Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Coming out of hiding...

Well, it's been a while. I don't really count my last post as a real post since I gave absolutely no updates about what's been going on with me, so it has really been about four months since I've last posted. Hard to believe, isn't it?

Things have been busy. The school year started off okay. I went through a rough time for a while... I was just in a really bad place. I made some changes and re-evaluated what was important to me, and I'm making a conscious effort not to let myself get stressed out and anxious over things that are completely insignificant in the long run. I've felt so much better since.

My clinical rotations class has been going really well, and I absolutely love it. As much as I've been enjoying it, I was secretly hoping to get the chance to see some crazy, exciting thing happen. Lesson learned: be careful what you wish for! At one of my last sites of the semester, I got the amazing opportunity to do CPR on a patient during a code. I swear, it was just like Grey's Anatomy and all those other medical shows! I watched as the doctors and nurses worked on the patient for hours doing everything possible to save her. I felt so invested... It was the first time I ever got to touch a patient, let alone keep her heart beating! By the time I left, it was clear she would not make it. I was devastated, and I got in my car and sobbed. The whole thing was just heartbreaking, especially since when the patient initially came in, she was conscious and the doctors were hopeful that there would be a positive outcome. There are just some images that will remain forever etched in my memory. The lone tear rolling down her cheek after she was intubated and unable to speak. Her husband and his repeated, hopeful inquiries, "She'll be okay. She'll come out of this fine, right?" Her lifeless face as the doctors desperately pushed more and more medication into her veins, hoping her heart would beat on its own again. Her husband, wandering down the hall, dazed and crying when he realize everything might not be okay. As difficult as it was, I learned so much from the experience. And I suppose if I continue to pursue a career in medicine, I will have to face the bad outcomes as well as the good.

On a happier note, this video made me *very* excited. I'm so glad to see that UC-Davis is going to such lengths to accommodate its medical students with hearing loss, and I hope all schools take note! I actually got to meet and speak with Amanda at the AMPHL conference this summer, and I have no doubt she will go far in her career and in life! The video is captioned!

I am so glad I am on winter break. I ended the semester on a high note, getting A's in all of my classes. I also got my PSAT score back. I scored a 217 out of 240, which is in the 99th percentile for juniors. Yes, I am bragging, and I am proud! I worked darn hard for that score!

I went to California last week for my older brother's wedding, and I also got to meet up with one of my friends who I got to meet at LOFT over the summer. I had a great time! I'm back home now and taking advantage of the free time. My amazing parents gave me a Nook for Hanukkah (and e-book reader produced by Barnes and Noble, for those of you unfamiliar), and I have been reading away. I feel like a little kid again, staying up until 4 AM reading :) Yep, I had a unique childhood!

One last thing.. I recently came upon this great article while reading my local newspaper. It's about a woman who works as a closed captioner for the Dallas Cowboys stadium. She is also heavily involved in the hearing loss and cochlear implant community. Give it a read! 

Happy holidays to my dear readers who are left! May you have a happy, healthy, and safe new year!

