Grateful our baby’s alive
IT’S MORE than a month since toddler Sian Waetford has spoken or heard her mother’s voice.
But a cochlear implant – or “bionic ear” – operation today aims to restore the 17month-old’s hearing.
Sian was left profoundly deaf after becoming ill with deadly meningococcal disease in June.
Parents Sharlene and Jarrod say they can’t wait to hear their youngest daughter talk again.
“It’s amazing – you have a healthy child one minute, then everything changes,” Sharlene says.
“Before she was saying ‘bye’, now she just waves.
“Those little things break my heart. She hasn’t said ‘mummy’ in a long time.”
The Blockhouse Bay tot was rushed to Starship hospital less than 48 hours after showing flu-like symptoms.
When she went floppy and her eyes rolled back, they knew something was wrong.
Barely 10 minutes after arrival, Sian’s vitals crashed and she was resuscitated.
She was diagnosed with meningococcal C, a strain of bacteria that causes one in 10 cases of meningococcal disease in New Zealand.
It’s not covered by the MeNZB immunisation programme and can cause blood poisoning or meningitis.
It is most serious in under-fives. They often suffer brain damage, loss of limbs or learning difficulties.
The Waetfords’ traumatic week in hospital included three days in intensive care.
“It’s a terrible disease. You don’t realise until you’ve been through it,” says Jarrod, who lost a great-nephew to meningitis six years ago.
The couple say Sian appeared to recover quickly, but a week after discharge was back in hospital.
She wasn’t regaining motor skills and Sharlene suspected Sian couldn’t hear.
Tests showed she had only 25 percent hearing in one ear and her balance had been affected.
“We cried and worried about her future,” Jarrod says.
But the couple are just grateful their baby is alive.
“We were really lucky it was caught early. The bottom line is she’s still her happy self.”
The couple, who have three other children aged 11, nine and eight, say they couldn’t have coped without the help of friends and family.
Now Sian will have to adjust to her new hearing.
The implant sends an electronic signal via the auditory nerve to the brain, which interprets it as sound.
Sian will have devices un- der her skin and will wear an external transmitter.
The sounds will not be like normal hearing and she may take time to adjust.
Ear, nose and throat surgeon Michele Neef says it is vital the surgery is done as soon as possible because there is a risk the cochlear will scar over, preventing the implant being inserted.
“Once that happens, nothing can be done,” he says.
He says Sian is at an ideal age to benefit from the surgery. “I think she’ll do very well.”
“Really lucky”: Sharlene and Jarrod Waetford are grateful to still have daughter Sian, 17 months, whose brush with meningococcal disease left her almost completely deaf.