A Truly Lived Life: A Story of Real Inspiration

Sometimes a little inspiration is all you need. Take these lyrics for example: “You’ll never be great without taking a chance.”

Plucked from the middle of the chorus of “Diamond Eyes” – sung by the metal group Shinedown – this phrase is one that University of Louisville freshman, Lennon Radcliffe counts as one of his favorite inspirational quotes.

Lennon Radcliffe, looks and sometimes acts like a typical teenager – a lanky young man with brown hair that flops carelessly across his forehead and occasionally into his eye.  He snowboards in the winter, wakeboards in the summer, and splits his spare time between videogames and guitar. Yet, in his short life, Radcliffe himself has become a source of inspiration for an entire community, and hopes to continue to be one throughout his life.

Lennon Radcliffe. Courtesy Photo.

Lennon Radcliffe. Courtesy Photo.

Radcliffe was diagnosed at birth with severe profound sensorineural bilateral hearing loss. There is no history of hearing loss in his family, so the cause of Radcliffe’s condition is unknown.

“But I expressed a strong capacity for learning and [my parents and I] felt like it would be an educational asset and to enable greater oral communication,” says Radcliffe. “At age six, I was a part of the decision making and I said ‘yes.’ Without a doubt the cochlear implant gave me the gift of hearing.”

Little pleasures that we take for granted, like music, became accessible to Radcliffe. He grew up in a musical household where his father played instruments for 40 years, and was happy to be able to finally pick up a guitar and actually hear the intricate differences with each string. Radcliffe thrived on  picking up a new sound every day at school. “Without the gift of hearing, the world around me would not be as vibrant as I otherwise perceive it,” he said.

That’s not to say though that Radcliffe’s transition with his implant was seamless:

“Growing up, it was hard to quickly adapt to the ever-changing environments in school. As the years went by, it became easier to utilize my processor and to adapt from small classrooms to large ones,” Radcliffe continues. “Sometimes I could not differentiate words that would rhyme with each other, and now I can easily tell the intricate differences. Over the 18 years of my life, I’ve grown to be adept with compensating for my hearing loss and utilizing my adaptations.”

However, he overcame those difficulties, racking up a staggering list of accomplishments along the way: he graduated in the top one percent of his high school class as the salutatorian, participated in the Governor’s Scholars Program and became an ambassador of Kentucky, was a fourth-place finisher in Biotechnology for HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) in the state of Kentucky, and became a key player on his high school varsity baseball team, without any baseball knowledge.

He continued, “I plan to compete at the semi-professional level in snowboarding and wakeboarding soon. I earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and have won first-place overall, as a recent black belt, in the 2013 Professional Karate Commission  tournament season in the states of Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, and Ohio combined, and I have also broken concrete blocks recently.”

Radcliffe also became a recipient of the Graeme Clark scholarship this year. Professor Graeme Clark is the foundation Professor of the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Melbourne. The pioneering work of his University Department led to the first research implant “bionic ear” being “switched on” in 1978 and the first Nucleus Implant in 1982. The Cochlear Graeme Clark Scholarship is a unique award open to Nucleus Cochlear Implant recipients, like Radcliffe, around the world. Awarded by Cochlear, this scholarship has been set up to help individuals further themselves by undertaking university studies.

Radcliffe is studying biology at the University of Louisville, with hopes of eventually going on to medical school. His father is a surgical technician, which gave him an interest in medicine from an early age. “I also wanted to engage in biology and the medical profession because of the doctors that assisted in giving me the gift of hearing. They inspired me to do the same, to give back and to help others, to make the world more peaceful,” he said.

When asked where else he finds inspiration his answer is simply, “The world around me.”

He said, “The world has shaped me to be a good man, a man who has no intentions of becoming a quitter. The world has inspired me to be passionate, dedicated, talented, humble, and to always have good left in me when things get harder.” VT

By ASHLIE STEVENS | Contributing Writer