After Junior was diagnosed with profound deafness, we had little time to grieve before we moved into the process of trying to get him qualified for cochlear implants. My husband and I were set to meet the surgeon pretty soon after diagnosis, but I’ll admit I went begrudgingly, still in denial, thinking it was all a bad dream. Hoping that maybe if I ignored it long enough, one day I would wake up next to a typical, hearing baby and he could spend his days playing and smiling and making memories with his big sister, and not in some a cold, sterile room waiting for doctors and specialists to come and go.
After a brief eternity trying to keep Junior sitting as happily as possible in his car seat in the surgeon’s waiting room, we were escorted back to an exam room overlooking the parking lot. On the wall hung several posters of ear anatomy and cochlear implant workings. I grimaced at the thought of finally accepting that my child was deaf, and aimlessly looked out the floor-to-ceiling windows.
After a few minutes, Dr. C walked in. She was tall, young, and wore a smile. I doubt I returned the smile at the time, too aware of why we were even there, but she soon moved her attention to Junior. She gushed over his chubby little legs, commented that he was going to be tall like daddy, and beheld him with tenderness. After checking his ears and again commenting on how adorable he was, she got down to business. She discussed the results of his hearing test, scribbled a few notes for follow up appointments (ophthalmology, cardiology, and radiology to name a few), and sat down. She brought up details about the cochlear implant surgery, but I don’t remember much because it was information overload at that point. (Plus, I was still holding on to the hope that it was all just a bad dream.)
My husband spoke up first: “Why should we do this? Why should we trust you with our son?”
Her response was perfect: “Because I promise to treat him like my own child.”
It was as if a weight were lifted off my shoulders. Not just for the short term of putting our son in good hands for surgery, but because I realized that there might actually be good to come from this special needs journey. Good people, good friends, good experiences…the deep kind of good that can only come out of something painful. The kind of good that once you’ve reached the end of the road you look back and realize that everything happened for a reason and in some strange way, you’re grateful for it all.
The kind, heartfelt words of this doctor stuck with us, and gave us strength to push forward into a new unknown. Junior still sees her 3 or so times a year, and always runs to her and wraps her in the biggest bear hug he knows how to give. He never heard her promise to treat him as her own some 2 years ago, but somehow he knew. Somehow her words bypassed his deaf ears, beyond his infant comprehension, and settled in his heart. The language of kindness doesn’t need to be spoken or seen. It must be felt. We continue to feel that kindness as we look at our son, now able to hear using cochlear implants, and think of the doctor that first gave us hope.