Posts Tagged ‘training’

I write in Home and School Mosaics posted recently about a story that shows how God pays attention to every little detail in our lives. One of my favorite verses came to life for me as God blessed us with Nala, so I had to share the story with all of my Home and School Mosaics readers, my blog readers, and Facebook friends and family. We have an awesomely loving God who cares for us so deeply that He loves to be in the midst of everything we do. All we have to do is ask. When we allow God to be a the focus of our lives, He provides not only blessings, but rich lessons that teach us more about Him and draw us closer. I have seen this again so brilliantly clear as I asked God to choose the best partner for me to guide me and love me. Please let me share it with you now.


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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.


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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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Well, the weather has been frightful, but I have seen more snow than I have ever seen before. Joey has never seen snow before. We had a ball playing in it. Joey running and sliding and I throwing snow over him. He likes to try and catch it.

Joey in the snow making shadows.

"Joey in the snow making shadows."

Snow in the HKNC yard

"Snow in the HKNC yard"

Training has been more practice of all that I have learned so far. I talk in sign everywhere pretty much. Tactual is still my best mode. In most classes, we are doing the final goals and filling out requistions for my state to authorize payment. I don’t know if my state will pay for everything I need or not, but I hope and pray they do.

Jesus has been at work this week through me. I just hope I rose to the occasion as He wanted me to do. One of my instructors actually came to me after hours and asked me to tell her about Jesus. I was ecstatic. How lovely it was to share my love and experiences with her. In case you are wondering, this is not the same person that I have spoken of before. That person is saved and I can tell the person has faith. Jesus has something for that person to do and needs to prepare. The instructor that came to me this week is not from a religious family. She doesn’t know Christ and isn’t even sure there is a God. I hope that I answered her questions, but I hope even more that Jesus was able to work through my answers. I am praying mightily for her to feel Jesus. I can tell that the Holy Spirit is calling her. I just pray that she will accept that call.

We also had a holiday party that was actually a Deaf party. It was fun, but loud. I turned everything off and I left Joey at the center with my friend, Ginger. Basically, they have these very large speakers and some are turned down on the floor so that you feel the vibrations through the floor, tables, everything. I could feel the vibrations all through my body. The Deaf use the vibrations to dance by. It was very interesting.

A friend, Peter, in his Christmas tux and his SSP, Carol.

"A friend, Peter, in his Christmas tux and his SSP, Carol."

Saturday, we had another party at a Sportsman’s Lodge near the Long Island Marina. We at HKNC were invited, but it was mostly for the many special needs children from the area. I loved watching the children and adults of various ages with various forms of mental retardation playing and laughing. They all loved Santa and were so appreciative of the hand-knitted afghans we all got. I was too. Mine was a gorgeous lavender, purple, and pink coloration. I really couldn’t see the colors, but the staff described it to me very well. I like those colors. Many of the children wanted to pet Joey. Some were afraid of him, but as usual Joey was perfect with each and every one. He always seems to know how to act. With those who were afraid, he laid down next to them and let them reach to him. With others, he reached up and gave a big “Joey kiss” which is very special, you know. The children’s faces shined as Joey poured out his love for all of them. The others danced for a while. I enjoyed seeing everyone loving moving their bodies to the music in any way they could. I, of course, can always measure my fun level on a scale of 1 to full blown asthma attack. The party made it to full blown asthma attack. Lovely… Actually, what happened was I didn’t know that the lodge allows smoking in the building where they have a bar in the back. There was no smoking at the time, but I can’t be around it at all, so after a couple of hours I couldn’t breathe. We did a nebulizer treatment in the van on the way back to the center. I did a couple upon my return. I eventually got better without going to the hospital. I was very thankful. I have had enough of hospitals for a long while.

Here is the HKNC Christmas tree in the lobby. Next to it is the large paining done by a former totally deaf and blind student. The picture depicts the scene where Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan are at the well with water running over Helen’s hand as “Teacher” as Helen called Anne, fingerspelled “W-A-T-E-R” into Helen’s other hand. Helen’s says this is the moment that her world became alive with the true understanding of language.

HKNC's Christmas tree in the Lobby along with the painting by a DeafBlind student of "Helen's Well.

"HKNC's Christmas tree in the Lobby along with the painting by a DeafBlind student of Helen at the well.

This is a close-up view of that painting of Helen Keller at the well learning "W-A-T-E-R".

"This is a close-up view of that painting of Helen Keller at the well learning "W-A-T-E-R".

It began to snow late Saturday night and continued all day Sunday. I got to go to church with my friend and HKNC interpreter, Jessica. Jessica is 24 years old, but very spiritually wise. Her parents and Jesus have done a wonderful job with her. Jessica is Pentecostal, so her church service was a little bit louder than the ones at my Baptist Church. I loved it though. I couldn’t hear the music, so it was hard for me to worship like I normally do. Jessica though tactually signed everything for almost 3 hours so that I could experience things. That may not sound like a big deal to you guys, but interpreting is very tiring mentally and physically. Tactual sign is even more demanding. The interpreters have very strict regulations for when they are working. At HKNC, they do interpreter switches about every 30 mins or so, because it is so demanding of them. Jessica interpreted for me almost continually for about 3 hours. I asked her about half way through if she wanted a break, but she said she was fine. Jessica never complained. That was very special to me.

Well, the good news is that I am beginning my last week here. I don’t know when my flight is yet, but I hope it is Friday, 21st or Saturday morning at the latest. I will update here as soon as I know. That will probably be my last blog, too, since I will have to pack and ship everything before I leave out. The experience has been wonderful, and I have learned so very much. I have friends that I can call lifelong friends, as well. However, I am ready to get home. I have family, friends, and students to get home to. Things will be different, though. Signing has become my main mode of communication, so I hope a few of my close friends are willing to learn some. I am going to need an SSP or Support Services Provider, too. Hopefully, we can find someone to fill that role. Anyway, more on that after Christmas. I just want to get home now. Little Joey wants to play with his sister and brothers and give Daddy a big wet kiss. I do, too.

Take care, everyone!

Renee’ and Little Joey

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I have been unable to post for a while now. I became sicker and sicker with my asthma. I had a migraine for the week after Thanksgiving working on a speech I had been asked to do as keynote speaker for a technology seminar. I never got to give it, unfortunately. Saturday afternoon, I was found on my bed semi-conscious. I had evidently gotten up and tried to ask for help earlier, but I don’t remember it. Little Joe kept trying to push me up and licking my face. His urgency is what got me moving at all I am sure. I spent Saturday thru Wednesday in the hospital with pneumonia and exacerbation of asthma. I had IV antibiotics and IV steroids. I was back at HKNC for 5 hours when they had to return me to the hospital. I came back the next day. I am still confined to my bed and unable to speak because I don’t have enough air, but it is getting better slowly. I am still on steroids. I will say that my signing is getting much better because I have no choice, but to sign everything. I also was unable to hear anything since being profoundly deaf, I have to concentrate to understand. I was totally unable to do that. The hospital had to bring in a tactual sign language interpreter for me. I was able to do it fortunately. God does provide in all things. Pray for me as my chest still hurts and I am still wheezing.

