Toddler's silent world gets chance for sound

KERRY MCBRIDE
Last updated 05:00 21/03/2013
Addison Blundell
DIEGO OPATOWSKI/Fairfax NZ
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Lower Hutt toddler Addison Blundell will be on the road to recovery this week, after Hutt Valley DHB agreed to underwrite the cost of a double cochlear implant.

The 14-month-old, who cannot hear or speak, was the first victim of a series of nationwide failures in hearing tests for newborns.

A Ministry of Health investigation this year found eight screeners, out of about 108, had not followed protocol by either screening the same ear of a baby twice, or their own ears instead of the baby's.

Addison's hearing loss was not picked up until she was 10 months old.

One cochlear implant is publicly funded, but a second one usually costs the family $50,000. If carried out at the same time as the first one, the cost reduces to $34,000.

Addison's father Rawiri Blundell said he and partner Kerrie MacKay had been overwhelmed with public support since The Dominion Post reported on their fundraising efforts this week.

Through an online donation site and a bank account, almost $9000 had been donated towards the cost of Addison's surgery.

But the best news was that Hutt Valley District Health Board had agreed to underwrite the cost of the second implant, Mr Blundell said.

"They've told us that it's an urgent situation and we can deal with the finer details and costs afterwards."

Russell Simpson, of Hutt Valley DHB, said it would work with the Blundells to raise the funds with local charities. "We're confident that these joint efforts will cover the cost of the second implant."

The family was also investigating further coverage through medical insurance, and hoped to be able to pay the cost of the surgery sooner, Mr Blundell said.

"Suddenly there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

"It's a lot to take in, but I'm feeling a lot more positively about it because it's more achievable now."

Getting both implants at once meant the family could focus on getting Addison through speech therapy to bring her up to speed with other children, he said.

"It's really two birds with one stone. Just one surgery, one lot of therapy, then rehabilitation. It's wonderful."

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- The Dominion Post

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