THE SOUNDS OF SUCCESS
A few weeks after she was born, Myah Meredith was diagnosed as profoundly deaf in both ears. She was soon to make history as the first child in Kentucky to receive a cochlear implant at one year of age.
A test used to determine her condition measured decibels a person is capable of hearing. “She couldn’t even hear what would have been the sound of a jet going right over her head. The intern who was conducting the test had tears coming down her cheeks,” says Kim Meredith, Myah’s mother.
Myah was fitted with hearing aids at the Heuser Hearing Institute, formerly the Louisville Deaf Oral School, when she was two months old. Unfortunately, she wasn’t gaining any speech sounds with the hearing aids. At Heuser, Kim observed the difference in children who had received cochlear implants, leading her and her husband, Doc, to choose that option for Myah. Their insurance allowed an implant in only one of Myah’s ears.
Dr. Mark Severtson performed the six-hour surgery at Jewish Hospital. “During her surgery, I wasn’t at all anxious or nervous. I can’t explain it, but I knew she was going to be okay. That’s not my personality at all. I usually worry to the max. That peace had to have come from God,” says Kim.
Following coverage of Myah’s surgery in two publications and on television, the Merediths were in for a shock. “People started calling us to say what we had done was evil, that it wasn’t natural, that we were doing Satan’s work,” says her mother.
Kim homeschooled Myah until ninth grade when she entered La Rue County High School. There she scored 34 on her ACT, with perfect scores on the reading and grammar sections. She graduated with honors and was salutatorian of the 2018 class. She is now a pre-veterinarian major at Eastern Kentucky University and hopes to attend veterinary school at Auburn University.
“I hear pretty well, but it obviously isn’t normal. I call myself deaf, not hearing impaired, because that would come across as if I need special attention, which I don’t. It’s just that I am different, as is everyone,” says Myah. “We’re all different in our own way.”
Julia Kennedy, a coach at Baptist Health Performance Training, was 36 years old when her doctor called to give her the devastating news that she had stage 2 colorectal cancer. “The news definitely took me to my knees,” she says.
Under the direction of Dr. Patrick Williams with the Oncology Department at Norton Healthcare, she underwent radiation and chemotherapy. “It was brutal, for sure,” she says. After letting her body recover for a month, she traveled to Vanderbilt University Hospital for surgery. She later returned for follow-up surgery to reverse the ileostomy that had been performed.
“Even during chemo and radiation, I was in the gym pretty much every day. When I had the surgery, the doctor wasn’t having that, but I was still active walking. I found a little gray area. Had I not been in as good of health as I was, I would have had a different outcome and journey,” says Kennedy. “You never know what life is going to throw at you so it’s better to have healthy habits to fight whatever is put in your path.”
With no family, other than her children Liam, 18, and Connell, 16, to help her, she relied on the incredible support from the parishioners of St. Patrick Church and the families involved in her son’s soccer team at Trinity High School.
“If you were to ask my kids about that time, they’d probably say I was a bit more tired than normal. But they still got to school every day and were able to do their sports and we had meals every night. And I worked while I was going through it. It was what it was,” she says.
“My cancer reminds me that each day isn’t promised to us. You need to live life to the fullest every single day, and don’t sweat the small stuff. I’m more appreciative of the little things now that I know what it’s like to be really, really sick,” says Kennedy. “I still work out daily and eat well. And I try to love a little more each day and to live a little bit bigger.”
A STROKE OF FATE
“I was perfect at three o’clock. At three-o-five I didn’t know where I was. It was unbelievable,” says Robert Taylor. “I had had a nice run, lifted weights, went to work and had lunch with my daughter, Elyse. When I went back to work and walked from the warehouse to the office, I new I had to sit down. That’s the last thing I remember.”
Elyse immediately knew her father, who owns Taylor Trunk, was having a stroke. So did the ambulance crew that transported him to Norton Brownsboro Hospital. A clot-buster injection wasn’t successful.
The staff at the hospital prepared his wife, Laura, that he might not live and that if he did, paralysis and the inability to speak were strong possibilities. “We have been together thirty-five years. He’s the love of my life. I said, ‘Honey, I’m here. You’re going to be ok.’ He looked at me but didn’t really see me. Then they whisked him into surgery,” she says. “You can never deny the power of prayer. Within half an hour we had twenty-four people, mostly family, in the room praying.”
