This week I had the most emotional and worthwhile appointment of my career.
A few weeks ago, a complete stranger performed the most beautiful act of kindness, dropping off a pair of top of the range hearing aids at my clinic. They were less than a year old and must have cost in the region of £4000. The fairy godfather was a relative of the owner who had passed away and said that he would like to donate them to someone who could really benefit from them in our local community.
I was scratching my head thinking about the most appropriate way of doing that...do I advertise? Do I ask people in the community if they know someone? What on earth do I do.
Destiny played a very powerful hand when having a telephone call from an ex colleague of mine; He said that a dad of a teenager had rung him at his absolute wits end as his child who is going through important exam times is struggling to hear and has had a tough time getting what she needs from the age of 3 (that's another story I am not going into as it will distract from the beauty of what followed). As I am Senior Paediatric Audiologist, he asked me if I could see her to help her as she is fairly local.
I thought to myself "Bingo. That's it. Fate has played its magical hand. This could be the person these hearing aids are donated to."
I met with the young person and their family and it was clear to me that this child, as consequence of their possible hearing loss not being assisted, has become rather introverted because they have a reduction in confidence due to not hearing so clearly, but also, because they are being bullied terribly for struggling to hear.
Yes. I found the child to have hearing loss.
I offered the family the option of the donated aids or some new ones, after all, some people may be creeped out by the idea of having someone else's.
They accepted the free devices.
Immediately, before doing anything else, I wrote the family a report of recommendations for education and her treatment plan going forward and I am over the moon that this child has had an influx of help from the school to support their learning needs,enabling them to reach their true potential. Unfortunately this is help they have most likely needed from being very young, but thank goodness they are in receipt of it now at such a crucial time in their educational life.
I didn't have the fitting software for the hearing aids and so asked the manufacturer if they could please help by joining me at the next appointment, bringing all the kit to fit them (and me the kit so I can look after the teenager in future),along with new ear pieces.
The family attended the appointment, I rechecked the young person's hearing to be sure we were being accurate with the fit, and then the time came for the fitting. The manufacturer were so kind and attended to help me.
The moment the hearing devices were fitted the teenager burst into tears of joy - they could hear so much better immediately. I have never seen such a reaction in my 10 years of working in this industry.
After my appointment, on leaving my clinic, I noticed they were in the cafe next door. I popped in to see how they were getting on and the teenager was so gleeful as they said they could hear the coffee machine properly for the first time. Complete magic.
It made me think about exactly why I went into this profession in the first place - to transform lives.
Working in the NHS, I have felt like I have been working in a sausage factory,not being able to give the care I would like - working on autopilot almost in a an effort to get through fast paced appointments and probably only using a few % of what I have been trained to do; this has left me disillusioned and broken hearted for my patients. Don't get me wrong, the NHS is wonderful and vital - without it I personally would be in a sticky wicket to be honest. However, when it comes to hearing healthcare, I have struggled to work as a clinician in it as I haven't been able to spend the time I have wanted with people, considering them truly holistically. This appointment is exactly WHY I have set up Cardiff Hearing. To do the opposite of the sausage factory, and to do the opposite of high street stores that are targeted on hearing aid sales. It's moments like this that are important, that give meaning and value to life.
Just before bed I received some beautiful messages from the family, including the teenager; I have edited one for anonymity but I had to share it with you. This message make me truly realise how much magic I have at the ends of my finger tips, and what a privileged position I am in...and so to any disillusioned sausage factory workers or clinicians in excessively target driven environments, remember, that you are truly magical and have the very real power to pull rabbits out of hats, transforming lives.
It is sad that a lovely man has passed away, but by goodness, his donation has passed on a truly powerful message to me about the importance of what I do, and has provoked a genuinely transformative response for this teenager, set to change the course of her life forever. Thank you, dearest donor, may you rest in peace.
"I don't even know where to start. Today has been amazing. Thank you for everything,your kindness and understanding and professionalism.
From the moment "x" was plugged in, it has been like watching an infant hear sounds for the first time. It was only then we realised how much they have been suffering for so long.
"X" has heard their footsteps for the first time, the crunching of snow compacts under the weight,the busking in Cardiff city centre,the hustle and bustle of the city centre - we often find it quite annoying.
It has truly been an amazing day, and can't wait for tomorrow and the next for more new sounds. But the biggest effect had been their singing, "x" has never been able to hit the high notes and wobbles at the bottom end. Today it's been perfect from the get go. Today has been emotional for all the right reasons, 12 years of frustration have been put right".