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What I'm grateful for

Friday, May 10, 2024

I am Shirley Parrish, daughter of Meng and Andrew Parrish. My parents met during college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Soon after my dad graduated from college, he was sent to work in Asia. 

A New Year’s discovery

It was the happiest day of my parents’ lives when I was born seventeen years ago in Shanghai, China. I was their first-born and the center of their world. When I didnt pass the newborn hearing test, my parents were told by the hospital that it was a technical failure and that they shouldn’t worry too much about it. My parents accepted the excuse and thought I was perfect in every aspect.

However, the nightmare happened during Chinese New Year of 2008. It is a Chinese tradition to light fireworks and firecrackers on Chinese New Year’s eve. But I didn’t wake up or pay any attention to all the noise. This alarmed my parents about my hearing, and they took me to a specialist for more tests. The result of the hearing test only confirmed my parents' worst fear. I was diagnosed with profound hearing loss in both ears.

The next day, my dad put me and my mom on the first flight back to the U.S., where I received a thorough examination at Wisconsin Childrens Hospital in Milwaukee. After more tests and a six-month trial using hearing aids, it was decided that I would be a good candidate for cochlear implants. 

When I didnt pass the newborn hearing test, my parents were told by the hospital that it was a technical failure.

— Shirley Parrish, who hears with AB cochlear implants

Hearing with two cochlear implants

My parents researched extensively the different cochlear implant brands available at that time. Ultimately, they decided on Advanced Bionics, for a variety of reasons. Based on their research, they felt that AB had the most advanced technology1 in helping people with hearing loss and was a pioneer in this field. Having a massive consumer base in the U.S. military also ensured the company’s long-term development. AB has international offices around the world, including Shanghai.

The surgery for my left ear was successfully done when I was about twenty-two months old. The second side was done six months later. My mother still clearly remembers the day when my cochlear implant was turned on for the first time and my eyes opened up wide. She cried.


Getting cochlear implants was only the first step to hearing. More importantly, I needed speech and aural rehabilitation. After consulting my audiologist, my parents decided English would be my first language to learn. For this reason, we moved back to the U.S. and started a long journey of hearing and speech training.

It was a new phase of my life, and a new start for my parents to learn how to use AB products and ensure that I was hearing my best. My dad gave up a promising position in China and moved to Missouri with us. I remember many trips between Wisconsin and Missouri to see my audiologist, and even more car rides to visit my speech-language pathologist. I had a speech therapist who came to my house once a week, as well as speech sessions at kindergarten. All the traveling and learning was very boring and intense at the time. But gradually, I learned sign language to express my needs and feelings. I started speaking simple words and sentences to communicate with people. Looking back, I see how all these boring car rides and hard sessions have given me the opportunity to hear and speak just as my hearing peers. 

I am grateful to go to different countries and be able to pick up phrases in different languages.

— Shirley Parrish, who hears with AB cochlear implants

Grateful

I am grateful for my cochlear implants because I’m able to listen to my cats purr and meow as they jump on my lap, to listen to music with cool bass and beats from every genre, to listen to tiny noises like birds chirping, bicycle bells, and rustling leaves. I am grateful to go to different countries and be able to pick up phrases in different languages. I can feel the vibrations of cars but also hear the stunning engine sounds.

My favorite sounds are definitely the voices of people. To be able to hear conversations and understand speech using cochlear implants is astonishing. I’m grateful to be able to communicate with my friends, chatting about upcoming Hollywood movies, talking about what we did over the weekend, and catching up on what we did last lesson. I am so grateful for my cochlear implants for allowing me to enjoy my life to the fullest potential.

 



Recently, what came as a big surprise was the amazing introduction of the AB Remote app. I love that I can check my cochlear implant battery on my phone. I love how I can connect my cochlear implants to my iPhone and computer wirelessly so I can listen to YouTube clips, films, TV shows, and music through my cochlear implants. I love how I can check my devices and adjust the volume with the app. 


Looking back on our journey, here is some advice my parents and I have for other families. Everything in life happens for a reason, and we must go with the flow. Take action whenever we can and be grateful for the things we receive. Be diligent about speech and hearing rehabilitation. This will be a long journey, but remember it's a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure you communicate and talk to the child all the time. Dont set a limit—if the child wants to learn more than one language, let them do it. Lastly, love and cherish your children and support them.

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Shirley Parrish 卢忻宜
Written by Shirley Parrish

Shirley Parrish 卢忻宜

Shirley is half American and half Chinese. Currently in the 11th grade, she is looking forward to attending university in the United States. She loves music, badminton, traveling, and filming. Shirley lives in Shanghai, China, with her parents and younger brother Aaron.

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