Imagine what it’s like to hear your name for the first time. For most of us, we've heard that from the day we were placed in our mother's or father's arms. It never gets old when someone affirms our identity. But imagine if you spent the past 31 years without ever hearing someone speak your name then all of a sudden you do. For Mame Ndiagne Ndiaye of Senegal that’s just what happened at Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. Mame and his football team got screened at Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® where doctors discovered that Mame, who has gone through life as a deaf athlete, could actually hear with the help of hearing aids. And it was overwhelming.
"I was surprised," said Ndiaye, "I cried."
Mame has never attended school because he was deaf and therefore, he was never formally taught to speak using words. Mame and his long-time friend and Unified Partner, Aboubakrine Sadikh Diaw, don't have trouble communicating, though. They've formed a strong bond. They’ve known each other since Mame was four-years-old and they have a language of their own.
"It was very emotional for me, too," said Diaw, "We didn't know that Mame would get the hearing aids. I didn't know he could hear me."
When asked about what it was like playing football with his hearing aids in, Mame gestured and shared with Aboubakrine that it was confusing—the cheers, the coach shouting from the sideline, the wind roaring in his ears when he ran down the field chasing the soccer ball, the crack of his foot kicking the ball, the grunts and shouts of teammates and opponents during the game, the whistle of the referee. He shook his head and tapped the hearing aids.
Mame is a gifted, engaging, and dominant football player. When he's in the game, his teammates rely on him to scramble. He's scrappy, diligent, and determined. He's always at the right place at the right time. He is also very attentive and helpful—even helping the opposing goalie off the field when the goalie injured his knee during the game.
Mame can't wait to surprise his family with the news of his hearing aids when he returns to Senegal. He's the youngest of eight siblings. When he's not playing football, Mame works with Aboubakrine on a farm. Mame's role is to pluck chickens.
Aboubakrine asked him if the hearing aids made him happy and a huge smile filled Mame's face and he vigorously nodded. Aboubakrine smiled, too, "He's happy, and so am I."