Deaf since birth, Ryan Duchoeny, eight, had never heard a cat meow, popcorn popping on the stove - or the sound of his mother’s voice saying, "I love you." Then an amazing device - and an outpouring of love - made the little boy’s

world come alive

 

Text Box: When I was little, I didn’t know that frogs make funny noises. I didn’t know that bubbles in a water cooler go glub, glub, glub or that a microwave goes eee-eee-eee when it’s done heating soup. I didn’t know because I was deaf.

    Well, technically, I guess I still am deaf but I don’t feel that way Because now I have something amazing in my ear It’s a tiny thing, but you wouldn’t believe what it can do!

    No one knows how I got deaf Maybe I was born that way or maybe I lost my hearing gradually

“It feels like I’m in a whole new world,” says Ryan, with his Dad and Mom.

“Now I can hear!”

I only know the story about the balloon.

Mom and Dad were having a party I was 18 months old, sitting in my high chair; when, all of a sudden, a balloon burst behind me. Bam! Everyone jumped—except me. I just sat there like nothing had happened.

Mom has told this story a bazillion times, but still, whenever she gets to the balloon part, something weird happens. For a split second, her face crumples. It just kind of falls. Most people wouldn’t even notice-but I see it every time.

    Anyway, that’s when she and Dad found out I was deaf They took me to doctors and I got hearing aids, but still I couldn’t hear But Mom says I talked to her and Dad by using my own made-up sign language—like pointing to the fridge, then to my mouth if I was hungry.

I also learned how to read lips. Dad brags about how good I was, but really, anyone could do it. I mean, if you  look really closely at people when they talk, you see words.

Implant—they said I was too old.

    My lip began to tremble, and even though I tried to stop them, tears fell.

     “It’s not right,” Dad kept saying.

     “He’s just a child,” Mom cried. I hated seeing them so sad. Wiping my face, I tapped Mom on the leg. “It’s okay,” I signed.   

Well, that made her cry even more. Kneeling before me, her lips parted, her tongue touched the roof of her mouth, her lips formed a little “o.” “I love you,” she said.

The next day, Mom and Dad made phone calls, wrote letters, sent e-mails. “We’re going to fight this,” Dad explained to me.

But still, the government said no.

So Dad called the local radio station and told them what was going on. Next thing I knew, reporters were at our house. I was in the newspaper—and on TV!

    Then one day, a pile of letters came to our house. Mom looked confused as she flipped through them. “I don’t know any of these people,” she signed to me.

 Like at night, when Mom would tuck me in, she’d part her lips, touch her tongue to the roof of her mouth, then

In every letter, there was money! For Ryan’s operation, they said

form a little “o” with her lips. “I love you,” she was saying.

 When I got older, I went to a school for deaf kids and learned sign language. My parents did, too. Trouble is,

When she opened one of them, something fluttered to the floor. I ran to pick it up. It was a hundred dollar bill!

Mom gasped. She opened another envelope, then another. In each was more money! For Ryan, the letters said.

“Why are they doing this?” I signed.

Tears rolled down Mom’s cheeks. “Because they are good,” she signed back.

The letters kept coining. All together, people sent us $40,000! It was enough for me to have the operation!

    So we flew to a hospital in the United States. I don’t remember the operation, because doctors conked me out, but Dad says everything went great.

A month later, the doctor checked to see if the implant was okay When he turned it on, I heard beep-bob-bop . . . eeeee . . . wooooo . . . Then there was a rumbling.

    Looking up, I saw that it was coming from Dad’s face and from Mom’s. It was their voices!

    There was a chalkboard in the room, and I quickly drew a picture of a kid with a balloon coming out of his mouth. Inside the balloon, I wrote, Now I can hear! Thank you!

    Mom cried.   

    I've had my cochlear implant for a year now I wear a little box on my belt that connects to the wires in my head. It looks kind of like a CD player, and Dad bought me a real CD player, too, so I could hear music.

    It was weird at first. Everything made a sound. I found out that rain goes pit, pit, pit when it hits my window Books go whooosh when you turn pages. A metal bowl goes clang when you hit it with a spoon.

    And I found out that when Mom parts her lips, touches her tongue to the roof of her mouth, and forms a little “o” with her lips, that “I love you” sounds as wonderful as her arms make me feel.

    Thanks to a speech teacher, I’ve learned how to talk and can tell Mom I love her, too. She always gets the same look on her face when I say it. Oh, not the crumpled one. That look is gone. She smiles! That’s the best part about having a cochlear implant—seeing Mom smile!

 

—Ryan Duchoeny, Chomedey, Quebec,

as told to Deanna Pease

I was so excited!

What does the world sound like? I wondered

not everyone knows sign language. So I tried to talk. “Hi,” I’d say to the neighborhood kids. “Can I play with you?”

But it just sounded like a lot of strange noises. Mom would try to translate—but the kids were like, ‘Um . . . gotta go.”

     “It’s okay,” Mom would sign. “You’ve got lots of friends at school.”           

    But remember that crumpled look I told you about? The one she tried to hide? Well, she’d get that look. And I have to admit, some- times I’d get it, too.

But then, when I was eight, we went to a convention for deaf people, and there was a boy who had a tiny thing in his ear It was connected by wires to a little box on his be lt. “Does that make you hear?” I signed.

Yep, he nodded.

I couldn’t believe it! “What does the world sound like?” I signed again.

    He kind of laughed before answering, “Wonderful.”

Wow! I thought.

I guess Mom and Dad thought the same thing, because they took me to some doctors. After a bunch of tests on my ears, the doctors were smiling. So were Mom and Dad. “Would you like a cochlear implant?” Dad signed to me. That’s what that thing the boy had was called.

“Yes!” I signed back. “Yes, yes!” I was so excited. Riding my bike around the neighborhood, I’d wonder, Do trees make sounds? What does a soccer ball sound like when it skitters across the street? What does Mom sound like when she laughs? I couldn’t wait to find out.

But then the letter came. “They turned us down,” Dad signed while Mom burst into tears.

You see, we live in Canada where the government pays for everyone’s health care. But they wouldn’t pay for