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HSC “Frequent Flyer” Cries Tears of Joy

February 21, 2020

Michelle Fortin and her husband Shawn enjoying the sights and sounds of summer in the Lake of the Woods.

Earlier this fall, before my fourth surgery in 16 months, one of my nurses at Health Sciences Centre called me a “frequent flyer”.

“No offense,” I said with a smile. “You are lovely people here, but the operating room isn’t a place I want to frequent!”

We all had a chuckle. It was a warm moment that relaxed me before breast cancer surgery. But the best part of the conversation was that I heard it at all!

Let me explain.

When I was growing up in Brandon, I struggled in school. When I was eight, I was sent to the resource teacher because I simply wasn’t doing well in class. One day, the teacher stood behind me and asked a question. When I didn’t respond, she wondered if perhaps my problem wasn’t my inability to learn, but my inability to hear. It turns out she was right. Testing confirmed I had profound hearing loss, likely from birth. Because I never knew what proper hearing was and because I had taught myself to read lips, I got by.

Hearing aids made a huge difference, but my hearing loss got worse as I got older, and so hearing aids became less effective.

Fast forward to 2016. My husband (Shawn) and I were living in Kingston, Ontario. Shawn is in the military, so we move around a bit. The woman who dispensed my hearing aids suggested that I look into cochlear implants as a way to address my hearing loss. I had heard of cochlear implants, but didn’t know much about them.

Michelle Fortin and husband Shawn having a ball at Heroes Night, an event dedicated to military and emergency services.

I took her advice and went to a hospital in Toronto and was approved for the procedure. I waited. And waited. And before I could get the procedure done, my husband was transferred in 2017 to Brandon. I soon had appointments with Central Speech and Hearing Clinic and with Dr. Jordan Hochman at HSC.

I underwent new testing so they could see where my hearing was at. I hated hearing tests, especially when I wasn’t wearing my hearing aids. The stress and aggravation of barely being able to hear always brought me to tears. Within a few months, though, I was crying tears of joy.

Dr. Hochman confirmed that I was a candidate for cochlear implants. (A cochlear implant is an electronic device inserted into the skull with an electrode placed along the nerve of hearing. The implant bypasses the damaged ear structures to directly stimulate the hearing centre in the brain. Hearing aids, by comparison, simply make things louder.)

The first day of Michelle’s cochlear implant- a day she’ll never forget!

Dr. Hochman was compassionate, good humoured, and very attentive to detail. I received an implant for my right ear in May 2018 and for my left ear in March 2019. After my first implant, Dr. Hochman came to my room, put a folder in front of his face so I couldn’t see his lips, and started to talk. I heard every word he said and I burst into those tears of joy I was telling you about. Dr. Hochman got choked up, too. I could see it.

HSC changed my life. Thanks to Dr. Hochman and his colleagues, I have more confidence, I can enjoy music, and I can embrace the sounds of everyday life.

Unfortunately, one of things I heard just a few months after the second implant was that I had breast cancer. I had one surgery at HSC in August 2019 and then a second surgery a month later. As you read this, I have begun chemotherapy and I feel pretty good!

My cancer surgeon, Dr. Justin Rivard, cares deeply about me and all of his patients. I am so grateful for both doctors and how they treated me.

For all of my surgeries, the doctors, nurses, anesthetists, and others at HSC have demonstrated the highest levels of skill, compassion, good humour, and focus. I always felt confident and cared for, and always knew that I was in good hands. I had the best care possible.

We are so lucky in Manitoba to have HSC. It’s a hospital that fosters innovation. It’s a hospital that changes lives. It’s a hospital that belongs to each and every Manitoban.

Your past support has helped to make HSC the hospital it is today. Your gift today will make it even better!


Thank you!


Michelle Fortin


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