A True Champion-John's Story

John's teacher Lisa, John, therapist Courtney

You may remember reading about John a few months ago on Bama Ears when we highlighted his mom Jennifer. Click here to read that story if you haven't already. A lot has changed since our summer story on this family of four. When Bama Ears last spoke to the family, Will (John's younger brother) had bilateral cochlear implants and John was wearing bilateral hearing aids. Both boys are deaf as result of Connexin 26. Over the summer, this family received the news that John's hearing and aided benefit had declined to the point where his audiologist decided that he was now a cochlear implant candidate. Below you'll find the whirlwind of events and decisions that led this first-grader into the operating room, where he received bilateral cochlear implants last Monday then walked back into his classroom on Thursday, just three days after surgery! I encourage you to read the first story if you haven't already and you will see exactly where John gets his bravery.

Mom Jennifer writes:

It was a whirlwind decision making process once we knew where we were headed: one side or both, to wait for a break in school or operate as soon as possible, etc. We first thought we would go with just one side, and wait for a break such as Columbus Day to do the other side. Things changed tremendously when we consulted his teacher Lisa, who happens to be the mother of a hearing-impaired, bilateral cochlear implant-wearing precious baby girl (click here to read their story). Lisa advised us to go as soon as possible in order to get him up and running and caught up before the 2nd 9 weeks of school. We finally got the anticipated insurance approval and with all that falling into place, we looked at September being "his month." Dr. Woolley was fitting us into his last bilateral slot in order to take advantage of a trial Cochlear was doing with the imminently-FDA approved Nucleus 5, which I had only recently become aware of thanks to Val (a Cochlear Volunteer) and her network. One week before his scheduled surgery, the FDA announced its approval of the Nucleus 5. At our pre-op appointment with Dr. Woolley that week, I became fully aware that God of course was in charge, and that my son was going to be just fine in the best hands possible (Dr. Woolley's and Lisa's), and we were getting the Nucleus 5s, the newest cochlear implants on the market! My mourning and grieving for John's hearing were over.

It took some jumping through hoops from our cochlear implant team, but the newest devices arrived and were ready on surgery day. John was so brave and excited about his new implants. Lisa and my husband had done a wonderful job preparing him for what was to come. That doesn't mean he was thrilled about being in the hospital, but he truly was inspiring with his bravery. It took around six hours for the surgery to be completed and to give him the chance to hear. We spent the night in the hospital, and he woke up once or twice and asked about his bandages. Finally at 5:45 he awoke and said, "When can I wake up?" That first day home, he expressed some concern about his partially-shaved head and had a little pain. He was down from his usual energetic self, but that afternoon he began receiving visitors, including his teacher Lisa, and Courtney, his speech therapist at school. That's all he needed to bounce right back. He began getting little gifts and sweets, and he has never been down since. The next day he was running in the yard again, and we took the dog for a long walk. We thank God he can read, so we can communicate with him by writing.

Last Thursday, 3 days after surgery, John showed his bravery once again. He entered his classroom, a little self-conscious about his hair and with no hearing. Right now he goes in for a couple of hours to read and do some of his assignments and take appropriate tests. Lisa had the class make pictures for him, and a student held up a sign that said, "Your haircut looks cool." It was an amazing moment! Another parent has told me how much her daughter has learned through all of this. John has rarely if at all complained. He is excited about this Wednesday, when we begin the activation process. I believe he will get Freedoms first, because the Nucleus 5 processors don't roll out until October. That is how under the wire all of this was!

I have met some of the most wonderful people of late. I happened to meet a man at the barbershop 3 days before surgery who had a C.I.! He is a lawyer who used to work with my husband, and I met a woman whose 4-month-old will be having this surgery in the next year. While I was introduced to her in order to tell her how great her daughter will do, she ended up comforting me at the beginning of our process as I mourned for John. Having been through this already with our younger son Will, hearing the news that your child needs surgery can be scary at first.

The Cochlear marketing rep for this area, Scott Rinehart, had a local informational meeting the day after John's surgery. I attended the meeting and met some wonderful people there as well. I am so incredibly grateful for my friends who are parents of wonderful hearing-impaired children – people I wouldn't have known otherwise but who I now cannot live without! Of course our doctor, nurses, audiologists and therapists all fall into that category as well. Finally, I have the pleasure and honor of working with Lisa's daughter at The Bell Center for Early Intervention Programs, where I volunteer. I have no doubt that God is taking care of all of us.

Will is enjoying his time at the Alabama School for the Hearing Impaired, a program of the Children's HEAR Center. He is also taking good care of his big brother while we continue his journey toward hearing again.

Bama Ears will continue to follow John on his journey and update his story after his activation, when he begins to hear sounds he never knew existed.

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