Kate Seader might have lost her hearing, but it didn't affect her determination.
Kate Seader now enjoys
living a simple life.
The 1997 Lakeside High School graduate became deaf after the first quarter of her freshman year at the University of Georgia. But, if anything, it made her more determined to follow her dreams.
The daughter of Bill and Teri Seader of Evans, she graduated with honors in May 2003 from West Carolina University with a degree in natural resource management.
Seader, 25, now works for the U.S. Forest Service in North Carolina where she is collecting data for her master's thesis. This fall, she will work as a graduate assistant at UGA where she plans to earn her doctorate degree.
Her research involves an insect that is eating hemlock trees and the impact of losing the trees on the forest ecology.
"... Being diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening illness, and then going deaf because of that illness, is a difficulty that I must learn to adapt with, cope with, every day," Seader wrote in a recent e-mail interview. "The changes it brings to you cut to the bone. There isn't one day that comes when you wake up and everything is suddenly OK, but rather you slowly gather perspective."
In 1996, the Lakeside High School junior was active in sports and was doing good in school. She played on a traveling soccer team, played varsity soccer for Lakeside, danced with the Augusta Irish Dancers, was on the Augusta Rowing Team and swam for the Augusta Swim League.
One morning when she awoke with a bad cold and experienced fainting spells that developed into seizures. Test revealed that Seader, then 15, had acoustic neuroma - tumors on both hearing nerves.
It is the hallmark of Neurofibromatosis, Type 2, a genetic disorder that affects about 1 in 40,000 people.
At the advice of her physicians, she took a "wait and see" approach and continued with her activities, undergoing an MRI every three to six months. She graduated from Lakeside in 1997 and began her college career at the University of Georgia.
Shortly thereafter, a routine MRI revealed the bad news: the tumor had grown into the brain stem and could be life-threatening. A nationwide search for a physician who could perform such delicate surgery led them to Dr. Derald Brackmann at the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles.
She finished her first semester of college in January 1998 and had her first brain surgery that month, with the total removal of one tumor. It left her totally deaf in one ear. Complications developed, and three weeks later she had brain surgery again for the removal of the other tumor, leaving her with less than 5 percent hearing.
"The tumor also grows next to the nerve that controls facial movement," Seader said. "I came extremely close to losing movement in half of my face."
She quickly learned to read lips, and in March, returned to college.
She arranged for note takers to accompany her to classes. As someone who was accustomed to learning by listening, she had to adjust to become a visual learner.
At school, she was assisted by the Georgia Department of Rehabilitation and was awarded the City of Augusta Mayor's Award for her accomplishments.
She was determined not to let her hearing loss stop her. She signed up to renew her CPR life guard certification and applied to a Boy Scout camp in North Carolina to be a summer counselor.
The following fall, she continued at UGA, but applied to be a national exchange student so she could attend college in North Carolina near the mountains and the outdoors she had grown to love.
She eventually picked ecology as her major. Her rowing experience in high school had developed into a love of kayaking, and she felt a background in ecology would help her preserve the rivers where she loved to kayak.
"My father is a forester, and I like to be outdoors and would like to learn more about the ecosystem processes and the way that the world works," Seader said.
In May 2002, the tumor had grown to a dangerous size, and Seader underwent her third brain surgery for the total removal of her remaining acoustic nerve. She was left totally deaf.
That summer she began working as an intern technician for the U.S. Forest Service research station at the Coweeta National Hydrologic Research Laboratory in North Carolina near Clayton, Ga. There, she began gathering information for her thesis.
She now lives in Franklin, N.C. with her dog Darby. In August, she'll move to Athens where she will attend UGA as a graduate student this fall.
Her attitude of "listen to the music while you can" and appreciate the life you have by living every day to its fullest has gotten her through many trying days, her mother said.
Seader said she would like to one day have a job where she can immediately see the results of her work. She does not own a TV and aims to live a simple life. Her goal is to one day live on a farm.
"It seems that too many people are caught up in their too-many-activities - slaves to their calendars and checkbooks," Seader said. "What I do know is that life is such a gift. Stop wasting your time."
What is it?
Neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2), also known as Bilateral Acoustic NF, occurs in one in 40,000 births.
It is characterized by multiple tumors on the cranial and spinal nerves and by other lesions of the brain and spinal cord. Tumors affecting both of the auditory nerves are the hallmark. Hearing loss beginning in the teens or early twenties is generally the first symptom.
It is a genetic disorder, which may be inherited from a parent who has NF, or may be the result of a new or spontaneous mutation or change in the sperm or egg cell.
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