Thursday, December 8, 2011

Living in message for the last church I spoke at.

Living Trust

My name is Sarah Churman, I’m 29 years old, and I can hear myself speak! Not something you hear someone say every day is it? I was born deaf (And I’d like to mention that there are different opinions of what it means to be ‘deaf’. For me, I’ve worn hearing aids most of my life and without those hearing aids I couldn’t hear most sounds, so that was considered ‘deaf’ when I was growing up. Just like someone legally blind may have a bit of vision, I had a bit of hearing.) I have 80 bi-lateral decibel loss. Anyway, at the age of 18 months my parents discovered I was deaf and at the age of 2 I got hearing aids. From there I attended deaf Ed school before entering public school. I took speech therapy and simply worked very hard to blend in. I didn’t always do well, but I got by. Someone once told me a smile goes a long way, and I can honestly say it got me through 29 years!

For me, in my life, God has done things in some really unconventional ways. I have received words over the years that my hearing would be ‘restored’. I always assumed that meant a miraculous healing would take place. Do I think God can’t do that? Of course I think he can! BUT that’s not what He had in store for me. Sloan and I were missionaries in China for a year back in ’06 and ’07. At one point I lost my hearing in one ear after hitting my head. I was discouraged, scared, and angry with God. I felt as if I was stuck with no way of getting treatment and no money to fly home to see my usual ear doctor. My father in law called one day and gave me the scripture Hebrews 10:23 “He who promised IS faithful.” My hearing returned a few days later…………..first time it had ever done that in my life without a certain medicine. However, I knew in my heart that that’s not the extent God was talking about when he gave that scripture to Ross for me. I have clung to that scripture and reminded myself of it often. It has been relevant to so many areas in my life, and in my family’s life.

Back in May my husband was driving in to town and heard a radio ad on Rush Limbaugh for something called the “Esteem Hearing Implant” by a company called Envoy Medical. He called me up and said ‘Go Google this!’ I promptly did and started researching and reading everything I could find on the product. I requested information packets and DVDs and then I called the company and spoke with someone. After a lengthy conversation I learned from the woman that the implant was $30,000. I was heartbroken. I hung up the phone and called Sloan crying. There was just no way in my mind that we could ever afford a $30,000 implant. We could barely afford lunch. Sloan was quick to shut my pity party down and adamantly told me not to worry. This was GOING to happen he said. “I’ll sell a kidney, I’ll sell the house (the one that he had worked so hard on to restore and build when we returned home from China), I’ll join the army, I’ll do whatever I have to to make this happen.” He seemed so sure of himself but I was not deterred. It was $30k and in no way feasible in my mind. I reluctantly called the lady back at Sloan’s insistence to get some more answers and to see if they had some sort of loan program or payment system. Upon furthering my conversation with her I learned that it was actually $30k PER EAR. I just started bawling on the phone with this woman and had to let her go. When I told Sloan what I had found out his response was “What’s the big deal? $30k is so out of our league already, what’s the difference between that and $60k?” This resulted in days of depression and probably the biggest pity party I’ve ever had for myself. I’m not a pity party person at all. If anything, I’m the one always lifting others up. Meanwhile, my mother in law Lari had been praying and seeking God during this time. She eventually heard Him tell her to give the money. My newly widowed mother in law (and I don’t say that to gain sympathy, I say that to express how utterly heartbreaking and humbling it was for me.) came to us and said “Guys, I feel led to cash out my IRA and give you the money for this surgery. I really feel like I’m hearing from God on this.” I was absolutely overcome with so many emotions. It absolutely broke my heart that she was willing to do this for me.

