By Robyn Carter
I was implanted back in 1993. I was the 8th adult in New Zealand to receive the implant. As there were not many others and no support group back then, I started looking online for some hearing loss/cochlear implant support group to join. I also was the editor of our NZ Cochlear Implant Newsletter so I was looking for articles to share to our recipients and would-be recipients here in New Zealand.
And so I found the SWC – in fact, I found Bob’s email first. Bob had written an article for the ALDA about faking it, when you don’t really hear something, but are too embarrassed to admit it, or too tired so you nod your head, laugh and pretend you knew anyway. This article resonated with me as I was such a good faker. So when I found Bob’s email address, I flicked him an email to tell him how much I enjoyed his article. The result of this was that he just subscribed me to the SWC. That was in 1995. And I’m still here.
There was only one email list back then – SWCForum. It was a busy list full of controversial conversation, often heated, often hilarious, and from there I forged many friends – many whom are still my friends today. Some of them are long gone from SWC, but there’s a good many still on the listserv with me today.
The list enabled us to converse like we never had before. We could write our feelings, what was happening, we were lifted when we were down, and in turn shared our experiences so that others may grow. There were fights, indignation, jokes, laughter and sometimes even tears, but most of all there was acceptance. It’s the feeling that we have finally found a niche where we could be what we were without fear of ridicule for being hard of hearing.
I was the only one with a cochlear implant back then, and I was careful not to emphasise it too much as many people were still very anti implants. Gradually I watched people accept the technology and embrace it, and I’ve seen many who swore they never would get one, actually have one. I chuckle quietly, but secretly I’m thrilled they have the gift of hearing somewhat restored so they can enjoy life again. And I’m overjoyed, that this hasn’t meant that they left SWC, in fact most stayed and the list is richer for their experiences that they share.
I’ve watched the list grow – from a single list – SWCForum, to Six lists, 3 Facebook pages, a blog, and we even have a twitter account somewhere! Each list, although similar because we all share the trait of hard of hearing, is different because of the personalities on each list.
SayWhatClub is now an incorporated society run by volunteers. At the top we have the Board of Directors who meet monthly and take responsibility for the club’s growth, putting in place improvements and try and keep up with the ever changing technology over the years.
We have a number of committees that ensure the smooth daily running of the organisation, from the website, to welcoming new members, and to ensuring the lists don’t stagnate, and for organising our yearly conventions.
We have a convention every year in a different part of America each time. These involve workshops, socialising, and loads of fun. You get to meet in person the people you’ve been talking to for years. I’ve been very lucky to attend three of these – one in Philadelphia, one in San Antonio, and one in Boise, Idaho. The friendships that I had forged over the years, were now cemented in person.
SWCers come from all over the world. We have USA and Canadian members, but also Australia, Netherlands, Finland, the UK, and India to name but a few. We are a diverse group, from different backgrounds, different religions, but our hearing loss binds us together.
SWC for me has helped me grow as a person. It’s given me opportunities that I never have been given otherwise. It’s helped my confidence, it’s made me more patient, it’s taught me about American Politics (although I’m not sure I’m richer for that!), it’s taught me about different cultures, but most of all it has taught me that valuable friendships can be made across oceans, across cultural divides, across political divides, and no matter what we say – we’re still friends.
It’s now 2017. I’ve now been a member of the SWC for 22 years. I’m still here. My implant is now 24 years old and I’m starting to feel old!
Check out the SWC Website, and if it’s what you’re looking for, click “Join”. You won’t be disappointed.
You can also join our Facebook Groups, we have two – one for people between 18 and 40, SWC Gen-Y. The other for everyone, Say What Club, Friends With Hearing Loss. We also have a public Facebook page, SayWhatClub, A Worldwide Forum for People with Hearing Loss where we share many hearing loss-related articles, videos, news items, and useable information.