"Linus opened my eyes to a different way of enjoying life"
Posted by Matt Sadler
When Margo was told she was profoundly deaf, she felt like a door had been slammed in her face.
She couldn’t cope with the changes deafness brought, and stopped doing things she loved. She struggled on a daily basis. When she was left behind during a fire alarm test at work, she knew something needed to change.
Here, Margo tells her story:
I was born with perfect hearing. I probably had inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) since a young girl, with symptoms that came and went. However, it’s very difficult to diagnose and mine wasn’t confirmed until I needed major surgery. Although not common, IBD can affect other parts of the body such as joints, eyes, mouth and in my case, I developed profound sensory hearing loss in my early to mid-thirties.
At the time, I was the Senior Sister of a day surgery unit and I can remember working in recovery and having to turn up the alarms, then in theatre finding the face masks a nightmare because I couldn’t see the surgeons’ mouths to try and lipread.
To be told I was profoundly deaf in my thirties was like having a door slammed in my face. I was offered hearing aids but wasn’t able to get on with them.
Deafness is not only an invisible disability; it varies enormously from person to person. I just couldn’t cope with the changes. I was constantly denying my deafness. I lived in the hearing world and no-one really understood how much I was struggling on a daily basis, except my close family and my best friend.
It’s amazing how you can learn to avoid things, make excuses and just gradually stop doing things you love just because you can’t join in, or follow a group conversation.
I stopped going out for a lot of social things, drinks and meals with girlfriends and work colleagues. I often avoided family things at home also and would go and wash-up instead in the kitchen. Not being able to follow the conversation or understand why there was laughter made me feel really low.
I slept badly, thinking I was hearing noises if my husband was away. Your imagination plays tricks and it can be very windy in Suffolk and the security light would go on too.
I think the bravest thing I did was to cross the threshold of my local deaf centre. I had never thought of seeking help from the centre because I was born with hearing. However, I saw an advert for lip-reading classes in the local paper and decided to try. I was in tears in the car park but realised this was a step in the right direction.
It was at the deaf centre I saw a poster for a ‘Hearing Dogs’ coffee morning fundraiser. Even though I am gluten free I still love coffee and cake! I’d never heard of the charity, but I went along and ended up volunteering for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.
I did not think I was deaf enough to apply for a hearing dog, I just wanted to help and support this wonderful charity I was learning all about. I was meeting people who I could relate to and they understood my difficulties. I was meeting gorgeous hearing dogs and learning about what a difference they had made to people’s lives.
I had changed jobs by then, realising I couldn’t maintain my senior post in nursing and mentally I was drained from the stress. I now work in a specialist clinic where I have been for the past nine years. I can assess patients for anaesthesia and surgery by using my lip reading skills when I’m one-on-one with patients. Although it’s very tiring, I can continue to nurse safely.
I had been at the specialist clinic for about six months when a practice fire alarm was set off and I was accidentally left behind when everyone vacated the building. I had been writing notes behind a closed door and had not left the room. My colleagues realised and returned for me, but this was my wake up call. I could have been hurt. This is when I enquired about a hearing dog.
When I explained I was applying for a hearing dog I swear my husband and son breathed a sigh of relief.
My first hearing dog, Pebbles, was a beautiful female cocker spaniel. She alerted me to important sounds and gave me so much independence and made me feel less isolated. She changed my life and my entire outlook. Through her, my deafness was no longer a negative thing. Sadly, Pebbles passed away unexpectedly. It broke my heart.
After a while I was matched with Linus, my current hearing dog. He has healed my heart and makes me smile every day.
He is an angel at work and has a lot of patience supporting me. By just being there with me at work he ensures that my patients understand that I am deaf and that I lip read. He isn’t encouraged to interact; I have a job to do and he is there as a reminder of deaf awareness and to ensure my safety if an alarm went off.
I have started going back to watch captioned plays, he comes to my weekly relaxation yoga class with me and usually snores softly by my side. He’s very laid back.
Jenny, Linus’ volunteer puppy trainer, taught him to ‘tuck in’. He tucks in between my legs, which is very useful when in a queue, somewhere busy, or when we go to captioned theatre shows. Sometimes I have a skirt on, and his little head pops out unexpectedly! The look on people’s faces Is a picture!
I’ve decided to retire from nursing at the end of March but truly believe I wouldn’t have been able to carry on in nursing without both my hearing dogs by my side. I would like to do something else for a while before I retire completely, and Linus will help and support me in whatever we do next. I will continue to volunteer and help fundraise for Hearing Dogs. I feel honoured to be partnered with Linus and want to help others benefit and leave the loneliness of deafness behind.
Through my deafness I have actually learnt to redirect myself. I’ve found a way to enjoy life. Having a hearing dog doesn’t cure your deafness but it opened my eyes to a different way of enjoying life.
When you have the joy of a partnership like mine with Linus, you really do feel whole again.
Meet the pups in our Puppy Training Scheme
These cute puppies are training to become life-changers. Sponsor them for £3 a month and follow their journey as they learn how to help a deaf person.
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