Portsmouth Girl Gets Bionic Ear
Two-year-old Evie Small's now able to hear for the first time - and learning to talk - after pioneering surgery.
The toddler from Portsmouth was born with a rare condition which meant she'd never heard any sounds at all since birth.
But Evie's now been given a 'bionic ear' after an operation in Italy.
When her new device was first switched on last summer, she responded to a drumbeat behind her turning her head turned, overwhelming her parents.
Since then, she's been learning how to talk, and the day she said 'Mama' for the first time is also etched on Emily's memory.
The family are thanking people from their local community who helped raise almost £50,000 to pay for the operation and follow-up visits to Italy.
Mum Emily said: "To see her little head turn to noise was absolutely breathtaking, the most incredible thing I had ever witnessed; I was too emotional to cry, I was absolutely speechless.
"I can't put into words how I feel when I see Evie hear a sound she's never heard before, or play over and over again with a toy that makes a noise, or how proud I feel when she stands on the pew next to me at Blendworth and tries to sing along to the hymns, or how my heart skips a beat when she makes her own sounds. Words just do not suffice. I am amazed, enthralled, intrigued, blessed, and humbled by our little Evie.
"People who don't know her have put themselves through physical pain for her. We are so grateful for those people who have raised money through work, sent cheques in the post, and those tireless angels who have held us in their prayers and thoughts."
Evie was born in September 2010 without any hearing nerves between her ears and her brain, which meant she couldn't hear a sound; like having a stereo and speakers, but without any cables to connect them.
The only way she would hear was by an auditory brainstem implant, which meant a six-hour operation to insert a tiny electrical device into the part of the brain that processes hearing. Only a few specialist surgeons in the world can do this, and it needed to happen before she was two, as the brain loses its flexibility as the child gets older.
The family therefore faced a race against time to make sure the surgery happened in time. They raised enough money for the operation to be performed last summer in Verona.
"It used to be the case that I wouldn't know if Evie was in a room as she was so quiet but now you can hear her humming and babbling away to herself as she plays; it's so lovely to hear" said Emily.
She attends specialist speech therapy sessions at Auditory Verbal UK in Oxford, receives visits from a teacher for the deaf, and also goes to a specialist nursery for deaf children at the Elizabeth Foundation in Portsmouth twice a week. She has learnt some sign language alongside her verbal skills.
For more information, or to make a donation,go to www.hopeforhearing.co.uk.