Christmas 2019 Appeal
William and Nutmeg
It is absolutely heartbreaking to see a lonely child, especially at Christmas.
My name’s Debbie. My sons William and Oliver were born three months premature, which caused their severe hearing loss. When we found out, it was earth-shattering.
My husband Frank and I worried about their future. How would they learn to talk, cope at school, make friends, have jobs, have families? I gave up my teaching job to help them learn to communicate. With the support of hearing specialists, they started mainstream school aged five.
Oliver settled in fine, but William had ear infections and required surgery. He couldn’t wear his hearing aids until his ears healed, so he became isolated. He went from a bubbly boy to playing on his own at school. He would come home in tears.
He also had difficulty sleeping. Like many deaf children, he felt vulnerable because deafness and darkness are scary. He spent the nights telling us that he couldn’t sleep, so we were all exhausted. It made a hard situation even harder.
One day, William broke down and asked me through his tears why he was deaf. I just held my overwhelmed and lonely boy, because I couldn’t make it better. All I could do was hold him and comfort him, while my heart silently broke.
Christmas was tough. While everyone happily chatted over their meals, William could not join in, as he couldn’t follow the conversation. He began to give up and he would keep his head down. It was heartbreaking, because all I wanted was my family to share a special time, yet he wasn’t a part of it.
But last Christmas was completely different. William was outgoing, engaging, talkative. Everyone was thrilled that bubbly William was ‘back’.
This was because William now has a very special friend: hearing dog Nutmeg, a big, soft, bouncy Cockapoo.
The night before Christmas, Nutmeg slept next to William’s bed, so William snoozed soundly knowing his faithful friend was nearby. That morning, Nutmeg cheerfully ‘bounced’ William awake when his alarm went off. Throughout the Christmas meal, Nutmeg sat under the table with his head on William’s foot. William happily told everyone – family and visitors alike – about his wonderful Nutmeg.
Today, William is still profoundly deaf, but wants to be part of the world around him, thanks to Nutmeg.
Nutmeg is his ‘ears’. For example, William sets a timer for homework, and when it rings, Nutmeg nudges him with his nose. Then, I set it for 45 minutes while William plays on his Xbox. When time’s up, William prefers a Nutmeg nudge than being told by his mum!
Nutmeg also reconnects William to his happier self – the ‘real’ William, surrounded by life and love.
School’s better. William’s confident enough to get the bus now, and tells the teacher what he needs. He wouldn’t have done that before Nutmeg came into his life.
Social life’s better. William now has a group of school friends whom he sees socially. They love bowling and having milkshakes together. This would have been unimaginable 18 months ago.
Home’s better too. William sleeps through the night, knowing that Nutmeg will alert him to the smoke alarm. We have energy to enjoy ourselves. Nutmeg also helps Oliver – bouncing two twins awake is even better than one! My other son, Isaac, has no hearing loss, but he loves cuddling and playing with Nutmeg.
This year, our oldest daughter is getting married two days before Christmas. Nutmeg will be a big part of the day. William is really looking forward to it, and to Christmas as well. William will take responsibility for Nutmeg, and Nutmeg will take responsibility for William. And I will whisper a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to Hearing Dogs for helping William to have a brighter, happier future.
It costs £25,000 to train a hearing dog. It would be wonderful if you would like to donate, and help more deaf adults and children like William. However you decide, thank you for reading my story, and from the bottom of my heart I wish you a wonderful Christmas.