After the initial shock of the gracious gift, I promptly called Envoy and said “Get me the soonest surgery date you have.” That date was August 4th. There are only 10 surgery centers in the U.S. and I was blessed that there was one in Texas and it was in The Woodlands just 3 ½ hours away. Surgery day came and I’m not gonna lie……… was the worst thing I’ve ever experience in my life. The surgery is supposed to take about 3-4 hours, 5 tops. Mine took 9 hours. 9 hours of being under anesthesia. I had no clue that skirting on the edge of death was that hard on a person. It took a couple of days for me to feel normal, and then 2 weeks before not having pain or being able to sleep well. Once getting the implant put in, they make you wait 8 weeks to ‘activate’ it. 8 long weeks. Possibly 8 of the worst weeks in my life. I did fairly well the first 6, but the last 2 were awful. It was mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting to go that long only hearing out of one bad ear, and one bad hearing aid. You have to understand that my hearing aids only helped so much. They basically amplified loud noises and made everything all jumbled into one big sound. It’s hard for me to explain but the best way I can describe what it’s like for me wearing hearing aids is this: Being in situations all the noises were jumbled together in to one huge ball of noise. You have no distinction between sounds, and people talking is like being in a foreign country. You hear that there’s a noise, and you see their mouth moving, but you’re not sure what they are saying. That’s what it was like for me. I got by for 29 years by lip reading. If my back was turned and you started talking to me, I had no idea you were speaking unless you got my attention. Then once you got my attention, you had to focus on me and speak clearly and loudly so that I could read your lips. You become so 'inside yourself' when when you have a hearing problem. I can tell you for a fact that a good percentage of the population are mumblers. If that’s you, please, work on that! Ha. Anyway, 8 weeks after surgery, my activation date was upon us. September 26th we were set to head back to The Woodlands.

The day before we were set to go, Lari decided that she’d stay here with the girls. She felt that 3 ½ hours in a car with my kids after having my ear turned on might be too much. However, she gave Sloan her camera and insisted that he take a video of my reaction upon hearing with the implant. We arrived at the center and I was so nervous I felt like passing out before we ever even started the process. They first put me in a sound booth to check a few things and do some technical stuff with the implant. After that they brought me into the room and had me sit next to the technician they had flown in from Minnesota. She had me hold the remote up to the processor in my skull and then did her thing on the computer to activate it. I was so nervous that I kept moving my hand and messing the process up. The remote has to be in just the right spot in order to work and it took 3 tries before I did it right. Sloan started filming at the last minute. He hates taking pictures, or being in charge of a camera, so honestly, if it hadn’t been his Mom asking, he wouldn’t have done it. Lol. The minute she hit the key on the keyboard, I knew it was on. It’s really hard for me to explain, but the best way I know how is to say that it sounded so clear, yet so silent. With a hearing aid you kind of always have a constant fuzzy noise. She told me to put the remote down and I heard her clear as a bell. I then heard the noise of the remote being set down on the counter and started crying at all the new experiences. Then I said “I don’t want to hear myself cry” Which led to me laughing upon hearing myself talk, and crying some more. It was so incredibly overwhelming. I pretty much hyperventilated. Sloan stopped recording and Melinda the technician told him to ask me something. He covered his mouth so I couldn’t read his lips and said “Do you want a cucumber sandwich.” First time in our 12 year relationship and 10 year marriage that I get to hear him without reading his lips or looking at him and that’s what he comes up with J I didn’t care, to my ears, it was the sweetest thing he’d ever said to me.

We left the center and got in our car, and I was already tired of hearing myself swallow. I had scratched my head at some point as well and freaked that I could actually hear it. My first call was to Lari so I could tell her about it and hear my girls. As soon as she picked up the phone I could hear them in the background. I got teared up right away, but when she had them tell me they loved me I lost it. Their little voices were the sweetest thing ever. My oldest, Olivia, will be 4 next week and she’s so articulate and grown up sounding. My youngest, Elise, is 22 months and has such a little twang in her voice and is so assertive. I had to hand the phone off to Sloan because I couldn’t talk. We ended up meeting a cousin for dinner while we were in her area. We ate at Outback Steakhouse, and just for giggles I’ll tell you that my first meal was a salad with croutons. What was I thinking?!? The salad was so loud and eating the croutons sounded like fireworks going off in my head. I have never heard myself eat before and that took a good week to get used to. That car ride home was the start of what will be a long learning process for me and my brain. Every day still holds new sounds, and every day my brain gets a little more acclimated. They say it will take time because my brain is firing in ways it’s never fired before.

