My Sudden Hearing Loss.
My summer of unexpected challenges and heartfelt kindness.
Four weeks ago I was in the middle of a conversation when my left ear became a little clogged. I opened my mouth wide, swallowed, pinched my nose and blew out, trying to unclog it. Nothing. “Hmm, that’s strange,” I said to myself.
Two weeks of Prednisone, then a week of steroid injections directly into the ear while staying in the hospital, and then a week of home recovery, and there’s been no change, no improvement, no nothing.
The doctors are a little baffled. Sudden Hearing Loss is not as uncommon as you might think and they’re not sure of the cause. The steroids are a shot in the dark; only about a third of patients regain hearing from the treatment.
So the summer of 2017 has become the summer of my hearing loss. The summer I had to stop working out for three-plus weeks because resting is a major component of the treatment as well. It has also become the summer I’ve learned some important things.
I learned that the people of my community are caring, kind, and giving. Friends and acquaintances didn’t just ask what they could do. They did. My family had food brought to our door; I had books and treats delivered to the hospital; and visitors surprised me morning, noon, and night. I got countless WhatsApp messages, phone calls wishing me well and thoughtful gifts from abroad.
One woman – I’ll call her Claire – is a friend who’d gone through this a few years ago but had the good fortune to have her hearing restored. Claire continued to check up on me, came to visit in the hospital (a good 40 minutes from home), and regaled me with crazy stories that had me laughing. She then invited me over for coffee when I got home.
I’ve been working on bringing God into my life more, and since all this rest brought me extra time on my hands, I decided to watch some uplifting Torah lectures and rediscovered the joys of learning Torah.
In one of the lectures Paysach Krohn said something that applied to what I was going through and will stay with me for a long time.
He spoke about Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who successfully landed his plane on the Hudson River, saving all those on board. Mr. Sullenberger, he explained, had lost his father when he was a young man, and the loss was devastating to him. He’d vowed to himself to try and keep others from that kind of pain. So when it came time to land a plane on the Hudson – a near-impossible feat – the loss of his father kept him focused. Sullenberger was responsible for the lives of 155 people on that plane and couldn’t bear the thought of all those who would mourn for them, as he’d had to mourn for his father.
This is what it means, Rabbi Krohn explained, to truly give back. When you’ve gone through a hardship and you reach out to others so that they don’t have to go through the same, or when you help alleviate the pain for those who are going through the same – that is a deep chesed, a kindness that makes such a difference.
I can look at the overwhelming blessings in my life and focus on the good, while dealing with the loss.
I thought of my friends and family. They hadn’t gone through the same experience but they certainly know what hardship feels like. They know that being alone can feel scary. With their constant WhatsApp messages, phone calls, visits, and unexpected gifts, I had a support system that reached half-way around the globe.
And I thought of Claire. She had gone through the same thing years prior, and remembered. I knew she was in my corner.
Today, in fact, I paid it forward just a little. I know what it’s like to work hard and get little thanks. So after my follow-up hearing test at the hospital this morning, I visited the ward where I’d stayed and brought the nurses a bowl of candies. “Thank you for all you did,” I said. It felt so good.
The hearing in my left ear hasn’t come back. And the chances that it will are slim, now that so much time has passed without any change. Sudden Hearing Loss is just that – a loss. I mourned for a bit, knowing I might never hear the same way again. But with all that has happened in the last month, I can look at the overwhelming blessings in my life and focus on the good, while dealing with the loss.
I’ve decided that the summer of 2017 won’t simply be “the summer of my hearing loss.” I’m determined to remember this time as one of chesed, kindness, and empathy.