Apr 13, 2009

Cochlear Americas Celebration Anaheim March 2009

First up the picture above is the pattern of the carpet that the conference was held - I thought they chose it on purpose, apparently they didn't notice until after we all got there! Cool or what???

WOW what a whirlwind! I travelled from Down Under to Anaheim California for the conference and to meet a very dear friend of mine for the first time.

The Cochlear Celebration Conference was of course put on my Cochlear and was for recipients of the Cochlear brand cochlear implant. There 600 people attending the conference with a 60/40 split between adult recipients and parents of children who were recipients.

While we "grown ups" were attending the sessions at the conference, there was child-care for the kids and "Teen Scene" for the older group. We later found out that the 20 finalists from which the 5 Graeme Clark Scholarship winners were chosen, actually spent some time with the Teen Scene group. What a brilliant idea, what amazing role models for these teens to see - older successful cochlear implantees out there doing their thing in the world!!

When we had break times or other social events, it was so heart warming to see the children and all the friends they had made at the conference. Many of these kids attend mainstream school and so may not get to see a lot of other children with cochlear implants - it was so neat to see the friendships developing and seeing the hugs and tears as they said their goodbyes to each other on the last morning.

The conference was jam packed with information and events. The opening was incredibly moving and brought many of us to tears, even us "more experienced veterans" of the journey. Kassie DePaiva who is a singer and actress of "One Life to Live" spoke at the opening as did her son JQ. They were brilliant and Kassie moved us to tears as she spoke from the heart and as fellow mothers our hearts soooo heard her. Mind you she had us in tears before she began her "official presentation". Her presentation followed a presentation by Jim Patrick (Cochlear's Chief Scientist). When Kassie stepped up on the stage, she asked Jim to come back on to the stage. At which point, she wrapped her arms around him and gave him a big hug and said "this is from all the mommas out there" - well of course we were all bawling our eyes out by then!!!

Rachel Chaikof shot a lot of video at the opening and at the conference so go visit her site to read more and see more photos.

The seminar presentations covered a range of topics including
  • Bilateral implantation
  • Music Enjoyment with a cochlear implant
  • Raising a child with a hearing loss
  • Assistive Listening Devices and how they can help you
  • Enjoy More Freedom (understanding the technology and the options)
  • How'd they do that (a virtual tour of how the Nucleus Freedom Cochlear Implants and processors are made)
  • Path to School Success
  • Poised for Greatness (a panel of exceptional young adults telling their stories)
  • Future technology enhancements
  • Hearing Loss and Relationships
  • Adult Rehab - tips and tools

The sessions were all very informative and there was a great range of options to suit both parents and adult users.

The morning expo was filled with representatives across many organisations. Many adults took advantage of being able to try some assistive listening devices with support from the companies that provide them. Kassie gave up her time to both meet and have her photograph taken, and sign autographs for participants. She is a wonderfully warm person who truly was just another parent, yet used her acting role to connect with people. She gave up a lot of her time in support of the conference and Cochlear.

Perhaps the other thing that I truly noticed most was the accessibility of the senior management of Cochlear for the duration of the conference. Chris Smith (President of Cochlear Americas), Chris Roberts (Cochlear's Global CEO) and Jim Patrick (Cochlear's Chief Scientist) were available through out the conference speaking to adults and parents and having a multitude of photos taken with children! They were there for all the social events including the Volunteers Reception at The Aquarium of the Pacific and the Celebration Private Party at Disneyland. They didn't just put in an appearance and head home, they stayed for the duration of the events and were truly just part of the crowd. They certainly showed a genuine concern and warmth and welcoming of the parntership between user and the company that makes them.

Naomi with Dr Chris Roberts (Global CEO of Cochlear) and Jim Patrick (Cochlear's Chief Scientist).

The event was amazing. It was so well organised and co-ordinated and the ground staff for Cochlear that ran this show, worked tirelessly throughout the conference. It was really one of those "preaching to the choir" type moments, where everyone that was there had in some way seen the amazing change a cochlear implant had made in the life of another personh. It was truly a celebration of the good that come to the lives of many people - many adults described it as "getting my life back" where hearing loss had isolated them, robbed them of their confidence and their ability to maintain their employment. Their implants had given them all that back and so much more. It was great to hear so many positive stories from the adults that can describe to us what it is like for them.

As a veteran mother, I was just blown away by how well these young children that are being bilaterally implanted at such a young age, are doing. Their speech and language was amazing as was their ability to cope in noisy situations like large conference exhibition halls, crowded hallways or large dining rooms. Truly they barely even battered an eyelid with all that noise - it was just incredible. I'm sure that other manufacturers have similar events for their recipients and based on my experiences at the Cochlear Celebration I would encourage you to go - you learn heaps, meet a whole new group of friends and contacts and really just have your spirits lifted.

Oh and of course there was the CI Circle Lunch - more on that in another post, but we did manage to "rope in" a couple of mothers were not on CI Circle (yet) but were keen to be. Through out the weekend we had plenty of time to "plug" our group and our site and you would be surprised how many didn't know about us. Well at the top they do now - I told Chris Roberts (Global CEO) about our site one night and he looked it up later that night. The next day he told me how impressed he was by the webpage and resources it has - so go team!!!!