This is a picture of me and my friend, Batman. I call him Batman, not only because he loves the superhero, but like the masked crusader, he has gone through some tough times in his short life. And, because he and his family are my heroes.
Batman and his family have taught me so much about persistence, and dedication, and support, and love.
When Batman and I first met he was 3, and his mom believed that he had some problems with his hearing, but had been unable to get a complete picture of what was going on. Batman had a few other medical difficulties, including sensory processing problems, ADHD, and duplication of the 12th and 22q11.2 chromosomes which can cause behavior issues. These confounded the process of getting a clear understanding of his auditory function. He had already started to receive occupational and speech therapies through early intervention services. When we met, Batman and I hit it off immediately. He is a funny, creative, imaginative, sensitive young man who makes me smile every time I see him. He also had difficultly following auditory directions, could not tolerate noisy or confusing environments and had some speech/language delay. We did find that his recurrent middle ear problems cause him to have mild fluctuating hearing loss. We also found, eventually, that he has central auditory processing problems as well. Because of his fluctuating hearing loss, Medicaid agreed to pay for his hearing aids. He was fit soon after our initial meeting with hearing aids in both ears.
Batman’s mother is amazing. She and his father have three other children at home who also have medical needs of varying types and degrees. Mom spends her days (and nights, I imagine) taking care of her children. You might say, “Isn’t that what every mother is supposed to do?” Yes, certainly. But, not to the exclusion of almost everything else. She is a knowledgeable, positive, cheerful yet dogged advocate for her children.
When she came in for Batman’s post fitting check a few weeks after getting his hearing aids and told me that she felt the aids had already created a clear improvement in his negative behaviors, I was thrilled for them. Batman wears his hearing aids on a regular basis (sometimes with his Batman paraphernalia – he has a T shirt with Batman’s silhouette wearing hearing aids). He calls them his “super powers.” Mom brooks no messing around. The only time, in his waking hours, he doesn’t wear one of the aids is if he has a draining ear due to his ongoing ear infections. As you can see from the picture, Batman is doing well! He is still smart and funny and creative, but now he can function much more easily in unfavorable environments and can show the world his scintillating personality with greater ease.
Batman’s story is such a clear example of the power of early and appropriate intervention. That such a small change in his sensory input (hearing aids for mild hearing loss) can create such a big change in his and his family’s lives, in conjunction with his other therapies, is testimony to the necessity for all of us to have access to appropriate medical assistance.
Batman is one of millions who benefit daily from affordable medical care. Batman is one who through the love and devotion of his family, and appropriate medical care will have the opportunity to go out and save Gotham if he so chooses. Let’s hope that others get that chance as well.