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The Thompsons’ Story: Hearing the Sounds of Childhood

​Homes with young children are loud. Stampeding thuds as siblings run down the hall. Musical toys. Free-spirited laughter. Many families take these sounds of childhood for granted, but not the Thompson family of McCook, Neb.

When Marshall, the youngest of the Thompson kids, was born, he failed his newborn hearing screening. His parents, Karen and Aaron Thompson, prepared themselves for uncharted waters in parenting.

“As an engineer, that just puts you in the mode of 'Okay, what is next?'" said Aaron. “What's the best thing we can do for our child today?"

The Thompsons researched online and talked with other families in the area and noticed a common message: Boys Town National Research Hospital is the place to go. The family made the 284-mile trip to Omaha, Neb. when Marshall was just 1 month old and never looked back.

“From the first visit, Boys Town felt right," said Karen. “It felt like where he was supposed to be for his care."

  • Cochlear Implants: Marshall's Story - Boys Town National Research Hospital

    Our first diagnosis was day one and in the hospital, which was he failed his initial hearing screening. As an engineer that just puts you in mode of okay, what is next? How can we solve this? What’s the best thing we can do for our child today? You get online and you talk with different families in the area and you quickly find out Boys Town is tops. It is one of the premier facilities for children with all sorts of issues that they may have. So at a month we were at Boys Town. We understood right then with the first ABR what our path was going to be. It was going to be hearing aids up until he could get the cochlear. From the first visit Boys Town felt right. It felt like where we needed to be. It felt like where he was supposed to be for his care. Your child has severe to profound deafness and there are solutions out there. I think for me that was the biggest comfort, knowing at the end of the day they were looking at solutions for Marshall and cochlear implants was that path for us. "Bop, bop, bop." "Look, look, look over here." "Yes, good job!" When he turned his head to the sound of that beep and looked at that wall where the sound was coming from, that was great. Seeing him react each and every time they used the tones, they used the words, those kinds of things, it was amazing. It’s truly a technology that creates miracles. We’re directly between Omaha and Denver on the map and yeah it takes a long time to get anywhere and so that is a concern. We have two other children and to travel with children alone is an obstacle. To travel with three is difficult. Going every couple weeks was a challenge. Every time we go, we’re seeing between three and five different appointments. We’re seeing speech. We’re seeing the cochlear team. We’re seeing the ENT, the ophthalmologist. We’ve seen pediatrics and it’s amazing for someone that has to take time off work and travel across the state. Early on we asked Boys Town what other options we had for speech therapy because in our part of Nebraska there’s not a lot of speech therapists familiar with cochlear implants and they were nice enough to point out they had their own equipment and we could participate online with them and so we started zoom sessions actually pretty early within the process. We started doing bi-weekly visits and we continue with those today. Doing zoom for us is obviously saving us eight hours of driving. It saves us days off of work. It saves us going to Omaha. Zoom comes into our living room. We use our toys. We use our books. We use our, you know, if he wants to be in the toy room or out here in the living room, wherever they want to be, it just fits to our environment. It’s a great lifeline to have with Boys Town, to be able to connect every two weeks, to be able to describe maybe some issues we might be having with the equipment. We’re still new to the equipment and different things happen and it’s great to be able to run that by somebody before the next visit where we have to drive all the way down to Omaha. "Duck" "Duck!" That is the most exciting. That is the reason we did this. This is the reason we went to Boys Town is we wanted him to develop speech. One word he is using really good right now is please. Now it comes out ease, so we are missing that p sound, but we couldn’t be more thrilled to hear a young child say please for a toy that he wants or a food that he wants. For us, Boys Town has been phenomenal. They’ve been amazing. They have been everything we’ve needed in this last, almost two years now, journey and we couldn’t have done it without obviously any of that team. When you live in rural Nebraska you understand that any​where is going to involve miles and the miles for this one have really paid off because we knew what it was going to mean for Marshall in the future.

The Cochlear Implant Center at Boys Town Hospital created a plan specifically crafted for Marshall and his family's needs. The team started Marshall with hearing aids until he could receive cochlear implant surgery shortly after his first birthday. Each time the family made the long trek to Omaha, they were able to see a host of specialists in one day – from eye doctors to speech-language therapists.

As Marshall's experience with the cochlear implants increased, his appointments at Boys Town Hospital decreased, but his parents knew the importance of staying connected with the specialists who restored their son's ability to hear; and the Boys Town cochlear implant team knew the importance of making specialized care accessible for the Thompsons.

Boys Town introduced the family to telehealth therapy. With the help of video streaming, Marshall and his parents were able to complete speech therapy from the comfort of their own home, saving gas, money, travel time and vacation days at work.

After many trips to Omaha and telehealth speech therapy sessions, Marshall is starting to speak. His favorite word? Please. According to Aaron, Marshall has not quite mastered the 'p' sound and it comes out as “ease," but he and Karen are thrilled to have this childhood sound fill their home.

“That [hearing Marshall speak] is the most exciting," Aaron said. “That is the reason we did this. That is the reason we went to Boys Town."

Cochlear Implants;Patient Story Hearing and Balance