Cowboys Stadium closed captioner article

Brad Loper/Staff Photographer
Closed captioner Lisa Davis reviews a script several hours before the Dallas Cowboys prepare to face the New York Giants. On game days, she's usually at the stadium for seven to eight hours.
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ARLINGTON — Roger Emrich is the public address voice for most fans at Dallas Cowboys home games. But for a certain segment of the crowd — particularly those with hearing loss — Lisa Davis is the team’s true voice.
A Cowboys fan since high school and closed captioner at Cowboys Stadium, Davis spends every home game in Arlington trying keep up pace with the action. Fingers flying at an average of 200 or more words per minute, she captions the pregame announcements and events, PA announcements during the game, halftime entertainment and postgame interviews.
In the simplest terms, Davis, 39, is paid to go to Cowboys games and type exactly what she hears. The job is often trickier than it sounds, she said, but just as fun as any fan might imagine. And a dream come true when she received the news by phone that she was hired.
“I hung up and probably screamed as loud as I could,” Davis said. “It was like hitting the football fan lottery.”
Davis — an independent contractor — started captioning Cowboys coaches’ shows for TV in 2006. And since Cowboys Stadium opened in 2009, Davis has captioned the Super Bowl, boxing matches, rodeos and more. Her typing appears on handheld devices available at the stadium and some video screens there.
Outside the sports world, she has captioned church services and government contractor meetings, cooking shows and college algebra classes, Martha Stewart programs and a presidential speech.
However it’s her work for one of the world’s most-famous sports teams that has given her a degree of fame inside her industry. A feature story in the May Journal of Court Reporting profiled Davis along with other sports specialists.
Davis said she received some praise from inside that community for her work at Super Bowl XLV. Nervous about the highest-profile assignment of her career, Davis said she counted on the national anthem as perhaps the only moment to catch her breath that day in February.
Instead, pop star Christina Aguilera flubbed the words and left Davis scrambling to keep up with the botched version. Davis remembers her typing screeching to a halt as she thought to herself: “That’s not how it goes.”
Davis never considered any option other than typing it just as Aguilera sang it.
Captioners are trained not to clean up language.
“They get what the hearing crowd gets,” she said about her audience. “They don’t want special favors. They don’t want to be edited. They don’t want to be babied.”
Esther Kelly, a hearing-loss resource specialist for the Deaf Action Center in Dallas, said that kind of passion is why she has hired Davis for 15 years.
“She cares not just about the job but about the people that need the captioning,” Kelly said. “She’s wholehearted for the people.”
The only time Davis turned down a major event at Cowboys Stadium was when a college football game conflicted with a gathering sponsored by hearing implant maker Cochlear.
She said her work with Cochlear and the Deaf Action Center are the few jobs that generate the same kind of passion she has for the Cowboys.
She never expected her sports fandom to contribute to her career path while growing up in the Dallas area and graduating from Wylie High School. Davis’ father worked for the Justice Department, so she imagined herself as an undercover narcotics officer or FBI agent.
Her father wasn’t supportive. “No daughter of his was going to get shot at,” Davis said.
Instead, he talked her into court reporting. It’s a good-paying career that would allow her to keep a foot in the criminal justice system, only without the gunplay. Davis said captioners are paid about $45 to $200 per hour depending on the type of work.
After years of schooling and practice, Davis worked on just one trial and was bored and didn’t want to deal with the daily horrors at the courthouse.
Unexpected path
The Americans with Disabilities Act showed her a different way to make a living. That federal law boosted demand for captioning in classrooms and at business meetings, conferences and conventions. The Federal Communications Commission also started phasing in requirements for closed captioning of all new programming on television.
Scott Purcel, the Cowboys’ director of broadcasting, said there was greater demand for captioning but the “quality wasn’t always what I was expecting.” As the father of a hearing-impaired 8-year-old, Purcel is particularly attuned to captioning and the gap between the good and bad.
He said he’d only use her or someone she’d recommend at Cowboys Stadium.
“I brag when I go to other stadiums about having a better captioner,” he said.
Davis’ work is ultimately a serious job. She sits in an area adjacent to the stadium’s TV control room and watches every play on a bank of monitors. Although she’s just a few yards from a coveted view of the field, Davis can’t stray from her stenography machine.
As PA announcer Emrich calls out downs, players and penalties, Davis types the words verbatim — just as she does his announcements of stadium contests and entertainment. A game for her is often a seven- or eight-hour day, starting long before kickoff and finishing with any post-game activities.
Despite the concentration required, she still finds plenty of time to unleash her inner fan. The long-stated rule against cheering in the press box just down the hall doesn’t apply to her little piece of the stadium.
Just like a Cowboys homer in front of a TV set, she roots for players, claps, urges fans to get loud and groans when things go wrong.
“OK, we need halftime right now,” she said as the Cowboys led the New York Giants by just two points at the Dec. 11 home game. “I don’t want to see that again.”
Unplanned challenges
Not many of her jobs give her the chance to cheer.
While still “wet behind the ears,” Davis captioned some breaking-news coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing for WFAA-TV (Channel 8). She did similar work for news coverage of the 9/11 attacks.
Jobs like that are not only emotional but pose a professional challenge.
Moments after the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, Davis said her boss told her to stick with one spelling of Murrah until someone could call and determine what was correct. She said she had the same problem with captioning tornado warnings and other storms in Oklahoma, where many cities have Indian names that are difficult to figure out phonetically.
“You have to think how it’s spelled as it’s being pronounced,” she said.
But in some cases, different combinations of keystrokes might spit out a word or spelling that’s unexpected. The stenography machine captioners use doesn’t include every character, so some letters are created by multiple keystrokes. On top of that, captioners create their own shortcuts for names and terminology that might come up.
In an instant and under pressure, they’ll often have to work through what’s essentially two layers of coding to make sure the words appear precisely as they were said.
Davis said one of the few things that made her throw up her hands in frustration was working on a local youth music show. That was soon after rapper Snoop Dogg popularized the slang language that replaced the endings of words with “izzle,” creating a sort of hip-hop Pig Latin.
Mid-tempo country songs tend to be far easier to caption than bouncy rap or dance numbers. Davis said that was nothing, though, compared to trying to caption an auction — an attempt that wasn’t entirely successful.
Davis figures that technology — such as Apple’s Siri voice-recognition feature — will one day catch up with her profession.
“Technology is advancing every minute so I know that eventually, something’s going to happen somewhere,” Davis said. “But I also know that it’s also not near” professional standards of recognition.There are still problems, she said, with filtering out crowd noise and nearby voices and accounting for accents and even changes in pronunciation because of a cold.
In a real-life version of John Henry’s battle against a steam-powered hammer, Davis pitted herself against voice-recognition software. Viewers could see her work and the computer’s work projected side-by-side.
“We went to head to head, and I’m happy to say I kicked its butt all over the screen,” she said.
To hit speeds of 200 to 400 words per minute, captioners create shortcuts for common names and terms. Cowboys Stadium captioner Lisa Davis has an extensive library tailored for her work there. Some require unusual spellings to avoid conflicting with existing shortcuts. Here are a few of those:
TOEM TOEM = Tony Romo
WAS NAS = Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (note: Recently waived)
LOERJ = Line of scrimmage
QB = Quarterback
LAUB = Linebacker
KAUB = Cornerback
RAUB = Running back