Jireh rallies after cochlear implant

Generosity raises money to fund implant

BRONWYN TORRIE
HEALTH REPORTER
Last updated 05:00 01/11/2012
Jireh Winiata with her mother Coral Winiata
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ
ON THE MEND: Jireh Winiata with her mother Coral Winiata nearly a week after the 18-month-old’s second cochlear implant was inserted.

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Little Jireh Winiata has bounced back after a second cochlear implant, but she won't be able to hear in both ears for a month.

The Lower Hutt toddler, who was born profoundly deaf and spent the first 12 months of her life in silence, is recovering at home after a 3-hour operation in Christchurch on Thursday.

"As soon as she saw her dad, she started waving when she woke up," mother Coral Winiata said.

Jireh was born with Charge syndrome, a genetic pattern of birth defects that affects sufferers' vision, heart, nasal passages and growth, as well as their hearing.

At 18 months, she still can't crawl, talk or eat, and must wear a contact lens in her left eye.

The Health Ministry paid for her first cochlear implant, in March, but funds only one operation per person.

Mrs Winiata and husband Paris have been overwhelmed by the generosity of friends, family and strangers who helped to raise nearly $60,000 for last week's operation.

Specialists at St George's Hospital in Christchurch were "blown away" at the progress she had made since the first implant was fitted, Mrs Winiata said.

"She's now doing things without prompting and not by accident - like waving goodbye and hi to people without being told, working out what to do with toys."

Since last week's operation, the scar behind her left ear is healing, but the second implant won't be switched on until later this month.

The implants should improve Jireh's balance and her ability to communicate and detect where sounds are coming from.

With a bit of progress and a feeding tube into her stomach instead of her nose, she should be able to go to playcentre and be with other children.

People are still holding fundraising events, even though the couple have about $9000 left after the operation. This money will pay for follow-up care and a replacement implant just before Jireh starts school.

A cochlear implant turns sounds into tiny electrical pulses that are sent directly to the hearing nerve, bypassing the inner-ear.

To follow Jireh's progress, visit her website.

Contact Bronwyn Torrie
Health reporter
Email: bronwyn.torrie@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @brontorrie

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- The Dominion Post

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