This past July, I received an email from an unknown person inviting my husband, youngest child, and I to New Jersey (all expenses paid!). When I read the email, I immediately thought, "This is too good to be true." I shared it with my husband, he replied the very same words and so we dismissed it. Within a week, I received another email with the same invitation and asking for our reply. I put it to the side for several days and finally decided to give a call to find out more. What I discovered is that Oticon hosts an annual conference for ponto users(bone assisted hearing device that Brody wears). Those invited would consist of children and adults. It would be an opportunity for us to learn, share, and know others with similar situations/challenges. We discussed it and of course agreed!
Fast forward 3 months to the week of the conference. We had thought little about it and once receiving the itinerary for the weekend, we knew we were in for a treat! My excitement was starting to build. Travis not so much. He still felt uncertain and when a limo arrived at the airport in Newark, Travis wondered if we should really get inside. (Brody did not think twice!)
We enjoyed our hour drive from Newark to our hotel, stretched out in the limo. Travis might have played with the interior lights and gadgets. :)
Feeling tired, we checked into our hotel and made our way to the room. As we did, we noticed others in the lobby wearing the ponto hearing device. Hmmmm......"people like our Brody" we thought, and our interest had been sparked. We freshened up and returned to the lobby for our name tags and instructions from Oticon staff. While waiting in line, our Brody began tugging on my sleeve and pointing to another little Asian boy. As I noticed him for the first time, I saw he was doing the same thing to his Momma. I took Brody to this handsome boy with a beautiful smile and we had introductions. There was an immediate bond. These two boys have so much in common. By the looks on their faces, they must have felt the instant connection also.
Travis, Brody and I made our way across the street to the delicious Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant. Brody was already drawing attention in his favorite light up shoes.
At Maggiano's we began to mingle amongst other ponto users and the Oticon staff. There were so many staff members present, smiling, greeting us, interested in our Brody. Immediately, you could feel the genuine caring. Confession here, I had never before considered the people behind the brand Oticon that our son wore daily. Suddenly we were face to face with THESE people and boy did they care! Our Friday evening was filled with excitement. We ate delicious Italian food, met so many fantastic people, and each ponto user shared their personal story to hearing. We heard stories from adults with sudden onset deafness, young adults who had worn many hearing devices, successful college students creating awareness for hearing impairments/microtia, teenagers dealing with being different, and children born hearing impaired. And for those curious, some ponto wearers have two ears, some have one "normal" ear, and some have no "normal" ears. The theme was clear: Oticon pontos had allowed hearing in each person's life and therefore improved learning, development, play, careers, school endeavors, and relationships. Adults and children were not just hearing but hearing well!!!
Sharing a tiny bit of Brody's story...he even said, "Hello!"
Brody became instant friends with Ms Lindzee, Oticon rep & audiologist.
So many beautiful, touching, life-changing stories! It was inspiring!.....and the weekend was just beginning. Despite our fatigue, we already felt encouraged and looked forward to a fantastic weekend with this diverse yet united group. We went to bed with our bellies full, our hearts warmed, and our minds anticipating knowledge not yet known.
To be continued.........