By Cindy Butler Focke
Something stood in the way of Emma Colley’s pursuit of learning more about the medical world: the ability to use a stethoscope.
Not any more. Virginia Beach City Public Schools has ordered one specially designed for the Bayside High School Health Sciences Academy student, who has a cochlear implant in each ear to help her hear.
Emma hopes one day to be an emergency room nurse, and eventually a trauma surgeon.
“I’ve always liked chasing ambulances,” she said. “And my grandma was a nurse.”
Earlier this year she searched for a place to get volunteer hours in the medical field, and her mother found local Explorer Post 800 on the internet. The program is designed to introduce students to the world of emergency medicine and is part of a partnership with the Council of Virginia Beach Volunteer Rescue Squads, under the auspices of the Boys Scouts of America, Tidewater Council.
The 20 members of Post 800 meet every two weeks at the Ocean Park Volunteer Rescue Squad headquarters. They are trained regularly on skills, such as CPR, and taking pulse and blood pressure readings.
Emma said it’s fun being around people with similar interests.
The 15-year-old was diagnosed with profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears at 3 months of age.
At age 1, Emma underwent a six-hour cochlear implant surgery in one ear. Her family waited until the implant was activated at 13-months before having Emma’s first birthday party, so “she could hear us sing happy birthday,” her mother said. More than a year later, the other ear was implanted.
Now she’s a high school sophomore who enjoys field hockey, serves on the student council and is a National Honor Society member. Her hearing is normal, as long as the small electronic devices are on.
Missy Colley said Hampton Roads is fortunate to have such an excellent cochlear implant program at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk.
“I’m so thankful for that,” she said.
The Coalition for Hearing Education and Research is a valuable resource, she added. CHEAR was established in 2007 at Eastern Virginia Medical School to provide support and assistance for Hampton Roads residents dealing with hearing loss. An assistance program helps low-income families acquire needed hearing technology.
Margie Buxbaum is a Kempsville Rescue Squad volunteer and one of the Explorer Post 800 advisors. A stethoscope is a tool Emma will need for the rest of her life, Buxbaum said. She’s determined to make sure Emma also has one to use for the program that is a stepping stone toward helping young people decide whether or not they want to one day become Emergency Medical Technicians, which can happen at age 18.
“If you have a disability, it shouldn’t prohibit you from moving forward,” she said.