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Grace Under Pressure

Meagan Orton

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Meet Miss Perfect, Meagan Orton – stunning beauty, Honors College student, exceptional dancer and upstart theatre actress. She keeps an insanely busy schedule, running from class to rehearsal to sorority functions to study sessions at the library before finally laying her head down for the night. She also does it with a hearing disability.

During her sophomore year, Meagan woke up one day ready to take a final exam. The only problem was, she couldn’t hear out of one ear. She skipped the exam in favor of the doctor’s office that day, but the doctor could provide no relief. Over the next few weeks, Meagan’s condition deteriorated. She lost hearing in her other ear, gained weight, suffered from rashes and experienced joints so swollen that she had trouble walking. She also suffered from insomnia, meaning she had an inordinate number of waking hours to dwell on how her world had suddenly turned upside down.

She cried for a day or two, then resolved to stop feeling sorry for herself and carry on and learn sign language if necessary. Fortunately, over the summer months, she regained hearing in her left ear with the help of a hearing aid. Her rash, swollen joints, insomnia went away, too, after she discovered that medication designed to jump-start her hearing was causing an allergic reaction. She returned to school, and by December, had received a bone-anchored hearing aid, or Baha, in her right ear, restoring her hearing. Meanwhile, though, she’d also captured the crown as Miss College of Charleston after competing and dancing while hearing-impaired.

“I was so excited to be on stage dancing,’ Meagan says. “I just decided I would have fun with it and represent my story the best I could.”

The following summer, she competed in the Miss South Carolina pageant, advocating for those who suffer from sudden hearing loss. Now, says Meagan, she plans to continue that advocacy, promoting awareness of hidden and non-obvious disabilities and counseling children to accept people who are different.

“I’m supposed to be a voice,” she says, “for other people like me who are hearing impaired.”

To learn more about Meagan, read about her in the College of Charleston Magazine.