Saturday, October 20, 2012

Two Weeks of Highs and Lows and a New Resolve

Realizing that I have not posted in over two weeks, I have to bring you, my readers, up to date on where I am physically right now. It doesn't seem possible, and yet, so much has happened in 14-16 days. One of the most miraculous things has happen to me, and then another devastating physical setback has happened as well.

Roughly, just over two weeks, the miraculous happened. After thinking that I was completely deaf in my right ear for all of my life (I have no recollection of hearing in that ear from my childhood), I found out that while severely hard of hearing, I can hear and understand language using a hearing aid. This was a complete shock to me, because a hearing aid has never been offered as a option my whole life. I've seen specialists after specialist from New York to Baltimore and even two recommended audiologists here in Charlotte, NC, only to be turned away.

The angel in disguise of a doctor is Sean McCalvin of Beltone. He and his lovely wife, JoAnna, will never know the depths of admiration I feel for them. They run a compassionate, caring facility that is completely interested in honest, courteous service to those dealing with  hearing issues. Please Google them if you are local, and feel free to tell them I recommended you. I feel as if I made friends, not just medical partners. As I told everyone who would sit still, the event changed my life.

But, isn't life interesting? We never know what is around the corner, because the next thing coming around the bend could make life better or just a little harder. Though I never run from a challenge, it is never easy to revisit a physical setback.

Starting October 10th and culminating by the 13th, I suffered my second bout of Bell's Palsy. A quick explanation of Bell's Palsy is facial paralysis that usually affects one side of the face, stemming from inflammation to the cranial nerves. Six years ago, I dealt with right-sided paralysis (that left me with lingering vertigo), this time it was my left side. Recognizing the symptoms right away, I avoided the ER and made an appointment with my wonderful general doctor, Gregory Collins, MD. He took one look at me, asked me to smile, then prescribed the usual regimen: steroids and anti-viral medication. I have also added essential B vitamins, biotin and other supplements that can promote healing.

At this point, how can I describe my feelings and position in life right now?

When all this happened, I was on my way to creating an accepted niche for this blog, and was about to embark on creating a new non-profit for the Charlotte, NC area called Celebrate Connections. My calendar was filling up with volunteer and networking opportunities. There were new speaking and panel discussion opportunities. I looked forward to more travel, interaction and advocacy. Establishing myself as a trusted and consistent local advocate was my first and foremost goal. And, giddy with the knowledge of my ability to hear, I immediately launched an online fundraiser campaign to help me cover the cost of the hearing aid. As my goal always includes awareness and advocacy, a good friend and I concocted hearing awareness and fundraising events that would gather friends and family, but also reach out to the public.

All of which has slowed down to a crawl.

Right now, I have to keep stress to a minimum. I have to concentrate on massages, exercises and rest to promote healing of the inflamed and damaged nerves in my face. And, I have to regain my shaken sense of self.

I have never been a vain person, but I am very aware of my frozen face. Eating is not a spectator sport. Having only one eye to rely on (and that being my weaker eye) and renewed disorientation and vertigo means that someone must drive me everywhere, and accompany me up steps and down inclines. I move slowly and very deliberately.

I can't imagine going out to sample any new food spot. Literally, I can barely taste or smell anything unless it is highly seasoned and it still tastes like a 9-volt battery with seasoning. How does a foodie survive this?

Dear readers, I realize that we don't have the answers to why we go through things. I will not try to answer that question. But I tell you this much I have come to understand in these last two weeks. I understand that if I allow this to stop me, I am not fit to be an advocate. If I don't continue to write this blog, go out and speak to people and make a difference, then I have no right to say I can support and empower anyone. If I do not try to experience all I love in life, culture and food, I need to stop right now.

All support and empowerment starts within ourselves. I know on what power I draw my strength, and I ask you to bear with me while I heal. Often, I am in my bed, typing with two fingers on a very slow tablet. Today, I set the alarm and allowed myself 20 minutes to write this blog post. There are no pictures and no links. That takes longer, but I will get back to supplying extra resources and links later.

