My parents told me that I have always been creative. But this creativity started as a coping mechanism when I was younger, specifically from the age of three.

I was a little anti-social, I couldn’t speak. I loved all creatures and would draw animals and bugs, big and small, and give them my own name. While I was going about my business drawing things from day to day, my parents couldn’t understand why, at the age of four, all I could say was “mamma”. They thought I was just a slow learner not realising that I was deaf.

I remember waking up one night and my ears felt like they were going to explode. I couldn’t stop crying. My uncomprehending parents ran into my room. The next morning my mother drove me all the way from Witbank to Johannesburg to an ear, nose and throat specialist named Dr Rossouw. He took me to a lady in the hospital to check my hearing. I saw them talking to each other but I thought I was in trouble for squeezing a lizard a little too hard the previous day. Dr Rossouw put me for a while in a hospital room with other children, before they put me in a green gown and rushed me into a bright room and put me under anaesthetic.

I woke up to a loud whisper in my ear. I jumped! I could hear the nurse speaking to me, another child crying because he had just woken up from his operation and finally saw and heard my mom calling. I didn’t know who this ‘Nicole’ was but I could hear. I felt dizzy. There were too many noises happening at once, especially my mom crying.

Dr Rossouw suspected that I had contracted an ear infection when I was a baby which no doctor had picked up, and had subsequently gone deaf. After the operation, I had grommets placed in my ears, and did so twice a year until I was fourteen. I had to go to speech therapy till I was thirteen and sat in the front of all my classes till I matriculated. I do still need an operation to replace the skin on my eardrums from all the scars of having grommets but having the ability to hear again, according to my doctor, was nothing less than a miracle.