The Gift of Sound: Elianna Hears for the First Time
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (May 7, 2019) Until last month, little Elianna had never heard the sounds of her own laughter, birds chirping or her mother's nurturing voice. But thanks to generous Food For The Poor donors, her world is changing dramatically and becoming much richer.
In February, 5-year-old Elianna received cochlear implants at Cedimat Hospital in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
In April, the implants were activated at a frequency high enough for Elianna to hear her mother's voice for the first time.
"I'm at a loss for words for how grateful I am that my daughter's ears have been opened to the sound of my voice," said her mother, Elaine. "I'm very proud to hear her attempting to say, 'Mama.'"
The beautiful gift was made possible by Food For The Poor donors thousands of miles away in the United States who heard about Elianna's plight and answered the call for help.
Robert and Ann Hauser, of Peachtree City, Ga., were two of those donors. They donated to Elianna's cause through the Fr. Gerald B. Hauser Charitable Foundation. Gerald B. Hauser, who died in 2015 at the age of 93, was a longtime friend to the deaf community in Milwaukee, Wis. He co-founded the International Catholic Deaf Association with eleven other priests.
"When we heard about Elianna, we thought, wow, this is perfect. This honors my uncle's work," said Robert Hauser. "He had so many lifelong friends among the deaf. This is what he would have wanted."
It's a remarkable turnaround and a promise of hope for a little girl and her family beset by tragedy from birth.
On the day she was born, Elianna's father died in a tragic accident as he was driving to the hospital. At the age of 1, she was diagnosed as deaf. Although her family received assistance in getting Elianna fitted with hearing aids, the devices alone were not sufficient to allow her to hear.
Last year, doctors at Cedimat Hospital determined cochlear implants were necessary if Elianna was ever going to hear.
Elianna's mother experienced a seesaw of emotions at the news. On one hand, she was excited to learn there was hope for her daughter. At the same time, she was devastated because of the cost of surgery and the required therapy afterward. As a student in a nursing program funded through a government program for the poor, Elaine knew she would never be able to afford it. Outside of school, she works at a pharmacy where she makes about $200 a month.
When Food For The Poor learned about Elianna's case, the charity's staff reached out to Dr. Leopoldo Maggiolo, who initially examined Elianna and agreed to perform the surgery at a reduced cost.
In addition to surgery and cochlear implants for both ears, the gifts from the Hausers and other donors will cover the cost of Elianna's follow-up appointments with doctors and speech and hearing therapy sessions that will take place at the hospital twice a week for two years.
Elianna is proud to wear her implants, removing them only at bedtime to make sure they don't get damaged while she sleeps. She tries to say "Hola," but does not yet understand the structure of what she is hearing. But that's about to change.
Elianna, who has attended a school for deaf students, will learn in therapy how to discern the differences between sounds and individual characteristics of sound and how these sounds are related to certain objects, people and events.
Unlike hearing aids, cochlear implants do not amplify sound. Instead, they use a processor to capture sound waves and transmit them to the inner ear.
With time, Maggiolo said Elianna will have a better chance for normal development. As she becomes more responsive to her environment, she will be able to function in a normal classroom with language skills as good as those of her normal-hearing peers.
"The cochlear implants will change Elianna's life forever. We are forever grateful to our donor for making this possible," said Food For The Poor Executive Director Angel Aloma. "By giving Elianna the ability to hear and speak, she will have the opportunity for a broader education, which is the key to a better life and a way out of poverty."
Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor primarily in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.
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