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August 12, 2004

Matthew on cloud nine after airline hears of travel needs

From: Dubbo Daily Liberal, Australia - Aug 12, 2004

Thursday, 12 August 2004

Bubbly Matthew Russell was diagnosed as profoundly deaf when he was just two-and-a-half years old.

Five years later and thanks to a cochlear implant, Matthew now has "moderate hearing loss" but, during the past year and a half, both he and mother Renee have endured six-hour drives to Sydney and back each fortnight for treatment.

Instead of packing the car and gearing up for yet another lengthy trip, Ms Russell and Matthew were at the airport yesterday after receiving news that Airlink airways would supply the pair with five return flights to Sydney at a "more affordable fare".

Ms Russell was "thrilled" with the prospect of going to Sydney and back in the one day.

"Travelling by car is just too much for Matt - he would get tired and he'd have to miss a couple of days of school," Ms Russell said.

"Now we can do it all so quickly, and we only have to go once a month."

The seven-year old from Narromine has a condition known as large vestibular aquaduct syndrome (LVAS) and if left untreated his hearing would deteriorate completely.

Trips to the Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre for Matthew's "check-ups and mapping sessions" have not only proved costly but had a serious emotional and physical impact on the family.

Airlink marketing manager Rick Gordon said the airline was made aware of the family's situation and saw the great opportunity to provide assistance.

"We heard from the deaf support group about Matthew's situation," he said.

"The flight times we operate suit Matthew and Renee perfectly, they're going down and back in a day, not spending too much time there."

Ms Russell said that since Matthew received the cochlear implant in February this year he had been transformed from a "shy kid to talkative and very outgoing".

"It's been excellent, he's popular at school and just loves talking because everyone can now understand him," she said.

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