Archive for January 2013

Stormy Weather

We all had a wonderful time with the family in Harare over Christmas. We were back home and settling into our routine.

Willem was at work again and Vil was back at his play school for the mornings. He enjoyed going and had lots of friends.

The weather was hot and we were in the middle of the summer. Botswana has a very extreme climate and the days went by with the ground was getting dry and dryer and the temperature getting hotter and hotter. Occasionally we would watch stormy clouds in the sky and wonder if we would be lucky enough to have some rain that day.

The storms were quite frightening with extreme winds before the storm. I can remember leaving windows open at the house and because of the dryness there was so much dust being forced in the winds that this was just like having a dust storm. Everything got covered in dust. You soon learnt to close your windows as the whole house needed dusting.

There were extreme flashes of lightning and loud cracks and bangs of thunder as the storms got closer. We always had a theory that every time you counted to four between the flash of lightning and the loud bangs of thunder, this was the equivalent to the storm being a mile away. So as the flashes of lightning came, you would come down and work out roughly how far away the storm was while you waited to hear the thunder. The storm could be there 1 min and gone the next and occasionally this caused flash floods.

There was always great excitement when the storms were near and we would look out the window and watched the rain pelting down outside. Sometimes it even hailed which could be quite frightening. Vil used to get very excited when it rained and we would often put a bucket outside to collect rainwater. He had his gum boots and after the rains have passed he would enjoy paddling in the puddles of water.

The storms never worried Hughan. He was five months old and he was never frightened by the loud bangs of thunder. He would watch his brother, who was very excited, and I would hold him as we looked up the windows at the rain.

After the storms had passed by green shoots of grass would appear in the countryside and all the Thorn trees would get their green foliage.

Hughan was a very happy baby and I would take him for his regular checkups to get weighed in Gaborone. He had had all of his baby injections locally and everyone was really happy with his progress.

Traveling By Car

Hughan was three months old and growing very quickly, he was also still very content. We had no reason at this stage to question if he could hear us.

We decided to travel back to Harare, in Zimbabwe, for Hughan’s first Christmas. Hughan had his own car seat and slept most of the time. Vil also had a car seat and enjoyed looking out of the window watching where we were going.

We left Gaborone later in the afternoon because it was cooler to travel at that time with the boys. The journey from Gaborone to the Botswana board post took us about five hours.

The countryside was very barren with hardly a blade of grass in sight. The thorn trees are the only trees that grow in these harsh conditions and often have plastic bags caught up in them. We travelled for miles and miles without seeing anyone or any cars.

It was dusk and there was a wonderful sun set. We had to look out for donkeys and goats on the road, as they tended to like to graze next to the roadsides, where there were a few blades of grass.

We arrived at the Botswana border post just before 6pm, as they were about to close. We were allowed through which was very lucky, as there were no facilities at the border for us to eat or stay the night.

Once we were allowed through, we travelled about a mile to the Zimbabwe border post, where they had already closed. This meant that we were in no man’s land! Willem had to go and find someone to let us through the Zimbabwe side. We were very lucky to find a kind Immigration Officer who came back to the border post to let us through.

After travelling for about two hours we arrived in Bulawayo, at the Holiday Inn. As we arrived we were greeted “Good evening Mr and Mrs Pietersen”. We had not checked into the hotel yet and we thought this was the most fantastic service. For the rest of our stay we were also greeted by the staff by our name. This was one of our most enjoyable stays we have ever had, at a hotel.

Vil and Hughan were on their best behaviour and were no trouble at all over night. I was still breast feeding Hughan.

We set off early the next morning for Harare. The journey took us about another four hours.

It was wonderful being back in Harare with the family and they were all very pleased to see us.

Hughan still had his high-pitched cry, which was quite noticeable. This was something that the family commented on.

The two boys were very different. Vil had been much more alert and more demanding. It was also quite noticeable was that Hughan was quite a floppy baby in comparison to his brother at the same age.

Hughan loved to be put down on the floor, on a rug, where he could watch everybody.

We all had a wonderful time and it was a big family get together. Hughan enjoyed being passed around to everyone.

We also got the opportunity to see close friends before we had to return back to Gaborone.

On our way home we stopped off to stay with farmer friends of ours.

A High Pitch Cry

Hughan had a high-pitched cry, but why?

There may have been some contributing factors to why Hughan had a high-pitched cry when he was born.

Between the birth of my two boys, I had an ectopic pregnancy. The doctors had warned me not to fall pregnant within the first six months of having my ectopic pregnancy. This was because I had lost a lot of blood and it would give my body time to mend itself, as I had blood transfusions.

I had fallen pregnant about eight months after my ectopic pregnancy. I was feeling very well and back to normal life. I was full of energy and doing everything I had been doing before the ectopic pregnancy.

During my pregnancy with Hughan I had been joining in with friends of mine, who were also pregnant, at antenatal classes to keep fit. During these classes I can remember feeling a little bit nauseous.

I was carrying very small and friends of mine were shocked when I said how far pregnant I was. I decided to stop going to the antenatal classes, as I felt I wasn’t benefiting from them.

