Drue Daniel lives in two worlds: with sound and without. And he remembers distinctly when he first learned to hear.
"I remember the surgery I had and when they put the cochlear in," said Drue, the son of Sherri Daniel and Frank Daniel, both of Martinez. "I heard a click, and then I started hearing everything."
The Lakeside Middle School seventh-grader, now 13, had a cochlear implant surgery eight years ago. An electronic device implanted in the brain is designed to provide sound information for people with profound hearing loss in both ears and for whom a hearing aid does not work. Power is fed to the implant from a battery-operated processor, which Drue carries in a belt pack.
Every night, Drue enters the world of the hearing-impaired as he unplugs the processor. Every morning, he endures a pain in his ear until he gets used to hearing again.
"It's helped me hear and talk to my friends," Drue said about the implant. "Being able to hear and not, it's normal to me."
When Drue was 3, his parents, who lived in North Augusta, visited the South Carolina School for the Deaf to determine how they were going to educate their youngest son.
Drue Daniel was born deaf and had a cochlear implant when he was 5. Today he is mainstreamed into the seventh grade at Lakeside Middle School but still has an interpreter in some classes.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"It was reality, but it was a reality I didn't want to hear," Ms. Daniel said, recalling that school officials said most deaf students earn a high school diploma and have the skills and knowledge of a third-grader. "Drue doesn't have to push himself - his knowledge comes from some place I'm not even aware of."
In fact, Drue was mainstreamed into a regular classroom setting when he was in the third grade. Since that time, he has earned As and Bs.
Though he can hear at 32 decibels - the average adult hears at 40 decibels - Drue still needs an interpreter with him in most of his classes.
"I'm with Drue in every class," said Maxine Taylor, an interpreter with the Columbia County Board of Education who has served as Drue's interpreter for two years. "He doesn't get many of the student responses, and that's part of the learning process."
"Most of my teachers talk loud, but some of them talk really soft," said Drue, who uses Closed Caption when watching television and movies.
Outside of the classroom, Drue and Taylor have bonded beyond the average student-teacher relationship.
"He talks to me," said Taylor, whose sister is deaf. "He feels comfortable talking to me and knows that he can trust me. Drue surprises me everyday."
At Lakeside Middle, Drue is a member of the Sign Language Club and is contemplating an offer to be manager of the track team. He's an avid artist who can draw almost anything and aspires to be a lawyer.
Though he strives for others to understand him, Drue mostly wants others to know that he is trustworthy, loyal and responsible, and that he loves his family and gives friendship, encouragement and smiles.
"I am thankful that I took the step to 'try' to make him hear," Ms. Daniel said. "He never stops talking, and if I had never heard his voice, I would truly be missing something beautiful."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.