Too young to be enrolled in the school, Marcia spoke her first words at the painstaking coaxing of her father and mother, Pat and Martha Diddle.
From the beginning, her parents made it their mission to give Marcia the tools she needed to make her way in the hearing world. Their goal was for Marcia to be independent. Little did they know of the independent soul were they nurturing.
The year Marcia started kindergarten, the Diddles moved to Johnson City, Pat’s hometown where East Tennessee State University had just launched its own school for deaf children.
Marcia still remembers the big white house on the ETSU campus where the school operated for only a few years before the state of Tennessee took action to move disabled children, including those who were deaf, into public schools.
A special classroom with a teacher trained in sign language was set up at North Side Elementary School, which was later moved to the former King Springs School. Then the state changed its special education format and Marcia and other hearing-impaired children were moved into regular classrooms with assistants to translate their lessons in sign language.
Undaunted by the challenges the transitions presented, Marcia sailed through, wrapping up elementary school at North Side, moving on through Liberty Bell Middle School and Science Hill High School and, making lifelong friendships along her way.
And after the Diddles’ independent young daughter graduated high school, she took off for Colorado Springs, Colorado, to live with her sister. Her plan was to find a job and stay in Colorado. But when her sister joined the military, Marcie came home to Tennessee, married and began her own family.
She was a stay-at-home mother for several years and after both of sons started school, Marcia went to work and never looked back.
She worked in food service. She enjoyed it. And things went well until her hearing aids failed her completely and no amount of adjusting could correct them.
Without her hearing, the speech Marcia had worked all her life to develop began to diminish. The cost of a cochlear implant she needed was far beyond her means. And Medicare became her only hope of regaining both the hearing and speech and, with them, her ability to earn her own living.
The Medicare application process took nearly two years, during which she had to be unemployed in order to receive the full insurance coverage she needed, leaving her dependent on her husband’s income and the help of her aging mother.
It was a difficult two years and something Marcia never wanted to repeat. But it worked. She got her Medicare. She got her implant. She went back to work. And in the course of a few years, Marcia made herself a valued employee at Fazoli’s and, with her husband, one of the most dependable paper carriers the Johnson City Press employs.
Then almost two years ago this fall, Marcia’s hearing failed her again, this time due to a faulty and outdated processor that could not be retooled. Once again in need of a miracle of modern medicine that she could not afford, Marcia chose a different route.
Rather than leave work and again apply for Medicare, she took a lesser position and fewer hours at Fazoli’s, moving from the counter, where she could no longer communicate well with customers, to washing dishes and helping out in kitchen.
But rather than depend on her mother and her husband, whose health was also failing, Marcia kept at it. And as the months passed, her speech again declined.
When friends at her mother’s church learned of her dilemma and the $10,000 processor that could change everything, the fundraising began, first online and later with the help of Good Samaritan Ministries.
Dan Kyte, a retired social work instructor at ETSU, a former contributing columnist for the Press and a member of Martha Diddle’s church family, played a key role the effort. Kyte put Marcia in touch with the head of ETSU’s Audiology Department and also contacted the Press for a help making the fundraising drive public.
Dr. Saravanan Elangovan, the clinic director and head of the Audiology Department, had Marcia come in for an evaluation. And upon finding her implant in good working order, he contacted the processor’s manufacturer and managed to get Marcia a loaner.
She got it in August. The fundraising continued. And in late September, Kyte and Marcia’s other champions at Trinity Baptist Church, another local church that collected an offering, Good Samaritan and other people Marcia does not even know, reached the $10,000 goal.
Marcia’s new processor arrived in mid-October. She’s now back full time at Fazoli’s. She working hard on her speech. And she polishing up on her sign language for a special musical thank you she has planned for the two churches that helped her.
A pianist friend has helped her choose a song of thanks and is getting the music for Marcia to practice. “I want to thank those people,” Marcia said. “They can hear that. I can sign it. I’m going to do I do that.”