Yvonne's body moves so gracefully to the sound of music, yet she has never heard it. Yvonne was born profoundly deaf in 1942. In spite of that, her parents nurtured in her a love of dance, a love so strong that Yvonne learned to dance to the vibrations of music. When Yvonne's own daughter Donna was born in 1975 the tell tale signs of a silent world were there.
As a toddler, Donna started to place her little chubby hands on the stereo to feel the vibrations.
Thirty-three years later, Donna became mum to gorgeous McKenzie, and the tell tale signs of a silent world appeared again...
It was dad that noticed the signs that I might be deaf...after living with mum he knew what to look for.
He noticed that I wasn't as boisterous as my brothers and that I would not dance...even though mum loved to dance!
I had my first set of hearing aids fitted at 3 and I looked just like McKenzie does now, though McKenzie has had her aids since she was 10 months old. The hearing aids worked really well for me.
I went to normal school and mum and dad made sure I had an active social life...I think mum wanted to give me the same opportunities as her parent had given her.
Mum's parents had instilled in her a sense of independence and participation in everyday life. She learned to dance, ride horses....and mum and dad gave me the same opportunities. I really loved to go horse riding when I was little and I had my own ponies...it was a good childhood really.
By the time I was 18, I was confident, vivacious and ready to embrace the world. I trained for 4 years as a hairdresser before embarking on my big OE to London.
London was fantastic! It was the best thing I ever did. I went flatting with 7 other girls and got a job at a fabulous up and coming saloon called Hair @ HML. I learned so much there and got to meet some fascinating people. Unless someone knew, they would not have picked up that I had a hearing impairment as my hair covered the aid and I could hear and converse with everyone really well.
If anyone did pick up on anything unusual, they just put it down to me having an accent!
I lived in London for 4 years and managed quite a few expeditions from there too- 12 countries in continental Europe, India, America, Malaysia...it was absolutely brilliant.
But in 2003, mum was diagnosed with Leukaemia and I felt I needed to be with her. I couldn't believe the cruel blow mum had been dealt. Here is this courageous woman who has had to battle so much through being profoundly deaf ...then to get a diagnosis of cancer...life just sucks at times.
Mum took it in her stride though. She had dad supporting her all the way. Dad went to all her appointments and communicated for her...he has been her rock...her best friend and communicator her whole adult life.
They got through it though and I just feel so blessed to have my mum and to see her with McKenzie.
They have got such as special relationship it really does bring a ray of sunshine on those days when things can get a bit tough.
I worry a lot about mum now as she and dad get older. Dad has not been as fit and strong these last few years and I often worry about what would happen to mum if he was not here. He has been her communicator and rock all these years, without him, mums life and world would become very isolated and small.
I know, because I have been there. My hearing progressively got to the point where the hearing aids were of no benefit. I had developed Meniere's disease, which seen me hospitalised and bedridden when attacks flared up and eventually what hearing I had eroded.
A world of silence robbed me of the business I had built up. I could not hear or talk to my customers as well as I used to, or answer the phone and take bookings...it was just too hard. I had been a social and outgoing person, but when the silence came all I wanted to do was to be alone, away from the world in a sense.
Looking back, I think I was really quite depressed. But then I was given hope. Hope that I could be part of the hearing world again, through the gift of a cochlear implant.
It was 2007 when I was given my life back. I had gone through the process of being assessed for eligibility in late 2006. It is a lengthy process really. There are visits to the audiologists; psychological assessments; CT scans to make sure your cochlea is not damaged so the implant can be inserted easily. That phase of things was quite stressful, because you do worry that you might not be suitable and then what?
Luckily for me though, I was a suitable candidate for an implant. I did have to wait a while though.
Then I got the call in April 2007 to say a place had become available and I would be having surgery in two weeks. It all happened so quickly, it was like a whirlwind really.
By early May, I was in Gilles hospital in Auckland having the surgery; three weeks later I was at the University of Auckland for the switch on and from there, I have never looked back.
We had the mapping to do of course, which fine tunes the processor for you so you can get the optimal hearing for you...it is a very individual thing. For the first time in my life though, I was exposed to new and exciting sounds...sounds I never thought I would get the privilege to hear. McKenzie's whispers, the ticking of the clock as time moves forward and the sounds of raindrops as they gently fall against the window pane. To me these are the most beautiful sounds in the world...
I would love for my mum to be given the gift of these most glorious sounds too, and the independence that a cochlear implant could give her.
I know if McKenzie needed one she would be able to have one, but thankfully she is doing so well with her hearing aids and does not need a cochlear implant at this stage.
Technology has come so far now; it is not like it was when mum was a young woman. Her deafness meant a life confined to silence, to a life dependent on others to help her communicate in a hearing world. It does not have to be that way. There is a solution that will give her access to the music she would so love to hear and to dance to.
That is my dream for her, and for us. Three generations no longer sharing in a world of silence, but sharing in a world of sound.