Living Life Out Loud

Part 3: My Journey to New York Ends

Many of the best books begin with a prologue. It is a way for the writer to provide a separate introduction to the main literary work, many times in order to explain potentially confusing passages in the forthcoming story.

I needed a prologue for this blog. As I wrote this submission I referenced a couple characters from books and television that will most likely need an introduction ― especially if you (the reader) are to understand my wit and meaning (LOL!). For those of you who are my age I want to introduce Christina Yang, a surgical intern on the TV series Grey’s Anatomy. She is unwaveringly passionate about medicine, exceptionally talented, awkward with people, and a fierce friend.

Another name that I drop is Hermione Granger. Most millennials are familiar with her. However, to those who are not, she is one of the main characters from the Harry Potter books. Harry is her best friend. Her nerd/bookworm personality contributes to a naive “know-it-all” persona. She’s helpful and smart to those who know/love her, but annoying and condescending to many others.

And Garfield…ah, everyone knows who Garfield is!

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So, where was I? In Rochester, New York at RIT/NTID Health Care Careers Exploration Camp.

Let me start by saying that formaldehyde can be an olfactory rollercoaster. Some of you may not know that formaldehyde is a chemical used for preserving cadaver organs and tissues. It has a highly distinct and powerfully strong smell. I tell you this because it greeted me as I (and my fellow campers) walked into the lab wing of the Science building. By the time we made it to the actual lab my excitement was as overwhelming as the smell! Upon entering the room cadaver organs greeted us. Many of my fellow campers turned green or covered their noses due to the odor penetrating from the brown internal organs on display. This was not the case for me (thus the rollercoaster analogy ― screaming fun for some, puking pursuit for others).

I knew what that strange smell meant. I took a deep breath in through my nose. Imagine Christina Yang’s medical enthusiasm meets Garfield smelling lasagna. Get the picture?  Needless to say I was enthralled!

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Dr. Merrill, our instructor, then reviewed some basics on the cardiovascular system and the heart.  I had done my homework, and was therefore mildly distracted by the assortment of hearts lying unceremoniously on the table. One of them was HUGE compared to the others. Inside my head I had already come up with my hypothesis as to why (cardiomegaly, pre-mortem). Come to find out… I was right. I can be a bit zealous and sometimes an unintentional know-it-all (add Hermione Granger to that Yang and Garfield combination.)  Dr. Merrill then proceeded to show us the cadaver heart and LET US EXAMINE THEM OURSELVES!

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Throughout the rest of the week we had the opportunity to get together and dialog with a good number of professionals without hearing. Their ranges of hearing loss were just as varied as their career paths.  It was nothing short of inspiring to hear stories from fully-deaf individuals graduating from Ivy League schools and continuing into the field of medicine for which they held a passion.  They didn’t choose their paths based on what would be easy. They didn’t let their hearing loss choose where they would go to school or what job they would fight for.

One of the physicians we were fortunate to meet told us not to feel as though we had to go to a school where students with hearing loss had succeeded before. “Find people who will support you at places and in arenas that maybe deaf people haven’t gone before. Your hearing impairment shouldn’t have to be the main deciding factor in your life.” His words resonated with me in silent, profound ways. As the week progressed and we were introduced to more deaf physicians, I began to stop thinking of them as deaf physicians and more as physicians who just happen to be deaf.

My journey to New York has now come to an end. Yet, as I reflect on the events, surprises, and genuine joys of this trip, I long to go through it all again just to truly appreciate each moment. Beyond RIT/NTID, I had the opportunity to visit Lady Liberty in New York City and soak in the nostalgia that seemingly looms throughout Ellis Island (thank you, Signia family!). What a testimony to those who grasped opportunity and didn’t let difficult circumstances keep them from succeeding. I also reminisce about the lovely people I have met, the fears I have overcome personally (including zip-lining Niagara Falls), and the ways I have stepped out of my teen comfort zone.

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What a chapter this has been. But don’t stop reading now…a new one is about to unfold.