Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cycling, Baseball & Cochlear Implants

I've only been cycling for about two years, but it's become my favorite past-time. I bike to work every day. There are times at 6:45am in the morning as I reach work, I feel like riding past my job and cycling down Route 2. Cycling makes me feel really “awake” and gives me a great deal of enjoyment.

I'm also huge baseball fan. The Orioles' announcer Joe Angel is a treasure--he really makes me laugh. For a long time, I considered Opening Day the best day of the year, but that was BEFORE the Orioles made it to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years! I love the Os and listened to games even when they were pretty bad but this past season gave me about 10 different "best days."

I share my passion for baseball with my younger brother, Noah. We share our love through scorekeeping the games we attend. He's been in LA for almost four years, and when the Orioles go to Anaheim, he will go to the Angels game and send me the ticket and scorecard. He buys mlb.audio so he can listen to Joe Angel too and we text during every game.

To make a LONG story short (it involved a promise I made in July when I was a "hater" but Noah insisted the Orioles were "for real"), I got Oriole playoff tickets. I flew my brother into Baltimore to watch the Orioles beat the Yankees at Camden Yards in the most electric atmosphere either of us had ever experienced. We hugged and almost cried at the beauty of it all. We beat the Yankees! In the playoffs!

Afterwards, Noah returned to LA, and I continued to work at Whole Foods. Before October was over, I felt the need to do… something. While I make enough money to live on my own, housing is expensive in Annapolis and if I moved into a place I could afford, I’d have to give up cycling to work. So I moved back in with my parents. I was also taking a break from school for the first time since kindergarten. Plus there were five long months before Orioles spring training games came on the radio! I felt stuck somehow.

That’s when I began thinking about a long cycle ride—a really long ride. I knew if I was going to pull this ride off, it would have to be for a great cause that I believed in and could get others to believe in too.

My father has always considered my cochlear implant a "miracle." But I've always thought that my "miracle" wasn't really that special because so many others could benefit from a cochlear implant just as I have. There's no way to make a deaf person hear normally again. I still face challenges linked to my deafness and childhood hearing loss. But with a cochlear implant, you’re talking about giving people the ability to listen to the Beatles or hear the crack of the bat at a baseball game. Thinking about it can really get me emotional. Being able to hear again just adds so much to life. It’s sometimes hard to be "normal" when you can't understand what’s been said in certain situations--but you can hear!

Modest estimates have the cost of cochlear implant in the $50,000-$100,000 range. That doesn't include the diagnosis, the specialist appointments, or in the case of my dad, an all-out effort to find the cause of my hearing loss as it was happening (the cause was never found). I know my parents spent over $600,000 in process of getting my implant. I am special in that my family, despite hardships, was able to do this—for many this kind of financial investment just isn’t possible. And I know there are so many children who can benefit from a cochlear implant.

So that’s it in a nutshell--cycling, baseball and cochlear implants. Potentially, this ride could the most fun I've ever had in my life. I get to ride my bike all day, see all the stadiums, and help others. But the tradeoff is that I don't get an unscheduled rest day when I'm tired, it's going to rain probably more than a few times, and I feel some pressure because I don’t want to let anyone down. Oh, and the ride is really long! Furthermore, I have to start thinking about my “image” (something I never really considered before), which will last longer than my ride will. Somehow though, I think it will all be worth it.

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