ROCK SPRINGS — Life for a 16-year-old sophomore kid is typically a breeze. The same can be said for Quinten Gasaway, a 16-year-old sophomore at Rock Springs High School. However, while life isn’t too troublesome, he also manages to live with impaired hearing.
Like most teenagers, he enjoys playing video games with his friends. He is also currently working towards earning his Eagle Scout which he hopes to earn this year.
Even more inspiring is the sophomore’s love for sports. Nothing has held Quinten back from living the way that he wants to live. No matter what circumstances one may find themselves in, his story recalls the importance to dictate our own story.
There are a number of explanations for loss of hearing. For Quinten, he has been awaiting that explanation since he was a young boy.
“We don’t really know. I think I was born with it, but we don’t know for sure,” Quinten said.
The first three years of his life were spent sick. Countless ear infections and a case of pneumonia was a tough way to start life. As a toddler, Quinten gave many signs that there was a problem with his hearing. What was originally stamped as normal by the doctors was dubbed by his parents who took note of his behavior.
“Originally they [doctors] said there was nothing wrong with him. We kept noticing that he wasn’t able to say a lot of words,” his mother Kristin Gasaway said.
According to Kristen, she noticed that he would look for facial expressions to see if it was a sound or not.
When Quinten reached the age of four, he was able to take a more accurate test to determine if his hearing was, in fact, an issue at hand. The test came back positive that there was an issue with his hearing, but the cause was unknown. A year later, Quinten was introduced to his first hearing aid at the age of five. At the time he only had one hearing aid, which was worn on his right ear. However, his hearing in his left ear continued to worsen that year and by the time he reached age six, he had hearing aids in both ears.
With two hearing aids to keep track of, Kristen soon discovered the challenges of keeping the expensive, small devices on her son.
“We have been out with rakes before, sifting, with big lines of people trying to walk a huge field trying to find them,” Kristen said. “They are very pricey.”
Kristen came to a cross road when she had conflict with the care she was getting in Elko, Nevada. She made the decision to quit her job and take a teaching position in Rock Springs for the sake of Quinten. The move wasn’t easy, but it has proven to be a good change throughout the years.
Getting His Feet Wet
Despite the challenge his hearing loss presented Quinten, his natural desires to join his peers in their activities pushed him forward, along with the support of his parents. Growing up, Quinten participated in soccer, wrestling and baseball. He learned to adapt to his circumstances and play his heart out in every sport.
“If he wanted to be in a sport, we did it,” Kristen said.
Although some sports like wrestling proved to be a “struggle,” Quinten eventually found his favorite sports: cross country, swimming and track and field.
Currently, Quinten swims for the RSHS Tigers swim team. He competes in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle events. When he first started swimming, he was eight-years-old. His mother hired a former student to give him private swim lessons. Those lessons helped him learn the basics which led him to get his feet wet in competitive swimming in junior high. Since his first experience in junior high, he hasn’t looked back.
“I started in junior high,” Quinten said. “A lot of my friends were doing it so I thought it would be fun to do with them.”
There are a few obstacles that Quinten has had to learn to hurdle each and every swim meet since his first one in junior high. Without his hearing aids, he hears next to nothing. Hearing the cadence for getting set is not a possibility for him. In addition, he can faintly hear the buzzer go off which signals the beginning of each race. His coach’s yelling and parent’s cheering also go unheard. Quite simply it’s just him and the water.
The same can be said for running in cross country and track and field. While he is able to wear his hearing aids while running, the often windy conditions make it nearly impossible to sense if an opponent is behind him.
Before Quinten graduates high school, he hopes to letter in his sports and break the 15 or 16 minute mark in cross country.
Just Another Kid
Quinten’s parents have often put their son before themselves many times. As a result, they have learned an important lesson that everyone can implement.
“It is hard to be different. But every kid is different,” Kristen said.
Limitations are only opportunities. Quinten is the prime example of taking what you’re given and making the most of it. But most importantly, he’s just like any other 16-year-old kid and hasn’t allowed his trials to define him.
“I didn’t want him to come to high school and be the hearing aid kid. And he’s not. He’s a normal high school 16-year-old. He’s no different than any other kid with hardships. His just happens to be hearing,” Kristen said.
When Quinten’s loss of hearing seems to be a great trial, Kristen reminds herself that there are others who have greater problems to address.
“I’m grateful,” Kristen said. “There are a lot of other kids out there that are sicker and have a lot more issues. This is just one little thing to deal with.”
Whether you can hear or not, Quinten’s story reminds us that even those who society view has “unable” are sometimes the most capable. It’s not about how well you perform, but why you perform. While the why behind his loss of hearing is unknown, he understands why he continues to swim and run.