Beat the Odds: Isaiah Grafe

Posted at: 02/03/2014 4:31 PM
Updated at: 02/03/2014 6:22 PM
By: Laura Lee

(ABC 6 News) -- Isaiah Grafe is one of six Beat the Odds Scholarship Recipients this year.

Family night is important in the Grafe household, tonight its a game of Foosball.

18-year-old Isaiah Grafe schools his dad in a game, his mom watching, score after score.  But if you ask Isaiah's parents if they could have imagined this moment 18 years ago, they'd tell you, not likely.

Isaiah was born into a world of silence.


"I don't hear anything, I don't hear the birds chirping, I don't hear my moms laughter, I don't hear my friends laughter, I don't hear the sound of popcorn, its just silent," he says.


Isaiah was diagnosed as profoundly deaf and diagnosed with auditory neuropathy and apraxia.

"My daughter is also deaf, she was diagnosed as profoundly deaf, so our doctors said we should get him tested too," says Isaiah's mother Deanne Grafe, "we said there's no deafness any where in our family, I'm sure he's not, how could that be."

His parents were told by doctors that hearing aids and cochlear implants wouldn't work, meaning not only would he never be able to hear, but he most likely wouldn't be able to talk. 

"So much of our life is spoken language, how do I be the dad that I knew growing up, to my son," says Judd Grafe.  "Sure dad's just want to fix everything right away, but theres no quick fix for this," says Judd.  


"We just told them, you were made this way for a reason and you're special," says Deanne as she teared up.

That proved to be true in more than one way.  At three and a half years old, Isaiah was given a chance.

"Mayo clinic agreed to perform the operation, we decided to try the surgery with our daughter because she was older, Lexy was the first child implanted with auditory neuropathy with prior knowledge that she had it, and it worked, so we scheduled Isaiah the next day," says Deanne. 

His world exploded with sound, but with his new hearing he also began to hear what bullying sounded like.

"I think for any parent you want to protect your children, to hear that they're not being treated fairly is very difficult," says Deanne as she wiped away tears.

Isaiah became a target for one student.  The bully would make fun of how he talked and what he couldn't hear behind his back.

"I was trying to do the right thing," says Isaiah, "I got bullied because I was trying to help another kid from being bullied."


Isaiah eventually gained the courage to talk back, but ended up in the hospital.  The bully beat him so bad, his cochlear implant had to be surgically replaced.

"You have that terror, is he okay," recalls Deanne, "you want them to not deal with people that are ignorant and cruel."

"When will this end, will it ever end?" asks Isaiah.  A question he recalls asking himself many times.

For isaiah, it did.


He switched schools and his first day in Stewartville was a new beginning.

"One of the first stereotypes of being deaf is that people assume that you're dumb, and I was always striving to prove people wrong about that," says Isaiah.

Something he didn't have to work hard at.  Isaiah has excelled academically taking honors classes and pre-college courses.  He is also very involved in school as the president of the Key Club, the vice president of the Student Council, a member of the National Honor Society and the editor of the Yearbook.

Believing his attitude in life is what makes it.  "Be happy with who you are and keep moving forward," he says.

Something that will guide him as he plans to pursue forensic science at Luther College or Rochester Institute of Technology in New York next Fall.

"Take life as what it is and do the best that you can do," he says, "with attitude you can achieve anything."

Even with the right attitude, you still need people in your corner and for Isaiah, they have never failed him.

"My father, just everything about him, I want to be like him," says Isaiah when asked who his role model is.


"That's all we ever wanted for our children was to give them every opportunity to do what they wanted to do," says Judd.

"In the end, i'm most proud of what a nice young man he turned out to be," says Judd as he chokes up.

And every now and then, amid the noise of life, this nice guy turns the sound off.

"For me, turning off my cochlear, it's kind of comforting it's relaxing a place for me to relax in.

But he's thankful, that at any time, he can have it back.


Just enough, to beat his dad in a game of foosball.