Thank you Jesus for Little Joey.

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Retro Look:

This week has been really great. I received a care package from my Sunday School class at Mabel White Baptist Church, and my son, Brian, flew up here to spend Thanksgiving with me. The care package had several items that I have needed such as lip balm and warm slipper socks plus some fun things including sugar free candy and a red University of Georgia cap. The cap was a nice touch. I really appreciated the package. I have a pic where Joey somehow managed to get the hat on his head when I had laid it on the bed next to him. He was so cute. Joey knows how to make me smile just like my friends at church.

Brian flying in was a nice touch, too. He went to classes with me on Tuesday and Wednesday. He asked my instructors questions, and they taught him some signs. The instructors explained to him all about my training and what we could expect as my vision and hearing decrease. Brian was very attentive, and all the staff here said he was a nice young man. They were amazed at how polite he was and that he said, “yes, sir and no, ma’am” to everyone. I was extremely proud of him, of course.

Thursday, my case manager-Molly- took Brian, Martin (another student), and I to have Thanksgiving dinner at the Miller Ridge Inn. It is a replica of an old inn that stood on the property and the history goes back to 1632. They have a replica town of shops that you can walk through as well. We took pictures at the stocks and listened to the band playing guitars and banjos. The food was very good, even the stuffing was good despite not being Southern cornbread dressing. Molly is very special. She really went out of her way to be with us on her holiday off, and I greatly appreciate it. I could tell that Martin, though quiet, really enjoyed it as well. I don’t think he ever gets visitors. I seldom see him talk or smile except when he is talking about sports. Martin is deaf-blind. He hears nothing, but sees a little better than me. He signs for communication; therefore, Molly signed everything we all said during the meal. Molly made sure he was included in everything. That takes a lot of time and patience, but she does it so well. God is truly using her for special work.

Brian, Joey, and I standing behind photo props making us look dressed in long dress and tux.

"Brian, Joey, and I looking dressed to kill."

Molly and Martin in the stocks like prisoners.

"Molly and Martin in the stocks."

Brian, Joey, and I in the stocks.

"Brian, Joey, and I in the stocks."

That evening Brian and I took dinner up to our room where we had an e-Thanksgiving over the internet on X Box Live with Scott and Brendan at home on their X Box 360. Their food was much better than ours, but the company was great. We spent several hours eating and talking after praying and thanking God for our many blessings. Despite being here and away from friends and family, I actually enjoyed Thanksgiving. You never know what the journey God has you on will bring, but it will always be enlightening and memorable.

I am standing next to the image of Albert Einstein.

It's just Albert and I.

I have only been to the city one other time. This past Sunday, we went to Madame Toussaud’s off 42nd Street. We toured the wax museum and could feel the faces and costumes. I have some pics of Joey and me checking things out. The statues seem pretty real.

HKNC Students standing next to Helen Keller wax figure which is sitting holding a book that has braille dots on it.

"HKNC students with Helen Keller. The book she is holding has real braille dots on it"

This is Steffy. She feels the statues with her hands to “see.”

Steffy is feeling Robin Williams' wax figure in order to see him.

"Steffy is feeling Robin Williams' wax figure in order to see him."

Yes, some blind really do this despite the TV jokes you might hear. DB tend to do it a little more, but I would say it is only for people we really care about wanting to know exactly what they look like.
Friday, Brian and I left very early by cab to the Long Island Railroad. We took the LIRR to Penn Station in Manhattan.
Penn Station

"Penn Station"

Then took the red line down to South Ferry and Battery Park.
Battery Park

"Battery Park"

There we took pictures of the Statue of Liberty in the New York Bay.

Statue of Liberty

"Statue of Liberty"

This is my son, Brian, with the water behind him.

"This is my son, Brian."

 It was about 35 degrees plus very windy. We had wanted to take the boat past the Statue of Liberty and onto Ellis Island, but there was over an hour wait in the cold wind to get tickets. I knew my asthma could not stand that, and Brian said that it was even too cold for him who stays outside in tents 24/7. We took the pictures and headed back to the subway.
This was a weird sight on the way back. The city has overtaken some things.

There is this older, very small building right next to a skyscraper. It looks so out of place.

"This building just doesn't look like it belongs there.

We rode the subway north to Central Park and toured the Museum of Natural History during the very cold morning.

Natural History Museum

"Natural History Museum"

Afterwards, we ate at the City Grill, which was very good and reasonably priced. I had an Apple Walnut Grilled Chicken Salad similar, but much better than they serve at Applebee’s. My friend, Ruthann, would have loved it. I couldn’t help but to think of her as I savored its flavor. This break gave us all, including Joey, the energy we needed to walk through Central Park. I was really shocked at how beautiful it was, and it was very strange that it was in the middle of one of the world’s largest cities. There are several large reservoirs that they allow boating on. There are pathways galore all mingling around greenways for picnicking and play. There are huge rock outcroppings where children scrambled. It was absolutely gorgeous. We saw many places that we recognized from episodes of CSI: NY, including one that was in this week’s episode that I didn’t get to see until we got back that night and watched it streamed over the internet. The area was a couple of brick terraces overlooking the lake with the lower terrace having a huge fountain next to and overlooking the water.

Manhattan Cafe where we ate.

"Manhattan Cafe where we ate."

We exited the park onto 5th Avenue, which is lined with multimillion-dollar apartments along the Central Park border where rich financial executives and many celebrities live.

5th Ave apartments in Manhattan

"5th Ave apartments in Manhattan."

Strolling south of the park, you find the famous stores and their storefront windows filled with the most expensive and outlandish fashions that I have ever seen in my life. I assure you that I was not the least bit envious. I love my simple life and fashion. If no one else does, that is tough. I have better things to spend my money on like my children, husband, and beautiful students such as ShaynePatrick. They are what make life worth living. We ended the day after dark shooting videos of Times Square

and then walking down 34th Street to Macy’s. Brian grew up loving “The Miracle on 34th Street.” I think he found that some things are better just left for memories. After riding the LIRR back to Port Washington, we ate delicious NY pizza at a local pizzeria before taking the cab back to HKNC. We were all exhausted. Little Joe ate his supper and crashed on the bed with me beside him. I managed to give him a well-deserved massage before calling it a night.

