Saturday, October 11, 2014

Starkey Mission to China, 2014 - Day 5

Kunming, China
Patients fitted: 603

Today was our last day of fittings in Kunming.

The day went smoothly and I felt good, unlike others in our group. Kevin is back after being sidelined with a respiratory infection for a couple of days and now Todd is feeling terrible with a fever and general malaise.

We had a few rough cases today of people with no hearing at all in one ear. Despite our best efforts, it was not possible to do anything for them. We had a break around noon as we ran out of patients, but around 1:00 pm they started flooding in.

After a steady afternoon things seem to peter out around 3:30 and most of the people left early to go
shopping or see the sights of Kunming. I decided I would rather stay behind and help fit the last few stragglers. As it turned out, there was a steady stream of patients until about 5 pm, making for a long day. I stayed until the bitter end with Jessie helping me by translating and Bill ever present helping with the problem cases (and there were quite a few of those).

It felt really good when the last patient was fitted, and I said my farewells to Jessie as I did not think I would see her again, and headed to my room for a shower. It turns out Jessie's family owns a photo shop and she gave me some glossy prints of her, David and I that she had taken over the past few days. It was a wonderful gesture and I am very happy to have met such a wonderful person. We've exchanged email addresses so we can keep in touch in the future.

After having a shower and doing some laundry, I headed down to the bar for a beer before dinner, then headed over to The Market for the evening's group dinner sponsored by Starkey.

As it turns out, Jessie and another translator named Nature were both invited to dinner so I had one last visit with Jessie before finally saying farewell and heading off to bed.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Starkey Mission to China, 2014 - Day 4

Kunming, China
Patients fitted: ~609

Today was the third day of fittings in Kunming and once again David, Jessie and I
teamed up and cranked out the hearing aids. The weather was warmer than the first two
days, so things were a bit sticky. We had a very steady day with no real extraordinary
patients. There were a couple harder to fit patients, one of which had a very large ear
opening due to a botched surgery but thankfully Bill was able to find an ear mold for her
and fit a hearing aid.

Probably the funniest part of the day was our last patient which was an older gentleman
that was very difficult to fit. He was all over the place in terms of the power level he wanted
and just laughed at us when we were trying to do our fittings using the standard "bah bah
bah" noise. I swear he was high or something. It was quite funny.

We finished early around 3:30 pm and decided to rent bicycles and cycle around the lake.
Kunming is quite beautiful, and there were some spectacular views of the Lake and some
houses built literally on the face of the mountain cliffs.

It was also interesting to see the local fisherman fishing in the lake with their ridiculously long fishing poles.

After the bike ride, we had a couple drinks followed by a late buffet dinner and another
early bedtime. My back was quite good today, so either the anti-inflammatory pills are
helping, or I am just getting used to standing slightly bent over for most of the day.

Tomorrow is our last full day of fittings here in Kunming, then Sunday we have a day of
sightseeing and travel to Chuxiong, our next village.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Starkey Mission to China, 2014 - Day 3

Kunming, China
Patients fitted: ~609

Today we had a leisurely start at 9:30 am and got right down to business fitting hearing

David, Jessie and I were partners again, and we rigged up one of the aprons to hold
the tools higher up so I didn't have to bend down on account of my back issues. It still
was not feeling the greatest and seemed to be on the ragged edge all day. Indeed it "went
out" just after lunch break, but did seem to peak in the afternoon then get slightly better
around 5 pm. We worked a little later today as a few stragglers came in under the wire.

David, Jessie and I work really well together. We had a bit of a problem case where we
were fitting a young boy that could not communicate and clearly had issues other than
hearing. Things got confusing when Tani came over as Jessie, the mother, and Tani
were all trying to communicate with the boy, but with Tani's help we were able to get
some positive reactions and fit him with aids at a much lower power than we had initially
determined. Her experience was invaluable in this particular case.

We had a couple other notable cases today. We had on older man whose one ear
was completely dead, who would not take no for an answer, even returning later and
demanding a hearing aid. Unfortunately there was nothing we could do for him.

I also had a young girl with deformed ears as my last patient of the day and while I could
fit the hearing aids, I could not get them to hook onto her ears as she had no pinna. In the end, she was waiting for Bill to look at her in the hopes of getting a headband or other attachment to help.

We again had a couple of really thankful patients who were rather stoic until both hearing
aids started working, then they became very animated and thankful. The older ladies
are the best. They are definitely the most picky, but once you get it dialed in, they are
quite happy and thankful.

The always entertaining dynamic duo: Britta and Ros.

There was one particular woman who was diagnosed the same in both ears, but one ear had very mild loss and the other one was profound requiring the highest power hearing aid. These cases really make you second guess what you are doing, but again, when you dial it in and it all makes sense the patient's face lights up and they are so happy. I imagine the sound quality they are ultimately hearing is quite bad, but they likely haven't heard anything on the one side of their head for years. It must be quite an experience for them to hear something after being essentially deaf in one ear for so
long. Today's fittings showed us that the hearing tests that were done before the patient
arrives really can't be trusted. You really need to start from scratch assuming nothing.

Also, the translators are key in a situation like this, and we have an awesome translator in
Jessie. I had some great conversations with her today as we both stayed late and I learned
that she is a Kunming native and just finished high school. She thought about studying in
Canada but decided to go to the USA instead as Canada is too cold for her. She wants to
be an industrial designer or in airline management. She actually is very skilled at flying
model airplanes and helicopters and won a state-wide gold medal. She said her father is
even better than she is! Very cool! And she is such a nice young lady, and so patient with
the patients. It is an absolute pleasure working with her.