So, back to trusting in God. Our trust has been tested in many ways over the years. Just in the last 2 years we buried several family members, one of those being my father in law. He died suddenly 3 weeks before my youngest daughter was born and left a huge void in our lives. There are not enough words for me to describe what a great man he was and how much we loved him and miss him. Not only did we bury family members, we lost all 5 dogs on our place, we lost horses, we lost cattle, we had stuff stolen, trucks broke down, we had an attempted break in, and my husband has not been able to find work along with so many other things that just seemed to be going wrong. It hit my mother in law hard, as well as my husband and myself. It was about this time that I heard someone say in their message at my own church “If God brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it!” Well let me tell you, that is true, but He doesn’t promise that it will be a quick trip. And He doesn’t promise that it will be easy. God will give you more than you can bear, but He’ll give you the tools to make it through. My family is proof of that. Through these trials in our life, we still gave glory to Him for the good. We still knew He had a plan for us, and we ‘held fast’. We learned that the grass still grows green even through life’s trials.

The night we came home from getting my ear activated, I had several friends and family waiting for me to post the video on my Facebook page. Everyone wanted to see the blessing I had received. I started trying to upload it around 11 o’clock. FB stated that my video was ‘too many MBs’. Well I’m not computer savvy when it comes to things like that and I didn’t know what that meant. I started chatting with people and asking for help. Come to find out, that meant that the file was too big to upload. The crazy thing is, I’ve uploaded videos 3 times longer and not had a single problem. So anyway, someone suggested a certain program that would help to downsize the file size of the video. I told them that was way over my head, I needed something simpler. A couple people suggested I upload it to YouTube, then attach the YouTube link to my FB page. I thought that sounded simple enough and gave it a go. It took YouTube about 1 hour and 45 minutes to upload my video. By this time it was well after midnight and now Tuesday morning. Once the video uploaded, I shut down my computer and went to bed. I got up the next morning and checked messages. I had so many sweet messages from family and friends with encouraging words. By Thursday someone asked me, ‘have you looked at your YouTube video? You have like 200,000 something hits’. I was like ‘WHAT?!? You’re kidding!’ Upon checking it I found that it was nearing 300,000 hits and I was astonished. I kept saying to Sloan, ‘This is CRAZY! What are people typing in to even find this video? Why do people want to see a video of someone hearing themselves talk?” I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it and we talked about it off and on all day. Friday morning rolls around, just 3 days after the video was posted, and I get a phone call from Envoy Medical. The gentleman introduces himself and says ‘Mrs. Churman, you apparently posted a video on YouTube of your activation with us?’ I was worried I was in trouble at first and started trying to explain right away that I didn’t really mean for it to go on there, it was just a way to be able to get it on my FB page to show my family and friends. He promptly stopped me and said ‘Mrs. Churman, your video has gone viral and will hit a million views by the morning and we’ve had several phone calls and CNN is wanting to contact you.’ I had to let the man go because I couldn’t think straight. I told him I needed to talk to my husband and I would call him back. I threw the girls in the truck, half naked an all, and we flew down to the barn where Sloan was. I jumped out, ran over to him, and shouted “CNN wants to talk to me, my YouTube video has gone viral!” He was like ‘WHAT?!?’ I assured him I was not joking and asked what I should do. He was like ‘call them back, see what they want!’ Then he was like ‘Wait, we need to take a day to think about this and what all this means. We need to call Envoy back and talk to them as well.’ We all sat around at the barn just talking this over and trying to get over the shock of such an unexpected event. At one point our friend Josh said ‘You just wait, Ellen will call you, she loves these kinds of stories.’ I was like ‘Yeah right!?! Ellen?’ It wasn’t an hour later my phone rings and it was the producers at the Today Show. They had seen the video, were moved, and wanted to have me on their show that Monday morning. I was beside myself. I was dumbfounded and had to look literally like a deer in headlights. It still sounds nuts as I type this out. Originally they asked if I could fly out Sunday, and I said sure. I told them I wanted to attend church first, but could get to the airport right after. They ended up calling me back and asking if I’d like to go ahead and fly out the next morning and spend the weekend in New York, they’d put us up in a hotel. I hung up the phone and ran around the house screaming, “I’m going to New York!!!!” At one point I had to call back because we were concerned as to how we’d eat while there. We told the producers that we were literally coming there with no lunch money in our pockets. They ended up giving us ‘incidentals’ to eat on while at the hotel. That was at 4:30 Friday afternoon, and we spent the rest of the day and night running around like chickens with our heads cut off. (Talk about getting hair done, free shirt/earrings, then store in Mansfield staying open to give me clothes)

