The Remarkable

Prodigal: This spot is good as any.

Me: Yes, we can rest a spell and then get on with our walk.

This is from the book The Power of Love

This article is written by Ruth Stafford Peale

The first time I realized I had a hearing problem was when I tried to listen to my watch tick and found I couldn’t. With my left ear I could still hear it, but not with my right. When I consulted a doctor, he confirmed that I had a serious hearing loss. At that point, he wasn’t sure why.

Months of tests and examinations followed. Fortunately, the hearing in my “good” ear remained normal. But if a person sat on my “deaf” side, I had to twist my head awkwardly to hear. It was troublesome and a bit frightening at times.

It was during this time that I learned to have a feeling of compassion for people with hearing problems, which has never left me. A blind person or any disabled person arouses sympathy immediately. But many people are insensitive about deafness or partial deafness in others. They can’t “see” the affliction, and so they tend to be impatient with it. This causes a lot of unhappiness, because there are 14.5 million people in the United States alone who are hard-of-hearing or deaf.

My doctors finally came to the conclusion that my problem was otosclerosis, an overgrowth on a tiny bone called the stapes inside my right ear. This bone is the smallest in the human body; ten of them would just about cover the small fingernail. It’s shaped like a stirrup, and is the closest bone to the auditory nerve. Sound makes the stapes vibrate. This stimulates the nerve, which in turn sends the sound message to the brain where its meaning is deciphered. But in my case the stapes had become rigid, unable to vibrate or react to sound.

Time went by. More treatments and one operation didn’t seem to help. Then one day by chance (or was it chance?) I happened to mention to Dr. Louis Bishop, our personal physician, that I had this problem. Louis’s wife Kitty, who had a similar problem with both ears, had just been greatly helped by an operation performed by a Dr. Samuel Rosen. A new technique, they told me. A real breakthrough. They urged me to go and see Dr. Rosen in New York. I did, and met a most remarkable physician.

Dr. Rosen was in his 70’s, gentle, reassuring–fatherly was the word that described him best. I told him about my problem and asked if he could help me. He smiled. “If God is willing.” he said.

He used the same phrase from time to time during subsequent visits when I came in for testing. One day I ventured to ask him why. “When my parents prayed,” he said, “whether it was a prayer of supplication or of thanks, they always ended it with, “If God is willing.” That’s a cornerstone of my faith and work.”

Dr. Rosen told em that his parents were immigrants. His father had peddled crockery, and his mother had suffered from severe asthma. He recalled that one morning, when he was six years old and preparing to go off to school, his mother had such a severe attack that she could not catch her breath.

“To a child that meant that she would suffocate,” Dr. Rosen said. “A doctor came and gave her some medicine, which relieved her, but I would not go to school. I sat by her bedside all day. When I told her that one day I would be a doctor and cure her, she took my hands in hers and said only, “If God is willing.”

Dr. Rosen’s mother died when she was quite young. His older brothers pooled their labor, their savings and love to send him through medical school. For over 40 years Dr. Rosen has been an ear surgeon at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City and has taught ear surgery in its medical school. In his early days he was baffled by otosclerosis, as were all ear specialists. They knew what it is, but not what causes it. The standard surgery, called fenestration, took over four hours, and required the removal of the second of three bones in the middle ear. Sometimes it helped; mostly, it didn’t. It usually left the patient dizzy for weeks, even months, and often totally deaf.

Like so many dramatic discoveries in medicine, Dr. Rosen’s was an accident. Or was it?

One day in 1952, while operating on a woman who had a hearing loss for over 20 years, he was startled to find that her stapes was not entirely rigid, even though otosclerosis had been diagnosed.

“I wondered how many times fenestration was performed on patients like her,” Dr. Rosen told me. “I decided that from then on I would try to test the stapes with a long, thin needle to see if it was rigid before I operated.”

In the next five operations the stape were rigid. So was the sixth, in the case of a 42 year old engineer, who had been almost deaf for 15 years. But when Dr. Rosen inserted the long needle to make the test, the engineer suddenly shouted, “Doctor, I can hear you!”

“I knew something remarkable had happened,” he recalled. “But what?”

He did not remove the bone from the ear; the engineer recovered his hearing. Afterward, Dr. Rosen tried desperately to recall every detail of what he had done. His nights became sleepless, as he tried to find the answer to the question: “How can I do deliberately what I did accidentally?”

For the next 18 months, after his day’s work was done, he performed autopsies, studying the tiny stapes. What was its structure? How much pressure could it take? How could he get through the complex labyrinth of the ear to try to move the stapes without damaging it or the other fragile bones?

He designed and made at least three-dozen special instruments. None worked. When he finally made one that promised to work, it broke the arms of the stapes. The search seemed endless, the frustration was deep. I asked him what had kept him going.

“Only the Lord knows how the human mind works,” Dr. Rosen said. “But there was something that filled me with hope. How do you reinforce hope? You pray. I did, every day.”

One night, he twisted the delicate sides of one instrument in the hope that it would grasp the neck of the stapes, its strongest part, without damaging it. He wiggled the instrument, and gasped when it moved the base of the stapes–without breaking it. He tried it again and again, and finally murmured, “God is willing!” He labeled the instrument “The Mobilizer,” and used it 400 times before he ventured to try it on a living patient.

“Until then I don’t think I really understood what my parents meant when they ended their prayers with “If God is willing,” he said. “I do now. It could not have happened without His help.”

After a series of successful operations, Dr. Rosen published his findings in medical journals. He was invited to demonstrate and teach the procedure all over the United States and the world. He has trained over 1000 doctors to perform the operation, and they in turn have trained others. Dr. Rosen charges no fees for such teaching. Over 750,000 people have been spared possible deafness in this chain of unquestioning love.

On the morning that I arrived for my operation in 1969, I prayed that God would guide Dr. Rosen’s hands, and prayed for the strength to accept the outcome, no matter what it was. Dr. Rosen began his work. There was complete silence. About 25 minutes later I thought I heard someone speaking. Was it a fantasy? No. The voice was whispering, “I love you.” I looked up in amazement. Dr. Rosen was bending over me, smiling, his lips close to the ear that had been deaf. Now the sound was coming through in the form of the three most beautiful words in any language.

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Jennifer Van Allen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *