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When your son becomes your patient

Dr. Ahmad Alexander (BS ’06) is an audiologist by day and night. At home,he and his wife, Dekeshia (BS ’07), work closely with Elijah, pictured above, who has a severe hearing loss in his left ear. Photo courtesy of Abilene Reporter-News

Dr. Ahmad Alexander (BS ’06) is an audiologist by day and night. At home, he and his wife, Dekeshia (BS ’07), work closely with Elijah, pictured above, who has a severe hearing loss in his left ear. Photo courtesy of Abilene Reporter-News

Dr. Ahmad Alexander (BS ’06) knew that his own childhood had inspired his audiology career path. But little did he know that his decision would impact his son’s childhood, too.

A Vacherie native, Ahmad underwent three years of speech therapy after being hit by a truck while trying to cross the street when he was 5 years old.

Years later, after serving in the U.S. National Guard, he enrolled at Nicholls and started searching for the right major.

“As I was touring the speech clinic on campus, it brought back memories,” Ahmad recalls. “I thought that pursuing this career would allow me to give back in a way that others helped me.”

After graduating from the Nicholls communicative disorders program, Ahmad started the audiology graduate program at LSU-Shreveport and married Dekeshia Anderson (BS ’07), a fellow Colonel he met through the Baptist Christian Ministry.

When their newborn son, Elijah, failed his hearing screening, Ahmad’s career took on a different meaning. Initially doctors diagnosed Elijah with an ear infection caused by fluid buildup, but Ahmad insisted on more tests. Three months later, he learned that his son had severe to profound permanent hearing loss in his left ear.

“When I found out, I did cry,” he says. “I had counseled patients and parents of newborns with hearing loss, but you never understand how you’ll deal with it until it hits home.”

Ahmad and Dekeshia began using sign language with Elijah, who learned to sign for “milk” and “more” before he could speak. Now, at 6 years old, Elijah doesn’t even wear a hearing aid; he uses his right ear to compensate for the loss.

For Ahmad, the personal experience has led him to grow even more passionate for his career. About three years ago, he rejoined the military as an Army audiologist — helping ensure that soldiers, who are constantly exposed to dangerous noise levels, are wearing hearing protection and being properly treated. Currently, he’s the hearing program manager for Army health clinics in Bavaria, Germany, where he is joined by Dekeshia, Elijah and their youngest son, Micah, who was luckily born without any hearing loss. “There’s a possibility we may never find out what caused Elijah’s hearing loss,” he says. “But it’s made me realize that maybe I chose this profession for a different reason, one I didn’t even know at the time.”

— Written by Stephanie Detillier Verdin, publications coordinator

This article originally appeared in the spring 2013 issue of The Colonel alumni magazine. Click here to read the entire issue.

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