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November 19, 2003

Breaking sounds of silence for Domenica

From: Advertiser, Australia - Nov 19, 2003


LITTLE Domenica Calabrese lives in world without sound.

But the playful toddler hopefully will soon hear her mother's voice and other sounds for the first time.

Hearing specialist Bill Gibson will fly to Adelaide from Sydney to perform a cochlear implant operation on Domenica on Friday.

Domenica was born deaf but her parents discovered only six months ago that their vivacious little girl could not hear.

"One day, she actually grabbed my face and she just pointed to what she wanted and then she did it again so I knew something was wrong," Domenica's mother, Julie, said yesterday.

"It's a shock when you find out and then you go through your grieving." Doctors discovered Domenica had been born deaf when they performed an unsuccessful cochlear implant operation on her last month.

Her parents thought she might have become deaf after contracting measles. "So she's never heard my voice – the 'switching on' is going to be very emotional," Mrs Calabrese said. Mrs Calabrese and husband, Domenic, have three other daughters – Carmelina, 14, Belinda, 12, and Josephine, 9.

"After so many years, I had another one," Mrs Calabrese said.

"She is a miracle baby – a special baby. She has touched our lives in so many ways. You appreciate everything around you.

"She's very smart and she's a bright, bubbly girl.

"Everyone who sees her falls in love with her." Domenica will turn two on November 30.

"So for her second birthday she should be able to hear," Mrs Calabrese said. "And it will be a beautiful Christmas present."

When Domenica's godfather, Frank Perre, and his cousin, Michael Barbaro, found out Domenica was deaf, they organised a fundraising dinner for the Cora Barclay Centre for deaf and hearing impaired children, which Domenica attends.

The dinner – held last month – raised more than $20,000.

The centre's ongoing funding battles almost caused it to close earlier this year.

Mr Perre, 44, of Craigmore, said Friday was going to be a "very emotional day".

"We hope she hears something," he said. The cousins have been fundraising for different charities for about four years.

"It makes me feel better because I'm in and out of hospital myself and it feels good to help other people," said Mr Barbaro, 37, of Golden Grove, who has kidney problems.

Cora Barclay Centre development officer Claire Harris said the centre had raised more than $100,000 in donations and fundraising this year.

"It's really heartwarming – after all, it's to go towards helping people like Domenica," she said.

© Advertiser Newspapers Ltd