This weeks post is an interview with Michael Kolodny, whose daughter Blake was diagnosed deaf/hard of hearing at birth. I first met Michael and his wife, Nicole, when the attended a parent support group I was hosting. We have kept in touch over the years and I have seen the entire family blossom.
Michael, thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. I know a little bit about your story, but can you please fill me in on your journey?
Sure, our daughter, Blake, failed her new born hearing screening. So we knew right away that something was not quite right. After we repeated the test several times, we were told that Blake most likely has some level of hearing loss, and we should consult an audiologist.
We were referred to Dr. Michelle Kraskin at Weill Cornell in New York City. She suggested we have an ABR test, which gave us the diagnosis of severe to extreme loss in her right ear and profound in her left. So, essentially we were lucky enough to be diagnosed in her first two months.
That is lucky that you were able to have such an early diagnosis. I hear so many stories of testing dragging on for months. How did your daughter’s diagnosis impact you as a father? Where has it taken you?
I believe that in the long run it was a positive impact. Originally you are scared and confused especially being from a family that has never had someone with hearing loss. After the initial shock, I realized that my daughter was perfect just the way she was. Hearing loss was not going to define her, both my wife and I were not going to let that happen.
We came to realize that Blake would live out all her dreams and I was going to be her greatest cheerleader. After seeing her reaction to sound with her hearing aids and then her cochlear implants I knew the light was going to be so bright at the other side of the tunnel.
I started to work with charities that would give me a sense of the hearing loss community and find ways to help families that would be affected by their child’s diagnosis.
Agreed, I think that first part is the hardest and then once you see your child grow and develop you can take a bit of break from worrying and realize that your child will be fine. How did your reaction differ from your wife’s?
We both took the news hard. I wanted to be strong for my family so I did a lot of internal processing. I didn’t want to show anger or concern and I really wanted to be strong so that I could comfort my wife.
At the same time I didn’t really allow myself the time to process what was going on, and how that was affecting me personally. But as I grew more aware I became stronger and more vocal with my thoughts.
Were you able to find other fathers to connect with?
We were introduced to other families through our parent group in Early Intervention (EI) at the Clarke School in NYC and through the Weill Cornell parent group.
I did bond with a few fathers. I spoke with a father who had gone through the process of having their child implanted which relieved some of my concerns. I also bounced ideas and concerns off a friend I made in our EI parent group who was dealing with his child’s diagnosis. I highly recommend finding a parent group when you are ready.
When I did find other fathers to connect with I spent a lot of time sharing and listening. I was curious to see if my thoughts and emotions were similar to what other fathers were thinking.
Do you have any advice for other fathers that are facing the same thing?
Understand that this is not easy to deal with at diagnosis. But after becoming more aware of what other issues can arise when becoming a new father, medically and or emotionally, I came to the conclusion that things could be a lot worse.
As I said earlier, barring any other issues, the light is so bright for a child with hearing loss. Work with a team of professionals that you trust and feel comfortable with. If you are not comfortable then find someone else. The professionals you find should be your source of quality information and they should be able to help you find support when needed.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Finding out that Blake was not going to hear or learn speech without her implants was tough to stomach at first.
After finding people to trust and bounce ideas off of, whether it be a parent or hearing loss professional, my journey became easier. I do feel that you will need time to work through your feelings, so when you feel you are ready to open up you should. This is different for everyone. When you are ready open up fully.
Ask questions, there is no right or wrong. Understand that knowledge is the key. The more you know the better you will be. I learned by asking any question that came to mind. I rely on my daughter’s audiologist as my guide and am thankful she makes herself available to me and my family any time something comes up. As a parent having this security makes all the difference.
Michael, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with me about your daughter’s diagnosis and your journey as as a father.
Thank you for allowing me to share and be a part of your blog. I hope that some fathers find the answers to your questions helpful.
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Photo credit: Ashley Webb