Village residents support Mereaira’s dream of a miracle
Mereaira Poutu enjoys a special bond with residents of our community at The Avenue Maroochydore where some have been learning sign language to communicate with her. Our resident Valerie Merwood shares her story about the moment Mereaira received the miracle of sound.
What is the sound of a miracle? It is the sound of my voice, the voice of a friend; it is the voice of Loucas, her Audika audiometrist. We know this, because, recently, we saw something special take place. It had the eyes, the smile, the tears of Mereaira - it is her miracle, and Loucas and I shared it. He had slipped a gadget into each of her ears - what do we older women know about the names of modern technology? They were a gadget. A miracle was about to unfold.
Loucas had started this appointment like the professional he is: the routine of checking Mereaira’s hearing aids, replacing parts, testing volumes. Her aids are the large heavy plastic pieces that overflow her earlobes. She has worn them for as long as she can remember. There is no sound for her at all without them, not even noise. Mereaira was a chronically deaf child, but her parents ensured she was not mute - not allowed to sign until years later, hands tied behind her back, she must lip read, she must speak.
She is, according to those who understand the yardstick of the deaf world, one of the very best lip-readers to grace both NZ and Australia, her two homelands. Until she fails to respond to a voice out of sight, it is unlikely that people realise that she is deaf.
Mereaira could always hear some noises, but never make sense of them. She loves music - she feels its beat, the vibrations. At school she didn't take to the 3-Rs but loved sport where her hearing did not matter so much. Later, she found work as a machinist also where hearing didn't matter.
At 68, could Mereaira be a candidate for surgery, an implant? She attended tests, waited. But the door closed. Now her audio specialist is here talking about this new phone technology. He smiled. ‘Let’s try these’, and he slipped his gadget into each ear. The miracle stepped up to the mark, set to go.
Asking if I had my phone, Loucas suggested she ring me. We always use FaceTime when we chat, she can see me, lip read and we chat easily. But on that day when I went outside the room and spoke from reception, I turned off the phone’s camera and asked unconnected stuff. ‘I live at The Avenue Maroochydore. Where do you live?’ ‘I live at 37 … Oh what’s the name of my street? I live at St Vincent’s’. ‘Is that Baden Powell Street?’ ‘Oh yes, that’s right’. What kind of ordinary conversation is this! The young woman at reception has a smile 10 miles wide. My smile was 10 miles wide as I returned to my friend who was crying and giggling. ‘You have a nice voice’ she said to me! ‘And so do you,’ she said to Loucas whose smile was matching mine. The miracle is in full flight. Loucas reveals: ‘I did not expect this!’ The miracle was in full flight.
Back to earth, I knew that I must voice something. ‘How much?’ Mereaira and I know that she cannot find the money. She feints a refusal to let Loucas take the precious gadgets from her ears. The old aids overflow her ears again and she returns to hearing loss.
A few weeks went by. What happened? Everything - a sequence of ‘steps’ to the everything that is Mereaira’s miracle. I had told my friends, they had told their friends. The word was: “this lady must have her new hearing aids” and the money was generously forthcoming.
Assured that we were safely underwritten, my husband and I are driving our friend back to Audika. The car radio is playing … Neil Diamond is singing ‘It’s a Beautiful Noise’. How is that for timing! And through my laughter I speak the lyrics towards her so she can read them on my lips: ‘What a beautiful noise, Comin’ up from the street, Got a beautiful sound.” She says ‘I want to hear that song’ - and by the end of the day she does.
A group of well-wishing donors from our community at The Avenue gather in the cafe to greet Mereaira. She hands out thank you cards and flowers she had crafted for each one - and her gratitude exudes from her soul.
Later that afternoon she attends bingo and sits in the back row: the numbers are clear, she scores a full house! And after that? Her staff member friend Nikki and I find Neil Diamond on Mr Google and we three laughing ladies dance, our pretend microphones send out our noise with the lyrics: ‘And it makes me feel good … Yes it does, Yes it does’. Every day.
Thank you, Valeria, for sharing the memorable experience of witnessing your friend Mereaira's miracle.