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Former Student Becomes Sound Barrier Star

29.08.2012

An inspirational former Tresham student, who has battled life-threatening illnesses, has been hailed a hearing hero for championing better rights for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Suzi Rees, 27, from Kettering, was struck with a rare form of cancer when she was only 19, which left her partially deaf and with a 40% chance of survival. During her treatment she was hit with a double blow when she contracted meningitis and lost what hearing she had left.

On Tuesday 21st August 2012, Suzi was crowned Specsavers Sound Barrier Star 2012 in recognition of her work to make adventure pursuits accessible not only to the deaf and hard of hearing, but people affected by disabilities of all sorts. Suzi was nominated for the award by her former Communications Support Worker, Katyana Morgan at Tresham.

Determined to carry on life as normal, Suzi enrolled on to the Access to Higher Education course at Tresham after being made redundant which allowed her to progress to university. Suzi had not enjoyed school but her experience at Tresham ignited her passion for learning and she began to apply herself and passed of the subjects with distinctions. Suzi progressed to enrol at Reading University, a step that helped her cope with her hearing loss the most.

At university, Suzi met people who were also deaf and met interpreters and saw how much support there was to fully integrate deaf people into anything they want. She began rock climbing and took herself out of her comfort zone which helped her to deal with everything and accept her disability.

Her activities whilst at university inspired Suzi to set up her own business, iDID Adventure, which specialises in transition and resilience programmes for people with acquired or long-standing disabilities and mental health issues. Recreational programmes are also offered to provide disabled people with the opportunity to try a range of extreme/adventure sports such as snow sports, rock climbing, surfing, activities that Suzi was once told she would be unable to take part in.

A once isolated Suzi says: ‘I was determined not to let being deaf stand in the way of a normal life. I was angry to be turned away from the pursuits I loved and could see no reason why I, or anyone else suffering a disability, should be completely excluded.’

Suzi was presented with her award at the ceremony in London’s Savile Club, Mayfair, by Dallas star Charlene Tilton, who became a hearing ambassador for the awards after breaking the silence on her own hearing loss, which she has suffered with for more than four decades.

Charlene said: ‘Suzi is an incredible young woman who really is an inspiration to us all. What she has achieved is just amazing – it has been an honour being involved in these awards and Suzi is a deserving winner’.

Music-loving Suzi never imagined that in the space of eight years, she would be completely deaf, fighting for better rights for those who are hard of hearing while setting up her own business.

Suzi says: ‘After going through the shock of losing my hearing, it feels incredible to have won this award – particularly knowing the inspiring people I was up against. On my 23rd birthday all I wanted was to be able to hear again – it broke my heart and took me to a very dark and lonely place.
These awards just top off everything I’ve done over the past few years to come out fighting, and I feel truly honoured to have won.’

The awards, run by Specsavers in aid of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, celebrate those in the deaf or hard of hearing community who have overcome the odds to achieve something incredible.

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