Another chance to hear

Last updated 05:00 19/05/2014
Gaby Evans

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I am 16 years old and in Year 12 at an Auckland high school. I was born in Kyoto, Japan, where my mother was living at the time. She was a Kiwi teaching English to people who wanted to learn more.

I was a small baby, due to complications with my mother contracting rubella after coming in contact with a sick child. The damage was done.

I was born with congenital spastic diplegic cerebral palsy and moderate-severe to profound hearing loss. My mother had no clue after I was born that I couldn't hear normally or that I had cerebral palsy. 

When I was about 6 months old, one of my mother's friends, who was a doctor and looked after me sometimes, noticed that my muscle tone seemed to be abnormal and I wasn't holding my head up as I should be when held. She suggested I be checked out by someone.

The doctor concluded that I was mentally disabled, but suspected that I had cerebral palsy and said that I would never reach any potential. 

Left unsatisfied by this diagnosis, my mother decided to come back home to New Zealand, where she would have the support of a more family-oriented health system and the comfort of communicating in native English. She also wanted the support of her family.

New Zealand doctors ran tests on me and found out that I was deaf and confirmed the diagnosis of cerebral palsy. They said I was not mentally disabled but I would have difficulty understanding and remembering mathematics above what would be expected for a student in Year 6 due to calcification on my brain.

I was given a hearing aid for my right ear at 2 years old, however, nothing could be done about my left ear as it was stone deaf. I didn't begin to walk or talk until I was about 3-4 years old, but I communicated by using sign language.

I started school at 5 years old. I always struggled socially where I was but when I started Year 10 I decided to go to a school in Auckland and live away from my hometown. I made two great deaf friends and am very close with them. 

In 2013, I made more friends at the boarding houses and this year I have made even more. I have caught up to my age group in my social skills. The only challenges I have had are learning to communicate in New Zealand sign language, learning about deaf culture, learning to adjust to being away from home and a new school and adjusting to the multicultural community of my school.

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Earlier in 2013 I asked my audiologist if it would be possible to refer me to the Northern Cochlear Implant Program for an assessment. I met with the assessment team and the surgeon. They were all really good, until it came to whether we could retrain my brain to receive any audio input from my profoundly deaf left ear.

I told them if there was any chance of that happening, I would do it and have nothing to lose. In the end I was declined because of the preference to implant the better functioning ear, my right. 

When I was first rejected I wondered why New Zealand didn't fund two implants, like most other OECD countries. 

Deaf kids like me should have a chance to hear in both ears, whether it be one fully deaf ear or both, or some other degree of severe hearing loss. 

The recent Budget announcement on funding for cochlear implants has come just in time as they are now funding two for both ears. It means I am possibly eligible and am currently going through another assessment for a cochlear implant for my left ear.

Had the change come any later, or after my 19th birthday, it may have been too late, like it is for a friend who just had her cochlear implant surgery and is already 19 years old.

Some kids who have one implant already but are older than 6 also missed out on the chance of having another one. 

I aim to be a paediatric psychologist or nurse in the future.

I wish I had known about the facilities in Auckland earlier, because I honestly believe that a lot of struggle could have been avoided.

I hope that reading this makes other people aware that not every different child is going to cope and sometimes doing just enough and being away from a central place like Auckland is not enough at all.

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