IM this article to a friend!

December 24, 2006

‘No difference’ between Yuk, mates

From: Northwest Herald - Crystal Lake,IL,USA - Dec 24


White headband and all, Pat Yuk looks like any other basketball player.

What’s different is that until age 5, Yuk was deaf, having only a 2 percent hearing capacity. Then he had a cochlear implant surgically placed into his left ear that gave him the ability to function at a much greater level.

Today, he is a senior starter on Marian Central’s boys basketball team, which won its first-round game Saturday at Jacobs’ Golden Eagle Classic, 81-73, against crosstown rival Woodstock. Yuk scored six points and is an integral part of a Hurricanes squad looking to make some noise in the tournament and the Suburban Catholic Conference.

Yuk’s father, Tony, now calls Pat’s hearing condition an invisible disability. He won’t get any argument from Marian coach Tom Les.

“From practice, locker room, film session, I can see no difference between him and any of the other players,” Les said.

The implant is what makes the difference. A cochlear implant does not amplify sound like a hearing aid, instead – among other functions – stimulating nerves.

“Without the cochlear implant, he wouldn’t be able to communicate the way he does,” Tony Yuk said. “Two percent is not enough to really develop any functionality.”

Tony Yuk said Pat had an extensive amount of therapy before the implant, which helped make the procedure successful. The therapy gave him an awareness that sound was related to speech.

“The basic neuropathways were established already,” Tony Yuk said. “Within six months, he was a different kid.”

The Yuk family has six children. Pat, the oldest, and Caroline, the youngest at age 8, have a cochlear implant, which, although surgically implanted, has some external parts.

That explains the headband.

“Sweat is a problem,” Pat Yuk said.

Moisture affects the external components, at times keeping it from working. That, however, is about the extent of the issues. Even small gymnasiums with loud, uncomfortable acoustics don’t affect the cochlear.

And hearing his coach also has not been difficult.

“Coach yells pretty loud,” Yuk said.

Pat’s hearing did not improve immediately following the procedure. Initially, he said, he noticed it was easier to talk.

“I remember waking up, and it was like my head weighed 20 pounds,” he said. “It’s a slow process, [but] definitely a lot better than hearing aids.”

And now with headbands being as much a part of basketball as jump shots and free throws, Pat Yuk is not only functional, he’s fashionable.

“Casually, if you met him, you wouldn’t be aware that he had a problem,” Tony said. “He’s functional – goes to regular school, listens to music and won’t get off his cell phone.”

©2006 McHenry County Sports.