I first met Lukys and his mom Jenny back in 2016 when a former teacher of mine (Kindergarten in fact!) who still worked at the school approached me during our local Parks and Rec soccer practice. She asked if she could could introduce me to the VanDykes and see if we could help Lukys with his hearing. Lukys was at the time a 10 year old elementary student with a moderate-severe persistent hearing loss in his left ear. A tube had been placed in his left ear in 2015 but his hearing loss stuck. The U of I made a few recommendations to help him in school, but recommended getting Lukys a device for his left ear, which we fit him for in 2016 with the help of Starkey Hearing Foundation . When we were discussing who we should help with our #hearingisessential campaign, I knew a very deserving kid who was due for an upgrade! Over the years I have enjoyed working with and getting to know my down-the-street neighbors! Anyone who has met Lukys knows that though he can be quiet, he is never afraid to ask questions and to be bold! He always gives me a laugh with his blunt nature, for example in this picture he is wanted to hold up the shirt they got for his dad “to show how BIG it is!” I knew before he came over what teenage Lukys would think about posing f or pictures. I warned his mom Jenny “Just tell him he only needs to give me a few quick smiles!”
Next up, Eli! This one is a little extra near and dear to my heart. I first met Eli in college at @northern_iowa where he also met and married my roommate Tonya! Through the years we have remained close friends and our boys have grown up together. They are even the Godparents of our youngest son Axl! Eli served in the Marine Corp Infantry from 2003-2011 and did a tour in Iraq 2007-2008. He began experiencing ringing in his ears, or “Tinnitus” when he was in Iraq experiencing IED blasts without hearing protection. In 2014 while running a training, a flash bang detonated incorrectly resulting in shrapnel being lodged in his cheek and breaking his nose. He went through a total of 8 surgeries after the accident. While Eli was wearing hearing protection at the time, he explains that it is typically not much help with that sort of blast because of the concussion of the explosion. His pre-existing Tinnitus greatly increased following the accident. While he always has a mild-moderate amount of Tinnitus that he can usually push to the background, certain agitators such as lack of sleep, loud noises, etc., can trigger an intense attack. After the fact, he told me that while we were doing his testing and I was “pitch and loudness matching” (aka trying to match the approximate frequency of his Tinnitus and how loud he perceives it in order to better mask the ringing) that his stomach started to knot up and felt queasy like an attack was coming on. While there is so much more I could tell you about Eli and his family, I will end with this: Hearing Loss is so much more than just “push the button when you hear the tone.” Eli has hearing that would fall into the “normal” range, yet because of constant interference from his Tinnitus, he struggles to hear in many situations. With just a small amount of amplification and white noise, he immediately commented how much more clear everything seemed!
Eli, his wife Tonya, and their two sons Micah (6) and Kyler (4). #hearingisessential #tinnitus