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October 19, 2004

Valley City youngster turning 2, facing cochlear implant surgery

From: Grand Forks Herald - Grand Forks,ND,USA - Oct 19, 2004

Associated Press

VALLEY CITY, N.D. - Paige Kaber got her first hearing aids when she was 3 months old. Nearly two years later, she faces major surgery to prevent her from going deaf.

Paige, who will turn 2 years old in November, was born with a rare condition in which her ears did not develop correctly. She is scheduled for surgery Nov. 8, to try to fit her left ear for a cochlear implant.

Cochlear implants use electrodes to transmit sounds to the auditory nerve and the brain, bypassing the ear's nonfunctioning parts.

Paige, the daughter of Jessica and Troy Kaber of Valley City, has 20 percent hearing in her right ear and has lost the hearing in her left ear. Her 6-year-old brother, Noah, wishes he could give Paige his ears, their mother said. Both children are learning sign language.

Jessica Kaber said it has been a struggle to keep her daughter's hearing aids in. Her parents have tried everything from hats to tape, but Paige keeps pulling them out.

"It's an endless battle," Jessica Kaber said. "She's pretty stubborn."

It took research, doctor appointments and evaluations, and some soul-searching, before the Kabers decided to try the surgery. The cost is estimated at more than $100,000.

Next month, surgeons in Minneapolis will determine whether about 20 electrodes can be fitted on Paige's head. If they fit, she will get the cochlear implant and the Kabers will return to Minneapolis on Dec. 6 to have the device turned on.

"It's either we take the chance and pray to God," Jessica said, "or if we don't just try it, she would eventually go deaf. Hopefully it works, and we'll go from there."

Along with the enormous cost of the surgery, basic maintenance for the implant will run about $600 a year for the Kabers.

The family already has spent money on travel, hotels, appointments, and other expenses. Because children grow so fast, Paige's expensive ear molds have to be replaced every few weeks. The hearing aids she uses now cost about $7,000.

"We just take it day by day and try to do with what we've got," her mother said.

Jessica wants Paige to attend regular school, and she hopes the implant will make that possible.

If Paige gets the implant, she will have to wear a harness under her clothes with a transmitter box, until she is old enough to wear a device behind her ear.

"She's gonna have to work harder than the average kid and go through more," Jessica said. "I don't want to see her have to struggle any more than she already has to."

The Kabers said no doctors in North Dakota are available now to do cochlear implants on children as young as Paige. Her surgery will be performed by Dr. Frank Rimmel, of the Fairview-University Medical Center in Minneapolis. The area also has support groups for families of children with implants.

"We will do whatever we have to do to have the best for her," Jessica said. "It's tough at times, but we just do the best we can."


Information from: Valley City Times-Record,

© 2004 AP Wire and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.