Let's Hear it for Tina

I am asking for help for a very dear friend who has lost her hearing in one ear due to bacterial meningitis.  Here is her story.

On May 11 at 3:00 AM, Tina contacted me because as she said “I’m scared.  I have never had a headache like this before.  It is really, really bad.  I think I might have to go to the hospital.”  I arrived at her home to find her in extreme pain.  The slightest movement of her head caused her to vomit.  She could not stand up without help.  We called 911 and she was taken to the emergency room in Taos, NM.  By 6:00 AM she was very confused, by 7:00 AM she was delirious, by 9:00 AM she was agitated but not responding to her name.  A spinal tap was done to draw fluid from the canal surrounding the spine.  The Doctor was shocked, the fluid was very cloudy; there was a severe infection in her cerebral spinal fluid.  She was flown by helicopter to Saint Vincent’s Critical Care Unit.  

At 11:30 PM that night, they placed an emergency call to the neurosurgeon because they could not stop the swelling in her brain.  I was told to call and have her family (all of whom live in Massachusetts) come as soon as possible because she might not make it.  Emergency surgery was performed to stop her brain from swelling and herniating out of her skull.   Doctors reported that without the surgery she would die.  Tina remained in a coma for 6 long days.  Her brothers arrived from Massachusetts and we waited while the medical staff gave grim predictions about how she might do if she regained consciousness. 

Who was Tina before all this happened.  She was a wonderfully sensitive and caring woman who worked as an occupational therapist helping elders and children alike regain or develop the skills they needed to be successful in life. She loved learning new things about her work and innovative ways to help her patients.   She was a strong advocate for the humane care of animals.  She was a woman with an incredible sense of humor and a wonderful laugh.  She was a daughter, sister and good, good friend.  She loved the outdoors and especially the beach.  She dreamed of going back to school to further her degree, of having a family, of fostering a child, adopting animals, traveling and so much more.  She had wonderful ideas of what to do to make the world a safer place.  It appeared we would lose her.

On May 17th, Tina awoke from the coma.  She opened her eyes and whispered “Hi”.  We were ecstatic.  This was the beginning of a long, arduous journey toward recovery including a two week stay in a rehab center where she received three therapies a day.  The therapist was now the patient.  Tina worked hard and anyone who knew her short medical history was amazed at her recovery.  The word miracle circulated.  The severity of her meningitis was so bad that she was not expected to recover.  Now she was awake, responding, walking with a walker and trying to do things for herself. 

Tina has now returned home but even after 3 months, she continues to suffer from severe fatigue, severe headaches, decreased balance, and problems with memory.  But more concerning is her loss of hearing in one ear.  A one-sided hearing loss is more than just diminished hearing.  With loss of hearing in one ear it is impossible to tell where a sound is coming from, to hear someone speaking if there is noise in the background, or to discriminate what a sound is.   It is harder to hear certain frequency of sound on the side that is deaf (for example it is hard to hear consonant sounds—imagine trying to understand what someone is saying if all you hear are the vowels) and it adversely affects balance and can dizziness.   Tina is not yet able to return to work or to drive.  This illness has taken away her independence.  One day she had a cold and the next her life changed dramatically.

The solution for her hearing loss - BiCROS.  This device is used to transfer sound that occurs on the side of the deaf ear to the hearing ear so that the person can experience more normal hearing.  The hearing aids are barely visible and connect wirelessly via the Signia CROS Pure Transmitter.   If someone is speaking to the unaidable side, the signals are processed, transmitted wirelessly and, depending on the level of the hearing impairment in the better ear and the specific environment, the speech signals are amplified.   With this device, Tina can begin to return to her normal life.  She wants to drive again and is anxious to go back to work and this device will make this possible. The problem is her insurance won’t pay for it and it costs $4800.00 and she is not working. 

Help her please.  I have witnessed her descent into hell and her battle to regain her independence.  She is an amazing woman and fabulous occupational therapist.  Help her return to work where she helps others regain their independence. Information on BiCROS
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Organizer and beneficiary

Deb Schmalbach 
Taos, NM
Tina Jobst 

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