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Seeds of Disquiet

One Deaf Woman’s Experience

Cheryl Heppner

Publication Year: 1992

In her autobiography Seeds of Disquiet, Cheryl Heppner writes of experiencing severe hearing loss twice. Spinal meningitis caused a profound loss of hearing when she was six, and for the next 18 years she worked hard to live the life of a “normal” hearing person. Through exhaustive work in speech therapy and speechreading, she excelled in school and college, performing Herculean feats without the assistance of trained interpreters or notetakers. Then, when she was 25, two strokes left her completely deaf. For the next 20 years she worked to recreate her life through sign language and the Deaf community. The process stunned her by revealing how much she had missed before. Initially embittered, Cheryl Heppner later went on to use her astonishing energy as an advocate for deaf and hard of hearing people. Seeds of Disquiet celebrates her accomplishments, the most significant of which, perhaps, was her reconciliation with her loved ones from her former life with her new outlook.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press

Title Page

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Copyright

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Prologue

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pp. 1-4

In July 1989, I went to Washington, D.C. to attend the Deaf Way conference. It was the first international conference on Deaf culture. I had spent a week sharing experiences with persons from all over the world. Deafness was our common thread. It was exciting to be part of a conference with so many thought-provoking speakers. I had one more workshop to attend...

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1

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pp. 5-11

I was the second child born to parents who had both been eldest children. My ancestors were of hardy stock, and my extended family is close and boisterous on one side, scholarly and intense on the other. My mother was raised in Waterville, Maine. Her father, Cramp Webber, operated a dairy farm on land that had nourished...

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2

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pp. 12-16

At first the family doctor thought my sickness was one of the flu viruses making the rounds in the community. But when my temperature continued to shoot up and I started to hallucinate, he knew I was grappling with something more serious. It was an anxious time for my family, but there were pleasant...

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3

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pp. 17-21

I was eight years old when I showed up in Woolrich School's third-grade classroom. I had been in town for almost a month, but I hadn't met many of my classmates. Most of them came by bus; some were from remote areas. My new school was small and stable. It had only one class...

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4

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pp. 22-28

Deafness was difficult for my classmates to grasp. They didn't understand that talking louder to me was no help at all. They didn't know why I needed to see their faces when they talked, or that they had to stand close to me so I could see their faces clearly. I was a demanding playmate compared to the others...

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5

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pp. 29-31

My elementary school years had three main focuses: school, my social life (or more often, nonlife), and my speech therapy sessions. Tom Zelinske worked zealously on my speech. He was still a college student when he became my teacher. I memorized every detail of his face during the hours I spent...

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6

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pp. 32-38

In 1963, I started junior high school, riding the bus to Lock Haven for classes. There, I quickly began to lose the edge I had gained from the tutoring and extra attention I had received at Woolrich School. I missed the closeness that came from having one teacher, small classes, and the same room all day. I no longer had the...

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7

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pp. 39-45

Thank God for the slam book! I got a glimpse of one in junior high and knew I had to make my own. It gave me my first good view of the thoughts and interests of the kids I saw every day. The books were jerrybuilt by taking a pad of paper and putting a different question in each page: "What's your...

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8

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pp. 46-52

To give me a taste of what I'd be up against after high school, my parents persuaded Lock Haven State College to let me take an English class. Although I didn't know it, I was also helping to prove something. A college administrator had told my parents that there was no way I could make it through college. I...

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9

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pp. 53-61

Thanks to Mr. Z, my parents knew that Penn State had speech and hearing services. They urged me to visit the clinic and see if I could get some help from the professionals there. I was loath to sign up for more punishment, but Mom and Dad were paying most of my college bills, and I wasn't about to bite the...

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10

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pp. 62-69

Sororities at Penn State occupied floors in the campus dorms, but fraternities had houses off campus. I had gone out several times with a brother from Pi Kappa Phi after being introduced by one of my sorority sisters. The relationship didn't work out, but my friendships with the other Pi Kapp brothers...

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11

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pp. 70-78

I had completed the course work for my independent study program soon after my return from Charleston to Newport, but graduating from Penn State took longer than I had planned. Fred arranged for me to have a proctored final exam on the base so I wouldn't have to drive back to Penn State. The...

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12

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pp. 79-86

Fred was offered a position as a phannaceutical representative for Pfizer Laboratories in a territory that covered the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and parts of West Virginia and Maryland. Pfizer had experienced problems keeping that sales position filled, and the district manager encouraged...

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13

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pp. 87-89

.I turned to myoId friends, books, for answers. I didn't always find my answers, but the books helped me to ask the right questions. As I studied the library's meager collection of books about deafness, I began to realize that I was not a stupid person. Actually, I discovered, I was a dam good survivor. In high school...

