by Sarah Bellido

Before our daughter, Caroline, was born, we were aware that she might be deaf since I was also born deaf.  Shortly after her birth, the hospital performed a series of hearing tests on her to which she did not respond.  Anxious to verify whether or not she did have a hearing loss, we immediately had her tested by an audiologist who confirmed that she indeed did suffer from a severe sensorineural hearing loss.  Although it was not the answer we had hoped for, we were grateful that we knew the answer right away.  We also knew that we needed to do something soon in terms of her educational needs to prepare her for her future.

When I was Caroline's age, cochlear implants were not sufficiently advanced to provide me with any significant assistance.  And I was never able to benefit very much from my hearing aids since my hearing was so profound --- more than 100dB loss.  I was educated primarily by oral methods and relied mainly on reading lips.  Lipreading was my foremost means of receiving information combined with the little bits of hearing that my hearing aids provided me.

I soon learned that my experience with being deaf, which was so familiar to me, was going to be very different from Caroline's experience!

We looked into what was available in the Los Angeles area for hearing-impaired infants and selected the John Tracy Clinic.  One of the first things I noticed was that almost all of the children had cochlear implants.  This was my first introduction to how much technology in cochlear implants had grown.  As I watched the videos about the cochlear implant at the parent meetings, I was fascinated and intrigued.

We decided that we would have Caroline evaluated for an implant and I also decided to get an implant myself so that I would be able to relate better to her experiences.  On July 25, 2002, I was implanted with the Clarion Platinum Series by Advanced Bionics at the House Ear Institute.  Later, on August 22, 2002, I was hooked up and wired to hear the new exciting sounds I had never heard before!  The best thing I have ever heard so far with my implant was Caroline calling out "Mommy" as I was walking down the hallway!  Lipreading has never been so easy as after I received the implant.  After hearing all of these amazing new sounds, I was eager for Caroline to get her implant.

But Caroline's approval for the implant was not forthcoming.  At that time Caroline was "borderline" since she had some useable hearing.  She was fitted with hearing aids and did respond quite well to them.

In 2003 we moved to the Washington, D.C. area, where we knew of a program we thought would meet Caroline's needs, and with the change in criteria, Caroline was now recommended for an implant after all!

Caroline was implanted on August 27, 2003, at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.  Lifting my little Caroline onto the operating table with the medical team all around preparing for surgery was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  However, everything was OK again when she was wheeled out of a highly successful surgery a few hours later.  Her implant was activated on October 6 and she was well on her way to hearing a new world of sounds from that day forward.  It was such a fun and exciting day to watch Caroline's first reaction with a surprised look on her face and her little finger pointing at her ear when she first heard sound from the implant.

The next step in her educational journey was to be enrolled in an auditory-verbal program.  However, it did not take long to realize that her exposure to language in that setting was simply not sufficient.

In November 2004, we went to St. Louis to visit the Moog Center for Deaf Education.  I knew immediately that we had finally arrived at the right place where Caroline would have the best opportunity to meet her full potential.  We are so happy and content that Caroline is now in the hands of a wonderful team of teachers who are providing Caroline with all of the tools she will need to function in the hearing world.

My wish for Caroline is for her to be able to function as normally as possible within the hearing world.  I believe that she will be able to do whatever she wishes to do when she gets older.