I awoke early at 6:00 am to see Brian off to the airport. He had to be back at work at the wilderness rehab camp in Ga. by 5:00 pm that afternoon. I really loved the fact that he was willing to come up, and we had such a great time. I was reminded of those days after my divorce from his biological father when it was just the two of us. We were so close back then. I hope he felt some of that closeness this week. I know I did.

After he was gone, Joey and I curled up on the bed and slept until noon. I missed breakfast completely. Of course, I merely got up, took a shower, ate lunch, and came back to the room where I slept until dinner at 4:30 pm. I don’t remember ever sleeping that much. It was worth every minute of it, though.

I wasn’t able to make my usual calls to my mom, sister, and Aunt Pat. I really missed that. So, Mom, Traci, and Aunt Pat: I love you, and I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. I also hope my in-laws, Marsha and Aubrey, had a nice Thanksgiving. I love you, guys, too. There was absolutely no cell phone signal the last few days here. We haven’t even had internet service the last couple of days. We have to wait until Technology staff comes back Monday to get it fixed, so this post will be late.

As you can see, there was a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. God is truly good to me. Some may say how can you say that when you are going deaf and blind, but I tell you that I see and hear God now more than I ever have before. Life is filled with heartache and disappointment, but with Jesus living through us, it is also filled with great joy and accomplishment. I love my Jesus with all my heart. I don’t ever want to live again without Him guiding me. He is the reason I bother to wake up every morning. He is the reason I am living. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. So can you! Take care this week. I am working hard to come home by Christmas, so keep praying for me. I really need the strength. There is still a lot to learn and overcome.

God bless you,

Renée and Little Joe

P. S. That special person I told you about last week who needed to find their way back to Jesus. Well, they made it to a church this past Sunday. This person almost changed their mind, but prayer helped to get them there. Keep praying for this person. God really has a plan.

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We are still looking back on my HKNC Training time.

Well, I know some of you are keeping up with my blog because I have gotten several e-mails checking on me, since I didn’t post last week. Well, I didn’t blog because I was in the hospital for a little while and then ordered to stay in bed for several days.

It was on Thursday afternoon when I returned to the residence hall for lunch. I looked on the way back to see if there were any smokers at the bench. That is very hard because I only see shadows with a little bit of color in the very center. Distance is not very far at about 20 feet on a good day with extreme blurriness. I did see one smoker on my way to the dog park as they call it here. I went “cross country” to take Joey to busy in the designated area. On the way back up to the residence hall door I looked, but I didn’t see any shadows that looked like possible people around the smokers’ bench. As I approached the door, I suddenly had a complete shut down. I couldn’t talk much less breathe. I turned around to see what might be causing it and finally saw a smoker about 5 feet from me. I saw a dark shape hanging out of where his face should be. I grabbed my inhaler as I went into the building. I couldn’t suck in the med. I managed to get my door open and pulled out my nebulizer, but I was struggling hard for air by this time and feeling a bit weak and lightheaded. I was afraid I was going to pass out. I went out in the hallway holding my nebulizer. I thought I would head down the hall to the nurse to get help, but I ran into the smoker right outside my door. He is totally blind and frequently gets disoriented since he refuses to use the mobility skills that he is being taught. He is a bit young and hardheaded like most kids his age. Anyway, I can’t even be around a smoker because of the smell off of their clothes, especially just after they have smoked. I turned around thinking to head into my room, but got scared as I almost fell. I went across the hallway to PATH which is where the mentally disabled deafblind live and work. They have to have staff with them one on one at all times. I knew there would be staff there. I couldn’t talk and most of the PATH staff is totally deaf anyway, so I signed nurse. Fortunately, that was easy enough, and they immediately ran past me to get the nurse. I went to my room to try again to get my nebulizer set up. I couldn’t see much of anything by this point. I kept trying to find the plug-in, but couldn’t. A few seconds later, the nurse arrived and took the nebulizer from me and got it set up and plugged in for me. I worked hard trying to get the med in my lungs.

After a while, I thought I was better. The nurse was going to help me over to the training building to sit with her for a while. We couldn’t leave yet because there were smokers in the front of the building, I sat in the lobby waiting. For whatever reason, I starting shutting down again. The nurse said she was going to get me to the hospital. She called my case manager to come take me there. I did another treatment, but it was not working. The staff made the decision to call an ambulance. I will shorten the story here, so I won’t bore you too much. I received a breathing treatment in the ambulance, five at the hospital, and two epi shots. Since I had had my normal breathing treatments before the attacks, I received a total of ten doses of meds. The ones at the hospital were more than my usual Xopenex, though. They had a steroid in them, as well. I was finally released late that night after a chest x-ray showed my lungs were clear. I was kept indoors all weekend long and missed classes Friday. Staff was told to take Joey out for me each time and my meals were brought to my room. They were instructed to check on me every hour 24/7. I got caught once trying to e-mail my staff to let them know that I was out of action for a few days. They “threatened” to tie me to the bed. OOPS!

I continued my breathing treatments every two hours around the clock until Sunday night. By Sunday night, I was feeling much better. Until the rain came in… About Ten o’clock p.m. My chest began to sting and then tighten up again. I felt bad all Monday, but I went to classes and did my best. I went to the nurse to nebulize every couple of hours or so. I got better as the front moved through. The rest of the week went fine health-wise until yesterday as another front moved in. I am nebulizing again every two hours, taking my Advair, etc. The chest hurts continually now as well as the sharp pain I get when breathing in. I wheeze when I exhale. I can’t hear it, but I can feel it. The nurse says I sound terrible. My face is pale, and I haven’t been able to put on enough makeup to cover the the black circles growing larger and deeper in color under my eyes. My doctor at home knows that I have been to the best Allergist and Pulmonologist in the state of Ga. They have told me that they have done everything that they can to help me. My primary doctor wants me to go to a Pulmonologist and and Endocrinologist (for my diabetes) here in New York to see if they know something my doctors at home don’t know. It is worth a shot. I sure don’t like living like this. Please pray for me. I don’t want to go home before my training is finished, even though going home sounds really good.

