Jaycee Smith Turns Limitations into Motivation



Freshman Jaycee Smith has more hoops to jump through in life than most.
Jaycee was born deaf and in order to hear, uses a cochlear implant.

Junior Isaac Smith, Jaycee’s older brother, said Jaycee is an amazing, talented and special person.

“Jaycee is one of the best people I know. She is always there and she loves to help other people,” Isaac said.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, a cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing.

“I got a cochlear implant when I was five,” Jaycee said. “A cochlear implant is like a hearing aid for deaf people.”

Isaac said it is sometimes a challenge to talk with Jaycee in certain situations such as talking on the phone, but he has learned to adapt.

“It’s kind of hard sometimes to communicate with her, but with the cochlear implant it’s been a great help to her and our family,” Isaac said.

Jaycee is able to hear as well as anyone else can, but without the help of the implant she loses that ability.

“I can take it off and have silence whenever I want,” Jaycee said. “But it breaks sometimes, and it makes me frustrated.”

Isaac said Jaycee, who also participates in cross country, basketball and track and field, has endurance that helps her get through her trials.

“She is deaf, but I don’t think that’s a disadvantage for her,” Isaac said. “She finds a way to get through it and she pushes on.”

Math teacher Kevin Guthrie, who coaches her basketball team, said that teaching her in class can sometimes be hard.

“It’s difficult sometimes to balance when she delays a response to you. Sometimes I don’t know if she didn’t hear me or if she’s considering what was said,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie said that being around Jaycee in his leadership class helps him understand her.

“I think she’s done an amazing job overcoming her limitations, and she’s really a neat girl when you get to spend time with her,” Guthrie said. “She’s a really kind young lady. She’s quiet but introspective.”

Jaycee has learned to cope and not let her disability get in the way of anything she wants to do.

“Jaycee adapts very well,” Guthrie said. “When I first began to work with her I had to be told she had a hearing deficit because she compensates so well for it.”

Jaycee’s mother Cammy Smith said she would describe her daughter as inspirational and caring.

“Jaycee inspires me to be a better person,” Cammy said.

Cammy knows a different and more in-depth side of Jaycee, having the role of her mother and spending so much time with her at home.

“She was born with a hearing impairment. I think maybe not hearing at first helped her with her other senses,” Cammy said. “She’s a more visual person.”

Cammy said Jaycee makes mistakes just like everyone else and enjoys caring for other people.

“She knows if someone’s upset. She’s not perfect. She has her moments,” Cammy said. “She likes things to be in order, and she likes to make sure people are doing the right things.”

Jaycee uses American Sign Language as an alternate way of communicating.

“I feel so blessed that I was able to have the opportunity to learn sign language,” Cammy said.

Jaycee had health issues twice over the last couple years, which included near-death experiences, one of them being Addison’s disease.

According to Mayo Clinic, Addison’s disease is a disorder that occurs when the body produces insufficient amounts of certain hormones produced by the adrenal glands. In Addison’s disease, the adrenal glands produce too little cortisol and often insufficient levels of aldosterone as well.

“As a family we have to go through it together, and it has brought our family closer,” Cammy said.

Her second near-death experience was when she was struck with meningitis.

Isaac described the experience as a terrifying moment of almost losing his sister.

“It seemed like she was exhausted all the time. One day we took her into the hospital and she had to be flown to Portland immediately,” Isaac said. “When we got there, they told my dad that she could die any moment.”

Isaac said he and Jaycee are pretty close as siblings, but they are also just like any other siblings.

“She’s just like any sibling. Sometimes I get into fights with her, but we get along,” Isaac said. “She just wants to be normal.”