WESTCHASE — The people who come in contact with her know that Rimma Kruzhkov has stories to tell.
The 86-year-old immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1977. She eventually opened a sandwich shop in South Tampa, and always extolled positivity despite having lived through the Holocaust.
But lately getting the stories out has been hard. Kruzhkov's hearing is failing. Without a proper hearing aid, communication has come to a halt.
Two years ago Kruzhkov received a hearing aid through Medicaid, but it didn't fit properly. Without money to afford a new one, she has been doing without.
"A lot of times she's lost," said Christine Wilson, a speech-language pathologist at Weinberg Village, the assisted living facility where Kruzhkov has lived in recent years.
When staff at Weinberg noticed that she wasn't showing up at social activities like musical bingo and cocktail hour, they knew they had to act.
They sent her to a doctor for a suspected ear infection.
Dr. Nancy Wong, Kruzhkov's audiologist, treated the infection but knew she had to do more.
"I felt like she had suffered enough," Wong said. "When I look at her, there's so much more than what's coming out. She's lively, but it's not coming out because she can't hear."
Wong worked with the Right Hear Foundation, a Texas-based network of audiology professionals, to get two new hearing aids donated for Kruzhkov.
"Our mission at the Right Hear Foundation is to offer the gift of hearing to the disadvantaged by providing hearing aids directly to those in need," said Pat Curry, president of the foundation. "Without this gift, many of these folks would simply miss out on the miracle of hearing the rest of us frankly take for granted."
On a recent day Wong made a mold of Kruzhkov's ear. The next step will be to fit her with the new aids, set to arrive in a few weeks.
"I know this is going to make all the difference," Wilson said.
Nicole Hutcheson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3405.