Sunday is National Grandparents’ Day. It's a day to celebrate and love the roles many play. One woman, a grandmother, is rebuilding many of her own relationships after suffering hearing loss.

Grandmother and medical physicist Debra Koch has always known she wanted to work in the medical field.

“I used to watch a lot of sci-fi movies and Star Trek,” Debra said. “Everybody had the white coats on. And I said that’s what I want to be. I want to be a scientist. I’ve always wanted this.”

Participating in high-stakes projects for patients with thyroid disease, prostate and liver cancer, as well as quality control for medical imaging, she never imagined she would be at risk of losing it all.

“I thought about my age and it's like I'm nowhere near retirement age,” Debra said. “I put so many years in so much time and so much dedication into my career, which again, I absolutely love. I couldn't imagine what I was going to do during COVID.”

Debra had relied on reading her patient’s lips due her hearing loss after experiencing a car crash during her college years and overtime her hearing had declined.

“I sustained a head injury,” Debra said. “I did develop hearing loss, but it was gradual and for many, many years it was helped wonderfully with use of a hearing aid. And then about five years ago, I noticed a very steep decline in my right ear.”

It made it difficult to not only communicate with her patients, but even her own family.

“The whole masking thing, she relied so hard on reading lips and, you know, to get any sort of even distance like communication with her newly born grandkids, it was almost impossible to communicate,” Debra’s son Steve Koch said. “I've had to adjust how I communicated with her. Like growing up learning how to speak more loudly or kind of like enunciate things. It was almost subconscious.”

From becoming the doctor to the patient, she decided to move forward with a cochlear implant, an electronic device for those deaf or hard of hearing.

“I wanted to be the best that I could be for my patients, for my job,” Debra said. “And there was no way that I could do so if I could not communicate.”

After undergoing the surgery and months of recovery, Debra could finally hear.

“I went to sit outside because the weather was actually nice, extremely nice for Rochester,” Debra said. “I was amazed at how beautiful the birds sounded, and they sounded like they were whistling right inside my head. The birds, the crickets [and] the sound of water crushing to a beach -- everything was amazing.”

Since the implantation, Debra has fully embraced hearing again. Being able to not only rebuild her confidence, but her relationship with her two grandsons.

“There’s things like that we all take for granted,” Steve said. “We could actually hold a conversation. She can hear me through that or, you know, talk to the kids [and] understand the kids when they're speaking. So, yeah, it's been really great. Helped her have a relationship with her grandkids.”