Thanks to a couple of very sweet and possibly, brave employees here, the smokers’ bench was moved away from the building and my pathway right after I was taken to the hospital. Val, my CLC teacher and good friend, and Mia, my case social worker who is fast becoming a friend by listening to me, went in to the head person demanding to know why I had to go to the hospital when the simple answer would have been to move the bench. I was told by someone else that Val was not nice or quiet about it. I appreciate it very much. It was nice to know that someone understood and cared. People just don’t seem to understand how serious asthma can be. It is very scary not to be able to breathe. Even today with all of our medicines, asthma kills many people every year. My case manager, Molly, and Vocational instructor, Elissa, stayed at the hospital with me. Molly rode with me and Little Joe in the ambulance and stayed until I was stable. Elissa came in and kept me company telling me all about her Jewish religion which totally fascinates me. Elissa is a practicing Jew. I admire her for keeping true to her beliefs when many Jews and Christians have made it just a part of their past or something they do on their Sabbaths. It hasn’t been easy for her either. Many people have treated her rather badly because of her faith. Anyway, I enjoyed her company.

Some of you may want to know where Joey was during this time. Joey stayed by my side the entire time. The EMT’s didn’t want to take him with us. They thought dogs weren’t allowed and tried to convince me that he would be scared by the sirens. Well, I know my rights. Southeastern Guide Dogs covered it well. Guide Dogs are allowed by law to ride in the ambulance with me and in the hospital. The hospital staff was fine with it and the dispatch assured the EMT’s that it was ok. Joey was perfect. He stayed right next to me with his head on my lap and let me scratch his ear. He didn’t move as the EMT had to get around him or when the siren blasted. In the hospital, he stayed near me except when they were working on me and then he watched intently from the side . When they were finished for a bit, he came back up to me so I could scratch his ear again. He is as much a therapy dog as he is a guide dog. The hospital staff from all over came down to see the wonderful dog in the ER. As usual, Joey was more popular than me.

Well, let me tell you about my training when I was in class. In mobility, I played around with a braille compass to help me find directions.

Braille Compass- directions are raised dots that the needle points to tell you where magnetic north is located.

"Braille Compass"

Natasha also showed me a tactual map used by the blind to navigate the NYC subway system.

NYC Subway System's braille Map

"NYC Subway System's braille Map"

Braille Subway Map with subway line symbols for stops

"Braille Subway Map with subway line symbols for stops"

Then I went around the building blindfolded without Joey just using my cane. There are sections of the training building that I haven’t been to yet, so that area was a bit confusing. I have an overview map of the building in my head that I use when I navigate the building. I can even figure out the general layout of certain parts I haven’t been to just by using the information that I do know about. I know that the training building is like a giant box with one main hallway that traverses the outside wall. One section of that hallway is where administrative offices are that I never go to. However, I can visualize its pathway by knowing that it connects with the other hallways on either side. There is also a section of the building that was added on to the corner of the backside of the building. I have been to that section on the downstairs part. Therefore, I know the basic outline of the section upstairs. I did pretty well navigating the building being blindfolded going slow enough to not hurt anyone if I ran into them. I can’t hear much regardless of wearing the hearing aids and FM. With residual vision, I can guess a lot of stuff. However, take that vision away and I might as well be totally deaf. Going slow keeps me from jamming a cane into someone’s leg or knocking them over. At one point, I became confused because of an alcove. I thought I knew which way to go, but I wasn’t confident enough to trust my information. I used my braille skills to read a few door plates and figured out that I had turned down Case Manager row which was exactly where I wanted to go. Case Manager Row is what I call the long hallway where all of the case manager’s offices are located. The first door I read didn’t make any sense to me. I was reading Debbie Hdj something or other. It didn’t make any sense to me, so I thought I wasn’t recognizing the braille. The next door said Pete somebody and I knew he was a case manager. Natasha clarified that I was reading the first name right, but she is an immigrant from another country, so her name didn’t have any vowels in it until after several consonants. I was reading it right just didn’t think so.

Natasha also showed me a different method than the one I know to go up and down steps. I wasn’t too confident with it, so I will explain it after we have practiced it again.

On Wednesday the 31st, we had a haunted house put on by staff and students. I don’t really celebrate Halloween, but I did go through it. This one was different. It was designed to be tactual for the deafblind students. They used silly string to help students feel the “cobwebs”, supposed food was all gooey and sticky. They used a cauliflower head to represent brains, modified olives to represent eyes, etc. They had balloons everywhere so the students would feel things as they walked through and lots of bubble machines to enhance the cold, moist feeling. Each student had a guide to help them through and interpreted everything to them in whatever mode they needed such as voice over into a FM system, tactual sign, braille communicator, etc. The entire script spoken by the tour guides (spooky sisters of the house) was signed and written in braille to be read. The name of the fictitious family was the Braillers after the name of the typewriter used to type braille. Several members of the supposed family were deafblind and had a curse put on them which had given them creepy special powers that they used to get revenge on others.

You get the picture. I know many of you do not believe in celebrating Halloween, but I wanted you to see how the staff brought the holiday to the deafblind. They worked hard on making this a fun event for all the students regardless of their disability. There aren’t many in the real world who would go to that much trouble. It was fun.

In Technology, I am beginning to focus more and more on the braille display as Bill taught me how to use the internet and a program called NexTalk that will allow me to use the TTY for phone calls. Telephone use is one of my biggest hurdles with the school. As many of you know, I do not do well at all. My staff are picking up a lot of my phone calls for me and will continue to do so, but there are times when I will need to use something. We are just going to have to keep working on that area.

I am learning my sign language in CLC. We practiced hand shapes and continued tactual practice. All of my communication is now in tactual sign language. My headaches are beginning to disappear as I get better at understanding. That is a very good thing. I would love to stop using my migraine medicine. In time, I hope I can. Migraines are not something that I am prone to have. My doctors say they come simply from trying too hard to see and hear.

Val took me to a grocery store here, too. We practiced using communication cards and the screen braille communicator to purchase what I need. I found that I need a couple of more communication cards in my book to cover some common questions. The SBC is going to work really well, especially as I get faster with my braille reading. Donna works with me to help me learn my sign vocabulary. Here is a pic of her in the classroom:

Donna, again, but she really did teach me an awful lot.

"Donna, again, but she really did teach me an awful lot."

I have a few more pics for you, too. My staff wanted to see pics of Ginger, my Vocational Evaluator.

 Joey loves Ginger. He tries to help her, too. He always wants to walk where he is between the two of us. Ginger has Multiple Sclerosis. She doesn’t let it stop her though. She whizzes around that building way too fast for anyone to keep up with.

Ginger and Joey

"Ginger and Joey"

It was a bit sad this week, too. My friend, Jane from S.C. went home for the weekend. She had asked me to pray for her because she was afraid if she went home that her family who has refused to support her stay at Helen Keller and wanted her home that they wouldn’t let her return. Well, that is exactly what happened. We do not know if she will ever return. I do know that she desperately wanted to get more training, so please pray that God will open the hearts and minds of her family.

