Monday, January 18, 2010

A Simple Parking Lot

Each time my children went into surgery, hoping to exit with a cochlear implant so they'd have a shot at hearing, we always kept our expectations low (and our hopes high) just as we were told to do. Five times we've arrived at the OR specifically for cochlear implants (many many more times for other surgeries) and each time, I prayed that my kids would at least be able to hear environmental sounds such as traffic, approaching animals (we live in the country) and various other sounds for safety reasons. Anyone who has a deaf or visually impaired child (or any other disability for that matter) knows the fear of a simple parking lot. To the average person, a parking lot is a place to leave your car while you shop, you think nothing more of it except maybe who's gonna ding it up while your away. To the hearing parent of deaf children, we see a parking lot as a dangerous stretch of pavement, full of obstacles and loud noise that could get in between us and our hearing impaired child, intercepting a vital message such as "Gage, look out!" or "Brook stay with me" as the child unknowingly steps ahead of you into looming danger. I'm usually on guard in a parking deck/lot, reminding my kids with each step that we have to listen carefully. Some people sit in their quiet, idling cars and check messages, read directions, converse with other passengers before they leave their space, glancing up briefly before backing out of their parking area which is filled with objects to obstruct their vision. Trying to tell a 6 or 8 year old to be careful in a Wal Mart parking lot falls on deaf ears in more ways than one when all they are thinking about is the 12 bucks they have to spend from working hard all week on their chore list.
The other day as we were leaving the audiologist, we were walking on the roof level of a parking deck, out in the open, amongst all the airplanes, the traffic below on the busy streets of downtown during lunch hour, and a soft breeze. While walking to our car, I was having a conversation with my bilaterally deaf but bilaterally implanted child who is hopping around, excited his appointment is over, not a care in the world. With less than optimal hearing in the noisy environment, he hopped along, in the middle of the parking aisle, as I scanned all over for moving cars, ears perked for idling motors, and all of a sudden he jumped out of skin nearly and shouted "Whoa! That scared me!"...scared me too. As we passed one of the over sized SUVs the driver cranked his vehicle, one that could kill a small child, even in a parking deck. Thank goodness for those cochlear implants. One day he'll be walking thru those parking decks alone, without Mom's ears listening for him. I'll sleep better knowing he has a tool to help keep him safe and that he is fortunate enough for it to work so well!

Last night, my other deaf child (processor-less) was sleeping in my bed since Daddy was camping out back at the cabin with his buddies. As we snuggled down, she smiles at me, smells my arm and kisses it softly. After we look at each other momentarily, I close my eyes knowing sleep is coming for me soon. She leaves her eyes open watching me wait patiently for the weeping willow trees, creeks full of gently flowing water and other peaceful images that help me drift into a completely different world. She then shouts in her unaided voice, "Mama! what if there aren't any husbands for me to marry when I get big? And what if there's a fire and I don't know what to do?" My eyes popped opened as I could tell the urgency (lol) and just smile, run my finger over her plump little cheek and tell her it'll be okay. She smiles and closes her eyes, and sleep came for both of us.
When we got up this morning we again went over our fire plan and discussed what we do during a fire, what to do when we can't hear during a fire, and all confidence was restored that we can get ourselves out of a fire, not waiting around on husbands, or mamas or daddies to do it for us. She shouts, "But what about stop, drop, cover and roll?" And then I realized my princess WAS LISTENING to the school counselor during an assembly on fire safety, I've never said "stop, drop, cover, roll", (when I was growing up it was simply stop/drop/roll). Another safety blessing with my kids hearing with cochlear implants, what they don't get in full from us, they can hopefully pick up from their teachers and other people we rely on to help teach our kids.
(For those of you who are wondering, they do make safety products for the deaf such as strobe light fire alarms, etc. we just don't have them yet but will be getting those soon!)


kim said...

On one of my late-deafened lists we have once again revisited the "parking lot" discussion. Yes-- it's dangerous. Yes-- you have to be very, very alert as a deafened adult, and yes-- even adults sometimes get his in parking lots because they didn't hear a car.

I have been pulled out of harms way by my own hearing KIDS over the years. It's an eye-opener to realize your kids are looking out for you.

One trick I have learned is to park as close to a walk way as possible. For example I park way around almost to the back of Costco, because they have a side walk that starts about half way along the side of the building and before the side walk there is way less traffic. I have scoped out each parking lot in my town for the safest parking space.

Some deaf people think we deserve to have our own 'handicapped' parking. Others disagree, since we can walk just fine. I'm truly on the fence about that since I can see both sides to the issue. I have had friends who have been hit from behind when they couldn't hear a car.

Also-- you would think an adult would be better prepared to cope with this-- but many of us haven't grown up HOH or deaf. It takes awhile to learn how to protect yourself after a few near misses. Often we do not realize how much we're missing until we are nearly hit by a car.

PS-I'm sure you know about fire alarms that blink the lights, and by even have one yourself-- but just wanted to mention it for those who don't know

Jessica R. said...

If parking lots were as much of a hazard to deaf people as you make it seem, I doubt they would have them at Gallaudet University. :P

Val said...

I don' t think you can compare G University (where most attending have hearing loss and where most are consciously aware of hearing impaired people in their parking lots) to a Wal Mart around here where most people don't even consider that some pedestrians may have hearing loss.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't resist responding here...typically I tend to just read your posts. Your kids reminds me of mine and my siblings childhood at our grandparents farm out in the country, sans the CI. :) They're adorable.

I think that parking lots are dangerous, more so for kids whether one can hear or not!

I think that comment about GU by the other commenter is a cheap shot. ;) Accidents can and do happen, regardless.

Growing up, my deaf parents always over emphasized the importance of watching out for cars in parking lots. I use my eyes a lot, even if I have my hearing aids on. Still do.

I have hearing kids and I was just as worried (when they were your kids age) when they're in a parking lot too. I'd probably be more worried if they were deaf (especially if they are younger in age) until I know they're aware to be keen about the dangers either by using their eyes or their ears if they have HAs or CIs.

Eventually most kids will use what they have to avoid danger. At least, that is what most parents would hope for.


Danielle said...

great post... check my blog out there are fire alarms on there when the time comes..

The 'Ssippi Scoup said...

I wish I had been as smart as Brook when Bailey was a baby and had the knowledge of just how much "baby wearing" would have helped us. I could have gotten so much done if I had invested in one of those and by the time I figured it out she was almost at the weight limit for all of them.

You wrote this post so well! I thought there for a minute someone might have come close to having an accident in the parking lot. But nope! You are such an inspiration for me to read from just a mom to a mom - CI's or not!

Anonymous said...

You're so silly. I think it is more dangerous to rely on hearing than seeing in a parking lot. And people should be watching for kids anyhow. We know how toddlers are.

Val said...

don't see anything silly about kids aren't toddlers eiher, but my son has ADHD which means attention deficit hyperactivity disorder...EVERYTHING can distract him very easily. Besides, my point here is that when you have these huge SUVs, the small cars parked next to them have to back out blindly because they can't see around them.Add a deaf kid approaching the SUV when BAM! a little car backs out of nowhere. It's nice to have the kids equipped w/hearing devices so they can hear and