My name is Heidi Stevener and my husband Robert and I have two children, an 8 year old daughter named Mariella and a 5 yr. old son named Cooper. We moved to San Antonio 14 years ago and of all the places God could have landed us we never knew why it was San Antonio, considering neither one of our families live here, until our son was born.
My true test of faith began the day our son Cooper entered the world, Dec. 9, 2011. My pregnancy was great, had a scheduled C-Section and really didn’t expect anything to be wrong. It first began in the hospital where he didn’t pass his hearing screening. Everyone said it was probably just due to fluid and to come back in a couple of weeks. So we came back 2 weeks later and he still didn’t pass. The hospital then referred us to this place called The Sunshine Cottage. Just to tell you how ignorant I was about the hearing loss world I immediately get in the car and call The Sunshine Cottage and get nothing but an answering machine that says they are closed until after the New Years. Poor Ms. Lisa Lopez from the PIP, because not realizing at the time that it was an actual school that was out for Christmas break, I just kept calling and leaving her messages over and over! I don’t know if someone eventually contacted her and told her she needed to call this crazy mom who has left her tons of messages, but just to show one of many reasons why Sunshine Cottage is so amazing I got a phone call from Ms. Lisa on Christmas Eve and we talked, she assured me everything was going to be ok and we scheduled an official ABR, Auditory, Brain Response, test to be done after the New Years.
At 1 mth. old we went to Sunshine Cottage and Cooper had an ABR. Auditory, Brain, Response. They hooked him up to bunch of electrodes connected to the computer and basically they would make sounds and if his brain responded then that meant he could hear it. The test lasted almost 3 hours and Cooper just slept in our arms the entire time. It was then that, our most precious Audiologist, Emily Jones, whom I am just so thankful for, told us that our sweet precious gift from God, did indeed have permanent hearing loss in both ears and that it would never get better, could get worse, and worst of all there was no cure. She went on to tell us that he had a Moderate loss in his left ear and a Severe loss in his right ear. I remember just holding him in my arms crying and thinking how did this happen? No one in our family has hearing loss, our daughter can hear a pin drop and the only people we knew with hearing aids were old people. Fear and worry consumed my entire body and mind and all I could do was ask endless questions like will he be able to talk, will he be able to hear me tell him I love him, will he find someone who will love him for who he is, will he be able to hear music, watch TV, talk on the phone...the questions went on and on. I naturally am a fixer, if there is a problem I want to solve it and solve it quickly and I was beginning to feel as if this wasn’t going to be a quick fix. I just remember looking down at him and said “God please show me your plan for Cooper because this is certainly not what we planned for him.” And then the most amazing thing happened. I still to this day don’t know why Emily went and did this, but I will never forget it. She left the room for a bit and came back with two little girls from the day school. All they knew was that they got to get out of class to see a baby, but little did they know that they were changing my life. One of the girls had hearing aids and the other little girl had bilateral cochlear implants.
That literally was the first time I had ever seen a cochlear implant. I remember watching the girls and seeing them listen to Ms. Emily and hearing them speak. That moment gave me something I will cherish forever…HOPE!
Robert and I are both what we call digesters. We have to really think about things before we go and do. But right after the ABR Ms. Lisa walked us back to PIP and she explained to us the two options we had on how we wanted to raise Cooper. She told us about the Sign Language route and then the Auditory Verbal Route. I remember looking at Robert, keeping in mind he and I had not said a single word to each other at this point, because we both were in shock, and we both knew what we had to do. Robert told Ms. Lisa that if Cooper had a chance to listen and speak like those girls did and like the rest of our family and friends do then we are going to try our best to give that to him. We enrolled in the PIP program that day and our lives have never been the same since. We were assigned the best PIP advisor ever, Ms. Adrienne Russell whom we loved like family and she became our teacher and leader as we walked this journey of the unknown. It was so comforting knowing that we always had someone to call and go to when we had any questions and for the first time in this journey with our son we did not feel alone.
Cooper is now 5 years old and in Kindergarten here at Sunshine Cottage! I am excited to say that Cooper now speaks so much that at times we almost feel bad for telling him to be quiet! I would be lying if I said it was easy getting to this point, because truthfully raising a child with hearing loss continues to be a journey filled with constant lessons involving language bombardment, repetition, continued check ups, surgeries and more. But with that being said Sunshine Cottage has always been our constant support. From the beginning when they helped with the unexpected financial strain of having to purchase hearing aids by allowing us to use loaner equipment for free until we knew for sure what Cooper’s loss was. And then to be blessed with not having to worry about tuition because Cooper was awarded full scholarships 2 years in a row. It is such a blessing having the Audiologist on hand checking his equipment every morning, sending it in if there is a repair, Speech working with Cooper on exactly what he needs and who can forget about the amazing teachers. His teachers throughout the past 3 years at Sunshine Cottage have been so patient, supportive and just truly amazing.
I would like to end with a story that goes back to the day when we first found out Cooper had hearing loss and I had asked God to show me His plan for Cooper because this wasn’t was we had ever planned for him. Last year one of the PIP advisors approached me about getting together with a mom that lives in our neighborhood and had twin boys. One of the boys was born with profound hearing loss and they were going through the PIP program. She and I finally connected and I remember pulling up into their driveway and she came out to our car. She immediately looked at Cooper and said “I know him. I would never forget that face. Magic Time Machine. ” At this point my mind is going all over the place, because number 1 I have never seen this lady in my life and number 2 we literally went to Magic Time Machine 1 time, 2 years ago for Valentine’s Day. Our daughter had heard how awesome it was so we promised we would all go on Valentine’s Day. She then goes on to tell me that 2 years ago they had just had their boys and her son was diagnosed with Profound Hearing Loss. She was being encouraged to have her son get Cochlear implants but she was scared and didn’t want to do it. They just so happened to be at a birthday party at Magic Time Machine that night and she remembers looking over at our table and seeing our son. She said she saw his equipment and listened to him talk the entire time and at that moment she knew she had to put her fears aside and give her son a chance to listen and speak. And what was even more amazing is her son who now has bilateral cochlear implants speaks better than his typical hearing twin brother! So amazing!
Thank you Sunshine Cottage for changing our lives forever. Thank you for helping Cooper become hope for others and allowing him to be able to change lives just by being himself. Most importantly, thank you Sunshine Cottage for providing such an accepting, loving, encouraging environment that has created a foundation in which Cooper has become a confident little boy who truly knows there are no limits to what he can achieve and that he can do absolutely anything he puts his mind to. We pray that other families will be able to experience the same joy and peace we receive every time we walk through the doors of Sunshine Cottage.