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Posts Tagged ‘guide dogs’


My monthly post is live today on Homeschool Mosaics​. After losing my father just a week and a half before, Nala, my new guide dog, appeared at my door to brighten my world with her sweet personality. Find out about her home training experience which was new to me, but worked out perfectly. God always knows what is in store for us and has the perfect plan! Don’t you just love that about Him? He loves us so much.

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/second-match-made-in-heaven-part-2-training/

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Perfect timing! My article about applying for a new guide dog has gone live on Home and School Mosaics! Why perfect timing? Well, the next stage in the process begins this Monday, February the 16th. The waiting is over! We and our fur babies get our own Valentine, Nala! Nala, from Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc., is a 1 and 1/2 year old Goldador, Golden Retriever and Labrador mix. This means another article in the series will be lived  beginning Monday. I am excited! Little Joe senses that something is up, but he isn’t going anywhere. He will remain with me and continued to be loved just as much as always. Due to the goodness of business owners we know, Little Joe will also get “work” whenever he wants to because they have graciously told us that Little Joe is loved by them, too, and always welcome in their workplaces. I love that, and thank them from the bottom of my heart. Little Joe does, too, because he says he still wants to work. His heart is in it even if his body is slowing. Well, I hope you will read and enjoy this story series. There are a lot of emotions in this for us. As I am excited to bring in a new member of the family, I am heartbroken that it is time for my Joey to retire. Come along as I share, I don’t think you will be disappointed. http://homeschoolmosaics.com/second-match-made-in-heaven/

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Today on Home and School Mosaics, I share a story about a great servant with a heart of gold who happens to be Man’s best friend, a dog. He is a hero for all, but to me he will always be my little fur baby, Darge. I share his story to honor Darge and celebrate his retirement of service. Through his story, you can learn a lot about great organizations such as Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc.State Farm’s Bomb and Arson program, Maine Specialty Dogs, and Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshall and what they do that is so important. Through Darge’s story, you can also learn lessons that you can apply to your life, too, I think, if you will only look through eyes of love.

Through Eyes of Love

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This month at Homeschool Mosaics, I share one of my pet peeves . . . people who try to pass off their pets as service dogs. Why is this a no-no? Read her post and find out. If you are doing this, shame on you!

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/pets-as-service-animals/

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It is time for the second installment about my trip to the aquarium. I hope you have fun reading about it, and it can bring encouragement that life after loss or with challenges can be full of love, learning, and fun.

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/my-visit-to-the-georgia-aquarium-part-2/

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There are a lot of awesome things on Homeschool Mosaics this month about the holidays in regards to giving, remembering the importance of family, and including the Special Needs members. My column is all about how to include them in the upcoming festivities including the DeafBlind, so please check it out and think about those you may need to think about and how you need to do that to have the best holiday season for everyone!

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/include-your-special-needs-family-friends-in-your-holiday-gatherings/

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I have missed a few months updating my blogs. I am really sorry. Unfortunately, I have been very ill, and I had emergency surgery a month ago today. I have been told that I almost died. Of course, I am thankful to God that He still has more for me to do, so I am still here. Life is good. I am ready and looking forward to Heaven, but I want to stay here for as long as God will allow me to serve Him. I will now get back to more regular updates of what is going on in my life, homeschooling, and DeafBlind Hope with my journey through the Dark Silence. Today’s post is a little of all three of those.

I have had a few shares of my own column on Homeschool Mosaics, but I haven’t plugged myself. I even missed last month’s post I did because I was having surgery. So, I think I should catch up a little. And don’t forget, there are other writers even more talented and interesting than me on Homeschool Mosaics every day, so check them out, please. I haven’t been able to plug for them due to being so sick and then recovering for surgery. These writers are certainly worth looking into. Now to see my post for last month and this month go to http://www.homeschoolmosaics.com.

My post for May is at http://homeschoolmosaics.com/om-cane-skills/. I hope you enjoy it. I also had a post of my column go live today as well. It is found at http://homeschoolmosaics.com/guide-dogs-the-perfect-upgrade/. I think you will find some uplifting stories here about my wonderful guide dog, Joey.

I will come back soon and tell you about my experiences in the hospital from a disabled perspective.

