Wrestling with deafness
Thu. February 07, 2013 at 8:14 p.m. | By Tim Hower | StarNews Correspondent | firstname.lastname@example.org
Laney High School wrestler David Bostian III adjusts an earpiece in his headgear while coach Jon Mauney tests the device with a wireless microphone before practice Monday, Feb. 4, 2013. (Photo by Paul Stephen)
The sun was fading on a beautiful summer day last year in Wilmington.
Thirteen-year-old David Bostian III and his father, David Jr., were in the front yard putting out the trash. It was a chore the two had performed many times before, only this time it was so different.
“He said, ‘What’s that noise?’ ” David Jr. recalled. “And I said, ‘What noise?’ and he said, ‘That noise.’ ”
It was the first time David heard a cricket’s chirp.
Now 14 and a freshman wrestler at Laney High School, he will have another new experience soon. On Saturday at the Mideastern Conference championships, the deaf teenager will listen to his coach’s instructions during a match for the very first time.
Learning to hear
David was born in Chapel Hill with a rare condition called persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), a condition in which blood does not flow correctly to the lungs, meaning oxygen cannot move from the lungs to the rest of the body.
On a five-minute helicopter ride to UNC hospital, David flatlined twice. His parents were told that their son had only a 20 percent chance of making it home.
There is no cure for PPHN, but it is treatable. One of the side effects of the treatments is hearing impairment.
Two years after their son’s birth, Bobbi and David Jr. realized their son couldn’t hear. Bobbi was concerned that David wasn’t talking well enough, so she took him to a speech therapist, who gave a hearing test.
David passed the first test, but the audiologist realized he never took his eyes off her face. She did the test a second time with a file folder covering her mouth and he missed everything.
Things started adding up for Bobbi and David Jr. When riding in the car, young David would ask Bobbi to turn her mirror so he could see her. He would grab her face when she was speaking to him.
David had learned to read lips.
“That was amazing to me,” Bobbi said. “Dr. (Sherif) Botros was in tears and we were all in tears because he had been reading lips so well at such a young age.”
Soon after, David received hearing aids. As the family walked around UNC hospital to test the new equipment, David was in for plenty of surprises.
“We went to the bathroom and he flushed the toilet, and it scared him to death,” Bobbi said.
David still uses hearing aids, as well as an FM system when he is in school. The transistor is designed to help eliminate most background noises and allow the hearing-impaired person to focus more clearly on one other person, who wears a clip-on microphone.
Even with the aids, David still doesn’t hear all high-frequency sounds that make speech intelligible. He hears a sound, but might not hear the word.
“I remember one time one night I was in the back of the house and (my dad) said something and I paused for a couple seconds and I had to make out what he said,” David said. “I knew what it sounded like and I finally comprehended it, and I answered him back after a few minutes and he had forgotten what we were talking about.”
Taking lessons to the mat
David began wrestling in kindergarten for a local club program, the Port City Pirates. He is the only wrestler who has gone through the program from kindergarten to high school.
“He has actually, in my opinion, always listened as well or better than any other kid and somehow he understands everything I say,” said Pirates coach Dan Willis, who formerly coached at Hoggard and Laney high schools. “His hearing impairment almost helps him in a way because he’s a visual learner and wrestling is a visual sport.
“You demonstrate something and they learn it, and he is a better visual learner than most people because of that.”
In his first season with the Buccaneers, David has been one of the team’s most consistent performers. He wrestles at 106 pounds, the lightest classification in high school. His record entering Saturday’s Mideastern Conference individual tournament is 28-7, with 12 pins, one technical fall and six major decisions.
All of that has been without the ability to hear his coach, Jon Mauney, during matches.
“It’s been a challenge, but it’s been a rewarding challenge from the beginning of the year, not really understanding that he might not know what I’m saying if I turn my back to him in the practice room,” Mauney said. “It’s made coaching a little bit different, but I think it’s helped me as a coach just look at things a little bit differently when we’re practicing and when I’m coaching during matches and tournaments.
“It actually changes the way you approach all the kids.”
As a precaution, wrestling rules state that athletes are not allowed to have metal or hard shells in their headgear during a match. However, the Bostians appealed this rule to the N.C. High School Athletic Association, hoping to allow David to wear his FM transistor inside his ear guards.
This week, the request was granted. After spending the season on his own on the mat, David will finally be able to hear his coach on Saturday.
“People think that he will be able to hear every word his coach says, but that’s not how it works with a hearing- impaired child,” David Jr. said. “He’ll be able to put together much of what his coach is telling him, but even on his best day it will be a challenge to make out exactly what is being said.
“Regardless, this will be tremendous improvement to merely hearing a roar in his ears. He’s got to really work hard to put it all together.”
On Monday, David tested out the system for the first time at practice.
“It was pretty cool because while we were going live I heard him talking to me and I actually did the move and it worked,” David said.
“I didn’t even think about the move when I was down there.”
Anthony Robles, a one-legged wrestler who won an NCAA championship at Arizona State in 2011, has been someone David admires.
“When I was little, I used to make excuses about wrestling and feel bad for myself, and when I saw him I was like, ‘He can’t walk or really hold onto his opponent at all,’ and he’s out there wrestling and wins the title,” David said. “That just inspired me to work even harder because if he doesn’t make excuses I shouldn’t either.”
On Twitter: @Tim_Hower