Almost 40 years ago, a six-year-old little girl lost her hearing due to a serious bout of spinal meningitis. Later, this same little girl would overcome many obstacles, become Miss Deaf America, adopt a Deaf child named Zoe, and publish a book. This little girl’s name was Brandi Rarus.
“When I lost my hearing about 40 years ago, I had no idea what an incredible journey I would go through,” Rarus said.
Rarus spoke to UMHB students on Wed. Aug. 7, during chapel services about her incredible story.
“It showed everyone on campus that being Deaf is not a handicap. It was really exciting to meet Brandi,” sophomore English major Guillermo Lopez said.
Once Rarus became Deaf, she struggled, lost between the hearing and Deaf worlds. Because she could hear and speak before she was 6, she remained in hearing education, until she attended a Deaf camp. This camp proved to be a turning point in Rarus’ life.
“Camp Mark VII was a rude awakening for me. It changed me,” Rarus said. “Everyone signed. The cooks, the lifeguard… everyone.”
While Rarus was at camp, a minister taught the children that being Deaf is a gift from God and that they did not need to be ashamed of it.
“I realized that I was okay. I didn’t have to keep trying to become someone I couldn’t become. I really think had I not gone, I probably would have gone to a hearing college, and married a hearing man,” Rarus said.
From this point on Rarus embraced her Deafness. Rarus attended a Deaf college and married Tim, a Deaf man.
Later down the road, Rarus desperately wanted a baby girl. However, God had another plan for Rarus. She birthed 3 hearing boys, the first hearing children in 124 years on Tim’s side of the family.
The Rurus’ were looking into adoption when they received a phone call from the agency saying they had a Deaf female child. The Rarus’ knew that this girl, Zoe, was meant for them.
“Zoe found her way to her home, my home,” Rarus said. “I cannot count how many people have said she’s lucky to have me, but I want to say ‘no, I’m lucky to have her.’”
After adopting Zoe, Rarus dabbled in writing articles, but she could not get them published. Then Zoe’s story idea was born.
Rarus interviewed Zoe’s birth family, and her first adoptive family to compile a book. Through Rarus’ book, Zoe’s birth mother and father were able to let go of their animosity towards each other and forgive.
“When I started the book, BJ and Jess did not talk to each other. About halfway through the project, BJ and Jess met at a park and made peace,” Rarus said.
Rarus’ book took her 5 years to write. She found a publisher in Dallas, and now her books can be found at Barnes and Noble. She has sold close to 5,000 books.
Whether the students listening to her story were ASL students or not, each one was inspired by Rarus’ story.
“I’m sure that whenever she became Deaf, she didn’t see how God’s plan was going to work out,” freshman pre-med biology major Catherine Duncan said. “It’s crazy how years down the road she was able to take in Zoe and give her a home where she’s understood and accepted. If she hadn’t lost her hearing to spinal meningitis, she never would have been able to do that for her.”