Archive

ShareThis Page
Device helps deaf Washington man once again enjoy conversation | TribLIVE.com
News

Device helps deaf Washington man once again enjoy conversation

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
| Saturday, April 11, 2015 9:00 p.m
PTRMECHTAWI1041215
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
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.

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.