Shelby and I saying goodbye.

"Shelby and I saying goodbye."

Also, my friend, Shelby from Atlanta, went home yesterday. She wanted to stay as well, but Ga’s Vocational Rehab didn’t want to continue paying for training. Shelby is 27 years old and almost totally deaf and blind. She is intelligent, but was poorly educated. She is quite capable of learning, but needs to catch up. The state didn’t want to pay anymore right now. Shelby had been here since May.

Joey waiting for me to leave a class.

"Joey waiting for me to leave a class."

This is Joey waiting on me to get ready to go to another class. Isn’t he cute?

Well, I have just about covered things for now. Keep praying for us. We are still praying for you, as well. I have a meeting with everyone on my team and Scott, my husband, by phone on the 16th. Hopefully, I will be able to let you know when I will be coming home and a report of my progress. Until later, keep praying

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Still looking back to my time at HKNC. This post was made the weekend after Veteran’s Day in October 2007.

This has been a whirlwind week. I got a new schedule change on Tuesday. Of course, Monday was a holiday, and HKNC was closed. I stayed in the residence playing my bible .mp3’s and listening to music until time to play Xbox 360 with my husband and “friends”.  I have a difficult time understanding audio files and music files, but I will keep on trying until there is no sound to hear. Before Scott and I play Halo 3 and other video games we always meet in video chat. We both have web cams connected to our Xboxes, so we can see and talk to each other. We go over mail and other occurrences of the day. I also teach him a few signs. Here is a pic taken from the Xbox, so you can get a better idea.

"Scott and I talking over X Box Live Video Chat"

"Scott and I talking over X Box Live Video Chat"

In Technology class, Bill taught me more about OpenReader. This is a software that will read anything it can scan. It uses flatbed or automatic document feeders for multiple looseleaf pages. On a flatbed scanner, I can put a textbook. It will scan the pages and then read it to me. Then a student would be able to ask me a question about a specific section or I could further explain to them the topic they had read and not understand. I can even go into edit mode and add additional text to specific places on the page. I can read a certain paragraph, sentence, line, word, or even letter. I can even turn the page into braille and emboss with a braille embosser (printer). I can save the pages and print them in various ways including any additions I added for the student, for instance. I like the fact that I can do all of this with the braille display and never hear or see anything and still “read” what is on the page. All the text is printed out on the braille display as well as read by JAWS. I will always be able to use this program. We also finalized all plans for the rest of my training and specifically for the Evaluation meeting on Friday, the 16th. I will tell you more about that later.

In mobility, Natasha went over stairs again with me. I did blindfold with only the cane. Natasha holds Joey out of harness. I found the stairs fast enough. Once in the stairwell, I used the cane to find the upstairs by sliding the cane until it hit the step. I used the cane to slide the length of the stair to see how wide the staircase was. Then I measured the height of the step by lining the cane vertically to the step and and then sliding the cane while in contact with the step until the cane rested on top of the step. I then measured the width of the tread by sliding the cane tip back until it hit the side of the next step. This gives me plenty of information to help me place myself on the steps safely. Then I extend my cane hand out horizontally with cane vertical and lock it straight. This allows my can to hit each step as I go up the stairs. When I no longer hit another step, I know the next step will be the landing. When I get to the landing and before I step up, I clear my step. That means that I make a short arc just a bit wider than myself and straight back to between my legs to check if there is a hole, object, or whatever in my way. I wouldn’t want to step on those items we tend to leave at the top and bottom of stairs for carrying later. Now going down, Natasha had shown me a different method than I had learned before. I actually felt that when I got it down that I would like it better because I never feel quite sure that I am at the bottom level with the method that I use. My previously learned method which has its advantages is about placing the cane in the hand opposite the railing and then placing it at the edge of the top step across the body at an angle. I then remain in constant contact with the stairs as I move down. The cane slides across and down each step helping me to feel a little safe, but I never know for sure if I am at the last step or not. I have misjudged before and fell. Natasha’s method when done correctly lets me know when I hit bottom. You hold the can in your hand opposite the railing. Place it on the next step down hanging over the edge. Then pick it up slightly holding it vertically and your arm straight and horizontally. Then you walk down the steps. When I hit the floor of the landing, I know the next step will be that landing. I don’t have to be worried if I judged right. I practiced several times until Natasha was comfortable with me doing it safely. We will revisit it again for practice.

In Vocational, Ginger and I emailed Perkins school for the Blind and their division for deafblind early childhood education. We had for specific help and a curriculum for my 6 year old deafblind child, ShaynePatrick. They have gotten back with me and will begin to work intensively on teaching me how to work with him better the Monday after Thanksgiving. I am very excited. I love the blonde curly-haired boy. He is so delightful and very intelligent. Here is that promised pic of Ginger and Elissa. Elissa is back and doing better.

"Ginger and Elissa preparing for my evaluation meeting."

"Ginger and Elissa preparing for my evaluation meeting."

Wednesday was a full day in CLC-communications. I have almost every teacher in the department now as they intensify their emphasis on sign language. I also have Lois then for Braille in the afternoon. Amy is my new instructor. She worked with me on the grammar and syntax of sign which has a lot to do with facial expression. I worked so hard trying to get my eyebrows to go up for yes/no questions and crunch into wrinkles for the 5 w’s and how questions. I actually got a cramp between my eyebrows. Toward the end, I couldn’t hold the eyebrow position to complete the entire sign. We all laughed so hard.  Good imitations…

My case manager and I told each other stories in total sign and no voice. It is a lot harder than it looks. My kids would be embarrassed if they knew which stories I told.

Now for the best two stories of all.

I will start with the all important meeting. Most of my instructors were there and Scott, my Vocational Rehab Rep and her staff, and Barbara Chandler, the HKNC Southeast Regional Rep were on the conference call with us in the meeting. I could not hear the phone or much in the room, so they had an interpreter with me doing tactual sign. My VR rep is totally deaf along with one of her assistants so we heard the same male interpreter voice for them. My instructors and I told what I had been doing so far and what requisitions they would like for the state of Georgia to pay for. I have to admit that my VR rep is starting to sound like she is backpedaling on her promise to get whatever Helen Keller recommends. She kept stressing that they would only pay for what is specific for my job. I can assure you that that is all that I have thought about. I need no help cleaning my house or cooking for myself. I can do that even totally blind and have proven it. However, I do teach several of my special needs students how to cook, wash clothes, etc. I specifically asked Independent Living to show me ways to teach students to cook in the safest manner for me and them. I don’t want to get them burned if I am trying to teach them to cook. I also have to wear light filters (sunglasses) indoors and out because I am extremely light sensitive. I teach my special needs students indoors and out. I even teach them how to swim or do water therapy. I can’t do that without my glasses. HKNC has the only ones that I have found that really work. I pray that God will help them to understand why I need all of these items regardless of cost. He knows how much debt we are in as a family because we have had to purchase so much ourselves just to get me as far as this.