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Well, this post is a look back, but it is written in more of a now time-frame. The last post at HKNC never got written. You see, I spent my last two weeks in New York in the hospital. I came home and was sick with pneumonia yet again. I was still recovering from pneumonia in early February when I had the worse case of vertigo that I have ever had in my life. The doctors were unsure what happened at that time, but evaluations in March with both ENT/audiologist and Retinal Specialist showed that I had significantly lost more hearing and vision. My audiogram showed that I needed more than 120 db of sound to even register that I might have heard something. The line on the graph ran along the bottom of the graph and at times below the graph. In other words, I had been profoundly deaf, now I was even more so to the point of almost hearing nothing. Vision-wise, I had had a 5 degree field at HKNC. I now had 1 degree field with acuity in the remaining field very poor. My life was changing again. What I had feared had now happened. I would never be the same again.

How did this all happen? Well, again we aren’t sure what led to the additional surge of loss in February except possibly extended illness. My last few days at HKNC were spent learning more ASL vocabulary and practicing braille reading fluency. I had already mastered all of contracted braille and could read about 50 words/minute. I needed more practice to improve that. My print reading had been more like speed reading levels, so this is slow and annoying to me, but it is what I will have to deal with and improve as much as possible. On Wednesday or Thursday afternoon, I had a late appointment with my pulmonologist as a follow-up to my previous hospital stay. I left the doctor’s office at 5:45 pm with a clear lung X-ray having been taken and reassurance that I was well and good. After stopping to get something to eat on the way back to HKNC, I arrived at the residence hall at 7:00 or so. I headed down the hall to check in with the nurse, but she was still on break. There were a lot of people in the hall, so I meandered through them and then back through them speaking to anyone I could. I went into my room and booted up the X-Box for some video time and game play with husband and friends. I noticed that I began coughing, but I had no clue what was up. I used my inhaler a few times. I finally went out in the hallway and being able to talk still I asked one of the hearing staff if there was anything going on because I was having a little trouble breathing. They said everything was normal, but then offhandedly said the lounge is closed because they refinished the floors again. I couldn’t smell anything, but I knew that was bad. I said that is it. HKNC maintenance had tried to use the odorless glue, but that doesn’t help those with asthma. I had specifically told the Resident Directors that I could not be around when the floor was refinished again regardless. The odorless glues and paints just get rid of the smells they use to let people know that chemicals are being used. The harmful fumes are actually odorless. Natural Gas is actually odorless. They have to add chemicals with smell to signal gas leaks. I was angry, but I said I would go in my room, use my nebulizer, and keep the door close hoping that would help. The last place I wanted to go was the ER again. I tried these steps including nebulizing double doses twice. By nine, I was in full-blown attack. I called for the nurse signing “nurse” once again to the Path staff across the hall. Nurse came quickly and helped with the nebulizer, but she signed that I wasn’t getting any air. She signed for other staff to call 911. I was unconscious by the time the ambulance arrived. I vaguely remember falling to the bed and someone trying to hold me up. Later, I remember paramedics trying to put the airway tube down my throat. I went out again. They weren’t able to get the airway tube in at all. I had completely closed up. At the ER, I was put in the trauma section and was hooked to all of these monitors. I was listed as non-responsive. They told me later that I did scream when the staff hit a nerve in my wrist trying to get arterial blood to measure my blood gases. I was also later told that my oxygen level was very low and carbon dioxide and other gases that are supposed to be low were higher than normal. Pulmonologist said he had never had the same patient almost die in the span of just a couple of weeks or so. I was in the hospital until Christmas Eve. Doctor was not going to let me go back to HKNC until well after the first of the year. I was still very sick. Despite having a clear lung X-ray that same afternoon that I was admitted to the hospital, I developed pneumonia within less than 24. This was my second bout of pneumonia in a month.

My husband had been trying to get information about my health repeatedly during my hospital stays, but due to privacy laws, the hospital refused to give much information to him over the phone and only told my HKNC case manager that I was doing fine. HKNC staff never did realize how bad off I was either time, I don’t think. I even signed a form specifically stating that I wanted my husband and caseworker to be given full details of my status and treatment. With my husband being in Georgia and not having a home phone (only a school phone), I knew it might be hard for the hospital to get my husband regularly. My case manager would be able to pass on the information if she knew it. I have no idea what happened with that form. I signed it using an interpreter, but it was never put into force. The day before Christmas Eve, I finally got an HKNC staff member visiting me for a while. She helped me call my husband who being worried out of his mind wanted to know if I wanted him to come. I said yes. He quickly packed, got my younger son to stay with the dogs, and drove the rest of the day and evening. The doctor did decide to let me go home to Georgia if my husband was going to take me. I wouldn’t not have been allowed to fly. I was given enough meds and emergency nebulizer equipment to make the trip home and get through the Christmas Day and day after, and copies of all of my hospital and doctor records while in NY. Pulmonologist wanted my home doctors to know just how serious and dangerous my condition was to avoid future issues. My husband took me to HKNC where we packed up all of my belongings including computer and monitors and X-Box that still were not packed, since I had not been there. We slept a few hours and left just before the sun rose. I said good bye to the few residents and staff who were still there for Christmas. I was unable to talk well and didn’t feel well, but I did have a little surge of energy due to the excitement of seeing my husband after six months, being back with my Little Joe who had spent much of his days alone in the dark of my room, and the knowing that I was going home for good having accomplished what I had come to do.

