#7: My world completely changed

Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities. When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me. (Matthew 11:1-6)

Eileen Harrison is a Kurnai woman; she grew up at the Lake Tyers Aboriginal Mission Station. She had a hearing disability at a time where there was very little understanding of such things. For many years, her ears were washed out every morning before school. Eventually the disability was diagnosed; however, that and other traumatic events meant she left school at fourteen. Decades later, she was offered a new technology: a cochlear implant.

‘[The doctor] said it would be a good thing and how would I like to try? He said it would make a big difference. I didn’t say no, but I was surprised with something new coming out. I really didn’t want it at first because it worried me a little. I didn’t know what it was like. I knew it was a machine that had to go under the skin, but when they explained it to me, I became a bit worried about how that little magnet, which was inside the plastic … It had some sort of liquid in it. I was worried about what would happen if it would leak out into my brain. They said, “No, nothing like that would happen.” The magnet is just under the skin, next to the bone. They just lift the skin up and put it there, and the rest of it, the coil that goes inside the nerve … Oh, it made me nervous.’

Eventually she decided to go ahead with it for one reason only, and that was the deafness of her granddaughter, Skye … She was a beautiful baby, but by the time she was two years old it was clear to the specialists that the deafness that plagued the family affected her as well.

‘She might have been about seven when they gave her an implant,’ says Eileen. ‘She had it first. This was several months before I had mine. So I thought I would do it because she was starting to take notice of my own disability. I felt, when I showed her that I had a hearing aid, it might have pleased her to know that I was like her. I thought I would have the implant to show that I was like her. …

[After a successful operation and a time of healing and learning to hear with the implant, she says] ‘It was just amazing after that. I began to hear! It was kind of like a huge door was opening and you could see the light. That’s what it was like for me. I was pushing it and it was just opening up and I could see the light and I just thought, Wow! But I was still frightened to use the phone. In a way I still have problems now, but I do not feel unhappy about asking people to repeat. I think I am a lot better than what I was. I think I can do things by myself now. There is a huge difference. Now I think I am a person who can hear.

‘Once I could hear, I realised that with hearing aids I had been completely lost. I didn’t want to know people. I was a frightened little mouse. I wasn’t social at all. I learned to stand tall after I began to hear. My lack of hearing made me withdraw. I used to be called names by kids and that made it hard for me. Anyway, this new hearing is a big door opening up. It is fantastic. I became an independent person. I could hear at last and I was ready to hear everything. My world completely changed!’

Hearing led to Eileen to grow in confidence, which in turn led to her making a new friend, Jenny Murray-Jones. Jenny is a painter, and one day she invited Eileen to paint with her. Eileen turned out to be a natural, and is now an acclaimed artist.

Reflect: Have you ever witnessed an important physical function being granted or restored? Perhaps a child is given glasses for the first time, or perhaps you received a new hip. Beyond the immediate function, what were some other outcomes? Praise God for healing which many areas of life.

#Lent2020 © Sanctuary, 2020, quoting from Eileen Harrison & Carolyn Landon. Black Swan. A Koorie Woman’s Life. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 2011. Buy it from your favourite bookshop.


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