Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What If You Couldn't Hear?

Surf, 2005

An Italian Flickr friend who is a wonderful photographer and whose work many of us have admired for years has been losing her hearing. She’s a beautiful young woman. She shouldn’t be losing her hearing. But this stuff happens, you know, and what can you do but make the best of it? Fortunately, this friend is seeing a doctor who may be able to restore some of her hearing.

Many years ago, between years of college, I worked for a prestigious law firm as a lowly “legal clerk.” It wasn’t exactly Dickensian, but for the princely sum of $75 a week each three of us clerks shared a workspace about the size of a walk-in closet where we kept track of hundreds of litigation case files. One worked on power company litigation, another on coal company labor relations cases. I worked on General Motors cases—mostly motor mount liability suits.

When we weren’t trying to determine whether hundreds of thousands of saplings on West Virginia Christmas tree farms were being stunted by ash from a power plant owned by one of our clients or drawing straws to see who’d get to drive a Camaro with worn motor mounts down to Richmond from Pittsburgh, we had the chance to work on interesting cases and watch some really good lawyers in action.

One of the cases I worked on involved a beautiful young co-ed the same age as me who’d been rendered blind through the unintended negligence of an ophthalmologist and a country pharmacist. To make matters worse, the young woman’s college major was in fashion design. When I met her, she had vision in only about 1% of her eye, and that was so peripheral that if she stepped off a bus she might walk directly into someone or something because she couldn’t see right in front of her.

But enough about that. (The case settled just before going to the jury.) The lesson from that experience wasn’t the case, but the way it made me wonder how I’d have coped if I’d have lost my eyesight.

For a long time I couldn’t answer that question. I have wondered through the years whether it would be easier for me to cope without my vision or without my hearing. For someone who loves music as much as I do, the loss of hearing would be brutal. Professionally, it would be career-ending. But upon reflection, I think I’ve concluded that I’d rather lose my hearing than my eyesight.

I suppose there’s something to be said for silence in this noisy world. But it’s one thing to choose it and another altogether to have it inflicted on you.

Sometime in the next couple of months my friend is going to go in for surgery. I hope you’ll join me in wishing her well when that happens.

1 comment:

  1. I hope your friend is able to get help with her hearing. Years ago, I worked as Placement Director at a sheltered workshop for the disabled, and I, too, watched the blind folks there, thinking that for me, a world without vision would be unimaginably difficult, but then I watched how they learned to navigate in the world in amazing ways. I quickly came to realize that it was the deaf who were so isolated and really apart from the rest of the world. I came to the conclusion that deafness would be a really difficult fate to be handed. My heart goes out to anyone losing hearing. My Joe has hearing aids and a fairly extensive hearing loss--without his "ears," he really is enormously disadvantaged. I'm constantly reminded of my own good fortune.

    I really do hope your friend can be helped. My heart goes out to her. Beautiful, powerful image.