, but she’s doing a great job so far.  But beware, Janell, we are all watching you. Muhaahaahaa.