Pictured: Bonnie Caripolti, director of Twilight Wish Western PA Chapter, granting Theo Mechtawi’s wish — with his family by his side (Kimberly and Darius Johnson)
Sometimes the smallest wish can create the largest impact, or at least that is true for Washington area resident and Senior LIFE participant, Theo Mechtawi.
Four years ago, Theo lost his hearing due to a rare infection that caused his eardrums to rupture. Since he never learned sign language, his only way of communicating was a dry erase board. It was quite difficult for the former high school teacher. Communicating for Theo was as much a part of his life as life itself.
“When Theo lost his hearing, he lost his social world,” said Christina Brandt, Theo’s social worker at Senior LIFE. “I made it a point to spend time with him one-on-one to give him the opportunity to talk about whatever he liked. It wasn’t always easy for him, but we discussed spirituality, politics, world events, family. He expressed the difficulty he had in communicating with others. He used to be a very social person but his hearing loss was isolating him.”
Brandt convinced Theo to accept a captioned telephone so others could call him. “When we had the phone installed for him at home, we discovered the Ubi Duo communicator device. The company installing the phone brought one with them to communicate with him and it was wonderful. I thought how great it would be if we could get one for Theo.”
The UbiDuo is a communication device that enables deaf, hard of hearing and hearing people to communicate face to face without any barriers. The device consists of two keyboards and screen devices that allow a deaf and a hearing person to carry on a conversation. Brandt began researching the device when one of her colleagues, Emily Ronan suggested she look into the Twilight Wish Foundation. The Twilight Wish Foundation is a national nonprofit charitable organization that grants wishes to economically disadvantaged seniors who are 68 years and older.
Thanks to Brandt and the Senior LIFE staff, the Twilight Wish Foundation and sComm Communication, Theo received the UbiDuo Communication device on April 6. Bonnie Caripolti, director of the Twilight Wish Foundation’s Western Pennsylvania Chapter, made the presentation at the Senior LIFE center located on North Franklin Drive in Washington.
“I would like to send everyone involved especially Senior LIFE and Christina, a big thank you, for my ability to positively communicate again and to overcome my disability. Thank you.” Theo expressed emotionally during the presentation. “Connecting with the world will be a little bit easier for me. Senior LIFE is the backbone of my life and of all these people here,” said Theo.
“We’re all so happy for Theo,” said Senior LIFE executive director Megan Detwiler. “Theo, and all of our members, are like family to us. Our goal is to make their lives better and we love it when we succeed!”
Senior LIFE is a Medicare program that provides healthcare and support services for eligible seniors at no cost so that they can remain living in their home. Participants receive services both in their home and at the Senior LIFE Center. Services may include; physician and nursing services, medications, therapies, social services, meals and activities. All transportation is provided.
For more information on Senior LIFE, call (724) 222-5433, or visit their website at www.seniorlifewashington.com. For more information on the Twilight Wish Foundation in Western Pennsylvania, call Bonnie Caripolti at 412-244-9901 or visit the website at www.twilightwish.org.
About Senior LIFE
Senior LIFE is an independent, PACE/LIFE Program provider operating in Pennsylvania since 2006. Collectively, Senior LIFE has seven LIFE Centers serving more than 1,200 participants in 11 Pennsylvania counties. These include Senior LIFE Lehigh Valley, Senior LIFE Johnstown, Senior LIFE Ebensburg, Senior LIFE Greensburg, Senior LIFE Washington, Senior LIFE Uniontown and Senior LIFE York.
Barbara Raitano, PACE Consulting Solutions
724.838.8300 or email@example.com
Link to story: http://seniorlifegreensburg.com/20150507_twilight_wish.aspx
Theo Mechtawi , of Washington, left, tries UbiDuos, a face-to-face communication device, with Chris Brandt, a social worker with SeniorLife Washington on Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Mechtawi, who is deaf, uses the device to read what a person is saying so he can respond verbally. Twlight Wish, a nonprofit, provided the technology to Mechtawi.
Theo Mechtawi hears what others do not.
“I hear songs — songs!” said Mechtawi, 76, of Washington. “I hear talking. I hear lectures sometimes. I hear it in my head. I hear it like it is real. It’s not; it’s a phantom. Sometimes, I hear a person calling my name, or knocking on my door, and then I remember: ‘You are deaf! Don’t be silly. Sit down.’ ”
After years of ear infections, Mechtawi went deaf more than two years ago. He still speaks (and does so rhythmically, poetically, with perfect enunciation). But until recently, he struggled to hold conversations without the aid of handwritten messages, “and some people hate to write,” he said disapprovingly.
