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March 28, 2003

Phil Campbell class hears from former Miss America

From: Franklin County Times, AL - Mar 28, 2003

By Patricia Thorpe
FCT Staff Writer
PHIL CAMPBELL — In combination with Read Across America’s Celebration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2, Phil Campbell Elementary School’s reading theme for the month was famous Alabamians.

Heather Fowler’s Pre-K class read about Miss America 1995, Heather Whitestone.

Whitestone was the first woman with a disability to be crowned Miss America in the Pageant’s 75 year history.

Fowler contacted Whitestone over the Internet to request a picture for her class. Whitestone mailed an autographed photo with the following inscription, “To Ms. Fowler’s class, ‘Anything is possible with God’s help.’ With Love, Heather.”

The children in Ms. Fowler’s class learned that Whitestone lost her hearing at the age of eighteen months when she was rushed to the hospital with a dangerously high fever, the cause of which was later diagnosed as the Haemophilus influenza virus.

At the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham Heather tested as “profoundly deaf” with no hearing in either ear.

Heather was inspired by her family to work hard and never quit trying. Without an interpreter, she attended a public school until she was 12 years old and then enrolled in the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1991, Heather graduated from public high school in Birmingham with a 3.6 grade point average.

She is a spokes person for the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education as she depends heavily on her eyes for communication by reading lips.

On August 7, 2002, John K. Niparko, M.D., surgically implanted Heather with a cochlear implant at Johns Hopkins Hospital. On September 19, when the device was turned on for the first time, she experienced overwhelming emotion as she realized she was hearing sounds more clearly than she had before. Her performance with the cochlear implant is expected to continue improving over time. With the implant, she plans to help raise awareness among the hearing-impaired community about the opportunities available for improving speech and language.

© 2003 Franklin County Times. All rights reserved.