It began one Sunday night when Jack was a little under four months old. Our baby son woke up crying uncontrollably and with a very high fever. Luckily, our family doctor takes emergency online appointments and we were able to meet at 8a.m. the following morning. In the meantime, Tylenol did the trick, for a little while….
During the visit with the doctor, he said that we should come back if the fever does not subside by Wednesday and that Jack would be okay as long as his formula intake is greater than 50% of what he usually drinks. As the day progressed, Jack became lethargic, so we decided not to waste any time and rushed him to the local children’s hospital. Upon experiencing seizures in the Emergency Room, it was later confirmed that Jack had developed bacterial meningitis, an infection that causes swelling of the brain that could result in unthinkable effects, including death, if not treated quickly.
Fortunately, the infection was successfully controlled and Jack pulled through like a hero. However, the fluid in his brain caused damage to Jack’s hearing, leaving him with bilateral moderate-to-severe hearing loss.
As parents, we had no knowledge of raising a child with a hearing impairment. Initially, we believed it would be as simple as wearing glasses for someone with poor vision to correct his condition. So when Jack was well enough to leave the hospital a few weeks later, we took him to get fitted for hearing aids. Once we were referred to the MAB-Mackay soon after, we realized that it was so much more.
We learned that reliable access to sound would be critical to their baby son’s ability to acquire language and develop normally. Without this important skill, Jack’s understanding of the world, and his future potential, would be hindered.
At six months of age, we began accompanying Jack to the MAB-Mackay weekly to work with a team of audiologists and speech language pathologists. We participated in group sessions with other families of children with hearing loss, to promote play among the children and exchange between parents. They even sent a team of specialists to Jack’s daycare to offer advice on acoustics in the classrooms and how the caregivers can support his needs.
For Jack, it’s critical that his access to sound be uninterrupted and as precise as possible if he was to catch up on any delays.
For Jack, it’s critical that his access to sound be uninterrupted and as precise as possible if he was to catch up on any delays. Moreover, there’s a constant risk that his hearing could deteriorate further. Thus, evaluating Jack’s hearing on a regular basis is essential, so that adjustments can be made to his hearing aids right away.
Then the pandemic hit. Almost overnight, we were all plunged into a strange, new reality.
Throughout the confinement, the specialists at MAB-Mackay remained in contact with us. They even provided virtual speech language pathology sessions to focus on his delayed ability to pronounce certain sounds. When the centre re-opened its doors a few months later, Jack resumed his audiology testing (with restrictive measures of course). They found that Jack had trouble accessing high frequencies and required a different set of hearing aids to support this shortcoming. Once received, Jack’s reactions were completely changed and speech development resumed at full speed.
Jack’s journey is far from over. After two years of stability, Jack’s hearing has deteriorated in the last few weeks. We now have considered getting him a cochlear implant, which involves surgically embedding a small electronic device that bypasses damaged portions of the ear. This will require continued auditory rehabilitation to help Jack identify and associate meanings to sound. Beyond this important step, our goal is to integrate Jack into a mainstream kindergarten next year.
Thanks to support like yours, we’re able to sleep easier at night, knowing that the MAB-Mackay will be there to support Jack with the tools and skills to lead a full and happy childhood.