How I achieved great heights after receiving a cochlear implant
By Chris Gwilt
My name is Christopher Gwilt and I am an ex-Territorial Army rifleman from Bedford. After one year in Afghanistan, working with the 2 Rifles, I lost the ability to hear in both ears when a rocket propelled grenade struck the wall behind me. The hearing loss in my right ear was so profound that a hearing aid was not suitable.
My life before the implant:
At first, after the injury, I couldn’t hear anything. It was dead silence and I had to communicate through typing on a laptop or trying to lip read. Then I received a hearing aid, but the sound was nothing like I thought things should sound like. It was hard to talk to anyone and most things needed repeating about 4 or 5 times. Together with my consultant Richard Irving from Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital (Selly Oaks Hospital at the time), I considered my options and chose to have a Cochlear Nucleus 5 implant.
Unlike hearing aids, which simply amplify sound at the outer ear, a cochlear implant can bypass the damaged part of the ear to directly stimulate the hair cells within the cochlea.
Chris comments on life after his implant:
I never imagined I would end up being able to hear almost everything through it. With the implant I can hear very well in most situations. It has even enabled me to go to university, hear lectures properly and learn the same way as everyone else.
In April, I climbed to Mount Everest basecamp to raise money for Walking With The Wounded. From there my fellow Walking with the Wounded team member, Andy Hawkins, and I ascended Mount Lobuche, a neighbouring mountain standing an incredible 6119 metres high. My implant worked perfectly, even at high altitudes, and enabled me to communicate effectively with our Sherpa guides. If I had not been able to communicate with them, I would not have been able to safely climb.
For more information about Chris’ Cochlear implant technology, please visit: http://www.cochlear.com/uk/nucleus-system
Q&A with Chris
1. Were there any particularly difficult challenges during the trek? What were they?
As always, the altitude was tough to deal with - constant headaches and loss of appetite at a time when you really need the calories is tough to handle. From our previous training I knew what to expect though, and handled it well. Mount Lobuche itself was quite a tough mountain to climb, with a very steep ascent coupled with bits of ice and rock which made it a bit tricky with the crampons [traction devices]. I slipped several times but thoroughly enjoyed it.
2. What were some of the highlights of the trek?
The first view of Everest is amazing. Our first sighting was about half way from Lukla, where we began our trek, to Everest. Even at that distance it is spectacular. From the top of Mount Lobuche, you can see a great deal of the mountain range, the best view I’ve ever experienced and certainly worth going all that way for.
3. What was it like trekking with other members of WWTW?
I only trekked in with one other member, Andy Hawkins, and from our time on Manaslu together we knew each other well. When things get a bit tough, having a good friend there helps to raise spirits.
4. Describe how you felt when you reached base camp.
I enjoyed the trek to basecamp and was very pleased when I got there. I was a bit apprehensive as I would be going back down the valley to climb Mount Lobuche only three days after. All the news we had was that it’s a tricky mountain to climb.
5. Describe how you felt when you reached the top of Mount Lobuche.
Very relieved. It was quite a tough climb and going down is always easier, but at the same time I had never seen a view like it - Everest was right in front of me, with a little bit of cloud surrounding the summit and a number of other huge mountains off in the distance.
6. Was there one single moment that stands out in your memory where you were perhaps being given a specific important instruction which you were able to hear thanks to the implant.
I was on the top of Mount Lobuche and preparing for the descent. The Sherpa was asking me if I remembered the arm wrapping technique which is used in mountaineering on slightly less steep slopes that don’t necessarily require an abseil. He was demonstrating to me and describing it so I could descend safely.
7. What other trips or events do you have planned for the future?
I want to climb Mont Blanc in France. It reminded me of our time last year when the weather conditions were too bad to attempt a summit safely. As a result, we went to Italy and climbed Gran Paradiso instead.
INTERVIEW WITH SWING SINGER JOE CORRIGAN
“The Sticks” is always on the look out for local performers from the area and we have found one in Joe Corrigan you may not recognise the name but Joe has a burgeoning career and has performed to 100,000's of people both across the UK and Europe with his show “Kings of Swing” and also a solo artist .He is in fact born in Luton but now lives in Dunstable, in fact he attended Cardinal Newman RC school.
