Saturday, October 24, 2009

From pizza chef to X-ray technician

Source Link - From pizza chef to X-ray technician

TARPON SPRINGS - and former swimming pool lifeguard and would-be medical imaging technologist - Katy Daniel-Rivera can't hear. Although profoundly deaf since birth, Daniel-Rivera is cooking up a lesson in the success that can be found in being positive, tenacious and dedicated to a dream.

Since most pizza kitchens are a beehive of activity in which the shouted word is a major means of communication, not being able to hear could be a professional negative in such an environment.

At Mama Lena's Italian Restaurant, however, the wait staff and kitchen personnel write out for Daniel-Rivera the special requests that deviate from the standard fare on the menu.

Tina Kouskoutis, who with her husband, attorney Michael Kouskoutis, owns the restaurant on Tarpon Avenue, is proud her staff was willing to make an accommodation to Daniel-Rivera's lack of hearing. When Daniel-Rivera, 28, interviewed for the job at Mama Lena's the staff told Kouskoutis they wanted to try and work with her.

Daniel-Rivera can read lips, but the staff's willingness to make concessions to her deafness is appreciated. "Everyone has been so nice" and welcomed her to the restaurant, she said.

Cooking has been her hobby since the native of Puerto Rico was a little girl. She gained an appreciation and learned the art from her grandfather, who was a chef all his life and her grandmother.

Cooking is just one of the things Daniel-Rivera enjoys.

"I love to meet new faces," she said. "I can learn and communicate many different ways. I want to make all customers happy and satisfied with their meal," she said.

Daniel-Rivera, however, is not planning to make the kitchen her permanent professional outpost, no matter how enjoyable the experience.

Instead, she is working toward a degree as a medical radiological technician at Lakeland Regional Medical Center. Daniel-Rivera, who lives in Madeira Beach, has two years of study left.

"I love to help people with health care," she said. She said she communicates through facial expression, body language and lip reading.

There, too, she had to first prove herself. "It has been a dream and goal I've fought through because I am deaf. They finally accepted me," she said.

She credits a former instructor at Ultimate Medical Academy, in Clearwater, with teaching her to be positive, dedicated and determined. She said she remains a people person, both proud to be deaf and realizing her dreams.

Some people, however, mistakenly think she is ignoring them until they realize she is deaf and then they understand. It is not true that most people have difficulty communicating with the deaf, she said.

Time and time again she proves being deaf is not an insurmountable obstacle. A few years ago, she was an aquatics director at a swimming pool. She saved a boy from drowning in 14 feet of water because even though she couldn't hear a cry for help she never took her eyes off the pool, she said.

"The eyes are more important than the ears," she said.