Tonight we are on our own for dinner, and then I'll likely load up on back pills and head
to bed early again.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Starkey Mission to China, 2014 - Day 2

Kunming, China
Patients fitted: 552

Today was the first day of the mission. We started with an amazing breakfast buffet
provided by the hotel followed by a briefing by Tani Austin about how the fitting
procedure worked, and what to expect. It turns out this mission was the very first one
where the Starkey Hearing Foundation would be using digital hearing aids, and ON 
Semiconductor's (the company Rosaline, David and I work for) chips would actually be
in them!

Following the briefing, there was a ceremony and speeches by various local dignitaries
to kick off the mission.

Once the formalities were over, the fittings began in earnest. The first couple fittings were done by Bill and Tani Austin with many cameras and people crowded around, and were declared a success.

Next, we were paired up with an experienced person who showed us the ropes and after a couple of fittings, we were on our own!

Things went relatively smoothly, and David and I combined with our interpreter Jessie
made a great team.

We fitted a total of just over 40 people, most of which had minor to
major losses. There were a couple more severe cases including one gentleman who had
one ear that we could not quite fit loud enough, even with the highest power behind-the-
ear (BTE) device we had. In the end he was referred to Bill himself for a higher-power,
body worn device.

There were a few very happy moments today with a few older people who were
genuinely thankful shaking both our hands vigorously and saying thank you. It was a
very rewarding experience. After a long day of fittings (not that long, really - we wrapped up by about 4 pm - but that much standing slightly bent over was enough to throw out my back on the very first day, unfortunately) we had a group dinner hosted by the local leaders (which was excellent
but was preceded by many more speeches) and headed off to bed.

The final count showed that we fit over 1000 hearing aids today, giving the gift of
hearing and hopefully improving the quality of life of over 500 people. Here's hoping my
back relaxes back into place enough to get me through day 2, as there are many, many
more days to go and many, many more people to fit!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Starkey Mission to China, 2014 - Day 1

The Journey to Kunming

Rosaline and I were picked up at our homes around 9 am this morning and
made it to the Toronto airport without incident where we met up with David (who works in our Burlington office and whom I was meeting for the first time). The flight to Shanghai, while extremely long and uncomfortable (the incessantly whining child behind me and no sleep did not help), was largely uneventful as well.

Our first surprise came as we tried to check in for our connecting flight to Kunming. We
were told that our tickets booked through our travel agent were invalid and that we would
have to buy new ones. Suspecting a scam, I called the travel agent hotline, and they
sort of corroborated the "invalid ticket" story, indicating that they should not have been
booked the way they were. In the end, we had to shell out close to $650 Canadian for
three flights from Shanghai to Kunming. After the long flight from Toronto to Shanghai
(over 14 hours), this was not a welcome hitch in our plans.

One interesting event however was my sighting the doppelganger of my sister-in-law in
baggage claim (who incidently was also on our flight from Toronto).

Finally on the way to Kunming, we had another 4 hours to go and we managed to
sneak in some uncomfortable sleep on the plane. When we arrived in Kunming, we
were surprised to find that we were met by an individual right on the jetway holding a
sign with our names on it. We were shuttled off in a private bus and ushered into a VIP
waiting room where we met Susan from Starkey, China.

We were offered refreshments and they dispatched people to collect our bags for us from baggage claim (which in retrospect was a wonderful gesture but not the best idea as it took another 30-40 minutes to get our bags). Once we had our bags we were put on a bus for the 40-minute ride to the hotel.

By the time we arrived at the hotel we were exhausted. At this point we'd been traveling
for about 27 hours and just wanted to shower and sleep! The hotel was another
unexpected surprise. I think it is safe to say that the Intercontinental Kunming is the
nicest hotel in Kunming, and the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in. The rooms are
gorgeous and comfortable, and I was happy to hear that we'd be there for the next five
nights, and all of the fittings while we were in Kunming would be done on site! After
sending a couple of emails and setting my alarm for approximately 5 hours later (it was
looking like it was going to be a rough first day...) I completely crashed.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Starkey Mission to China, 2014

Wow. Has it really been over two years since I last posted here? Geez! I guess I have had nothing interesting or all that important to say in the last 24 months. Well, the last two weeks have certainly been interesting and worth writing about. I have just returned from my first Starkey Hearing Foundation mission! My employer is a sponsor and every now and again they get to send people on missions. We've had quite a few people go in the past and this time I was one of the lucky ones asked to go! I said "heck, yea!" so myself, along with a few co-workers spent the past 14 days in southwestern China fitting hearing aids to hearing impaired individuals who could not otherwise afford them. Due to the Great Firewall of China I was unable to post my daily journal entries to Blogger while I was over there, so over the course of the next few days I will be posting my (back-dated) journal entries for your reading enjoyment (but mostly for myself so I don't forget what a great experience it was). So sit back, relax, and enjoy!

P.S. This entry is also back-dated so the upcoming journal entries will appear after it in chronological order.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Taj Mahal Is A Nice Guy...Really

This post is for the lady who tried so hard to get an autograph of Taj Mahal at the 2012 Kitchener Blues Festival.  I was a volunteer working the backstage gate.  There was a woman who had an old picture of Taj and was desperately trying to get his autograph.  She waited until he arrived, and he sort of brushed her off as he was being ushered into the backstage area, and she left pretty disappointed.

Well, not 10 minutes later Taj Mahal came back and asked where that woman had gone.  He even waited a few minutes while I ran up and down the line in search of her.  I really wish I could have found her, as it would have completely made her day.  I don't know if she did come back after the show and got an autograph, or if she went home thinking Taj Mahal was a big jerk.  But if she happens to stumble upon this post one day, I can tell you that he seemed like a nice guy.  Really.