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14

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pp. 90-95

After my return from the mental health conference, I started to immerse myself in projects. I hooked up with Charles Cochran, who belonged to a group called the Telephone Pioneers of America. Charlie wanted to distribute old teletypewriters that he and his group had reconditioned so that deaf...

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15

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pp. 96-101

My work life began to change. I was no longer participating in the federal job program. My position in the library had become a permanent one and I was earning minimum wage. I'd had several bad experiences on the job with people who acted as if my deafness was intolerable. Once, a woman had...

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16

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pp. 102-108

As much as I loved the work, I began to realize that my options at Handley Library were very limited. The new addition had opened, and funding had been granted for a children's librarian. I wanted to apply for the position, but I was not encouraged to do so. Although I had worked with children since my...

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17

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pp. 109-113

Some of the best fighters I met in the disability rights movement didn't have to worry about their parents' perception of them, or anyone else's. People who became disabled later in life often had already developed an identity or two, such as worker, spouse, or parent, before disability came along and...

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18

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pp. 114-120

Tootie Campbell, my signing friend, encouraged me to join Quota Club. The members of Quota were women who either owned a business or held executive positions in a company. I was attracted by the club's commitment to provide funding to support services for persons with hearing loss. Quota Club had...

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19

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pp. 121-126

As I became more skilled at sign language, I switched from using oral transliterators to using sign language transliterators, or sign language interpreters as they were more commonly known. During the years I was trying to blend in, I hadn't used interpreters. Sign language interpreting was still relatively new...

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20

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pp. 127-132

I was concerned about the quality of health care for persons with disabilities. There were doctors and nurses who treated me like a perpetual patient although only one part of me was out of order. From my friends who had disabilities, I learned about surgery that was ostensibly being done to correct...

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21

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pp. 133-138

I'd left my darkroom behind when we moved to Washington Street. It was no great tragedy because I had little spare time to dabble in photography. I had another hobby, collecting teddy bears. In one of the guest bedrooms, which we called the "Bear Room," they sprawled on every piece of furniture. The...

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22

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pp. 139-145

It was amazing how much my short stay at Gallaudet had changed me. I had always thought that my education was a good one. I began to realize how much of my success had been in spite of, not because of, my experiences in the classroom. I hadn't known what I was missing because I'd never had anything...

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23

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pp. 146-151

I thought my new job working for the Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing would be interesting and challenging. It definitely was. What I didn't predict was that it would be painful. Now that I talked daily with other people who were trying to cope with hearing loss, I saw clear patterns to tough problems...

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24

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pp. 152-158

I had to wrestle with my negative feelings about people with hearing loss who took handouts such as government disability payments. I felt that these handouts diminished the person who accepted them. They perpetuated the misconception that deaf and hard of hearing people could not work or have...

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25

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pp. 159-163

For years I had focused a lot of my attention on trying to make the local hospital more accessible to deaf patients. I worked with renewed vigor after I took my job with the state. Years earlier, one of my projects had been to place a teletypewriter in the Winchester hospital and try to get a policy...

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26

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pp. 164-169

Fred and I were very attached to our house on Washington Street. We had been absorbed in its renovation for more than three years. Everywhere we looked, we could see something we'd sweated to fix. Our neighborhood was terrific; parties with our neighbors were frequent and fun. Each summer we...

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27

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pp. 170-173

Fred and I found a tiny ground-floor apartment that allowed pets. We'd decided to rent for a while, even though we were living in cramped quarters, because we wanted to get to know the Reston area before we invested in another home. We'd lived in the modular house for several months while...

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28

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pp. 174-180

In July 1989, I attended the Deaf Way conference. The speakers were wonderful and the companionship was peerless. But I realized keenly that I had been raised apart from the Deaf culture on which the conference was based. There were times when I still ached to belong to something. Shortly before the conference...

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29

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pp. 181-190

I was officially hired as a full-time regional outreach specialist with the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in the fall of 1990. One of my closest professional contacts was Jerry Nelson, the director of the Fairfax Resource Center for the Hearing Impaired. Jerry and I were the only deaf...

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30

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pp. 191-193

Many things are changing. While I was crafting my letter of confession, I learned that my parents were taking their first class in sign language. After thirty-three years as a deaf person, there is still plenty of room for memorable firsts. Seated in a busy restaurant with Mom, Fred, and the Woodhouses, I had the indescribable...


E-ISBN-13: 9781563682230
E-ISBN-10: 1563682230
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563680168
Print-ISBN-10: 1563680165

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 1992

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Subject Headings

  • Heppner, Cheryl M., 1951-.
  • Deaf women -- United States -- Biography.
  • Deaf -- United States -- Biography.
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