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March 3, 2003

Being deaf is a hindrance, not a handicap

From: Beatrice Daily Sun, NE - 03 Mar 2003

By Delores Tallant/Daily Sun special contributor

Former Tecumseh resident Dean Kissinger started his work day as usual Sept. 7, 1987. But the day ended as anything but usual.

As an equipment repairman for Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph, Kissinger was on a pole in an alley near a tavern installing a telephone.

"As I lifted the lid of the terminal, a swarm of hornets came flying out," Kissinger said. "As I was rushing down the pole trying to get away from the hornets, I missed one of the steps, slipped and fell."

At the bottom of the pole was one small square of concrete.

"If I would have hit the ground. I probably wouldn't have been hurt as bad, but I hit the concrete which cut the back of my head, fractured my skull, jammed my shoulder and broke my neck," he said. "I laid there and groaned, when someone heard me and called 911."

It was 3 p.m. when Kissinger's wife, Beverly, returning to their Lincoln home from grocery shopping learned from her son, Kevin, that the foreman had called and her husband was in Lincoln General Hospital.

Mrs. Kissinger immediately got back into the car and went to the hospital.

"The LTT foreman was there and told me my husband had fallen off a pole and broken his neck," she said. "When the doctor came out, he told me my husband was deaf. When I went in to see my husband, he was in a neck collar. Later, an orthopedic surgeon had a halo neck brace put on."

In spite of all the trauma Kissinger had gone through, he was still able to maintain a sense of humor. Even though Mrs. Kissinger can't remember what he said, he made some humorous comment to her. An ear specialist was called in and gave them a thin ray of hope, when he said there might be a possibility of blood in the ears, which might go away.

That ray of hope died when X-rays were taken.

"The doctor confronted me outside of my husband's room and told me X-rays showed both cochlea (the optic network that supplies messages to the brain) were severed and he would never hear again," she said. "The doctor asked me who should tell him. I told him I would."

She went in with a pad and pen and wrote it down. He got kind of white, but still had that smile of faith on his face and said, "guess that's the way it's going to be."

After three weeks in the hospital, Kissinger was released to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, where he spent a week. For nine months, Kissinger had to wear the halo neck brace. After the first couple of months, he started his walking routine with the aid of a cane. Those nine months included continuous sessions of going to various doctors and doing home therapy.

"The MD in charge of my husband's progress, said he heard of cochlea implants being done in Indianapolis," Mrs. Kissinger said. "An MRI had to be done to see if my husband would be a candidate."

New problems surfaced after the results of the MRI were in, as a brain tumor was detected and the cochlea implant could not be done at that time. Kissinger was scheduled for a brain tumor biopsy in August 1988 at which time they removed as much of the inoperable tumor as possible.

"The procedure could not remove the whole tumor but they removed enough to keep it from growing," he said. "I was very lucky as the tumor was benign."

The cochlea implant was put off in 1988 due to the necessary healing process from the brain surgery. It was during this time the cochlea implant procedure became available in Nebraska.

The surgery took six hours due to complications from the fractured cochlea. The implant is a tiny rod that relays messages to the brain through a box which is a speech processor set by a computer. The use of the implant is used in conjunction with lip reading, Kissinger said.

Due to the type of injury Kissinger experienced, there was an enormous amount of trauma to the brain.

"I have a lot of roaring in my head from the brain trauma," Kissinger said. "The cochlea implant isn't as effective for me as it is for other recipients, because of the injuries from the fall."

Minister Ebb Mundon played in important role in Kissinger's recovery, according to Mrs. Kissinger. She said he came by five days a week to see them.

"My husband returned back to being an usher in church in 1988 with Rev. Mundon's encouragement, and has been an usher ever since," she said.

Kissinger's faith can be summed up in his favorite Bible verse - "We can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us."

Since Kissinger can't hear the sermon at church, Mundon suggested to Kissinger he watch Hour Of Power, with Robert Schuller on television. Through closed captions, Kissinger was able to receive the message of positive thinking.

"The message of positive thinking is important, as one tends to become negative when you're deaf," Kissinger, 72, said. "Conversations are often difficult so you learn to be a loner. I can deal with being deaf, but the worst part is the roaring in my head and a poor balance mechanism. The thing I miss the most is not being able to hear music."

Kissinger tries to keep busy to keep his mind off the roaring. Kissinger walks eight miles every day to keep in good physical shape. He reads the Bible every day for spiritual growth.

Kissinger tries to stay as useful and productive as possible. After the garbage man has gone by on garbage day, Kissinger will walk up and down the streets in his neighborhood, making sure the garbage cans are returned to the respective household instead of ending up in the street. He also often helps his nephew in some building project. His helping hand is out to anyone who needs help, whether it's cleaning snow off the sidewalk for someone who can't or lending a hand to help a family member.

"I have something in common with the 1995 Miss America," Kissinger said. "We both are deaf and both have a cochlea implant, but she is much prettier than I am."

Copyright © 2003  Beatrice Daily Sun