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  • Christmas comes early for nearly deaf, legally blind woman.
    21 Dec , 2016



    A woman who suffers from a disorder that has left her nearly deaf and legally blind recently received a gift that will greatly improve her life.Linda Prestwood, of Hudson, NC, has had a hearing impairment her whole life, and now at the age of 67, she is receiving some hope.


    Prestwood suffers from Usher Syndrome, a relatively rare, incurable genetic disorder caused by a mutation in any one of at least 11 genes resulting in a combination of hearing loss and visual impairment, and is a leading cause of deafness and blindness.


    Being nearly deaf and legally blind has its life challenges to say the least. Prestwood’s hearing loss has caused her problems including understanding others, and has proved to be very frustrating in everyday situations when trying to converse with people.


    Fortunately, her Beltone Hearing Instrument Specialist Bill Beck, and Patient Care Coordinator Sandra Perkins knew exactly what to do to try and help Prestwood with her hearing loss.


    They applied to “The Beltone Hearing Care Foundation” to see if they could get Prestwood approved for new hearing aids free of charge because she is not in a financial position at the moment to afford new aids.


    The Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, donates hearing aids to those who are in need, and are unable to access them. Both individuals and organizations are eligible to receive assistance from the Foundation through direct nominations to Beltone or at one of its over 1,500 locations across North America.


    “This Foundation gives us a new path to achieve this mission by helping deserving individuals and organizations in their communities enrich their quality of life,” states Michael Andreozzi, CEO of Beltone Carolina/Virginia.


    Prestwood wrote a very emotional letter to the Beltone Hearing Care Foundation to see if there was anything they could do to help her.


    “On the morning of May 3, 1949, a baby daughter was born to Dennis and Toye Eller of Hudson, North Carolina,” she said in the letter. “Linda Ann Eller, the daughter of a furniture maker and a seamstress lived in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. A family filled with great joy and hope for their only daughter and first granddaughter. They created a safe environment for their small child and as she grew, soon realizing that not all was as it seemed.”


    Linda did not hear as well as other children, but life went on as it always does and her story began to take shape, the letter said.


    “I started school at the age of six at Hudson Elementary,” Prestwood said in the letter. “At this time, I left the safe circle of my family and had to venture out into the real world. I went on to graduate from Hudson High in 1967. During my years in school, I played three years on the girls’ varsity basketball team.”


    She played the position of stationary guard. The coach placed her in this position since she was unable to hear the plays. She was limited to several school activities due to the hearing impairment, the letter said.


    “After graduation, I attended King’s Business College in Charlotte for one year majoring in Business Machines,” the letter said. “After that, I attended Caldwell Community College and majored in Business Administration. Throughout my years in College, I had to depend upon someone to help me hear the announcements, the bell ringing and anytime I missed what teachers said. I was always so afraid that I would miss my bus. Many times I was not so fortunate to have someone to help and I just missed out. I believe my hearing held me back from achieving many goals during my educational years.”


    She began her working career at Bernhardt Furniture Corporate office in Lenoir in 1969 in the accounting department and in various positions as well the assistant to the controller. While working at Bernhardt, she was diagnosed with Repitintis Pigmentosa at the age of 35, the letter said.


    Prestwood continued to work until the age of 40 at which time she was declared legally blind and became unable to do the tasks of her position so she then retired after 20 years of service. Once again having to depend on others to be my eyes and ears, the letter said.


    “After leaving Bernhardt, I became a full time mother and wife and part-time volunteer Treasurer and Financial Secretary at Mount Hermon UMC,” she said in the letter. “My hearing always left me limited in the amount of roles I could be responsible for. However, being from a small country church, I was able to do the positions out of my home. I enjoyed this work for over 16 years. At last, I had to step down from these positions as I was not able to attend meetings because of my hearing loss.”


    In 2006, her mother was diagnosed with dementia and she cared for her for 12 years. During this time, Prestwood’s vision and hearing became worse and he mother was placed into a local hospice. Having a hearing loss made it extremely challenging to communicate with Hospice staff and other medical staff who were caring for her during this time, the letter said.


    “My parents passed away within four months of each other,” Prestwood said in letter. “At this time, I was faced with the challenge of settling their estate which is not easy especially with a hearing impairment.”


    In 1991, she visited Duke University Medical Center and learned that her condition is hereditary and the hearing loss associated with it is called Usher Syndrome, the letter said.


    She turned to North Carolina County Department of Social Services for the Blind to see if I could receive any consideration for a hearing device and was told that no help was available.


    At the conclusion of her letter she said she is still trying to be independent and that she and hopes that the The Beltone Hearing Care Foundation will take her story into consideration for a Beltone Hearing Aid.


    On Monday, Dec.5, at the Beltone Hearing Center in Morganton, a miracle was given to Prestwood thanks to the Beltone Hearing Care Foundation and Beltone Carolina/Virginia. She was approved instantly and was fit with her new hearing aids. This will make her life and her hearing much better.


    Throughout its 76-year history, Beltone has helped enrich the quality of life for countless hearing impaired individuals in the United States and around the world. By combining new technologies and superior care, the Beltone Hearing Care Foundation will give many more people the opportunity to hear.


    Source: The News Herald
    Image credit: William Beck, Linda Prestwood, Beltone.