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September 11, 2003

Family looks for help for girl's cochlear implant

From: LaPorte Herald Argus, IN - Sept 11, 2003


WHEN: Friday, 5:30 p.m. to midnight.

WHERE: Butterfield Pavilion (old fairgrounds), corner of Evans and Calumet avenues, Valparaiso.

TICKETS: $25; Call Bob Mahoney, Pam Bodamer or Rehana Adat at 219-769-2323.

ENTERTAINMENT: Music by Dr. Groovy and the Soul Surgeons and 2001 DJ Service.

DONATIONS: Valparaiso Lions Vision Care, Rosie Portelli Fund, PO Box 64, Valparaiso, IN 46383.

VALPARAISO — Two-year-old Janet “Rosie” Portelli loves to play and listen to music, even though she is nearly deaf.

If her parents, Jim and Peggy, and several friends can successfully raise the $80,000 to $100,000 necessary to provide Rosie with a cochlear implant, she may be hearing and talking like any other child when she enters kindergarten.

Peggy, maiden name Johnson, is a 1985 LaPorte High School graduate living in Valparaiso. She, along with Jim and their friends, are hosting a benefit dinner for Rosie at the old fairgrounds in Valparaiso on Friday from 5:30 p.m. to midnight.

Rosie walked around the living room of her home Wednesday playing with toys while Peggy spoke of her daughter, describing her as a girl who loves life despite 14 hospital visits in her two years of life.

“If you were to walk with her, you’d never know she has the things she has,” she said. “She doesn’t let it affect her.”

Rosie was born with several medical problems. She has only one functional kidney and almost died from acute renal failure. She has been profoundly deaf in both ears since birth. Hearing aids are of little help.

“She keeps us busy,” Peggy said, smiling.

When Rosie was born, she failed hearing tests, though Peggy said she and Jim weren’t worried.

“It’s not a big deal,” she said, describing her thoughts at the time. “Lots of kids fail it.”

But when days turned into weeks and Rosie’s hearing hadn’t improved, she was taken in for testing where doctors found she had malformed cochleas, the inner-ear organ that converts sounds to electric impulses.

Peggy said she learned of the cochlear implant procedure through the rehabilitation center Rosie was attending. Peggy was impressed by the speech and hearing skills of children who received the implant. “You wouldn’t have known they had it,” she said.

Rosie is at the prime age to have the implant installed. “The benefit is greater in a 2-year-old than in a 10-year-old,” Peggy explained. The procedure is not covered under Peggy’s insurance plan and she is still on the list for possible Medicaid assistance.

Though Peggy admitted there are risks with the somewhat controversial, nearly five-hour procedure, during which a receiver is installed behind the ear and a wire into the cochlea, the possibility to give Rosie full hearing wins out.

“This is her chance to hear and we can’t deny her that,” her mother said. “Whatever is best for her, we’ll do.”

Copyright © 2003 The LaPorte Herald Argus. All rights reserved.