New boss on a learn­ing curve

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Western Opinion - By DENISE S. CAHILL

NEW Telethon Speech and Hear­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Fitz­patrick ad­mits he still has a lot to learn about his new work­place, but al­ready has some­thing in com­mon with clients.

The for­mer St Vin­cent de Paul Society chief ex­ec­u­tive has been deaf in his right ear since a trau­matic ac­ci­dent as a nine-year-old.

On Box­ing Day in 1983, the Fitz­patricks were vis­it­ing a fam­ily a few doors down from their Stoneville home.

It was 24 de­grees and all the chil­dren were in the pool be­fore start­ing a game of back­yard cricket.

Mr Fitz­patrick, the sec­ond old­est of four boys, went to re­trieve a ball from the per­gola when he fell 1.8 me­tres to the ground, land­ing on his head.

“I couldn’t walk and I was in hospi­tal for five days,” he said.

“I was due to start at a new school the next year, but be­fore then my par­ents worked out I wasn’t hear­ing well.

“There were times when I was re­ally frus­trated be­cause I told teach­ers I couldn’t hear and they just put me at the front of the class.”

Mr Fitz­patrick said the linger- ing ef­fects in­cluded hav­ing dif­fi­culty hold­ing a con­ver­sa­tion in a crowded room be­cause he could not dis­cern back­ground noise.

“In a crowded en­vi­ron­ment I get tired quicker than most be­cause I have to con­cen­trate so much,” he said.

“But when I put my good ear to the pillow, I’m dead to the world.”

The fa­ther-of-two has spent the past five months im­ple­ment­ing a bet­ter staff struc­ture and cre­at­ing en­dur­ing re­la­tion­ships at the Wem­b­ley fa­cil­ity, as well as learn­ing about the speech and hear­ing space and the tech­nol­ogy, in­clud­ing cochlear im­plants.

Mr Fitz­patrick said cochlear im­plants had sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved out­comes for chil­dren with hear­ing loss.

He said the fo­cus was now on do­ing what Telethon Speech and Hear­ing does best: “To sup­port kids with hear­ing loss or speech de­lay”.

Telethon Speech and Hear­ing will host its pre­mier fundrais­ing event, Ar­ti­tude Am­pli­fied, on Satur­day, July 15, at Crown Perth.

Pic­ture: An­drew Ritchie d469865

New Telethon Speech and Hear­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Fitz­patrick.

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