Private Client Solicitor, Imogen, shares her early years story with us here and talks about how The Elizabeth Foundation charity for pre-school deaf children gave her such a good start in her life.

Hi, my name is Imogen and I am profoundly deaf with a cochlear implant. I was born in June 1990 – a seemingly normal, happy and healthy baby. However, when I was about 3 months old my mother started to think that something was not quite right. After health visitor checks I had my first audiology appointment in March 1991, but it was not until my fifth visit (6 months later) that I was finally diagnosed with profound deafness.

Luckily, when I was diagnosed, my mother heard about The Elizabeth Foundation charity which is local to our family home. I then attended The Elizabeth Foundation nursery sessions as a toddler all the way up until starting primary school. I have many fond memories from the place, from fun activities – such as banging on drums, painting, performing in the nativity and playing water games in the garden – to practical activities such as speech therapy, learning to differentiate between sounds and communication skills.

Unfortunately along with the hearing aids came ear infections, sore ears, whistling and discomfort. At the time, my mother was approached about me having a cochlear implant. However, she wanted me to make the choice as to whether I wanted to proceed with this when I was older. At the age of 9, I decided that I wanted a cochlear implant. I had my cochlear implant operation in February 2000 and have not looked back since.

I went to mainstream school, completed my A Levels and then attended university in Lancaster. Going to university was one of the best things I have ever decided to do; I chose a university that was 300 miles away from my family and friends, and more importantly, 300 miles away from my comfort zone. Moving away and living independently really shaped the next few years for me; after university I went travelling with my boyfriend (now husband) across South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

When I came back, I decided there was no time like the present to get on with life, so started working for a law firm during the week, whilst undertaking a postgraduate law course at the weekends – and waitressing in any spare time I had! After undertaking exams for 3 years, I qualified as a solicitor last year and am actively practising within the same law firm that gave me an incredible opportunity to flourish. I specialise in Wills and Probate, and am so passionate about my job. No day is the same and I interact daily with clients.

It has been 16 years since my cochlear implant operation, I am now happily married to my hearing husband. I consider my family to be my best friends, I have lots of friends (both deaf and hearing) with whom I am very close, and I absolutely love my job. Throughout my life, my mother has never told me that I couldn’t do anything or made me feel different to others, including my own sisters. I don’t say it enough, but I do give a lot of credit to my family for who I am now and feel very thankful for all they have done for me.

There is a quote to bear in mind which is very close to my heart. It goes “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”. Things are improving all the time; when I was little, there was limited technology for deaf children to grow and progress. Today’s children will have access to all sorts of new technology and support. If I can get to where I am now without most of those things available during my childhood, imagine what today’s children could be capable of.

I met so many people at The Elizabeth Foundation who I still keep in contact with today, including one of my best friends who was one of my bridesmaids. I have always said that The Elizabeth Foundation is not just a charity or a pre-school for deaf children, it is a stepping stone to lifelong friendships, a place of happy memories and consistent support for families with deaf children. We will forever be grateful for their support”.

Imogen Manuel

Imogen Manuel