Joe Corrigan is widely regarded as one of the finest Swing Singers and song stylists performing today. His ability to stylistically interpret a song is reminiscent of the golden era of swing. An exceptional Balladeer, with an unmistakeably warm and effortless stage manner, Joe possesses the rare and enviable quality of personalising a song and creating something quite magical. His professionalism, vocal ability and impeccable timing, have made Joe a first choice on the International Stage, having performed many times at some of the worlds most prestigious venues including: Café de Paris, The Ritz, Skibo Castle, Badrutts Palace - St Moritz and Wembley Stadium.
We caught up with Joe at his house in Bedfordshire ahead of his show on Friday 25th May at the Grove Theatre to have a chat .
How many years have you been singing?
Well all my life but 20 years professionally and 10 years with the Kings of Swing (KOS) and it is great playing in Dunstable again so all my family and friends can come see me (my sister travelled to Scotland a while ago to watch me on stage)
How did that come about you joining the KOS?
Well it was a chance meeting; I was recommended and was in the right place at the right time nothing more.
Does it seem strange portraying legends of music on stage?
The show is different as in we do not do impressions of Sinatra etc like other ”rat Pack” type shows we pay tribute to their music and sing in there style but keeping it fresh we sing allsorts from Bobby Darin to Anthony Newley songs such as ”What Kind of Fool am I”I have recently added “Pencil full of lead” written and recorded by Paolo Nutini but I add a touch of swing to it.
What else do you do when not performing with KOS?
Well I do shows as a solo singer and there is nothing like the buzz you get performing live on stage, I also teach singing at Greenbank Music Village in Luton which I find very rewarding
Where is your favourite or most memorable place you have worked or proudest moment?
Well going on stage at Wembley and saying the immortal words “evening Wembley ranks near the top but I think it would have to be this would be it, I was asked to perform over dinner at The Ritz last year accompanied by their resident pianist Ian Gomes who played for Frank Sinatra in private pianist for 12 years. That in itself was an honour, however, afterwards they informed me that I was the first person in over a hundred years to break tradition and sing over dinner at The Ritz.
For more info about Joe check out his webpage
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH SINGER AND ENTERTAINER ANDY ABRAHAM
Dubbed the ‘voice of the people’, Andy Abraham won the hearts of the British public when he finished runner-up on the world famous TV show X-Factor in 2005, Andy’s Career has real taken off He has released five studio albums, including “The Impossible Dream,” ”Soul Man,” ”Even If” and his new release Remember When… which includes a book and documentary
Andy is also about to embark on his latest tour History of the Big Bands, which sees him paying tribute to the golden era of swing music. Backed by a magnificent 13 piece big band, Andy puts the soul back into swing by guiding the audience through the band leaders and big band vocalists that have influenced him throughout his career: “This show pays tribute not only to the best Big Band music ever written, but some of the best music ever written full stop. It’s such a privilege to be able to sing these numbers that were made famous by vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr and Frank Sinatra. When you hear their amazing voices and the incredible rhythm and phrasing in the swing arrangements, it’s impossible not to just get up and dance!”
The Sticks caught up with Andy just before the start of the tour and chatted about his tour and the new album
This show is very different than the concerts you have done before?
“I have always loved the crooner type songs in fact I performed a few during the X factor series and the swing songs we are performing on the tour are not so different from that.”
It is a while since we have last seen you on stage?
“Yes about 2 years as I have been recording the new album Remember When…it is a passionate and intimate record showcasing 2 brand new tracks written with celebrated songwriter Eliot Kennedy and 10 cover versions of classic soul songs and I hope my fans will like it.”
Who are you musical heroes?
“I have many a few years ago I worked with Sade –she has an amazing voice also with Mica Paris but really admire the talents of John Legend and Donny Hathaway. In fact Donny’s classic song “Someday We’ll All Be Free” is one of my favourite songs of all time”
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
“Well there have been 4 ,the X factor experience, singing for Muhammad Ali at a Charity Concert, meeting Lionel Richie and of course taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2008 a chance to sing in front of millions of people and I would do it again if asked.”
And low point in your career?
“After the release of “Even If” everything went wrong the distributor when bust so the albums were not getting out as they should had but that’s the sort of thing makes you stronger.”
What would you like to be remembered for?
“For being entertaining and that people enjoyed seeing me perform cannot ask for anymore than that, although over the last few years the public, record companies and media have greater expectations”
With a new album and tour, Andy is back where he belongs: on stage dazzling audiences with his amazing voice and in the studio working on new material.
The album “Remember When” (complete with documentary
SEE ANDY IN BOOGIE NIGHTS IN FEBRUARY