Jamie-Lee’s Story

 On August 22 nd CICADA Queensland launched Hearing Awareness Week for Queensland at a function held at Ship Inn South Bank. This annual event is coincided with Awards for the CI Recipient of the Year along with Awards for those who have had a cochlear implant for 20 years.

Jamie-Lee was nominated for her achievements, both in the sporting field and her work as a motivational speaker. Jamie-Lee received her first cochlear implant at age 5,and from all reports has never looked back. She is currently in a scholarship program with Queensland Academy of Sport and working part time with Vici Swimwear, her sponsor. Educated at All Hallows School, she discovered waterpolo at age 14, and made her Club debut with the Brisbane Barracudas in 2005 B Grade, and in 2008 as an A Grade player.

She has many career highlights including 2009 Athlete with a disability of the Year Award, Australian U17 team, Australian Youth Girls team, Australian schoolgirls team, National Water Polo League National Champion 2009 with Brisbane Barracudas, Queensland 20/U State Team to name just a few. Jamie-Lee’s personal goal is to represent Australia at the Deaflympics and Olympic Games. She lists as her heroes her family (especially her father, Wally Lewis) and the Barracudas team mates for their encouragement and support. Her career goal is to work for the RSPCA being an animal lover.

Here is what Jamie-Lee says: “I was diagnosed profoundly deaf 4 days after my first birthday. My parents were shocked. My mum collapsed. All parents would have that feeling and would have no idea what to do. My mum and dad looked for help for a long, long time until mum heard of a program that had been started by a lady named Dimity Dornan. My mum asked her if she could help me. Dimity said she could only take 4 children at a time because she had no room for more. She was forced to work out of the spare room at her husband, Peter’s physiotherapy practice. Dad told Dimity if she took me in, he would help raise enough money to open her own centre that would allow her to help more children.”

Now Dimity runs a statewide system that helps hundreds and hundreds of children in Brisbane, Gold Coast,Sunshine Coast and Townsville.

I had hearing aids when I was 14 months old. Unfortunately the many ear infections I suffered were so bad in those early years, I was forced to undergo many operations. The hearing aids weren’t helping my ears nor my hearing.

When mum was doing a course at Sydney University, she found out about the cochlear implant. She and dad often talked about whether I should get the cochlear implant or just rely on sign language, or even hope that another more advanced hearing aid might help.  They thought about it over and over and spoke a lot of different people and parents. When they made the decision to go ahead with the cochlear implant, many people in the deaf community called mum and dad ‘butchers’ and told them they should leave me alone. They even had to go on the television show ‘A Current Affair’. And after a lot of criticism the host said to them “What if she doesn’t want to hear?”

Mum said, “If she doesn’t want to hear, then she can just turn it off.” Not long after that I got my cochlear implant. I was 4 years and 7 months old, and the very first time it was switched on it worked and I could hear some sound. We even have a video at home which shows how surprised I was when I heard for the first time.

It has been a wonderful process over the past years. I had my first cochlear implant for 11 years, but I started to have really bad headaches. When I lied down it was fine, but whenever I got up, I started to get those bad headaches again. Mum and dad took me to see Doctor Bruce Black, and he said that I needed a new cochlear implant. The cochlear lasts about 10 years, but for some kids it only lasted about 5 years or 6 years, so I guess I was lucky. I received my second cochlear implant when i was 16. Lucky I didn’t have to shave half of my hair like the first time.

Thankfully mum and dad were helped by Sister Mary Lawson, who came to talk about schools and programs that would help me. She fought very hard to get me into a hearing school, and I went to St. Anthony’s school at Alexandra Hills from pre-school to grade 7. I then was accepted into All Hallows’  school in 2004, where I was the very first deaf student accepted. There are now half adozen deaf children attending the school.

The year before I started at All Hallows’, mum wanted me to start playing water polo. I didn’t want to play at all. To behonest, I had never heard of water polo before. I can even remember crying in the car when we were on the way to the pool for my very first trials. Eventually, I was selected in Under 14’s B team.

Then, the President of the All Hallows’ Waterpolo rang my mum up to ask her if I wanted to go to the Queensland State Championships with the Under 14 A’s and B’s teams. After the Tournament, I was selected in the Queensland A Squad, and I was very surprised. That’s when I became serious about playing water polo. I have been playing water polo for 6 years now and I’m still playing.

When I was in the All Hallows’ Under 16’s team, I was lucky enough to be named the Most valuable Player at the Queensland State Championships. Now, I am with the QAS (Queensland Academy of Sport) and I am on a scholarship. I also play for the Brisbane Barracudas National League Women’s Team, and we have won the national title for the past two years in a row. I have also been lucky enough to represent Australian when I was 17, 18 and 19 years of age. It has also helped me see the world. During last year’s Under 20’s Australian Team tour last year, we went to Manchester, Barcelona, Athens, Naples and Rome. If that wasn’t enough, I have also travelled to Singapore and New Zealand for the Australian Under 19’s Schoolgirls Team.

Also last year I won an award for Australian Water polo Player of the year with Disability. I am the first Deafperson to ever represent for Australia in a hearing sport.

Now I thank mum and dad so much for everything they have done for me as well as my older brothers Mitchell and Lincoln. Especially Mum for introducing me to Water polo, the game I ALWAYS WANTED TO PLAY!

If I hadn’t been lucky enough to play water polo, or have the support of my family, Dimity Dornan, Sister Mary Lawson and All Hallows’, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

Jamie-Lee’s motto:   “Never, never give up. Being deaf is difficult, but it should never be used as an excuse.  We should just try to be just as good, if not better than the players we are playing against”.

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