Excerpts from
Raising Teresa

Alive, but deaf

Alive, but deaf In the Infectious Disease Unit, Teresa went through several weeks of intense treatment that included antibiotics by IV, blood transfusions, spinal taps and an encyclopedia of other tests.


It seemed like every minute of every day someone was poking something into our precious daughter. Following a few weeks of treatment, I noticed that Teresa wasn’t responding to attempts to wake her. It was a Saturday morning, so I decided to turn on the television in her room. I thought maybe she would react to cartoons.

She wasn’t facing the television and made no reaction to the sound that was now easily heard throughout the room. She still didn’t respond when I turned it up. I then turned it up again to the point that it was booming throughout the ward. I picked her up from the hospital crib and held her.

When she felt my touch, she opened her eyes. That’s when she saw the television and reacted to what she was seeing. It was at that moment that I knew she couldn’t hear. I didn’t want to face this new challenge. I was holding out hope that this wasn’t permanent.

Maybe she would soon fully recover from this horrific nightmare. But that never happened.

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Never one to be satisfied with the status quo, Teresa was always looking for the next challenge. So, in the midst of working on her degree, she threw herself into another project that would eventually place her on a national stage.

 

At the urging and encouragement from teachers and friends, Teresa tossed her name into the running for Miss Deaf Ohio. According to an article on the American Sign Language website, in 1972 the National Association for the Deaf (NAD) started the pageant for young, deaf and hard of hearing women from across the United States who were between the ages of 18 and 28. These women represented their home state associations of the deaf while demonstrating their talents and accomplishments in a quest for the NAD Miss Deaf America title.

 

 The winner of Miss Deaf America held the title for two years and served as the ambassador for more than 28 million deaf or hard of hearing Americans. During the height of its popularity, the pageant had between 30 and 40 participants. Structured like the Miss America Pageant, the contestants would need to win at the local and state level before competing for the America title.

 

The contest allowed participants to develop their personalities, self-confidence, and poise,  while also displaying their talents, expressing their opinions and sharing their ambitions. Contestants were required to give a three-minute presentation to test their ability to think on their feet, and to gauge how they handled themselves under pressure.

 

Each contestant was judged in five categories: private interview, platform presentation, talent performance, evening gown, and onstage interview. The pageant lasted for 40 years, before ending in 2012. But in 2006, after entering on a whim, Teresa found herself being crowned Miss Deaf Ohio, and suddenly there was a lot more to prepare for than just college. ​​

A World Opens Up