Lucy Buxton was born profoundly deaf. At the age of two she was given a cochlear implant and as a teenager played basketball for England. Catherine Scott meets her.
Lucy Buxton was born into a silent world.
“No one know why I was born profoundly deaf,” says the 22-year-old student.
“They think it was something that happened while I was in my mum’s womb, but they don’t really know.”
When she was two years old Lucy’s parents decided that she should have a cochlear implant – a decision Lucy believes was life changing for her.
“I don’t really remember when the cochlear implant was turned on,” she says. “But it has changed my life.
Lucy, from Harrogate, has just been awarded a £6,000 Cochlear Graeme Clark Scholarship at a ceremony in Bradford where Lucy had the surgery to fit her “bionic” ear. Cochlear implants are electronic devices for adults and children who do not receive adequate benefit from conventional hearing aids.
Unlike hearing aids, cochlear implants bypass the damaged hair cells in the inner ear and stimulate the hearing nerve directly, providing a sense of sound to the user.
Lucy had her implant and follow-up treatment at the Ear Foundation based at Bradford Royal Infirmary and lead by Prof Chris Raine.
“I don’t remember the implant being turned on, and mum said that I didn’t really react,” says Lucy.
“I don’t hear the same way as other people, but I don’t know anything else.”
At three years old Lucy started to attend a school for the deaf and was introduced to an intensive course of speech therapy. Due to her will and determination she was soon in mainstream school at Pannal Primary School and then at St Aiden’s in Harrogate. With the support of her family and healthcare professionals at the Yorkshire Auditory Implant Service – as well as lots of hard work and determination – Lucy achieved excellent GCSE and A- level results before continuing to advanced education.
As well as achieving academically, Lucy has realised personal success playing basketball on a national and international level and has spent much time working on a voluntary basis to encourage more girls to become involved in the game to help develop their sporting skills.
“Receiving a cochlear implant aged two, having not previously heard a sound, changed my life and opened up incredible opportunities.
“I really value the tremendous support and encouragement I have received from my family, friends and professionals. This has helped me to achieve academically and athletically, whilst helping me build confidence socially.
“I really think that one of the highlights of my life, playing basketball for England, was made possible because of the cochlear implant. Such achievements have made me into a determined person who wants to help others. I really feel honoured to receive this award, which will help me fulfil my dream of becoming a physiotherapist.”
Lucy played for England under 16s and under 18s but was injured during trials for the under 20s. Although background noise does cause her some problems, she said it didn’t seem to interfere with her sport.
“I played with the able-bodied side and everyone was really helpful. There are struggles and I think I have probably tackled just about every single one of them, but it just makes you more determined. Leaving home to go to Loughborough University where I studied sport and exercise science was a challenge. My mum had always been there for me, making sure everything was sorted, then suddenly I was on my own.”
She graduated with an impressive 2:1 before embarking on her Masters in physiotherapy.
“I always wanted to work in a profession where I was helping people. I never wanted to be in an office.”
Lucy applied for the Cochlear Graeme Clark scholarships which she hopes to use to help fund her Masters at Northumberland University and also help her to work abroad.
“I go on placements as part of my Masters degree and I would really like to go to Tanzania where there is also a deaf unit and well as physiotherapy one to work with the people out there. Hopefully getting the scholarship will help achieve that.”
Kelvin Hawker, clinical business manager commented, “The annual UK Cochlear Graeme Clark Scholarship was set up to help implant recipients achieve more in further education and we are extremely proud to honour Lucy who has shown perseverance and leadership, while benefiting from Cochlear’s state-of-the-art technologies. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for her.”
A supportive team of hearing healthcare professionals from the Yorkshire Auditory Implant Service attended the ceremony. Jane Martin, Head of Service said: “Lucy is truly a credit to all who have supported her over the years. Lucy is a worthy ambassador in advocating the benefits of cochlear implantation.”
The implant service is supported by the Ear Trust, a charity based in Bradford, who help support hearing impaired people and their families. Lucy is now planning to give something back to those who have helped her along the way as she knows life would have been very different in a silent world. She will be doing the Great North Run to support the charity.
“They have been an amazing support to me and there every step of the way helping me go from no hearing at all to hearing amazingly. There are still struggles everyday, but with hard work and support I’ve been so lucky to have had so many amazing opportunities. I’ve never run more then 5km so this is going be a challenge as basketball has never been classed as a long distance sport.”
Prof Chris Raine was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list.
Prof Raine, who has worked at Bradford Royal Infirmary for 29 years, was nominated for his outstanding work in pioneering cochlear implants in patients who are profoundly deaf and for his commitment to the Ear Trust Charity which he founded 25 years ago to bring the state-of-the-art devices to the region’s patients.
For more information visit www.ycis.org.uk.
To sponsor Lucy Buxton who is running the Great North Run for the Ear Trust visit https://www.justgiving.com/lucy-buxton/