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
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
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
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
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
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
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 anywhere 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."