The excitement quickly left me tired and drained as we began driving toward home. I slept all day and evening as Scott drove only stopping to eat, take bathroom breaks for us and Joey, and get gas. I remember very little. Scott seemed terrified. He told me that he was afraid that I would get worse during the trip and not know where to get me help. I just told him that God was with us, so everything would work out. It did. We arrived home after midnight early Christmas Day. After hugging my two sons and being happily greeted by my Hartley Girl, my black lab, Scott and I slept until noon.

I awoke to the smell of Christmas trimmings that my mom had made sure we had and a Christmas tree surrounded by presents. My chest hurt, and I felt like I could sleep for a hundred years, but I was so happy to be home that none of that mattered. Christmas that year couldn’t have been any more perfect. Nothing had changed other than me. No one else knew braille or ASL or even fingerspelling. Communication was still the main issue, but at the moment, all was fine. I just enjoyed the feelings of Love.

Now, of course, the feelings of love and peace at Christmas are wonderful, and you hope that it will last all year round, but reality usually does seep in eventually. By March, after my illnesses and loss of more hearing and vision, I found that now that I knew life could be better for me if people signed and adapted for my needs that I was even more frustrated when they refused or couldn’t. Depression hit me and hit me hard. I withdrew even from my beloved students and staff, and the newly founded DeafBlind Hope seem to almost languish before it even got started other than helping an initial three clients. Family issues grew even worse because I quit trying. Sitting in the chair suddenly sounded good to me, so that is mostly what I did for a while. It was over a year before I began to see a light as God worked within me and sent his earthly angels to lift my soul out of its depths of self-pity.

Arise slowly, I did. I haven’t looked back. There is too much to do.

Now as I finish my look back at HKNC. I hope many that I met there will see this somehow and know that what you did for me there was tremendous, and I will always appreciate your help and friendship. There were way more people that touched me than I could ever mention in my blog, and some didn’t wish to be mentioned at all, but you did touch my heart and will never be forgotten. God bless you all.

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Touch Points

By Renée Walker

How many of us have had problems getting what we need due to communication issues? Despite laws that are in place to help equalize education, entertainment, legal, and medical worlds, how many of us still have trouble accessing the world around us? In this rural area that I live, I have encountered enough problems to last me two lifetimes. Growing up hard of hearing as a child to deaf as a teen and young adult, I thought I knew plenty about the problems caused by the inability to fully communicate. When my vision problems became an issue that couldn’t be ignored or overlooked, I just didn’t realize what I was about to face. Coping with the loss of vision and eventually independence was hard enough. I just didn’t know that I would have a struggle just to see a doctor and be able to understand and act on my own behalf.

