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Cochlear Implants: Fletcher's Story

Transcript

​The day he was born​ it was 8:57 on a Thursday, June 26 2014.​

​Seco​nd child so I did kind of have an idea of what the whole labor and delivery part was going to be like.

I think I was in labor for like 20 minutes so super, super easy everything going according to plan, everything was really great that day.

 I knew the moment that I saw Fletcher that he was really, really special. All moms really say that but there was just, just something about Fletcher that was really sweet. They came and got him for his hearing test.

The screening came through and they said that they had some problems and I think the main problem that they were having was breaking the news to us.

The screening tests come back and they say we're going to refer you and that's the first time I heard Boys Town outside of you know, living in Omaha.

The hardest thing that any parent would face is somebody telling them that their child does anything but perfect, so this is, this is a big moment and it's a lot to get past.

Shocked and devastated. I cried, I'll never forget it. I allowed myself a couple days to be sad but then the way Aaron and I work, what do we have to do, what do we got to do, what do we need to learn, who do we need to talk to?

I will never forget the first time I walked into the Lied Center and knew that that place was meant for where I needed to be. I needed to be there. I knew that. It was comforting. It was colorful. It was bright, it was cheery for us and they knew everything we needed when we got there.

The groundwork is definitely laid out for you and it's up to you to trust them and the best thing we ever did was trust them.

You put the life of your child in their hands and as soon as we found out he was able to get cochlear implants then we faced the decision. Do you or don't you? There's definitely two sides to that decision and we weighed those very heavily.

We did a lot of research. We didn't really need a whole lot of arm-twisting, we knew. Aaron, well both of us, we're very sciency. We want to make sure we have the best for our kids and if that's something medical or hardware or anything, let's do it. Let's get it done.

It was like well no kidding. If you need glasses, you get glasses, if you need cochlear implants to hear, you do that so it was a pretty easy decision for us.

After being in the community, involved with the deaf community, a little more, we decided to implant and he can decide later on whether he wants that use them or not.

I'm not going to, not give him that decision.

We actually consider Dr. Kang part of our family, we still do, but we saw him more than some of our family members for a while. It's so hard to describe just how perfect he was for us.

He took Fletcher and played with him in the chair, he just made us super calm, asked us questions while bouncing him around.

Dr. Kang is great. He's a funny guy. He walks into the room and you are instantly put at ease because the guy knows what he's doing. You know, if you jump on an airplane you want the best pilot and Dr. Kang is the best pilot for this.

It was two separate surgeries because at ten months, it's two hours per implant, and four hours under anesthesia would have been too long for a ten-month-old so they did the left one first at ten months and the right one at just under a year, two months later.

The first one was, it was tough. Your child is going in for a shot and you worry. This is a much, much bigger procedure than a shot.

He bounced back quick. I'm expecting all these drugs to come at us, you know, painkillers and they said Tylenol and he should be ready to go in about 12 hours to a day and he was.

The second was much easier but the first one was, you know, not a lot of sleep the night before.

Activation day was stressfully great! It's a bit of a misconception because you, everybody has seen the videos and you see that moment. Well, that moment comes after about an hour and a half of gradual, tiny little moments.

I was holding him and she's like okay it's going on. That was his first sounds and you could tell that he wasn't sure what was going on but he kind of liked it. He kind of finally woke up to noise and it was amazing. I didn't cry and have that big reaction like you see on YouTube but for me and for us, it was perfect. It was exactly what our day needed to be like.

Then we celebrated and that was, that was really special.

Aaron played him Beethoven for the first time and then you could really see that he really lit up.

"Do you like that music?"

It's reassuring, definitely, you see it happening and you know, you know that it worked. The worry is, will it work? Will it take because there is that small percentage that it might not and it was like okay, now what? Because that's the start of a very, very long journey.

We do a lot of work. We literally had like 200 appointments that first year. You go to mapping appointments, you see an audiologist, a speech therapist, Dr. Kang, and his nursing staff. You learn the ling sounds like every single day you're talking, talking, talking.

"Web."

"Web!"

"Web!"

It's work, it's every day. It's flash cards every day the kid either loves or hates his flashcard time, depending on how well he's feeling at the time. We learned sign language, we learned how to speak full words like saying the whole thing.

Right when you think you got it they give you something more to do and then you just keep progressively getting more and more. He's up to 4 to 5 words a sentence and we're so pleased.

"I have a pop."

"I have a pop!"

"Good!"

When they told us that with the cochlear implants you'd be needing some speech language therapy, I wonder if that's available to me, so I started looking in to going back to school and about three months after he was born, I started back.

I did it for my son. I got in to help him and gradually I found out I'm helping myself and my family and I'm helping so many other families.

It's incredible that each chapter that I go through in each class, it correlates to his progression in life. I have that rare aspect of being able to see what I'm learning at home.

When everybody at Boys Town helps us, you know, I want to be them. I want do what they're doing because I know what it means to the people that they're helping.

"What color is that umbrella?"

"Blue!"

"You're right."

The ultimate goal is to not be able to tell that he was ever affected with hearing loss. I don't want to hide it from the world but I don't want it to define him. I want people to speak to him and know him as Fletcher.

He'll have a little bit of gear on his head but he's going to be able to communicate fluently and intelligently and just be a little kid, eventually an adult.

"Faster!" "Trophy!"

"Fletcher F, good work!"

You first meet Fletcher you notice he's got some, some hardware and some gear going on but it's certainly not you're going to remember about him. He's a special, special kid and I just want him to grow up like Hudson, like our other son, and just to just to know that he can do anything anybody else can do.

"Pop, pop, pop!"

We absolutely know every day that we made the right decision. It's a lot of work but the payoff is, it's every day. It's every moment that he reacts to you, every moment that he says daddy or goodnight or I love you.

It never gets lost on me. It's been two years and every time I pop that on his head and say his name and he looks at me, it's like, awesome.

They're world-renowned. We were lucky enough to live, they're basically around the corner from us, but people move to Omaha to have them help.

It's amazing the staff there and what they do for people. I just wish I could hug all of them, all the time. Thank you for giving us our son and his ability to hear.

​​​The Cochlear Implant Center at Boys Town National Research Hospital has served children and adults with severe or profound hearing loss for more than a decade with comprehensive clinical services. Watch how cochlear implants have changed Fletcher's life. ​

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