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August 12, 2003

Implant surgery may restore boy's hearing

From: Hattiesburg American, MS - Aug 12, 2003

Janet Braswell
American Senior Writer

Gwendolyn Holmes hopes cochlear implant surgery will allow her 8-year-old great-grandson to hear sounds most people take for granted.

Brandon Patrick Mullen was to undergo the surgery early today at Jackson's River Oaks Hospital.

"Hopefully, Brandon will be able to hear," Holmes said. "I can hardly wait to see that happen. I know I'm going to cry."

Brandon, who lives with Holmes in Kokomo, has been deaf since birth and is a student at the University of Southern Mississippi's DuBard School for Language Disorders since he was 16 months old.

In Brandon's case, the device won't be activated and programmed for about a month.

"He will have hearing," Holmes said. "They don't know how much hearing he will have yet."

Brandon also suffers speech problems.

"He can say a few words," Holmes said. "His speech is very impaired."

Adjusting to the sounds heard when the implant is turned on can be difficult, said Maureen Martin, director of the DuBard School.

"For any person, child or adult, who is suddenly able to perceive more sounds, they have to learn what those sounds are," she said. "We don't realize that infants, even before they're born, are making sound associations."

Brandon will return to the DuBard School after the surgery.

"For a student who's only disability is hearing loss, the cochlear implant may allow that student to perceive sound much better than they would be with typical hearing aids," Martin said.

Holmes, who became Brandon's legal guardian when he was almost a year old, spent three years trying to arrange for the surgery to be covered by his Medicaid. It costs about $50,000, she said.

It was only after contacting the office of former Congressman Ronnie Shows that the arrangements began to fall in place. A week after her first telephone call, Dr. James House's office contacted her for an initial examination.

"This is done as an outpatient surgery," Holmes said. "If they need to keep him overnight, they'll keep him."

House could not be reached for comment.

Holmes learned last week that she and about 120 co-workers will lose their jobs later this year when Columbia Cable Co. closes.

But the stress of being laid off is offset by hopes for Brandon's future.

"We all take our hearing for granted until we come across a little bitty child like this who can't hear," she said.

Copyright © 2003 Hattiesburg American. All Rights Reserved.