If you will bear with me, I will continue to take on my challenges. If I don't, how can I ask you to take on yours?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

CaptionCall Phone - Call Me!

Today is the day!

Today, James, my CaptionCall representative, came to install a wonderful new captioning phone in my house. For some of you who have visited my home, you know I have four extensions spread out throughout the house, though you may not know why. For one, they are there so I don't have to run from any particular room to another to get the phone, but also, because I deal with SSD - Single Sided Deafness. With multiple extensions, I don't have to guess or wonder if the phone is ringing.

I have dealt with SSD or unilateral hearing loss almost all of my life, but lately, it has become a frustration with which I have lost patience. To hear family members while at a get-together, to hear all of the conversation when out with friends at a neighborhood pub or restaurant, to attend a outdoor festival or exhibit opening; all these types of events have become harder and harder for me to enjoy. I find myself avoiding large gathering, even though my passion for disability awareness demands I deal with events. How I dealt with it as a child, I don't remember exactly, but I do know I avoided the lunch room at school and stayed with a small group of kids on the playground, choosing quieter games than the noisy, crowd-related ones. There wasn't very much volleyball or softball for me.

[Description: Cubicle with welcome mat, flowers and paper at the front]
As an adult, I chose jobs that didn't have a lot of background noise, favoring assignments and positions where I had my own cubicle or office. But, meetings were and are still hard. I am about to be fitted with a hearing device that may help me soon, but today, it was all about making phone usage easier.

Two years ago, when I had a virtual contract job, as overjoyed as I was to work at home, I knew I needed a headset to make the experience of talking to our vendors and bankers easier. I bought a Plantronic T10 and a Fanstel Amplified phone. Both had their uses and I enjoyed using both. But, I quickly outgrew the Plantronic and accidentally dropped the Fanstel, which caused several features to stop working. So for the last year, I have been without a desk phone.

Since the goal is to start a non-profit this year, I knew I had to change this situation. I believe I found out about the CaptionCall phone through an Facebook affiliate, CCAC Captioning. After filling out a form, James contacted me and set up an appointment to install the phone.

The CaptionCall phone works by quickly relaying the voice of your caller through a voice-recognition and transcription service, sending back the written transcript of the conversation. I can scroll throughout the written part, while still hearing my caller.  We have ATT U-Verse, so James connected the phone to our router and even though my router wanted to give him a hard time, the service was up and ready in a short time.

[Description: CaptonCall Phone in black on desk]
[Description: Lighted screen on phon
First off, I LOVE the screen! It is large enough that I don't have to squint or lean over to read it. The type is large and back-lit which works for me. I admit my visual impairment is not severe, so this may not work for everyone. The handset is comfortable and the stylish black unit fits in with my large flat-screen monitor and CCTV. It can hold 200 contacts and allows me to change speaker volume, switch ringer tones as well as amplify the ringer.

I will let you know in a follow-up post if there are any complications, but so far, so good. When my youngest son called to tell me he was on his way home, the accuracy was above 90%, and I enjoyed being able to scroll back over our conversation. There is a momentary delay, but remember, the caller's voice is sent through voice recognition and a transcription service, and it is minimal.

The CaptionCall phone will help me immensely to stay productive as my phone load increases. It will allow me to follow a conversation as well as clarify anything I may miss. I cannot tell you how much this phone will make a difference in my productivity!

And, if that were not enough, right now, the phone and the service are FREE. This is a limited time offer that includes a free CaptionCall phone, free delivery and installation assistance, and ongoing free captioning service funded by the FCC.  There are no hidden charges and no out of pocket expenses. And, the only requirement to participate in this offer is that you have difficulty hearing on the phone due to hearing loss.

So, if you think you can use this product or know someone else who can, please feel free to:
  • Use promo code: CBS67503
  • Go to
  • Click on green "Request Info" link at the top of the page
  • Enter the promo code and your information.
Someone will get in touch with you, talk to you about the phone and set up a time for an installation. As long as you have a phone line and the Internet, you are good!

Now, it is your turn. Do you have the CaptionCall phone already? How is it working for you? Feel free to send in your experiences and suggestions. I am looking forward to "hearing" from you!