Willem had already left to go and live in Botswana and I was keeping myself very busy packing up and getting ready to move, to live in Gaborone. I had stopped working and I was spending a lot of precious time with Vil, friends and family.

I was going to my regular checkups with my doctor and he had a concern that my baby was small for dates. Because of this I went to see a specialist. I was admitted into hospital for a day, when they realised that my placenta was not formed properly. There were concerns that the baby was not getting enough goodness, which would have contributed to me carrying so small.

Five weeks before the baby was due, I felt that my contractions had started. I phoned Willem in Botswana and told him and because he wanted to be with me for the birth, he got on the first plane back to Harare.

Willem arrived from Botswana and during the day my contractions had stopped. I was admitted into hospital and my doctor decided to induce me, because he thought that it was best for the baby. I went into labour.

It was a natural birth and it took a long time. As soon as Hughan was born he had a high-pitched cry. He weighed two and a half pounds. My placenta was tiny and the doctor was happy he had made the right decision to induce me.

During the first 8 hours of arriving at my hospital room I was advised to leave Hughan to sleep. When the next shift of nurses came on duty, the one nurse was very concerned because Hughan had slept for so long and took a blood sample from Hughan. He had a low blood sugar count and I was told to put him into a routine of feeds. He was soon feeding well and much more alert.

I spent the first few days in the hospital while Hughan was being monitored. Our Dr was very happy for me to be discharged from the hospital so we could spend a few days with family and friends before we went to live in Gaborone.

From the day Hughan was born, he grew very quickly and was putting lots of weight on. Unlike his brother, he was always very content and I had to encourage him at all times.

We are not sure if any of these situations were causes for Hughan to have a high-pitched cry and there were no facilities in Harare to check baby’s hearing. So we are not sure at this stage whether Hughan was able to hear.

Brothers

Before Hughan was born, all Vil ever wanted was a brother to play with.

Vil was so excited when he was told that he had a new brother.

When Vil saw Hughan for the first time he was so disappointed, he commented “I can’t play rugby with him”. He had expected to get a brother that he could instantly play with.

Vil was very good with his brother and was always very keen to help out, when he was asked.

The weather was getting hotter and hotter and we were spending more and more of our time at the swimming pool. Hughan was quite content to spend time in his pushchair in the shade.

Some times, when we went to the pool, Hughan loved being put into the water. At Bemcoville there was a paddling pool for the smaller children to play in.This was a great way of introducing the children to the water.

Vil was already a very good little swimmer and was very confident swimming in the larger pool.

We were going to be spending Hughan’s first Christmas in Harare with the family.

We were all enjoying our new home in Gabs. Life was very different and Hughan was growing quickly.

An excruciating cry

Hughan was five months old and was usually very happy and content with life. He always enjoyed going on outings and being kept busy during the day.

On one occasion I had been at home with both of the boys in the afternoon. Hughan all of a sudden became quite restless and he had flushed cheeks. I thought that he was most probably teething and there was nothing much to worry about. I gave him some Calpol (a liquid form of paracetamol), which usually helped.

Later in the afternoon he was become more and more restless and all of a sudden started an excruciate cry. It was as if he was being pinched by something. I checked his nappy pin was not hurting him and I could not find anything wrong. I felt totally helpless and I was finding it hard to calm him in any way. He was very uncomfortable and I didn’t know how I could help him.

I phoned the doctors surgery and they had already closed for the day. I managed to get through to my doctor at her home and she was happy for me to take Hughan to see her.

Hughan had become exhausted from crying and had started to calm down. The Doctor gave him a complete check over and he had a high temperature, but she could not find anything specifically wrong with him. I was to go back home and see the doctor the following day if he continued to cry and be restless.

When we got back home Hughan fell asleep from exhaustion and he slept very soundly for a few hours. The following day he was much happier and there was no need for me to go back and see the doctor.

We are not sure what caused Hughan to have such an excruciating cry that day. We were also still unaware, at this stage, that he had any hearing problems.

Driving in Gabs

Gaborone had a very different road structure to Zimbabwe.

All of the roads were linked with round abouts ( we used to call them “circles”). We soon realised that over the weekends drunken drivers used to end up in the middle of these. Some of the roads were still dirt and very dusty. Often you would be driving along and have to give way to goats, chickens, cattle, donkeys and kids!

Driving in to most of the Hotels, in the city, you would have to go over a cattle grid. This was there to stop cattle and donkeys roaming onto the hotel grounds.

The first set of traffic lights (robots) had just been put in. This was also proving to be very challenging with the drivers.

Because of the layout of all of the roads it was quite easy to feel a bit lost, but if you kept going you usually ended up recognising where you were.

Watching the program -”The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” is exactly what it is like living in Botswana. This brings back some fantastic memories!

Vil started a new play group and was making lots of new friends. I also got to meet all the Mums and we were all having a great time.

Hughan was growing quickly and having to come along with us. He was very content and enjoying life.

Arriving in Gaborone

5

There was great excitement for the whole family moving to Gaborone in Botswana.

When we first arrived in Gaborone, we stayed at Bemcoville. This was an expatriate compound where the employers of Bemco, Willem’s new company, lived.