We flew to New York that next morning and got settled in at our hotel. The place we stayed was right by Central Park. We immediately started walking towards Times Square, and let me tell you, New York is LOUD. All the cars, and people everywhere; Reminded me of China with all the busy-ness. We walked around Times Square taking in all the sights and checking out street performers, at one point we came to a Peruvian Band playing on one corner. We sat there and listened to them for quite some time and I was amazed because I could hear each individual instrument being played. It was awesome. We did more sightseeing and went to dinner, then got up and did it all over again the next day but checked out China Town and the area where the towers were. That night while eating dinner I got a call from the Ellen Show producer, Chris. After talking to me and asking questions and if I was willing to come to LA to be on the show, he said to me “You seem so shocked that we’ve called you?” To which I explained that I was indeed shocked, and then I went to on to explain the irony of how our friend Josh had said in the very beginning that Ellen would probably call me and I just laughed. Yet here I was being asked to come to the Ellen show. I finished up my phone call and we went to bed early since we had to get up really early for the Today Show. Got up the next morning and got ready while sweating bullets and trying to overcome nervousness. The car picked us up and took us to the studio and we were immediately brought to the hair and makeup room to get made up. Once we got to the stage to go over the layout of the interview I started getting incredibly nervous. Sloan had to keep reminding me that the people on the streets of New York could see me through the windows and I needed to smile. Lol. We did our interview with Matt Lauer, and right before the cameras started rolling I asked him “If I pass out, you’ll pick me up off the floor right?” The 5 minute interview was over before I knew it and we were taken off stage. The producers offered to give us a tour of the studio, and the first place we went was the room where all the screen shoots are on one wall and the guy says ‘shoot to camera three’. I spotted Tim McGraw on one of the screens and I totally interrupted the lady talking and said “Is that Tim McGraw?!?” (Explain that part) After all that excitement we were taken back to the hotel. We flew back home just long enough to grab our kids and get ready to fly to LA for Ellen. I had done a ‘pre phone interview’ before leaving the hotel in New York, and they had asked me things like ‘is there anyone you want to thank while on the show?’ I proceeded to tell them about my MIL stepping out in faith and blessing me with the money. I told them all about her, and all about what had recently taken place in our lives and about what an incredible person Lari was. I apparently did a good job and really touched them, because little did I know that Ellen herself was up to some amazing things. While we were in the air flying home, her producer had called Lari and asked her to join us on the show as well. By the time we landed her tickets and hotel room were all arranged along with ours.

Let me take this time to explain that it was that night I sent out an e-mail to close friends and family. I explained what all had happened (because it had literally been all over night) and I stated that my 2 main goals and utmost desires were: Number one, that if publicity was going to be drawn to me due to all of this, that I would like to use that publicity to draw attention to the Esteem Implant. I would like for insurance companies to take notice and start covering it. It’s such an expensive procedure that insurance companies do not cover, yet there are millions of deaf and hard of hearing people in this world who could benefit from it; People whose lives can be changed like mine. Since the YouTube video started garnering attention, I have received literally thousands of comments and messages and e-mails from people all over the world telling me #1 that they’ve never heard of this device, and #2 that there’s no way they can afford it. It absolutely breaks my heart every time I read these messages from people. People just like me who cannot afford this. My number 2 goal was that somehow Lari would get reimbursed. God answered that second request through Ellen DeGeneres.

