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April 9, 2003

From silent past to present laughter

From: Brisbane Courier Mail, Australia - Apr 9, 2003

Michelle Hele

SARAH Norton reckons she'll be able to teach a thing or two to her baby brother Patrick that even her parents can't.

The cute six-year-old and eight-month-old Patrick share a special bond no one else in the family does.

Both children were born profoundly deaf and, as of yesterday, both were tuned into the world of sound with implants from bionic ear maker Cochlear.

Sarah received her implant before she was two and Patrick received his at seven months, the youngest ever to have one in Queensland.

Although he had the surgery some weeks ago, the device had not been not "switched on" until yesterday, giving Patrick his first real experience of the hearing world.

The siblings joined forces at the Hear and Say Centre at Auchenflower, in Brisbane's inner west, to help launch Butterfly Week, which starts tomorrow (April 10).

Butterfly Week is the centre's annual fundraising and awareness week during which thousands of colourful butterflies will be on sale at all Suncorp branches and selected outlets, including the fast-food chain KFC.

About 136 children are enrolled in programs at the centre, costing around $12,000 a child.

The centre receives about 11 per cent of its funding from the Government and the remainder comes from donations.

Sarah and Patrick's mother, Jenny Norton, said yesterday it was amazing to see Patrick's eyes light up when he first heard sound.

"It is a wonderful experience to know that he can finally hear," she said. "Words just can't describe how you feel."

The mother of five said after it was finally confirmed that Sarah was deaf, when she was about 10 months old, the family did not think they would have another deaf child.

She said the bond between Sarah and Patrick would be all the stronger because they had both been through the same situation.

"She (Sarah) realises now that she has got someone in her own family that is the same as her and she has really taken him under her wing," she said.

© Queensland Newspapers