Life-Changing Decision?

We’re all parents here – or I think most of us are.  Here’s a dilemma that I hope none of us ever have to face, but it presents an interesting question.

Watching Dr. Phil today, the audience was introduced to a young lady named Key.  Key is 11 years old, and already quite the accomplished gymnast, having competed in California’s Olympics, where she earned 5th Place in the All-Around.  That’s a big deal.  All Around, for those not up on their Gymnastics jargon, is ALL of the events: Free Exercise (the big flat mat), Balance Beam, Uneven Parallel Bars, and Vault.  She must compete and perform well in all events in order to be considered.  She got fifth.  In the state.  So she’s really into, and committed to, gymnastics.  Out of the gym, she’s very active as well, and particularly enjoys surfing and bicycling.

When Key was 5 years old, she was diagnosed with Enlarged Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome. She has high-frequency hearing loss in both ears and may eventually lose all hearing. There are some activities that could cause her to permanently lose ALL of her hearing.  Instantly.  As in, on the balance beam now: fine. Fall off a minute later: deaf.  Forever.

Her mother said, during the show, that pressure situations can cause the hearing loss – swimming more than 3 feet below the surface, certainly something like SCUBA diving would do it, as would flying.  Even catching a cold could cost her hearing.

Earlier this year, Key started losing more of her hearing.

Her parents are baffled as to what to do.  Key loves gymnastics, and insists that she wants to continue with it, even if it could cost her hearing.  Her philosophy is, if it happens, it was meant to be.  Her parents don’t want to buckle her down – they understand how much she loves being active, and they believe that kids should be active.  But they struggle with the alternative.  Is her enjoyment of gymnastics worth the cost: her ability to hear?  Do they restrict her activity, and redirect her attention and passions toward ‘safer’ activities, like the arts, music, reading?  And if they do, and she loses her hearing anyway, was it worth it?  It’s an agonizing decision, and one I pray I never have to make.

Now I pose the question to you.  What would you do if it was your child?

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11 Responses to Life-Changing Decision?

  1. SKL says:

    Well, my gut reaction is, I would probably let her keep up her sports, as long as she didn’t do anything that created a specific high risk of hearing loss.

    I think when you’re that close to reaching your dream, it’s hard to say that the possible loss of hearing would be worse than 100% closing the door to the dream.

    Of course, I’d have to know more to actually make that kind of decision. Does she also love music? What kind of job would she be able to do if she were deaf, after the gymnastics were over? Is she likely to go deaf in any event, assuming that sitting in a padded room for the rest of her life is not a viable option?

    We certainly have an instinct to protect our kids, but at the same time, we have to encourage them to fly. Personally I would not want to go through life thinking “if only, if only” and I wouldn’t want that for my kids, either. Of course, that’s easy for me to say – my kid doesn’t have that particular issue.

  2. Jason says:

    I think that I would let my kid keep doing the sports they love after all it doesn’t sound like you can stop this from happening. I think that I would start learning sign language along with my child since it sounds like a necessity for the future.

  3. Karen Joy says:

    I saw this show and Key also said when asked would she rather hear or do gymnastics if she FOR SURE knew she would go deaf, she said she would want to hear.She wavered back and forth a little.Children do not understand long term consequences.The point is she is a child and at that age you cant leave the decision up to a child.They always want to do what feels good right now.The point was made that as a parent your responsible to bring then into adult-hood as well (physically and emotionally)as you can.I know I would not let her do the gymnastics.Not under my care.

  4. Ellen says:

    Wow, this is indeed a dilemma. I haven’t seen this show. I know if your child is really persisting on doing the gymnastics on this high level and she enjoys it, than let her. It will cause also stress when you forbid her to do so. But she needs to realize she will never get it to the highest level. she needs her hearing for all the events of an all round gymnastic. And, she will have to fly to tournaments and that is not allowed with this disease either.

  5. Nikki says:

    This is a tough situation they are in. I happen to watch this show also. I hardly ever watch Dr.Phil, but the topics he was talking about that day caught my attention.

    I don’t think she is old enough to make this decision on her own. And if my memory serves me correctly, her parents said she was unwilling to learn sign language. I would lean towards protecting my child’s hearing as much as I can. On the flip side, I would never ever want to crush my child’s dreams. But there comes a point when you just have to make that decision and I’m almost certain I would not let her do gymnastics.

  6. Joy says:

    I’m somewhat like a fish out of water on this one and doing the whole flip flop thing. I had to “sleep on this” post. On one hand I say no gymnastics. Not at this competitive level. One fall could be all she took to go deaf. We are supposed to keep our kids safe. We tell them not to touch the stove for fear of being burned and we protect their eyes and we buckle them up. Deaf is deaf and I can tell you one thing, I didn’t like it when my kids got a cold. I wanted them feeling well all the time.

    On the other hand….you can’t stop living either. That is a very defeatist attitude to show a child. IF she’s going to go deaf one day no matter what, is it worth it for her to have to live in bubble and not do anything that “might” hurt her?

    I have ANOTHER hand……I agree with what Jason said about teaching her the coping skills of being deaf before it happened so when/if it did, she as well as the parents will be able and ready to communicate. My kids knew sign language when they were young. They both had a teacher in second grade that taught them and that’s how they communicated in that classroom a lot. I still remember how to do that alphabet as well and a few hand gestures. NOT THAT ONE JASON!!! LOL!!!

