Today there was a fantastic article by Rebecca Ryan in the Oamaru Mail.
With the flick of a switch, a new world of sound has opened up for Emjai Welsh.
The Oamaru 6-year-old is still adjusting to life with two functioning ears, nine months after her second cochlear implant was switched on for the first time at St George’s Hospital in Christchurch.
At age 3, Emjai was fitted with a government-funded cochlear implant, a surgically implanted device that provides a sense of sound to a person with severe hearing difficulty.
Her parents, who have medical insurance, expected an implant for her other ear to follow but discovered that while their policy covered cochlear implants, it excluded genetic conditions and Emjai’s father Ryan has hearing loss.
When the Oamaru community heard of the family’s struggle, residents raised close to $50,000 to fund the second operation and Emjai’s parents were overwhelmed by the support.
It hasn’t been the journey her family expected, but the second implant had a big impact.
“It’s amazing how bad she actually was before, how she got away with just one,” Emjai’s mum Nicola Rapson said.
“There have been plenty of ups and downs since July last year.
“It got a bit loud for her at times, her high frequency was up a bit higher than anticipated, which caused a bit of drama for a few months. Every time an ambulance or police car went past it was extremely painful for her – like fingernails down a blackboard for us.”
But regular visits to specialists in Christchurch have sorted that out and she is much happier to wear her second implant now.
There is still a long road ahead for the Oamaru family, and it’s going to be a life-long journey for Emjai, but the specialist visits are less frequent now.
In about five to seven years, the family will need to front up with a further $11,000 to replace the external parts of the implants, but seeing the improvements, the members say it’s worth it.
The upgrade costs are implicitly covered by the government if parents save their Child Disability Allowance. We would like to see this formalized through the Cochlear Implant programmes.
Emjai’s performance at school has come along particularly well since the operation.
“She’s really come ahead. She’s got some great support at school,” said Ms Rapson.
Her late diagnosis has diminished her abilities and, communication wise, she’s still behind her peers.
“But with everything else she’s probably at the same level, if not above,” she added.
“It’s all worked out for the best.” For now, Emjai is not worried about the look of her external sound receivers, which transmit sounds through the skin to an antenna behind her ear and she’s been enjoying using different coloured covers to make them look a bit funkier.
“She’s really put it out there and showing it off. It’s great. We love it,” said Ms Rapson.
The family’s crusade to have both implants government-funded is not over either.
“We’re hoping the Government will change their tack. I know they can’t pay for everything but, for children especially, it’s just so important they have both their ears functioning,” she said.
This is exactly the position of 2ears2hear. We should give our children every possible opportunity.
“Just because she’s had it done now, doesn’t mean we’re stopping.”
After the successful surgery, Emjai’s father is now also waiting for cochlear implant surgery.
It’s really telling when a child’s journey changes a father’s journey.
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