I think my first clue was that people didn’t know what a guide dog was at all. Stores, banks, schools, churches, and malls all refused to let me enter with my guide dog. It was a repeated effort of education with the help of my guide dog school, Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. that finally seemed to ease the travel issues over the first couple of years. As I learned to be more independent through travel and then after gaining more control from study at Helen Keller National Center, I found that I needed to face some serious health issues. I had been seeing doctors before for my chronic issues, but now things had changed. Needing a tactual interpreter to communicate my health problems with a physician became an absolute necessity. None of my preparation learning about communication cards, interpreting services, getting used to discussing private issues through a stranger helped me to cope with the shock that the medical agencies here didn’t seem to know anything about interpreters much less the American Disabilities Act. I tried to educate each doctor with a copy of the law and a list of interpreting agencies for the area which weren’t many and only a couple of interpreters from those agencies comfortable enough to agree to tactual interpreting. Every doctor’s office I had and new ones that I tried to go to for new or worsening symptoms or to replace doctors were now refusing to provide me with an interpreter. My procedure was to call and ask for an appointment. I didn’t have a problem getting an appointment, but after arranging a day and time, I would then state that I needed a tactual interpreter. Many times I had to explain what an interpreter did and then what a tactual interpreter did. I would explain how they went about finding one and requesting the service. I told them how they were responsible for the fees, but ADA law allowed them to take it off under operating expenses or overhead. I always offered to mail or fax the information to them and mentioned telephone numbers of agencies that they could call and ask questions. I also referred them to the website for the National Association for the Deaf (NAD). I would then say you can call me back, or I will call you back when you have had time to research your responsibilities under the law. I can’t remember a single one calling me back first. I would call them and ask again. This would usually go on for weeks before they would finally say, “We won’t provide an interpreter for you.” My initial contacts with NAD a year and a half ago resulted in nothing. They wouldn’t return my emails even though I knew the email address was correct. A few months ago, I tried again. I was pleased when someone did respond and was very helpful. They made phone calls to all the doctors’ office in question and were amazed how adamant most were in not caring if they were in violation of law. NAD sent letters from their attorney informing them of their responsibilities. One doctor’s office relented and now provides me an interpreter. The others still refused to do so. NAD felt the situation was bigger than they could handle and put me in touch with a group of attorneys at an advocacy center that is now in helping me with my problems. NAD continues to follow the situation. My current attorney has repeated the initial steps of phone calls and letters to try and solve the situation with the least amount of litigation as possible. The doctors’ offices in question have still refused to provide an interpreter for my appointments. The center is still acting on my behalf. I am still working to better educate the medical agencies in my area on the needs of deaf and deafblind patients regarding communication issues and their rights to be informed and make decisions. The fight goes on as my medical issues continue to deteriorate.

You might now ask if I contacted local and/or state agencies and private organizations for the deaf on this issue. I contacted them before I contacted NAD the first time. Most of my attempts to call were not returned. At one agency, I was told that in this area the deaf usually choose to use family members and friends who could sign or otherwise help them to communicate. The doctors’ offices in the area have come to expect this. This organization and others who mentioned similar reasoning felt that it was their responsibility to support what the Deaf community desired. I think back to when I could still see, and I went to the doctors without help. It wasn’t always easy because I had to keep asking the staff to look at me or repeat, but I didn’t know ASL. I had heard of ADA, but only knew about wheelchair ramps, braille signs, and hearing aid compatible phones. That was because I saw them around me in the environment and knew it was because of the ADA law. No one ever offered to explain that it meant more than that including the deaf services area of Vocational Rehabilitation Services that helped me get into college or later go to Helen Keller. Would I have requested accommodations if I had been informed? I don’t know, but it would have been nice to have had the choice to consider.

A final aspect to this situation that I would like to pose is the argument that the Deaf and some DeafBlind would rather use family members and friends. Of course, that is their choice, and I would not want to force anyone to do anything that would make one feel uncomfortable. Again, though, I would want to make sure that choice is an informed one. It has been shown that untrained family members or friends often do not understand the medical terminology and processes well enough to accurately translate to ASL or convey it most any other way. They often are too close to the patient and wish to shield them from pain and fear if the news is negative. Others may see the patient as more of a child and try to make the decisions for the patient. Or, often it is simply a matter of feeling overwhelmed with the information being given and trying to convey it to the patient that friend or family member resorts to, “I will tell you everything later”. If the patient is fully aware of these issues and is ok with that then fine, but education should be in place to make them aware of the possibilities and help the family members and friends be aware, too. Most of this would not be a conscious attempt to deceive just blinded my love and concern. In addition, the other side to this coin is the doctors’ offices are at risk as well. There have been cases of a patient making appointments and not requesting accommodations for communications such as for an interpreter and then suing the doctor’s office for not providing one. The patients win the case because the ADA law is clear. Having a policy of asking a deaf or deafblind patient if there are any communications issues and any modifications that they need and providing them upon that request could help protect them from such possible litigation. I have heard and read many opinions on all sides of this issue regarding providing interpreters in medical settings. The ADA law exists to protect deaf rights, and it was written to prevent overdue hardship on medical providers. Everyone needs to educate themselves and others. Litigation should not be needed for deaf and deafblind to receive proper medical care and understand that care given. The patient should not also have to fear that the medical provider might retaliate in poor care once forced to provide the accommodations for communication.

Advocacy is the key here with education and awareness being the preferred method. The law is there for us to use if needed. No one should have to have their medical issues ignored or medical decisions forced on them. We all need to work together on this and other issues that face us. Since there have been others asking about similar issues, I wanted to share my experiences in hopes of helping others.

If you have questions or comments, you may email me at rkwalker@wynfieldca.org or write me in braille at 143 Williamson Dr., Macon, GA 31210.