    BUT then ONE MORE HAND. Also, like Karen said, it’s our job to see these kids safely out of the nest. This, to me, is almost like gambling and it’s a temping of the Gods type of thing. For this child to say “if it happens it happens and it was meant to be” sounds like something a child would say. If you don’t wear your seatbelt and you get into and accident and get thrown from the car, was that meant to be? Are you not trying to keep her safe? As safe as you can without locking her up? What if she doesn’t go deaf? This hand feels like the parents are pushing the envelope. My kids always wanted to take the boat to Clearwater and go fishing alone when they were 10 and I never let them. If something happened to them in that boat I don’t think I’d have the attitude that it was “meant to be.” I’d think I was careless. She’s got a big life to live and it goes way beyond the Olympics. In all reality, how many Olympians can you name and where are they now? Don’t get me wrong, I love and admire our Olympians but only a chosen few have made sports their life’s work and if this girl goes deaf as a result, she’s got a whole life as an adult and would she always chastise herself and blame herself or her parents one day??

    My hands are all used up.

    • SKL says:

      Well, is she really that unsafe doing gymnastics if she’s well-trained? Anyone can fall. I would probably break something if I tried copying an 8-year-old gymnast. But if I had been doing it for years, a serious fall would be relatively unlikely, because I’d know how to prevent it and how to fall safely onto the mat if it did happen. On the other hand, I might slip on the ice and fall in my driveway, or fall out of a tree due to breaking a weak branch. I just wonder if she is really in extraordinary danger simply by virtue of doing gymnastics.

      However, I didn’t realize she would not be able to fly and keep her hearing. That would weigh in my decision.

      It’s a tough question for sure. I agree that 11 is not old enough to make a decision like that on her own. But on the other hand, every time we send our kids out to go to school, there is some risk that they could get hurt or even killed. Every time we teach them about cooking, we expose them to risks that could have long-term effects. Letting them near or in a pool – same thing. All of these are avoidable, but at what cost? I know being able to do gymnastics is not “essential” to life, but neither is swimming, and most parents let their kids learn to swim. So, I feel for these parents having to make this kind of decision. It certainly is not black & white.

  7. Laura says:

    Ok, I wanted to sit back and let you guys talk a little before I put in my opinion, because I’ve pretty much settled mine.

    The turning point for me was when her mother said, “she could lose her hearing by getting a cold.” A COLD!! Not doing gymnastics isn’t going to stop that cold. Only sitting in a sterile bubble for her entire life will stop that… maybe.

    That does not mean that I’m just going to throw the kid out there and say, “go to it, kid!”

    I would tell her, go ahead with the gymnastics. BUT… you will work, DAILY, with a sign-language teacher. You WILL learn the skills you will need as a deaf person, because your hearing is already failing. (if you watch some of the clips from the show, you can hear it already affecting her speech) We, as a family, WILL do everything we can to learn about alternative therapies, cochlear implants, etc., as well as learning all we can about the deaf community, because it is likely that deafness will happen.

    I don’t think that, at 11, she should be allowed to make this decision completely for herself. But I also don’t think that she should be cut out of it, either.

  8. kweenmama says:

    We have a lady in our neighborhood who is slowly going blind. She is preparing herself for when it finally happens. I think as a parent I would do the same with my child…have her be learning all that she will need to learn in order to function as a deaf person. And if she refused to learn sign language, then the gymnastics stops. One goes with the other. If she is going to risk her hearing by continuing in gymnastics then she needs to learn the deaf community stuff. If she doesn’t want to learn it, then she needs to stop gymnastics so that her hearing can be preserved as long as possible. It sounds to me like the odds are that she will eventually lose her hearing. Preparations need to be made for that, but she should be allowed to enjoy her life within reason.

  9. mssc54 says:

    I haven’t read any of the comments so let me just have a go at this.

    Who the heck cares what an ELEVEN YEAR OLD’s philosophy is?! SHE’S ELEVEN!!!

    The first job of a parent (in my correct opinion) is to safeguard their child from ANY DANGER! That doesn’t mean that little Princes’ selfesteem will be in the tank and she will be suicidal if she doesn’t get to continue COMPETITION gymnastics.

    Great she is a standout in the state. Whoopie-doo! If she enjoys gymnastics so much let her continue to do gymnastics. But I’ll bet that it is not, in fact, the gymnastics she enjoys so much as it is the competition and beating the tar out of all those other little girls.

    Where are all of you who condemned the parents for their little darlings competiting in a beauty pagent?! Except for the costume there is little difference. Parents living out their dreams through their children.

    And I know what I’m talking about because I found myself doing the same thing with our (now) 21 year old daughter. She was an outstanding (left handed) fastpitch softball pitcher. I coached her all through her recreation years and some of her highschool years. She was sought after by more than one highschool. It took some doing but I finally realized that there was more to life than your child competing in the Olympics.

    Sure her ELEVEN YEAR OLD dream is to one day compete in the Olympics but so friggn what.

    I have a nephew who was born deaf. These parents and especially this ELEVEN YEAR OLD girl hasn’t the first clue..

    Be a parent and make your child stop doing something that MIGHT eventually harm them. And no football isn’t the same thing. Unless of course a doctor says, “Mr. Jones if your son get’s knocked in the head just right one more time you may have to wipe his butt for him the rest of his life.” I’m not much at wiping other people’s butts so I’d definately make him quit.

    But that’s just my (correct) opinion.

    Okay to do competition gymnastice but not okay to dress up like a hooker and compete in a beauty pagent? C’mon ladies.

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