Until the beginning of his sophomore year in high school, Luke Roman rarely heard footsteps, whispers or doors softly closing.
Roman, 16, of Sutherlin is deaf in his right ear and had 25 percent hearing in his left until the Sutherlin Lions Club bought him a small but powerful hearing aid in October. He said he believes the device will help him achieve his dreams, which include becoming a doctor and writing science fiction novels for teens.
Roman said he was surprised to discover how much sound he had been missing.
“At first it was pretty overwhelming. It’s not gradual. It’s like a wave that just slams into you,” he said.
Birds chirp so loudly he finds them distracting. Still, he is glad to hear more.
“What I imagine it would be like is if you covered one of your ears completely then uncovered it. That’s what the hearing aid is like,” he said. “Now voices sound clear. When people are talking quietly, it’s a lot easier to understand them.”
His mother, Ronda Roman, said her son’s medical challenges began at birth. Luke Roman was a “blue baby,” meaning he was born not breathing and had to be resuscitated. He had a growth hormone deficiency that slowed his development so much that he weighed just 15 pounds at 18 months. He was born without thumb bones and with his thumbs and pointer fingers conjoined. He had an operation when he was a young child to convert his pointer fingers into thumbs.
He also was missing a bone in his right ear and had only partial hearing in his left due to multiple eardrum ruptures that left scars inside his ear.
“He had a rough start,” his mother said.
Luke Roman finished his sophomore year at Sutherlin High School last week with a 4.0 grade point average.
He said he has known since before he was in kindergarten he wanted to work in medicine. At first he planned to be a veterinarian, but his long experience with doctors convinced him he wants to treat people instead.
“I want to help other people feel better. That’s what doctors do ... make you feel better when you’re in pain, and I want to be like that. I look up to doctors. I admire them,” he said.
He plans to attend Umpqua Community College, where he will train for a two-year nursing degree. He wants to put himself through medical school by working as a nurse.
Luke Roman also wants to write a series based on the mythical sunken island Atlantis.
“It’s going to be full of magic and wizardry,” he said.
He is passionate about reading and especially enjoys science fiction tales.
“Reading kind of lets you be the hero you can’t be in real life,” he said.
His father, Ignacio Roman, is a surveyor for Lone Rock Timber company. His mother is a waitress at Pat’s Kozy Kitchen in Sutherlin. Luckily for the Romans, that restaurant is the meeting place for the Sutherlin Lions Club, a group dedicated to helping children with sight and hearing problems.
When Ronda Roman asked the Lions how she might get help for her son, she said the group acted quickly to get him the hearing aid he needed. She said the family could not afford to buy the $6,000 hearing aid.
Sutherlin Lions Club member Bruce Boone said Luke Roman spoke about his hearing aid and his future plans in March at a Lions convention in Bandon.
“There were 120 people in the room. He got done speaking and the whole room stood up and started applauding. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Boone said.
Boone, who is district governor for the regional Lions organization, said he was glad to help, but he is certain Luke Roman is the kind of kid who would reach his goals whether or not he had a hearing aid.
“He’d have made it without it. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Boone said.
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.