Being deaf no handicap

Hard at work: Angela Rickson, fitted with her cochlear implant, tends to Murphy Brown.R
Hard at work: Angela Rickson, fitted with her cochlear implant, tends to Murphy Brown.R

Mojo Mathers became New Zealand's first deaf MP last November. Katie McAlister talks to another person who has not let being deaf prevent her from doing her job.

Angela Rickson, a senior nurse at Miramar Vet Hospital, says being deaf does not hinder her in her work.

Ms Rickson, 27, hears with a cochlear implant.

She said at times hearing phone messages was difficult, but that there was nothing that prevented her from doing her job well.

"I am usually willing to try anything. I talk on the phone, I help out the front, so I'm constantly dealing with people," she said.

Ms Rickson said she did not have a lot to do with deaf people.

"The thing with me is I've never really wanted to be deaf.

"I didn't want to do anything related to being deaf. I went to normal hearing schools and grew up with a hearing family. I was determined to be as normal as I could be."

She initially had hearing aids in both ears, but her hearing gradually got worse and she received a cochlear implant when she was 14.

A cochlear implant is an electronic device surgically implanted into the ear to provide a sense of sound for profoundly deaf people.

"I've got a processor on the outside [of my ear] which transmits the sound to the wire like a radio."

Ms Rickson was one of the first people in Christchurch to get a newer version of the implant.

"They used to be great, big, ugly things and I refused to get one until they told me this was coming out."

She said she was one of the guinea pigs, and that after it went well more people started getting cochlear implants.

Ms Rickson said she could hear pretty much everything but, being born deaf, could not say whether it was the same as what "hearing people" hear.

"I don't do very well in crowds, but if it's one-on-one and I know the person it's not too bad. I can lip read as well."

Her colleagues at the vet hospital were very supportive, she said.

Miramar Vet Hospital owner Allan Probert said Ms Rickson was "inspirational".

"We've never seen it as a handicap," he said. "We've had to find other ways of training her so I've concentrated on internet training.

"She's conscientious, determined and has an evil sense of humour. The staff really like her."

The hospital retail manager, Rachel Wards, said she had not found it difficult at all working with Ms Rickson.

"I totally admire her for what she does. Most people don't actually notice that she's deaf."

Ms Rickson spent a year training at Wanganui Vet Clinic to receive her national certificate in veterinary nursing before starting work at the Miramar hospital four years ago.

She said her next step would be doing the diploma in veterinary nursing in Otago, which she hopes to start this year.

The Wellingtonian