Last week, the national nonprofit Twilight Wish Foundation gave him an UbiDuo, which helps the deaf communicate face-to-face. The device — a keyboard with a small screen — allows people to type out their part of a conversation while Mechtawi reads the words and responds verbally.
In a common room at Senior Life, an adult day care center in Washington, Mechtawi peered at his screen.
How did you end up here in Western Pa.?
“It was a state of civil war,” replied Mechtawi, who was born in Syria but lived much of his adult life in Lebanon, where he taught school. He fled the country in the early 1980s.
“When you leave, you leave everything behind,” he said of departing Beirut. “It was impossible to carry on a normal life. It was fear. Constant fear. You are walking down a street, and suddenly, a building would explode. You are sitting in a house, and suddenly, a rocket would come through your wall. It was that bad.”
I imagine that life here is much different.
“I like it here. It’s my home,” he said. “I feel all right. You see, I am a believer of God and a follower of Jesus. That takes up my life and distracts my attention from what I really am: an old man approaching his end.”
People fear growing old.
“People are wrong,” he said. “If you practice the Ten Commandments, God will open ways for you, and you will have respect as an old man and help will come from around every corner. I’m living it. I don’t want to be young — no, no, no. I lived it, and I successfully passed it.”
Many people feel isolated without their hearing. Do you?
“At the beginning, yes,” he said. “I found it embarrassing. You tell people, ‘I am deaf,’ and they say, ‘Never mind,’ and just walk away. … Now I can communicate. Do I want to have my hearing returned? That would be a blessing. But I don’t need it. I want to live my old age. I am an old man. I enjoy it this way.”
He nodded while considering questions and forming responses. He gestured for emphasis and leaned in to make a point.
Then he smiled, pleased to be holding a conversation, as he once always did.
Ten years ago, the launch of the original UbiDuo created a new reality of how the deaf and hearing can communicate face-to-face without an interpreter. The first of its kind, the UbiDuo 1 provided a new path for 100% communication. (more…)
Theo Mechtawi is deaf. The 76 year old from Washington, PA has not given up and he’s made a wish to communicate. This man is such an inspiration, speaking words of wisdom and his talks about philosophical subjects.
Theo became deaf two years ago. He is not a user of ASL or SEE but rather communicates over a dry erase board which is not a viable method for the deaf and hard of hearing to communicate.
Theo attends an adult day care known as Senior LIFE in North Franklin Township and they found it difficult to communicate with Theo using this method, so they reached out to the Twilight Wish Foundation.
Twilight Wish immediately saw the advantages in getting Theo a UbiDuo and they immediately purchased him one. Theo was grateful for sComm’s creation of such a miraculous product and Twilight Wish providing him the ability to communicate barrier free.
Read more about Theo’s story here.
The UbiDuo 2 is now available upon request for use in any of the 31 Mid-Continent Public Library locations in Greater Kansas City. If you are a deaf, hard of hearing or hearing user or have a speech impairment or are just plain interested in the UbiDuo 2, you are welcome to request it to use at the libraries.
“This technology means that our staff can better assist people, and it can also be used by members of the community to talk to one another while in the library,” said Library Director and CEO Steve Potter. “Our library is all about expanding access, and these devices help us do that.”
More information can be found here.
sComm Co-Founder and CEO, Jason Curry Issues Statement Regarding Communication Options for Deaf, hard of Hearing, and Hearing
sComm reconfirms their commitment to enhancing communication options for the deaf, hard of hearing and hearing.
Raytown, MO, April 9, 2015: sComm today released a statement regarding their commitment of enhancing communication options for the deaf, hard of hearing and hearing.
As CEO and Co-Founder of sComm, I would like to reaffirm our commitment to enhancing the ability of deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing people to interact with each other freely without barriers. A heartfelt and sincere apology to both the deaf, hard of hearing, and interpreting community for unapproved posts made by one of our new media staff. We are taking steps to assure it won’t happen again. It was never our intention to offend anyone.
As a part of the deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing community, we are working to ensure that our overall philosophy is properly represented, both internally and externally. We advocate all communication options which utilize the use of VRS, VRI, on-site interpreters and in combination with communication devices like the UbiDuo to maximize communication and timely interaction for everyone. In our 10 years of experience in the communication device field, this combination of communication methods has generated overwhelming success stories from people who are deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing. We support communication options to maximize communication freedom and to help everyone live a full and satisfying life.