It was very different from our house in Harare. Our house and Harare was a bungalow on an acre of land. We had our own swimming pool and Vil enjoyed having friends to play.

At our new house in Botswana, because it was communal, we had neighbours with young families that we could just meet up with on the grounds of the estate.

The swimming pool was a short distance from our house. Vil had a great time at the swimming pool with all the other children. This was a great way of meeting new friends.

When we arrived in Gaborone, because of was August, the weather was fairly warm. I always remember that the colder months don’t have and “r” in them. So winter starts in May and finishes in August and the summer starts in September and finishes in April.

I had my own car so I was able to get out and meet lots of new people. We settled in very quickly and we were made to feel very welcome. It was great having tea parties, Tupperware parties, playgroups, flower arranging classes, knitting groups and lots more excuses for get-togethers.

The days soon got hotter and hotter. Because of the heat the house were all air conditioned and so were all the shops. Everywhere with dry, hardly a blade of grass in sight and all the trees were thorn trees, because of the harsh climate.

Hughan was a very good little baby and was putting on weight and growing quickly. He seldom cried and was soon sleeping through the night and enjoying our outings during the day.

What a great new way of life!

The beginning…

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Hughan is now 24 and can hold a normal conversation on a mobile phone and because of this I have decided to share our ‘Diary’ notes with you from 1990. The first entry in our ‘Diary’ was 27 February 1990.

I am looking forward to starting the diary all over again and enabling you to follow the program that we went through which has enabled Hughan to lip read so well and learn to speak.

At the beginning of 1988, Willem, Vil and I were living in Harare in Zimbabwe. Willem and I were both enjoying our work. I was expecting our second child and because we had bought our house in Harare, this meant that I needed to work to help support paying off our mortgage.

Willem was reading the paper one day in bed and sat up and said “this is the job I want”. This was a job that was being advertised in Harare, for an accountant in Gaborone, in Botswana. We had always wanted to travel and work as ex-pats, so this sounded like a fantastic idea.

Willem applied for the job and he got it.

I stayed in Harare with Vil, while Willem started his new job in Gaborone. Willem was really enjoying his new job and we were looking forward to joining him.

Willem returned to Harare for the birth of our son. Hughan was born in August 1988. After spending the first 10 days in Harare, saying goodbye to friends and family, we all left to go and live in Botswana.

Living in Botswana was great fun and you can only work if you have a work permit. This meant that I was not allowed to work which was wonderful as I could spend time with the boys. We got to make lots of new friends and we all thoroughly enjoyed living in Botswana.

At this stage in Hughan’s life, we were unaware that he was profoundly deaf. We are also unsure if he was born deaf. He had an unusually high pitch to his cry, which may be an indication that he was.

Moving to Botswana was a very vital part to the jigsaw of the decisions that we made, which have helped Hughan achieved so much with his speech, and learning how to hear.

This was the start of our journey.

Hughan’s Diary – Carel du Toit Centre

Hughan’s Diary, an introduction into the journey we have been on with our profoundly deaf son!

23 years ago we were faced with making many decisions, that have been the most incredible roller coaster in our lives.

We have never been content with the first opinion we were given. We were exposed to this very early on, in the initial diagnosis of our son Hughan’s deafness.

I am going to be following the daily diaries we kept, during the time we lived in Botswana 21 years ago and having to travel to Cape Town, to the Centre, that has proved to be the most critical decision of all.

Every little decision we have made as a family, has had a major impact on how Hughan talks, he can now talk on a telephone. I find it still incredible that I can phone him up on his mobile and have a normal conversation with him.

From being diagnosed profoundly deaf with 110 decibel loss of hearing and being told that not even hearing aids would benefit him,

to this, 21 years later…

When I turned 50 I realised that I needed to put pen to paper to document how Hughan has achieved what he has, in case another member of our family has a deaf child.

Then I soon realised that this information may help other parents facing the same decisions as us. So I decided to start writing a book.

Being brought up in Africa and feeling so privileged to have done so, I then decided it was pay me back time. So some of the proceeds from my book will go to raise money for the deaf children in Africa.

Because we were living in Botswana and we had to travel to Cape Town in South Africa, meant that we were living a long way from the Centre we had chosen to work with. I was encouraged to write down each day what Hughan and I had done together, so that the Centre could keep an eye on our progress.

So I started a Diary and took photos of activities we did. This proved to be vital for us to be able to look back just a few months and see what progress had been made. This was very encouraging.

Every few months we travelled back to the Centre in Cape Town and we were taught the next steps. These steps were very slight each time, but proved to be the success to out program.

A video recording was done during each return visit back to the Centre from Botswana every 3 months and we have all of these copies to share with you in our ‘Diary notes.

We took Hughan back to the Carel du Toit Centre in Cape Town in 2010, to meet everyone who had worked with him, as he was learning his lip reading skills and how to talk. This was fantastic for everyone to meet Hughan after so many years. It also gave Hughan the chance to meet the people who have played such a major part in him learning how to talk.

We also returned to the Centre again in 2011 to celebrate 25 years of the Cochlear Implant.

I look forward to your comments and hearing from you along the way.