Little brother, big inspiration

The Davis family celebrates Deaf Awareness Month in September and hopes others do too.


Maya Ortiz

Max Davis, 10, and Rhian Davis, 12, have a special bond. Despite being the oldest, Rhian has always looked up to her brother.

Rhian Davis, Staff Writer

My‌ ‌mom’s‌ ‌favorite‌ ‌video‌ ‌of‌ ‌all‌ ‌time‌ ‌is‌ ‌the‌ ‌video‌ ‌of‌ ‌my brother’s cochlear ‌implant‌ ‌being‌ ‌activated‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌first‌ ‌time.‌ ‌Tiny‌ ‌Max,‌ ‌sitting‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌chair‌ ‌and‌ ‌chewing‌ ‌on‌ ‌a‌ ‌toy.‌ ‌His‌ ‌eyes‌ ‌go‌ ‌wide‌ ‌and‌ ‌his‌ ‌face‌ ‌lights‌ ‌up‌ ‌as‌ ‌he‌ ‌hears‌ ‌my‌ ‌mom’s‌ ‌voice‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌first‌ ‌time.‌ ‌I‌ ‌think‌ ‌she‌ ‌cries‌ ‌every‌ ‌time‌ ‌she‌ ‌watches‌ ‌it;‌ ‌and‌,‌ honestly,‌ ‌I‌ ‌don’t‌ ‌blame‌ ‌her.‌ ‌

Contributed by Rhian Davis

‌Max ‌is‌ ‌probably‌ ‌the‌ ‌strongest‌ ‌person‌ ‌I‌ ‌know.‌ ‌Born‌ ‌at‌ ‌just 25‌ ‌weeks‌,‌ ‌he‌ ‌has‌ ‌always‌ ‌been‌ ‌a‌ ‌fighter.‌ ‌Max‌ ‌was‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌NICU‌ ‌for‌ ‌eight‌ ‌months‌. When‌ ‌he‌ ‌was‌ ‌released,‌ ‌he‌ ‌was‌ ‌on‌ ‌ oxygen‌ ‌for‌ ‌another‌ ‌year.‌ ‌He‌ ‌was‌ ‌born‌ ‌deaf‌ ‌and‌ ‌he‌ ‌has‌ ‌cerebral‌ ‌palsy.‌ ‌He‌ ‌faces‌ ‌challenges‌ ‌every‌ ‌single‌ ‌day‌ ‌of‌ ‌his‌ ‌life‌; ‌and‌ ‌even‌ ‌though‌ ‌he‌ ‌is‌ ‌younger‌ ‌than‌ ‌me,‌ ‌I‌ ‌look‌ ‌up‌ ‌to‌ ‌him.‌ ‌

Max‌ ‌and‌ ‌I‌ ‌are‌ ‌11‌ ‌months‌ ‌apart‌ ‌so‌ ‌we‌ ‌have‌ ‌a‌ ‌pretty‌ ‌good‌ ‌relationship.‌ ‌He‌ ‌gets‌ ‌on‌ ‌my‌ ‌nerves‌ ‌at‌ ‌times,‌ ‌and‌ ‌I’m‌ ‌sure‌ ‌I‌ ‌get‌ ‌on‌ ‌his. At‌ ‌the‌ ‌end‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌day,‌ ‌we‌ ‌would‌ ‌do‌ ‌anything‌ ‌for‌ ‌each‌ ‌other.‌ ‌

Growing‌ ‌up,‌ ‌the‌ ‌idea‌ ‌that‌ ‌Max‌ ‌was‌ ‌“different”‌ ‌never‌ ‌crossed‌ ‌my‌ ‌mind.‌ ‌He‌ ‌was‌ ‌my‌ ‌brother‌ ‌and‌ ‌that‌ ‌was‌ ‌all‌ ‌that‌ ‌mattered.‌ ‌ ‌

My parents didn’t want Max to miss out on anything because of his deafness. They believed that cochlear implants were the best choice for him especially because of the other challenges he might face due to his cerebral palsy.

A cochlear implant is an electronic device that is placed in the cochlea through surgery. The device allows deaf people to hear by stimulating the cochlear nerve. All cochlear implants have both internal and external parts. Max is implanted in both ears. He got his first implant when he was 11 months old and his second one when he was 6.

Max‌ ‌can‌ ‌hear‌ ‌everything‌ ‌when‌ ‌he‌ ‌has‌ ‌his‌ ‌implants‌ ‌on.‌ ‌We‌ ‌call‌ ‌them‌ ‌his‌ ‌ears‌ ‌because‌ ‌Max and I couldn’t comprehend the words “cochlear implants” when we were little.‌ ‌Max‌ ‌loves‌ ‌his‌ ‌ears‌ ‌and‌ ‌he‌ ‌only‌ ‌really‌ ‌takes‌ ‌them‌ ‌off‌ ‌when‌ ‌he’s‌ ‌sleeping.‌ ‌When‌ ‌I‌ ‌was‌ ‌younger,‌ ‌I‌ ‌remember‌ ‌being‌ ‌jealous‌ ‌that‌ ‌he‌ ‌had‌ ‌the‌ ‌ability‌ ‌to‌ ‌do‌ ‌that‌. ‌(Honestly‌, ‌I‌ ‌still‌ ‌am).‌ ‌ ‌

He‌ ‌faces‌ ‌challenges‌ ‌every‌ ‌single‌ ‌day‌ ‌of‌ ‌his‌ ‌life‌; ‌and‌ ‌even‌ ‌though‌ ‌he‌ ‌is‌ ‌younger‌ ‌than‌ ‌me,‌ ‌I‌ ‌look‌ ‌up‌ ‌to‌ ‌him.‌ ‌

— Rhian Davis

‌Our‌ ‌family‌ ‌isn’t‌ ‌your‌ ‌typical‌ ‌deaf‌ ‌family.‌ ‌We aren’t fluent in ASL,‌ ‌we‌ ‌don’t‌ ‌know‌ ‌many‌ ‌people‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌community,‌ ‌and‌ ‌Max‌ is ‌implanted.‌ We wanted to get more involved in the community and Max had the urge to meet more people like him. In 2017, my mom discovered a camp for implanted children and their families. The camp was located in Estes Park, Colorado. We were all so excited to go.

The camp was incredible. People from all over the United States attended the camp, so it was really fun to meet so many new people. Max bonded with other implanted kids, my parents bonded with other parents who had endured the same struggles, and I bonded with other siblings. It was such a great experience and we made friendships that have lasted years.

While we attended the camp for Max, I was incredibly impacted by it. Being able to talk to siblings of deaf kids was amazing because we all had common experiences. I was impacted most by the camp volunteers. All of the younger volunteers were either deaf or studying audiology in college. I had the chance to talk to a few of them about audiology and I was immediately hooked.

Before cochlear camp, I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life. After being immersed in deaf culture for a week, I knew I wanted to be able to help people like my brother and like all of the people we met. I wanted to be an audiologist. Audiology has now been my dream for a few years now, and I’m excited to continue working towards it.

I am so proud of my brother and every single thing that he has accomplished. The deaf community is so beautiful and Deaf Awareness Month is something that is so important. I believe that people should get involved in any way they can. Engage with people in the community, educate others, learn a bit of ASL and celebrate.