Ellen was a very nice lady, and obviously has a huge heart. While on her show I was so nervous but was glad that Sloan and Lari were in the audience. I went over my usual story and answered the usual questions, then she focused on Lari and Sloan in the audience and asked about Lari cashing out her retirement. She then made the statement, “I don’t think a family should have to struggle like this, so not only has Envoy Medical agreed to do Sarah’s other ear for free, but they’ve also agreed to pay back this family for the money spent.” And she whips out a huge check for $30,000 dollars and presents it to us. We were all so shocked and speechless. Lari and I just cried and cried and kept saying we just couldn’t believe it. We still can’t believe it.

My God is an awesome God. I was literally given $60,000 dollars worth of blessings within a matter of 2 days. Trips to places I’ve never been, and the ability to meet some really great people. He’s also given me the platform to reach millions of people in a way I’d never dreamed of. I’d feel selfish not to use this opportunity for greater good. God has answered one of my desires, I totally believe he can answer the other one, and that insurance companies WILL pick up on this implant and start covering it so that others can benefit from it just as I have.

I really thought all this would die down after the Ellen Show…….but it hasn’t. I cannot tell you how many phone calls, texts, e-mails, Facebook messages, and YouTube messages I’ve gotten in the last 4 weeks. It has been absolutely insane. I have since gone on Fox and Friends, I’ve gone on The Doctors Show, I’ve done an interview with CBS/CNET in San Jose California, I’ve done Skype interviews with London reporters, I’ve had film crews come out to the house for the local news channels and even for a Canadian Accessible Media show. I’ve done interviews with 3 different news papers, I’ve even gone on a reality show called NY Ink, and I’ve had countless people literally from all over the globe say they’ve seen me on their local news. 8.5 million people have seen my little 90 second video. Surely out of those 8.5 million is at least one insurance CEO who has been affected. I like to remind myself of that. That’s the reason I’ll continue on as long as someone out there asks me questions or interviews me. I truly believe that this will become something every deaf person in America can have if they desire.

One important thing I’d like to share, is that while we were in San Jose California for an interview, we stayed at a nice hotel called The Pruneyard Plaza. While heading to the elevator one night to go out for dinner, we passed a banquet room all set up and ready for some event. As I stepped into the elevator I read the sign by the banquet hall door. It said “Living Trust Seminar”. God spoke to my heart and said “Living Trust. Living IN trust, so that you have wealth when you die.” By wealth, God doesn’t necessarily mean money or material possessions. He means heaven. Living in trust, having a relationship with God, committing your life to Him while here on Earth ultimately earns us eternity in Heaven. Another important thing I’d like to share is that a friend from church gave me a word a while back, the word was that ‘God has my EAR in His hEARt’. Something so simple as an ear was dear to His heart. Simple things are dear to God. God can take simple things and make them amazing.

God turned our world upside down and showed us the ‘silver lining’ behind our seemingly endless cloud. My MIL was on a plane coming home from visiting a dear friend, and it was during a thunderstorm. She told me that she was scared while watching it from the plane window, but at the same time she was taken by the beauty and the magnificence of the lighting and rain. She was talking with God and telling Him, “You know, this is just magnificent. If you were to ask me right now what I’d like, I’d ask for you to do something magnificent in our lives.” God didn’t do that for her when Ross died, and He didn’t do it for her many other times in her life, but she was okay with that because she knows He is God, and she would love Him and continue to serve Him all the days of her life. She explained all this to God and just told Him, “You don’t have to do it, I’d understand, but just in case, that’s what I’d like. We need something magnificent at this point in our lives.” I’m here today to tell you that God can do extraordinary things in extraordinary, unconventional ways. If you are obedient, and if you serve Him and love Him regardless of every trial and tribulation in your life, He can do things you never dreamed of.


  1. I don't meet you, but I Believe that you have a big courage¡¡
    Thanks for being you¡

  2. Wow, your story is so powerful! Really!! I saw your vid on youtube! And now I read you blog as well. You are so right when it comes to trust God. He cares so much for us!

