From very little, our girls have LOVED Mr Bean – both the animated and traditional versions. I watched an interview with Rowan Atkinson recently, where he explained that when creating Mr Bean, the intention was to appeal to a global audience and thus breach the complexity of the multi-linguistic needs across the globe. With that in mind, a comical, extremely expressive and rather gestural endearing, Mr Bean, was born. What I’m not sure of however, is whether there was any consideration at the time, of the wide appreciation of this character to people with a hearing loss. With most of the script being exclusively visual, deaf and hard of hearing people are engaged at an equal state as any hearing viewer. Not something that usually happens without subtitles. And for our three, he is the beloved Mr Bean, and a guaranteed first request when offered the opportunity of screen time entertainment.
We’ve now been on our journey as knowingly and intentionally parenting deaf children for five full years (it feels a whole lot longer). Over the last three years, we have welcomed into the family, 6 cochlear implants. The final one being implanted quite recently. Whilst service providers and professionals spend their energy on the finer technical and operational details of the process and procedure, whilst parents consider the practicalities, risks (which always feel stressful and bigger than the reality – as much for the sixth implant as for the very first), the little person due to be implanted, is often thinking about what their new processor will look like. Well that’s certainly been the case for my three.
“Mom, can I have Mr Bean on my new processor?” she asked, her big blue eyes sincere with this rather unusual request.
Knowing that the choices for covers are generally quite limited, but also appreciating that on this journey, having the buy in from the child and embracing their excitement as half of the win, I agreed that Mom would make a plan! I wondered where on earth I was going to find Mr Bean stickers. An important part of this journey for us, is learning to make a dream come true by creating that reality ourselves. We find ourselves in that very predicament regarding their education, and with the endless barriers that people with a hearing loss face daily, I want my girls to grow up having an “it can be done” attitude to every “impossible” situation. We have never been all that impressed with the “blend it in” colour coordination of hearing aids or cochlear implants. Each to their own, but our family has chosen to embrace this journey whole heartedly. We are not ashamed of their hearing loss, not ashamed of their equipment, and in actual fact, have found it helpful for people see there is a “difference” so that any accommodations can be made sooner than later.
I was very privileged to be in Geneva mid-year to attend a World Health Organization stakeholders’ meeting. It was a rather humbling experience for me as I spent two days with people who I truly appreciate, have a heart for making the world a better place for those who are deaf. I saw that there was a Med-El representative present, and introduced myself, joking that I had “shares in the company” considering we were about to invest in our 6th implant. The conversation led to me discussing our journey thus far, and how each child was really thriving. As the conversation was rounding off before the next meeting session was about to begin, I commented tongue-in-cheek, that I did have one complaint to relay from a 6 year old. Mr Bean processor covers were not evident in the online catalogue!
Two days later, I received an email to say that Mr Bean skins especially made for my little princess, were going to happen! In that moment I thought about myself as a medical professional as well as the many other professionals out there who have the daily privilege of entering the worlds of so many people who dare to make themselves vulnerable. So often, we overlook the little details. The single most heartwarming thing that has happened on this particular CI journey was not the switch on, but rather having someone appreciate the wish of the little recipient to have her hero, Mr Bean, on her ears every day.
Chatting to a medical friend about this, she shared one of her experiences, managing a patient with a severe brain injury in ICU. Weeks and weeks of intensive management and complex medical care, saw this young man miraculously recover. When he woke up from his coma, he asked for macaroni and cheese. Again, a small detail that someone made happen, sprinkled the sparkle on an already heartwarming story.
Macaroni and cheese and Mr Bean, likely wouldn’t have made the clinical notes at the bed side. They are not details which would have been presented on a ward round, but they are details that mattered very much to the individuals being managed.
Eden received her Mr Bean processor last week. As she saw her dreamed up design for the first time, she screamed over and over – “Mr Bean! Mr Bean!” and embraced her little red processor tightly, whilst rocking side to side, as if hugging a tiny teddy bear.
Thank you to those who make special things like this happen! Thank you for seeing beyond the cochlea…beyond the science…beyond the intricate intervention…to those engaged blue eyes asking for Mr Bean.
The macaroni and cheeses and Mr Beans of this world matter. Let’s make sure we see them, hear them, and dare to take that first step forward in going the extra mile. It’s always worth it!