Ronin Hsiao’s story is not about hearing. It’s about seeing.
Allow me to interrupt the Covington Boys drama at the March for Life with God drama: a teen whose hearing was restored—perhaps miraculously—at the march. But as you will see, “hearing” is not the most important part of this story.
Ronin Hsiao, 16, from Plantation, Florida, lost hearing in his left ear shortly before this year’s march. He had attended last year with a youth group from Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Lantana. “I felt God calling me to go this year and felt it was going to be a very spiritual trip for me,” Ronin explained. “I was more troubled at the possibility of missing the march than I was about losing my hearing.”
But his mother Katherine, who was also interviewed for this story, told Ronin, “If we have to choose between your hearing or the march, we are choosing your hearing.”
On Tuesday evening, 10 days before he was to leave, Ronin felt like his ear was plugged. By the morning, there was a ringing in it. Katherine set up an appointment with an ear, nose and throat specialist but the soonest opening was a couple of weeks away. By Friday morning, Ronin could no longer hear out of that ear. They went to the emergency room where an appointment with his doctor was set up for Monday.
On Monday, four days before the march, two different tests revealed severe hearing loss, and he was able to get into the specialist right away. Both doctors determined that Ronin’s hearing was likely gone forever. Such a rapid onset in someone so young usually results in a permanent loss, the doctors explained. Ronin was given an injection of steroids with the slim hope for some improvement. But the next morning, there was none.
“No improvement tells me his hearing is not coming back,” the doctor told them. “He’s just going to have to live with it.” Even though two doctors believed Ronin’s hearing loss was permanent, they set up an appointment to see a specialist at the teaching hospital, University of Miami, but there were no openings until the following week. The doctors said there was nothing more they could do at that point, so there was no reason Ronin could not go to the march.
Prayer for Healing
On Thursday evening, the youth group attended the Mass for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Ronin prayed for an end to abortion, special intentions for his friends, and for his family: his parents Michael and Katherine and his six younger brothers ages 11, 9, 7, 5, 3 and 1. He also prayed for his hearing to return or acceptance if healing was not God’s will. Ronin trusted that everything was possible for God. His faith, however, was not based on results.
Since he was five years old, Ronin had prayed for God to heal his 11-year-old brother Kael, who suffers from Dravet syndrome — a rare, catastrophic, lifelong form of epilepsy that began when he was just a few months old. He has seizures day and night and also developmental delays.
“I will never forget that look of horror and panic on Ronin’s face, watching his baby brother being taken away in an ambulance,” Katherine said, recalling the first, totally unexpected seizure.
“I’ve prayed for my brother Kael most of my life,” Ronin explained. “At times, I had a lot of anger toward God about it. My brother hasn’t done anything wrong; he’s so sweet and so loving.” Ronin would ask God: “Why would you do this to my brother? He’s in pain every day and it’s not going to stop unless you heal him, and you’re not.”
Last summer, during adoration at a Steubenville retreat, Ronin asked God to put his mind at peace. He wanted to stop being angry at God. “All of a sudden—it was really quick—I got this image of God saying, ‘It’s going to be all right.’ I suddenly felt so much lighter; the anger lifted. Kael is still sick, but I’m not angry anymore.”
Walking outside the Basilica after Mass, gently falling snow from the night sky brought Ronin a happy peace. There seemed to be popping sounds in his left ear. Maybe it was just some settling happening, he thought. Back at the hotel room, there seemed to be muffled sounds coming through his left ear, but was it his imagination? During the march, Ronin realized his hearing was at least 50 percent back. By the time he came home Sunday, his hearing had completely returned. Ronin was ecstatic! But was it a miracle?
“People in general are uncomfortable with the idea of a miracle because we always want to explain things away,” Katherine said. “But to me, God used Ronin and his faith to share his testimony.” Miracle or not, she said she believes God ordained it.
What does Ronin think? “I was so happy and thanking God,” he said. “But I hesitated to believe it was a miracle—maybe it was natural causes. I don’t want to be that person that thinks I’m so faithful that I deserve a miracle.”
Personally, I understand Ronin’s thinking, and I agree with Catherine’s. My friend Marcy Klatt, who knows Katherine, had asked me to pray for her son who had lost hearing but was still determined to go to the march. It’s why I know about this. This story is much bigger than restored hearing.
The Rest of the Story
There doesn’t seem to be a convenient place to put in this additional, remarkable information, so I’ll add it here. Kael’s grandmother, (Michael’s mother), a chemist who is 70 years old, is working on a treatment through her company OPKO that could heal her grandson and others with genetic neurological disorders. She and her husband, (now deceased) both Taiwanese immigrants met while doing doctoral work in chemistry in Chicago. She travels around the world, working with pharmaceutical companies in Europe, Taiwan and other places. Since Ronin has chosen to homeschool through high school, he often travels with her.
Last weekend, Ronin’s dad was hit at an intersection by another driver. He received a concussion and some minor injuries. “My husband sleeps with Kael because he has seizures all night,” Katherine explained. “Ronin is taking his place until he gets better. Last night, he came home from youth group and slipped into bed with Kael. He went into a seizure and Ronin held him and comforted him. Ronin has so much compassion and love.”
It is his love for Kael to which Ronin attributes his passion for the value of all life. “Whenever a disability is used to defend abortion,” he said, “I think of my brother and how sweet and kind he is despite being disabled. How can you kill someone like him?”
Yes, this story is not about hearing. It’s about seeing.