Dr. Shervin Dashti was unable to insert the typical stint into Robert’s carotid artery so he instead used a stint usually utilized for a brain aneurysm. He was further challenged by another clot that had formed. Ultimately, the surgery was so successful that with a physical therapist, he was walking laps around the ICU the next day.
Returning home only three days later, he began three months of occupational therapy and four months of speech therapy. His superb physical condition prior to the stroke helped him recover and return him to a life of rigorous physical activity. He exercises and swims daily and frequently plays golf. He participated in the 100th running of the Boston Marathon, the Western States 100 and the Louisville Iron Man competition, and qualified for the Kailua-Kona Ironman event in Hawaii.
His speech and occupational therapy professionals created a special certificate to commemorate the completion of his recovery program. The framed certificate hangs in a prominent place in his home workout room. He calls it his “All About Me Room.”
Dani Sanburn and her husband, Will Savick, realized their three-year-old daughter Jaycee’s eyes weren’t focusing on objects, following people or reacting to what was in front her.
A visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, provided the answer on the first day. Jaycee was diagnosed with optic nerve hyperplasia, a condition in which the connection from her eyes to her brain is underdeveloped, as well as with septo-optic dysplasia, meaning the center of her brain is underdeveloped.
Dani did an online search of U.S. schools for the blind. The Kentucky School for the Blind stood out to her. When she called the school, they referred her to Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS.) In January of this year, Dani and Will left their home in Minnesota for a tour of the school. The tour confirmed that it was the best school for Jaycee. “Opening those doors was an emotional time. The weight was lifted off our shoulders,” says Dani. “Will started crying and so did I.”
The couple had a lot to do very quickly. Will got a job at Louisville Paving and the couple found an apartment. Two weeks later they and Jaycee were here permanently.
“Before Jaycee started going to VIPS, she couldn’t sit up, couldn’t hold a cup or bottle, couldn’t feed herself. After she began at VIPS, we saw a huge increase in her development. She can hold and drink out of a sippy cup and she can sit up by herself. They’re starting to get her to stand so that she can start walking. And, before VIPS, she would eat only puréed foods. Now she’s eating graham crackers and anything I can mush up or boil or steam to get a soft texture,” says Dani.
Dani recently began working at VIPS as a teaching assistant while she’s having credits transferred to a local college so that she can pursue a career in child development.
Because of Jaycee’s condition, Dani and Will postponed their wedding that was scheduled for last October. The new date is set for October of this year. Two-year-old Jaycee is going to be the flower girl.
LIVING WITH PURPOSE
One morning, Jeannie Unruh woke up with double vision. Over the next couple weeks, she developed tingling and numbing on her left side and became increasingly fatigued and weak. Tests showed she had relapse-remitting multiple sclerosis. “I was extremely relieved that I didn’t have a brain tumor but I went through a lot of emotions because I had lost the person I had been,” she says. “That was pretty tough, wondering how I would live with it.”
Since her diagnosis in 1985, when she was thirty years old, sixteen drugs have been developed to treat MS. She is now on her fourth type. “I have had remissions as long as seven-and-a-half years. I feel like I’m one of the test mice because I have lived with MS for a long time and am probably a senior person using the meds,” says Unruh.
When she discovered she had MS, she was a mother of three young children and with her husband owned MAC Construction. She continued her professional life and volunteer work. While she doesn’t think MS defined her, or defines her now, she believes it changed the course of much of her life, causing her to become more involved in volunteering.
Having been a board member of the local MS Society, she ramped up her involvement by offering to host a major fundraiser, Crystal Boots and Silver Spurs, at her home. “We said we would do it one time,” she says. That evolved into nine annual events, the most recent being held for about 550 people in September. “Men come in jeans and sports jackets and the ladies get dressed up,” says Unruh. “It’s a party with a purpose.”
The event has raised about three million dollars since its inception. She is already planning the 10th anniversary. But, her work with the MS Society extends beyond the gala. “I do a lot of informal, peer-to-peer reaching out to other people with MS,” she says. “Whether it’s the gala or if someone wants to have coffee with me to get answers about MS, it’s therapeutic for me. I don’t feel as much like I’m giving to someone else as I’m getting something. It’s a win-win.”