Friday 9 December 2016

Bionic boy Calum will get chance to hear for first time

Published 03/02/2012 | 05:00

Three-year-old Calum Geary (right) with his twin brother Donnacha in Cork yesterday
Three-year-old Calum Geary (right) with his twin brother Donnacha in Cork yesterday

LITTLE Calum Geary (3) is set to become Ireland's first boy with a bionic ear.

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Calum -- the son of Andrew and Helen Geary -- was born in November 2008 but last year was diagnosed as having profound hearing problems.

It was discovered that Calum -- who has a twin brother, Donnacha -- was born without any hearing nerves in his ears.

The condition, known as Cochlear Nerve Aplasia (CNA), traditionally means a child is deaf and will have to rely on sign language to communicate.

However, Calum's parents researched the condition and discovered a revolutionary new 'bionic' implant has been developed to offer children born with CNA the hope of hearing.

Now, the little Cork boy will become the first Irish child to undergo the pioneering Auditory Brainstem Implant (ABI) procedure. To date, just 140 children worldwide have undergone the implant.

The procedure at Manchester University Hospital (MUH) will effectively see Calum receive a 'bionic' or electronic implant which will link his ear to his brainstem and offer him near-normal hearing.

Surgery

"The device basically replicates the ear and nerves and will connect directly to the brain stem," Andrew told the Irish Independent.

"No-one really understands exactly how or why it works -- but the procedure has worked for other children and given them a crucial level of hearing."

Andrew, a west Waterford-based garda, admitted they were thrilled when Calum was selected for the procedure.

Calum's surgery is planned for February 28 and the entire Geary family will then have to stay in Manchester for four to six weeks.

The boy will then require regular visits back to Manchester for updated programming of the bionic implant over the course of the next three years.

"We are not expecting a miracle, however, as a family we do not want to be found wanting when it comes to determination and effort," Andrew explained.

"After all we only have to look at Calum to see what determination is all about. We know the window for speech acquisition is closing rapidly and so we must act fast," he added.

Calum's two older brothers -- Barry (8) and Matthew (6) -- have been learning sign language in a bid to support him.

The Gearys also hope to bring Calum to the John Tracy Clinic in California, which is a world-leading centre for audio-verbal therapy.

The family yesterday launched the Calum Geary Appeal to help defray some of the costs they face in getting their son the treatment he needs.

Information is available from www.calumgeary.com or www/facebook.com/CalumsABI and donations can be made to the Calum Geary Trust, Ulster Bank, Fermoy, Co Cork, sort code 98-57-25, account number 10516017.

Irish Independent

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