The other part of the meeting was when do they expect me to finish my training. Well, all of my instructors agreed that if I continue to do as well as I am now I will be able to go home a couple of days before Christmas and not have to return!!! I am so excited. Sign language is the only area that I am worried about, but my instructors are saying that I am being too hard on myself. They say I could sign so much better even now if I didn’t get so nervous. I will definitely work hard to finish my sign in time.

Well the other neat and to me best part was a conversation that I had this week with one of the people here. I will not say her name, position, or even when I talked to this person because this was a very private conversation. However, God was definitely in this. The first week I was here I talked with this person. I was crying a lot, but God kept whispering in my spiritual ear that I needed to be ready to help this person. He has something for this person to do and some place for this person to go. He needs this person to allow Him to get them ready. Personally, I didn’t want to hear that then. I actually told Him, “Please God, not now. I just want to go home.” He seemed to reply, “I know, Child, but soon you need to be ready to listen.” Well, I did get ready to listen after a few days and have waited to see if He had something for me to do. That time came during this week. I was talking to this person again about HKNC stuff for me, as usual. I heard His voice say mention my name. I was like what? How? I thought (you take a wild guess how) and said, Jesus is where I get my strength. This person looked so funny and said, “I just thought that same thing.” Anyway, we had a long, long conversation about this person’s belief in Jesus. This person is a Christian, but since working at HKNC and living where they are, they had strayed. Again, I heard God say. I have something for you to tell them. They have already been feeling this, but need you to tell them it is from me. I simply said. It is almost time for you to go somewhere else. God has a plan, but you aren’t ready. You need to go back to church, and you need to begin studying my word again. This person was quiet for a few minutes. I was trying to see what the person was doing but couldn’t. Finally, they said I’m crying right now. In the last few months, I have been feeling like I need to leave. I have been feeling like I need to go back to church. I even went recently, but then got nervous and turned back around. I am going this Sunday, I promise.

There was more to the conversation, and I got to really see how God has been working in this person’s life both in the past and recently. As far as I go, I have made a lifelong bond with person. I know it. We will be friends no matter how far apart we are. God is sooooo awesome! How awesome is He!

I am going to leave it at this for now. Joey is fine. He is learning to force me to walk slower so I don’t wheeze. You can’t get any cooler than that! I love you guys, and I will work hard to be home for good by Christmas.

Renee’ and Little Joe

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More of my time at HKNC.

It is time to write another entry. Things have been going pretty well. I did have some asthma problems this week brought on by weather and cigarette smoking. I had mentioned to staff earlier that students and staff were smoking at the doorway of the residence hall making my breathing more difficult. The weather for a couple of weeks was “hot” (NY style, not Ga) and humid. I was comfortable and my asthma was better than at home, so I had no real complaints. However, the cigarette smoking at the doorway was proving to be very difficult. The door is always locked, so you have to ring a bell and wait until someone lets you in. You can’t move away from the doorway because the staff can’t see you and assume someone already let you in. Therefore, you are stuck sometimes several minutes standing there breathing in the crud in the air. Staff, upon my request to ask people to move back to the designated smoking area about 25 ft from the door, always said they would look into it. The situation didn’t seem to change until Wednesday night when I had a severe asthma attack about 9:00 p.m. My breathing remained erratic all night despite the rescue inhaler and the nebulizer machine. Staff thought they would have to take me to the emergency room. No one has smoked at the door since. It turned cold Friday afternoon and there has been no smoking since. Funny… When it was warm, they felt like they had to have that cigarette every hour. When it is too cold to stand, they find they can go hours without one. I am just grateful that my breathing is better.The week of classes has been fine. I reviewed signs in my sign class and learned a couple of new ones. Braille is better than sign class. I am learning much faster. Of course, part of that is I can accomplish a lot more alone when studying braille independently. Sign is a little harder to study alone. I now know about 87 of the 189 contractions that I have to learn for Grade 2 Braille. Even better than just knowing them, I recognize them most of the time when reading and I can type them on the Perkins Brailler. I transcribe Braille several hours a day. Although, I think I need a break. I woke up the other night with my hands in the air reading Braille in my sleep.

"Perkins brailler which is a typewriter device for braille."

"Perkins brailler which is a typewriter device for braille."

 I am finding it harder to study my sign language though. It is hard to get the staff to sign to me tactually or even regularly. The deaf staff know that I don’t know ASL, so they get a hearing person to deal with me. Hearing staff seldom sign because they think I don’t need it. As one staff member stated, I make it look so easy when I talk and seemingly hear fine that they don’t realize that I am getting headaches from trying to see, hear, and guess what people are saying. I ask them to sign tactually with me (I really don’t get much from regular signing anymore. I can’t see it well enough), and they will for a few words, but then gradually stop and go back to using just voice. My CLC (communications) teacher sent out a mass e-mail stating that I needed total communication (meaning voice and sign) and the sign needed to be tactual. I don’t know who all was on her list or when they check their e-mail, but as of Sunday, today, there has been no improvement. I practice signing everyday by myself and now once a week with Steffy because one staff member noted that would help and arranged her schedule to allow it. By myself, I talk and often pray using just ASL. That is good practice, but it doesn’t help me with recognizing other people sign or to really carry on a conversation. My schedule changes next week, but they actually took off the lady who has been my sign instructor. Maybe Val wants to do my sign instruction. That will be great. I like Val. We get along great and I learn quickly with her. She recognizes my learning style and plays right along with it. I like Donna, the one I have had for two sessions now, as well.

"Donna was the one who turned out to be the best ASL teacher I had."

"Donna was the one who turned out to be the best ASL teacher I had."