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I am Associate Editor of Good Cheer, the international DeafBlind magazine. I write a column called Touch Points in each issue. Here I will post my columns after they are published in Good Cheer.

Touch Points

By Renée Walker

A Day at the Movies

 I had looked forward to this day for several months, since I had heard the opening day announcement. Even as old as I am, I love the stories about a young boy whose mother gave her life protecting his. I had read many of the books in print until my eyes finally gave out. I then began learning braille and finding these books printed in braille gave me the incentive to work hard. Going to see the movie based on the 6th book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was going to be difficult at best. I knew that I wouldn’t understand much with almost no hearing even with an FM system and a very small peripheral field and blurry acuity. I really wanted to try though because I had enjoyed the first couple of movies with my vision. We searched for a theater that provided closed captions or descriptive audio. I had never seen any of this technology and wasn’t quite sure how it worked, but I was hopeful. We finally found a theater that provided both of those technologies. The theater was almost a hundred miles away in South Atlanta and called AMC Southlake Pavilion. My wonderful husband agreed to take off work to take me. We didn’t understand how to figure out what movie was currently shown using the technology or times or anything actually, so we just picked a day and drove up there early in the morning expecting to have to get tickets for a particular showing and go shopping until time. For me, it was worth it.

The day finally arrived. We loaded up Joey and ourselves and drove the miles to the theater. We arrived to find that the Harry Potter movie was not available with the technology at that time. I was disappointed, but I kept my chin up. My husband talked with the manager, Janine, who carefully explained to him the workings of the web site and the technology in general, so we could plan better next time. Since Harry Potter would not be scheduled for the accessible theater, we decided to come back later that morning and see it anyway. I wasn’t interested in the movie playing in the accessible theater. I don’t know what all my husband talked about with Janine, since I couldn’t understand anything and Scott doesn’t know sign except for trying to learning Fingerspelling. Later, he said that he had just mentioned how I missed the movies. Janine got on the phone and talked to someone for a few minutes finally saying, tell someone to swap out the current movie in the accessible theater for Harry Potter. Scott turned to me and explained the gist of what was happening. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest with excitement. I tried hard to fight the tears welling up in my eyes, but the tears betrayed my emotions as a tear rolled down my cheeks. Scott and Janine looked at me. Scott asked if I was ok. I said happy is all. Scott told Janine how so much has been a fight since I lost my sight as well as being deaf. Everything from taking my guide dog into restaurants to seeing doctors with interpreters to getting accessible technology to help me work and communicate has been a battle. It was a wonderful feeling to have someone be so nice to me. I thanked Janine, and she touched my shoulder gently. It was easy to tell without sight and sound that she was saying she was so glad to help me. Joey went straight to her and wagged his tail. Janine leaned down, and he slurped his tongue across her face. He doesn’t do that while working usually. Scott was quickly apologizing, but Janine said she loved it, and she rubbed Joey’s ears.

A short time later, we were sitting in our movie chairs with popcorn loaded with butter and cokes sitting in the arms’ cup holders. I had one cup holder filled with a flexible stand with a tinted but see through piece of plastic attached extending in front of my face. I also had the descriptive audio headphones. As the movie started, it took a few moments to adjust the plastic just right for me to see the captions with my field of vision and to get the headset adjusted. It took a few more to figure a way to shift from the screen to the captions to keep up with the action. I finally decided to turn on my FM because the headset wasn’t helping at all. My FM had never worked to pick up anything in my area theaters, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try since I was some place new. I touched the buttons to turn the FM on and press the correct order to change the frequency when suddenly noise. I actually jumped. I couldn’t quite understand words, but I kept concentrating until a few words began to come through the crackles. It was obviously the description of what was going on the screen.  I relaxed and focused my eyes on the plastic screen and scanned until I found the captions. By concentrating on the noise in my head and the fuzzy letters forming in front of me, I actually began to get the story. Of course, it helped to have read the story before. I was totally amazed. I was actually enjoying a movie for the first time in ten years thanks to some wonderful technology.

As we left the theater, I was walking on air happier than I have been in a while. Janine met us out front and asked how I enjoyed the movie, but said is your face evidence of your enjoyment? Scott translated, and I nearly jumped up and down signing and speaking, “Yes! Yes!” I thanked her again, and she said, “No problem. You and Joey have just made my day! It is so good that the equipment really helps to bring a little fun to people.” We left, and I thanked God for my blessings. It is nice to know that this journey with DeafBlindness won’t always be full of battles.

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