The Miracle Worker revisited

William Gibson dubbed Annie Sullivan “the miracle worker” in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name. Sullivan was the young teacher who broke through the isolation imposed on the nineteen-month-old Helen Keller by the mysterious illness that deprived her of hearing and sight. The play leads up to the thrilling moment when Annie Sullivan, using a manual alphabet, breaks through to teach the nearly seven-year-old Helen the connection between words and things. Gibson’s dramatization of the moment as represented in the film starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke can be viewed here.

Helen Keller simply called Annie Sullivan “Teacher.” At the age of 75, in 1955, Keller looked back and wrote: “To this day, I cannot ‘command the uses of my soul’ or stir my mind to action without the memory of the quasi-electric touch of Teacher’s fingers upon my palm.” In his account of their relationship, Joseph Lash aptly titles the chapter in which Teacher breaks through to Keller “The Key Is Turned.”

The video below records the moment when “the key is turned” on Sarah Churman’s state-of-the-art hearing implant. The Daily Mail explains that Mrs. Churman’s husband filmed her as the nurse turned on the implant and Mrs. Churman heard the world at full volume. I have never heard a severely hearing-impaired man or woman speak as clearly as Mrs. Churman, but the video is apparently authentic. If so, “the miracle worker” in this case is the Esteem hearing implant manufactured by Envoy Medical of St. Paul, Minnesota.

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