I don’t know why they made that change. I guess I will find out eventually.Going along with the conversation that sign is slow, the topic of Christmas vacation and when I will be going home for good, etc. came up this week since all vacation plans have to be made soon. Most staff wouldn’t talk to me really about when I might plan toward be done with training. I realize that is hard to pinpoint because it all is based on how fast I am learning. Val did tell me that her goal for me is to be completely independent as a signer, braille reader, traveler, etc. as a totally deafblind person. Therefore, she told me that she will not feel comfortable with me going home for good until well after Christmas. That makes it even more important to me to get more sign instruction since independent study is not going to get me there very fast at all. I will be ok with being here if the training is meaningful and more than what I can do on my own. This is very disrupting to my personal life as well as my school life; therefore, I don’t want to be here doing stuff that I could do just as well or better on my own at home. So on that note, Christmas vacation was discussed. I can’t afford to go home at all if I have to pay for it. That is why I will be here at Thanksgiving. Vocational Rehab people told me that they would pay for me to go home at Christmas and return to Helen Keller. Hopefully, they will keep their word. My case manager has stated that she feels for reasons of traveling safely and with less stress and to have the emotional time away that about 3 weeks will be good. Her dates are to leave on Dec. 15 or 16 and return on January 5 or 6. I hope Vocational Rehab agrees. They have to pay for the days away just as if I was here, so they might not like that much time off. We will just have to wait and see.

"Joey in Ga hat that my Sunday School class sent me."

"Joey in Ga hat that my Sunday School class sent me."

Joey is feeling much better this weekend. I discovered that I heard very little of what the doctor said last week and the staff member who went with me didn’t give much of the information to other staff. Therefore, the nurse called the doctor and got all of the information. The medicine was not being given properly. Although it wasn’t hurting him, it was not helping him very much either. We are now on the same page. It did show me though that it is hard being deafblind, since a lot of people assume you are also mentally low functioning. I had tried to get the doctor to explain to me what needed to be done, so I would know. However, he didn’t feel comfortable with that and no one wanted me to give Joey his meds; therefore, I wasn’t included in the loop of information at all. Since I am not retarded at all, I do not like being treated this way. I might can understand why I shouldn’t give the meds to Joey since not seeing well might cause me to accidentally hurt Joey or just do it in a way that only waste the meds and not help him, but I want to know what is going on. That is a fear for me about going deafblind. I see it even here at Helen Keller, although better than the rest of the world. People tend to do things around a deafblind person not do it with them. They want to take care of things themselves for the deafblind person, not help the deafblind person do it for themselves. I don’t want to just sit here while people take care of me and make decisions about me without including me in the process. My mind still works just fine. I can make my own decisions about what and how things are handled. In a situation like this, maybe being mentally handicapped is a blessing in disguise. These people don’t understand enough to be unhappy that other people are controlling them and their lives. I understand that perfectly and I am not happy with it. I see that same frustration in Steffy only magnified tremendously. At times, she lashes out in anger. The staff speaks of not knowing how to help her be happy. It won’t take away all of the anger and frustration, but it will be a start if someone would just take the time to explain, not as you would a child in almost baby talk and as you are doing whatever, but before and ask this is what needs to be done and why. How would you like to handle this? I know that works better for me. Sure it takes more time. However, as a thinking human being, I deserve that time.This turned out to be more of a rant than mere boredom. Sorry. It is difficult being in a setting where I have to inform them of how much and what I ate, when I am taking Joey to busy or the dog run, going for a walk, etc. and even no, you can’t because we don’t have the staff to maintain your safety. Understand it, I do completely. Liking it when I am use to deciding everything and doing whatever myself, I don’t. It certainly makes me appreciate my ability to still be independent away from here even more. I am glad that God still grants me that. I hope it continues. I also pray that if it doesn’t that He will give me the strength to cope.

It has turned cold, and this Ga girl is feeling it. The staff laugh, of course, and tell me that I haven’t seen anything yet. My hands and feet are already cold. Brrrrrrr.Some of you are wondering if I was able to go to church today. No, there was another trip planned, so I was here. A friend of mine from church, Jana, is arranging to have the Mabel White services put on dvd and then sent here to me. I really like that because I can feel a part of the services and the choir even though I can’t be there. My mobility instructor did research some churches for me and found an independent church here that although not Southern Baptist seems to have similar beliefs except for the not being part of a greater association, and they have a similar worship style. The big problem is that it is farther away and I would have to take a taxi there and back. I can’t do that alone yet because she has to do the mobility deal with me where she goes with me and makes sure I can get a cab, orient me to the lay out of the church, get back to a cab pick up, etc. before I can be approved. The other problem is the cab fee each way. They don’t think much about it because taking a cab here is every day life. Spending 50 bucks to go somewhere one way is nothing to them because they have no choice. I, on the other hand, can’t see paying that every week to go to church. I can get some Helen Keller discounts to help some, but it is still expensive. I might try it once or twice since it would be fun and I really want to go to a good church, plus it could be well on the way to helping Val see me as an independent deafblind traveler. More than that, no because I would rather use the money more wisely.

Well, I guess that is it for now. I have more communication cards on travel, shopping, church, etc. make for Val’s class. As always, I am thinking of you all.

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My Look Back In Time Continues:

