So, who am I? Why am I so keen to tell the world about how a Cochlear™ Implant has changed what my family’s life could have been?
Let me tell you: I am Mel, a mum of four boys, all of them so beautiful and a gift to the world in their own ways.
My youngest son is profoundly deaf and that is where this story begins.
Back in 2002, our family was completed with the arrival of our Isaac. He was perfect. He looked so much just like my other three sons. There was nothing spectacular about his arrival apart from the surprise of a fourth boy. He was a quieter baby, who wanted more cuddles and seemed to settle far more being with me, which I totally adored.
In this stage of our lives we owned a ’fine dining’ restaurant. It was a noisy environment. Two kitchens, five chefs and plenty of floor staff making it a busy place. There were no quiet spot in the building for a newborn baby.
Isaac slept while many loud bangs and crashes surrounded him. They should have disturbed him whilst he slept, but didn’t. Deep inside I knew there was something wrong, even after our health centre nurse had assured me Isaac was fine, just different to my other babies. I had that nagging feeling that haunted me.
A loud suction snapped off as I pulled the ducted vacuum hose off the port. It was so loud it startled me, but my precious little boy stayed sound asleep right beside me. That nagging feeling had surfaced to a point of truth for me in that moment.
Christmas Eve 2002 will stay embedded in my mind and heart forever. I can still feel those emotions well up when I think about that day. The sounds of Christmas carols wafted over the room as I nervously sat with my mother, and my baby son on my knee in a small waiting room in a nearby audiology clinic. In the testing room puppets turned in an abstract box as each beep sound filled the room. Louder and louder they got. My mum and I were given headphones to protect our hearing, my baby wasn’t. He was not bothered by the noises at all. A growing discomfort sat in my gut. I wanted to run and not face what I’d feared to be true. And it was confirmed. “Your son is profoundly deaf, he may need a cochlear implant”. The audiologist stated it in a monotone voice as if it was just a fact. He then dismissed himself, pointed to the reception desk and left for the office festive celebrations to finish off his day. Merry Christmas!
What is Christmas? In a nut-shell it’s noise, it’s songs, it’s family laughing over silly bon bon jokes – none of that audible at all to my 7 month old baby. I wanted to scream to the world that it was indeed truly a ’Silent Night’ for us.
It was my worst Christmas ever! This is the time of year I’d normally anticipate for weeks ahead with child-like delight. I’d wake up early to beat the children, drinking the milk and eating the cookies left for Santa. I’d play ever so loudly The Wiggles’ ’Santa Claus is coming’ just to excite them and see their faces glow with pure joy.Not so that year.
February 2004, after much testing and a deep desire to have our child implanted, Isaac was given a date for his operation. He was the first to be implanted at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. The wheels of life were about to turn.
It was a beautiful warm, sunny day, fitting for the excitement we felt. The time had come with mixed emotions of anticipation and nerves. We placed a stuffed toy horse in Isaac’s arms as he was wheeled into the stark white operating theatre, the last attempt to make Isaac feel comforted.
“He’ll be ok. He’s in good hands,” I repeated to myself as the seemingly oversized doors closed and blocked the view to my baby being wheeled away. He had so many in that room with him; doctors, nurses, surgeons. Being the first implanted at that hospital had attracted quite a following. The operation took over three hours. I can tell you there were plenty of cups of coffee drunk in that time. It felt like the longest wait ever!
Two weeks later, again I found myself in a familiar setting; in a room with puppets in abstract boxes. This time it was a toucan swinging around as the beeps were presented. This time Isaac could hear them! This time it was a room of hope as I watched my little man’s face light up with delight. He could hear the same level as I could! he smiled, he giggled at each new beep, he loved to hear and wanted more and more. The Cochlear implant that sat on his little ear was the gift to his future, of sounds, of words. It was a gift of love to my boy. This time it was tears of overwhelming joy and thankfulness, not despair and shock!
Over the next six months Isaac learnt to speak over 100 words. He even said “mum” – my favourite word of all. He was growing and becoming so confident in his responses to others. Learning sound through him was amazing. It made me look at life in a new and simple way. Each sound had a place, a feeling and a reason. I’m thankful for that chance to discover life in language with Isaac.
Looking back at the contrast in emotions, I can honestly say my joy hasn’t wavered since the switch-on day. We dared to dream and hope. We strived to give Isaac the same in life as our other three sons. We were never let down.
Isaac is now 13 and attends a private school in Melbourne (he is in year 7). Both his primary and secondary education were/are in a non-hearing unit setting. He has caught up and exceeded the expectations of not only us, his parents, but also those of the schooling system. He’s addressed politicians, achieved high grades, sung at events, been in gifted programs, learnt musical instruments – but most of all, he can communicate with anyone he chooses to and has choices in his life which were not possible before his implant.
Issac has achieved so much in his short life so far. Join me on our journey of Isaac’s little gains and big wins, each steps in life which are great gains.
As you can see I’m just a proud mum …