    Many blessings to you and your family! :)

  3. I saw your video first in the Google Zeitgeist video and then searched specifically for you video.

    Those tears of joy and then your story are really inspirational.

    May your story help others realize their dreams too...

  4. Hey I really liked this blog post. Very heart felt and moving.

    May your story - your life, struggles, joy, pain, and victory be a living testament of how good God is to those who love Him. Romans 8:28

    May God bless you and your family even more! :)

  5. Congrats. What did your old hearing aids sound like?

  6. WAOH... It really is a magnificent experience... God bless you :)

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  8. Nice post.I like the way you start and then conclude your thoughts. Thanks for this information .I really appreciate your work, keep it up

    Banquet Halls in Los Angeles

  9. I realize you posted this last year, but I am just now becoming aware of your story. I feel a little behind the curve on this, since so many millions of people have seen your video before me. ;) I don't usually write on other people's blogs unless I know them personally, but because we are sisters in Christ, I feel free to write to you today.

    Thank you SO very much for sharing your story so openly with the world! Thank you for encouraging insurance companies to cover the type of surgery you had. Thank you for being an advocate for others who are currently in the situation you were in.

    Your story touches my heart...especially now, as my husband and I are about to adopt a little boy who is deaf. We have been praying for this little guy since Mother's Day of last year, and now we are nearing the end of our journey. We hope to be able to fly to Hungary to meet him within the next four to six weeks.

    God has not granted us any biological children, and we never felt the freedom from Him to go into debt to adopt a child from another country. Several adoptions here in the States did not work out, and so we had accepted the fact that God must not want us to have children. We at the age where all of our friends have children in high school, college, or beyond, so it seemed crazy to even consider us having a child now.

    But God, in His infinite wisdom, decided that His plan was for us to pursue this little boy we first heard about on Mother's Day last year.

    So here we are now....getting ready to meet him. I'm excited for many reasons. But one is just because I see God's hand in all of this...all along the way. I won't go into it all here and take up space on your blog. But if you'd like to learn more about me, and the journey God has me on, feel free to go to my blog:

    Thank you again for all you are doing to raise awareness for all the Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in the world.

    Your sister in Christ,

  10. Your faith is a wonderful thing! Did you know, God promises to cure all deaf people very soon, not in heaven, but on Earth, and the Bible explains how he will do so! Take a look at Isaiah 35:5. I know you will love this article, take a look. :)

  11. Wasn't it God that removed your hearing in the first place? He didn't answer your prayers. He doesn't exist. Don't give the credit to the scientists that actually did something....that would be irrational.....

  12. Sarah,
    My name is Kris. I ran across your YouTube due to the fact that I am and have been looking into Cochlear Implants for a long time. Let me explain my story. I'll keep it short. I was born deaf in my left ear and had nerve damage in my right but could hear perfectly fine. Most of the time I didn't even need to wear my hearing aid and in most cases I never did because it drove me crazy! I grew up mainstream, going to regular school, having hearing friends and family, listening to music, even playing music at one point! Well about 10 years ago, when I was 27, all that was taken from me! My hearing took a nosedive and I lost my hearing completely within 6 months!! So for the last 10 years I have struggled to communicate with others, struggled to fit in, struggled on a daily basis and I still am. But in the last few years I had heard about cochlear implants and became instantly curious. The thought that I could possibly have my hearing back and more, I just can't imagine it. I've never had total hearing! So I've looked into cochlear implants and I've had alot of conflicting views on them. Ranging from it's nothing like hearing to it's more like listening to everything through a fan or it's robotic. Well I came to the decision that I want to hear no matter how it sounds and I know that it has in fact improved and I'm very hopeful. Your story and videos really touched me. I'm not ashamed to say that I cried because I know without a shadow of a doubt that I will be bawling like a baby when I finally get them. My question to you is this. What are your experiences with cochlear implants exactly? How does things sound to you? And how long did it take till you could do your other ear? What was that like for you to hear from both ears? I know these are extremely difficult questions but I gotta know. I hope you see this and reply back to me as I am starting the process next month and I'm nervous as you probably know.
    Thank you,

    Kristopher Stafford :)