Well, the days are getting colder, but I am keeping really busy. On Sunday, I listened to another dvd from MWBC. That really gets the week going well. Then Monday morning, I had a phone conference with my vocational team and my WCA school staff. That went really well. At least it did after I quit crying at first. I really enjoyed hearing their voices. It was very nice of them to take time out of their already busy schedule to help me with not only school, but now with my training here as well. My vocational team thought that they could learn to help me better by hearing from my staff what they thought I had trouble with in doing my job like hearing on the phone, talking to parents, sending e-mails, writing, doing bills, etc. It was very helpful. I didn’t even realize a lot of what I was having trouble with. It was really good. We will be meeting again next Monday, too. I am really looking forward to hearing them again.
In Communications, we were working with tactual sign language more. My instructor, Val, is putting more emphasis on braille and the SBC (small braille communicator) as my main mode of communication and rightfully so. There are not many signers around me at home, but I still want to learn it because I know that braille and typing won’t always be feasible like at night or for quick questions and comments when it is too much trouble or not enough time to get out the SBC. However, even with tactual sign, the SBC, etc., my biggest fear is that I think alot and I like to talk about many subjects and many deep subjects. How will I share with others these in depth conversations? Nobody wants to type for long conversations and sign seems very limited, especially tactual. I don’t want to be limited to conversations about the weather or what I need or want at the moment. I guess I am worried about that. My great-grandmother was blind and she didn’t hear very well, so people would come and ask her things about how she was and what would she like to eat, etc., but that was about it. She would sit alone for many hours and just talk to herself. In fact, many people would kind of laugh about her sitting and telling stories to no one. I probably did, too, but now I am afraid that I might wind up being alone and talking to myself, too.
Anyway, my sign teacher has me and another student blindfolded and asking each other questions in tactual sign. We have started at 5 minutes at the time and are building that time up gradually. It is very frustrating. We tend to sign too fast or our signs are too “muddy.” New signers don’t know the signs very well, but even native signers can have unclear signs. They get sloppy since they do it so much just like hearing people when they talk and speak in quick phrases or “Southern drawl.” It is hard to understand lazy signs, especially tactually.
We had Big Town Hall meeting this week, too. I got drafted to be on the Town Hall committee, so I had to help run it. I didn’t really want to, but I speak in public all the time. Town Hall Meetings are a way to run small governments or how bigger governments find out what the people think about an issue. Here, Town Hall is how the residents handle problems about residential living. The issues for this meeting were smoking, plastic cups with covers in the cafeteria, Thanksgiving food baskets, etc. People made suggestions about how to enforce the smoking regulations and still be fair for the smokers. They gave suggestions like lights for the night-blind smokers, paths for the visually impaired to trail, shelter for inclement weather, etc. The plastic cups with covers were because many students while traveling from the food line to the tables spill their drinks soaking their food with whatever their drink is for the day. Covers would help that. The cups slide as they walk and feel their way to the tables. That is unpreventable. The spills aren’t. (As a side note here, New Yorkers say you get on line to get your food rather than you get in line. It took me a week to really figure out what they were talking about.) The Thanksgiving baskets are the current service project the students are doing for the community. We have two families in the community we are helping to feed for the holidays. Now, you probably would think a Town Hall meeting would be a big room with a speakers’ table and rows and rows of chairs for people facing the table, right? Well, here that wouldn’t work. All of the students are visually impaired and hearing impaired or deaf and visually impaired or deaf blind. Therefore they need interpreters and interpreters interpreting in different ways. In some areas of the room, you have two chairs facing each other. That is for the deaf blind with their tactual sign interpreter. Then you have small groups of chairs in a semi-circle around one chair. That is for the deaf and visually impaired who can see signing at short distances. You also have chairs side by side. That is for the blind and hearing impaired who use FM systems. Their interpreter sits beside them speaking into their FM microphone. It probably looks very messy and unorganized, but is actually very structured.
In mobility class, I had to leave Joey with my communications instructor, and Joey’s friend, Val. He didn’t really like that, but Val played with him and rubbed his belly. He put up with it. Natasha, my mobility instructor, took me to a big Bed, Bath, and Beyond store that is two floors and has an escalator up to the front doors. It even has an escalator to take the carts up and down. It was strange, but very neat. Anyway, I needed to learn how to do escalators safely with a cane. The technique basically involves using the cane to find the grate that is at the top or bottom of the escalator. That is how I know I am at an escalator.

This is Natasha, my Orientation and Mobility Instructor at HKNC.

"This is Natasha, my Orientation and Mobility Instructor at HKNC."

This is me using my cane to find the escalator grid plate.

"This is me using my cane to find the escalator grid plate."

I also have two communication cards that say take me to the a) up escalator or b) down escalator. To verify direction, I find the handrail and feel which direction it is going. Once I have the one going in the direction I want, I use my cane to find the edge where the steps go in or come out. I put the tip of the cane there and hold it steady so I can feel the cane bounce when the separation between steps goes by. That is my clue to quickly step onto the escalator holding onto the railing with my right hand. Then I move the cane up or down a couple of steps (depending on which direction I am going) to give me plenty of warning about when it is time to step off the escalator.
When my cane detects the step flattening out, I know to get ready.
When the tip hits the edge of where the step goes into the floor, I move my cane in a sweeping motion over the grid to make sure nothing is in the way and then I quickly step off the escalator. Escalators are very scary when you can’t see, but this technique makes them easier to navigate. I have some pics here of the important parts.
Finding the entry point onto the escalator.

"Finding the entry point onto the escalator."

This me safely entering the escalator.

"This me safely entering the escalator."

Here I am clearing the step to make sure it is safe to exit.

"Here I am clearing the step to make sure it is safe to exit."

In braille class, I am still driving me teacher crazy. She jokingly talks about not having enough work for me to do. Of course, she has no problem pulling out more. I know enough contractions now that all paperwork in coming to me in contracted braille. If I haven’t learned the contraction, I usually can still figure out what it says by content. Speed is improving slowly. It takes me about 15 mins. to fully read and comprehend a braille page which is bigger and squarer than a regular sheet of paper. It used to take me much longer to read, and I would probably not get the meaning too well.

Sarah and me. Sarah is on the left.

"Sarah and me. Sarah is on the left."

Friday evening at snack time which is about 7:30 pm each evening we had a party to say goodbye to a friend of mine. We had just gotten where we could really talk to each well. I finally knew enough signs for her to understand me. That is my typical luck. Anyway, her name is Sarah and she was born deaf with Usher’s Syndrome. She is beginning to have serious vision trouble and was here for the two month evaluation to see if she needs further training now or later. She is nineteen and graduated this year from her state’s school for the deaf. She is very sweet. Sarah fell in love with Joey and now plans to go to Leader Dog, Inc. in Michigan in January to get her own dog. (Current day update: Sarah graduated last year as the first DeafBlind Pastry from a noted culinary school. There is a lot a DeafBlind person can do. Oh, and she did get a guide dog, too.)

Here is a picture also of my friend, Steffy, who is totally deafblind that I have told you about being so patient with me as I learn sign. Steffy in in the center.

A few students including Steffy in the middle sitting in the residence hall lounge at snack time.

"A few students including Steffy in the middle sitting in the residence hall lounge at snack time."

Finally, my friend, Jane, from South Carolina. She is blind and hard of hearing. She and I get along since we understand each other so well (the staff never understands our expressions.), and we both know how cold it really is!

This is Jane.

"This is Jane."

We went to IHOP today for breakfast. I ate too much. This was very welcome after having so much chicken salad, tuna salad, and turkey burger for meals here. They serve way too much pasta for diabetics. I am afraid I am going to turn into a chicken or a tuna fish. Anyway, Steffy was so sweet in the van on the way back. She asked me tactually what I ate and how much. I signed back I ate pancakes and eggs and bacon and I ate full and I feel like blow up. I wrote it that way on purpose my English experts. I signed it just about that way. Boy, Steffy is patient with me!
And also, here is a pic of Steffy and I communicating with tactual ASL.

Steffy and I communicating with tactual ASL.

"Steffy and I communicating with tactual ASL."

Well, I think I will stop now. I wouldn’t want you to get bored and not want to come back to read more of our little adventures. Keep praying for us. Joey’s ears are better, but now that it is cold he has another problem. It took almost 30 mins. for him to do his “busy’s” this morning. He kept looking between his legs trying to figure out why nothing was coming out!
Bye for now and God bless you and know that we are both praying for you.
Renee’ and Little Joe

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