Kandy helps James to break free of his anxiety
James’s mum Lisa explains:
We worried so very much about James. He was extremely shy. We gave him all the reassurance we could – as any parent would for their child – but he felt so anxious and lacked confidence.
James was diagnosed as profoundly deaf at birth, due to a genetic condition. At 11 months he had two cochlear implants. They helped, but James still misses words if there’s background noise.
So, for young James, life wasn’t easy. He just couldn’t hear things – a joke on TV, a call in the playground, chat over the dinner table – and this made him feel very insecure and anxious. We helped, but we couldn’t be around him all day, every day.
Nor could we be with him all night, every night. You see, bedtimes were extremely difficult. At night, James has to remove his cochlear implants’ processors (the part that fits around his ear), to avoid damaging them if he twists or turns. He hates doing this, because he can’t hear anything at all. It makes him feel terribly unsafe and even more anxious, because then it’s dark as well as quiet.
Even before bed, I could see him getting worried, scared even, because he knew he was going to that dreaded, dark, silent place.
Almost inevitably, he would then call us from upstairs, or come downstairs looking for us. Cue another night of us lying with him, on his bed, soothing him, stroking him… then waking with a jolt because we’d fallen asleep too.
This was not good for James. He would struggle when I'd try to wake him the next morning. Nor was it the best preparation for our working days. We all struggled with lack of sleep. Life was a struggle.
When we found out about Hearing Dogs, we thought that might help: a best friend, there for him every day and night, taking away his anxiety while listening out for important sounds, such as the alarm clock and smoke alarm.
And so, just before Christmas last year, lovely, gentle, protective Kandy came into our lives.
Kandy was perfectly at home immediately! She played with the wrapping paper, tucked into her treats, and – thankfully – was very good around the Christmas tree. Not a bauble was lost!
After that first Christmas, James started to change.
The first signs were at night. No more broken sleep. No more fretting before bed. James knows that Kandy is there, curled up beside him. She is like his big comfort blanket, all soft and warm. We all sleep better, and as a result, life is better, for all of us.
James is also breaking free of the insecurity and anxiety that held him down. When Kandy arrived, he did some training to learn her cues, such as ‘What is it?’ when she alerts him to a sound. James really loved practising with her, especially the alarm clock, and has since become quite the dog handler!
He’s growing in confidence, daily. Instead of shrinking behind us, he likes being on video calls with Hearing Dogs staff, telling them how he’s getting on. He also loves showing people what Kandy can do. During an online catch-up with the school class during lockdown, James volunteered to demonstrate some of Kandy’s amazing ability to alert him to sounds.
Would this have happened before Kandy? Absolutely not. James just did it, without prompting. It was an incredible moment.
Today, James knows that Kandy is there to look after him. She helps him sleep, and play. She’s there for him when he feels down. She’s helping him to grow.
If you ask him, James will tell you, through tears of love: “Kandy makes me feel joyful and happy.”
This year, James will give Kandy her favourite treats as a present again, and write ‘I love you’ on the label. Then, we’ll all go out, meet people, and James will show Kandy off. It really will be tidings of comfort and joy.
Thank you for reading about James and Kandy. If you would like to make a donation so that another deaf person can have their very own Kandy, it would be wonderful.
On behalf of James, I hope you all have a joyful and happy Christmas.
Lisa, James’s mum
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