I grew up watching Steve Austin in the 1970’s TV Series, “The Six Million Dollar Man,” and also the spin-off with Jaime Sommers titled “The Bionic Woman.” I was fascinated with the use of technology to not only help someone to recover after terribly catastrophic events but also with the heroic deeds of my fictional heroes!
I can still hear in my mind the sound effects as they would throw people or things across the room, lift impossibly heavy objects, or rip open doors and walls! It was awesome! Sheer power! They had superhuman powers and abilities all given to them by the miracle of science and technology!
I must confess that I secretly wanted to be like them! That may not seem weird to you. Who doesn’t want all the strength and power you could need or want? However, I actually hoped at times I would get in some kind of accident so that my doctor could make me bionic! I dreamed of waking up after some tragedy with the power to change the world. I wanted to be bionic!
If I was that excited in the 1970s and what seems like archaic technology now, just think what they could do for me today? Not only would the sound effects be better, but they might be able to install lasers in my eyes! There is no end to what they could do to make me better, stronger, and more powerful! Step back world! Here I come!
Of course, in today’s economy, we probably would not be that impressed by a six-million dollar man! With inflation and more, good old astronaut Steve Austin is probably going to end up on a thrift-store shelf, batteries dead, and waiting for someone either sentimental for their childhood (like me) or an unsuspecting kid who thinks this might be cool to blow him up in the back yard!
All this fascination with being bionic must have affected me as I got older. In my university studies, I was fascinated with what was called, at the time, “assistive technology.” As I worked to help and care for the elderly and disabled individuals in my care, I wanted to find ways to help them be more powerful. I wanted to help them be able to do more! I wanted to make them bionic!
In this college job, all I could think of was how can I make someone’s life better using technology or innovation. I had fun creating speaking charts, using soundboards, and more. I did not change the world, but I will never forget seeing people do things they could never do before! It was amazing! What we can do now is even more incredible! Who has not been inspired by a TED talk of a runner with prosthetic legs! Heck, I almost cried watching the Tik Tok of the puppy who could run again because of the same technology!
Interestingly, I find myself having something of the experience I wished for as a child. I did not have to get into a life-threatening accident to do it! The “accident” in my case has been getting older! What fun that is!!
This past year, I was also convinced by my sweetheart and my not-as-sweet children (lol) to get help with my hearing loss. I sat in a sound-proof booth and they tested me and identified how much loss. They told me in just a few weeks I would get technology to help–hearing aids!
I will never forget that first two weeks with my new hearing aids! I could hear everything! My family laughed at me as I was constantly saying, “What was that?” and “What is that noise?” They laughed because I was hearing all the things I could not hear before! I could hear the microwave, the furnace, the beeping of the washer and dryer, the dog snoring as he napped, and so much more!
I could also hear myself chewing, the static of the wind blowing against my ears, and more. It was almost deafening! I started to feel panicky and anxiety started to swell within me! It was too much! I had to go back and have things adjusted! I struggled with any social event because everything flooded my ears and I felt uptight and anxious. This was not what it was supposed to be like to be bionic!
I mean, it was cool as we sat around the dinner table the other night talking about it. My kids were actually jealous now! When I told them how I could adjust my hearing with an app on my phone! I told them I can set it to hear things on the side, or just behind me, or focus on what is in front of me. I told them about the equalizer where I can modify things to be just the tone or pitch I want or need!
They actually said, “That is cool!” When they learned of the Blue Tooth capability they said, “Why can’t we all have that?”
Having these two experiences has shown me that it is just not as glamorous as I thought it would be. Please don’t get me wrong! I am so very grateful for the experts, specialists, and technicians who are assisting me. I am incredibly thankful for the equipment that can be programmed to assist me and improve my quality of life. I am humbled to have the insurance to cover what feels like six-million dollars to me.
I just was not prepared for how hard it would be.
I guess as I pen these thoughts here in the early morning, that is the message I want to get across–being bionic is not as fun as I thought it would be! Like most things in life, there will be difficulty and trial. There will be challenges and struggles. Adjustments are uncomfortable. Adaptation can sometimes be hard! Change takes time and often a bit of wrestling and wrangling!
It is wonderful to live at a time and place where there is great technology and resources to be able to help me (and so many others with greater challenges) to live with more independence and quality. However, the transition to using these things can be so difficult!
Perhaps, this explains why many stop using their CPAP or give up on the hearing aids. Is it possible in the fantasy of being bionic, we fail to prepare for the challenge to adapt? Everyone told me how these things would help me and make me better. Not one person told me how hard it would be to adapt! I think an adjustment to this pattern and instruction is so crucial.
Let’s rejoice in the bionic advances of our day! Let’s celebrate the incredible advances that can help so many have quality lives. I am so grateful for renewed hearing and somewhat more restful sleep.
However, let’s be sensitive to the challenge of change. While we express optimism for all that we can do to improve lives, let us never forget the people, their fears, and all it takes to adjust and adapt. It is exciting and hard! It is wonderful and difficult! Maybe more of us would fully take advantage of what is available if we made sure to keep it real.
Life is like that and I would not change it! I love the hope and excitement of new things to improve my life–like the fantasy of one day being bionic. I also understand the reality of being human, imperfect, and the challenge of growing and adapting. Frankly, for me, I want to hang on to both! Being bionic is not near as fun as I thought it would be, but the challenge and opportunity to grow and improve and live a fuller life is wonderful!