On the road to the Paralympics

Hi, my name is Amanda Cameron and I have just celebrated 15 years with my first Cochlear™ implant. My second one is 5 1/2 years old and I love them both, I don’t know where I would be today without them.

I was born profoundly deaf, I was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome type 1 when I was a bit older, which means deafness and retinitis pigmentosa (slowly deteriorating vision). At the moment I have 20 degrees vision and it’s basically no peripheral vision and I see through a tunnel.

I got my first implant when I was 11. I remember the day of switch-on and it wasn’t a particularly happy day for me. I thought everything sounded awful and it was just a whole lot of beeping and everything sounding the same. However, the first morning with my processor on, I kept hearing these really annoying consistent sounds so I grumpily asked my parents “What is that noise?” They were really amazed and told me it was birds singing which I had never heard before.

It probably took a good few weeks to adjust to the new sounds but after then I was back to normal routine, except with better hearing. I went to mainstream school, continued in my ballet and occasionally went back up to the hearing clinic for re-mapping. It wasn’t always easy but it does get quicker and you learn lots – what used to be an hour and half session with the audiologist now only takes 20 minutes.

I finished school and made the big move down to Wellington to study Architecture. A few years later, I decided I wanted a second implant, reason being I wanted to hear more especially with my deteriorating vision. I thought one was great, but I wanted to be more independent and secure because I have no idea what the future holds for me. I was very fortunate to be able to go private this time, and went for a second implant.

The second time around wasn’t as easy, as I was transiting from no hearing to an implant, whereas the first time around, I wore hearing aids right up to the surgery. It’s still not as great as the first one but I have noticed a definite improvement in having two implants. I wouldn’t change it for anything now!

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I am even representing NZ in sport, and it wouldn’t be the case without my Cochlear™ implants. I race on a tandem bike under the blind/vision impaired category, with a sighted pilot, and communication between the pilot and myself (the stoker) is paramount for good results in training and racing.

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I was never very sporty growing up even though I was always involved in something, I did ballet for 10 years when I was young. I played team sport including netball, soccer, tennis and badminton before I gave it up due to lack of peripheral vision and then I just kept fit by running and occasionally swimming and gym work.

It wasn’t till nearly 2 years ago when I was watching Attitude TV (a documentary series every Sunday morning featuring disabled people and their lives) when I became really inspired by other disabled people in sport, one striking me in particular. That was Mary Fisher, a blind swimmer and a world champion.

It made me crave a challenge and something I could do for myself. I got in contact with Paralympics NZ, who introduced me to tandem cycling. At first I scoffed at the idea and thought the idea of me cycling was ridiculous. But I had asked for a challenge and I am not one to give up so here we go.

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I began a training programme, attended a camp and began competing nationally and internationally. I am not a natural at my sport or the best, but I train and work hard and today I’m in the Academy Squad. My pilot, Hannah and I are currently striving for Podium Squad as we continue our journey to Rio 2016.

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