22/12/11 – Finding Out About the Cochlear implant… 22 years ago.


22 years ago today, at 4.15pm on the 22nd December 1989, was the day that we compared to “winning the lottery”.

This was the day that we were first told about the cochlear implant. The information we got was life changing for our son, Hughan, who is profoundly deaf.

Willem and I had come on a holiday to England and we were fortunate to see an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist in Harley Street in London and also an Audiologist.

It was confirmed that Hughan had nerve damage in both of his cochlears and it was irreversible.

He would need to wear very powerful hearing aids.

The Audiologist had suggested we started a signing programme to help Hughan communicate. She also recommended books that we could use while working with Hughan.

At 4:15pm in the afternoon we boarded the train at Paddington station on our return trip to Cornwall.

With all of Christmas shoppers, as you can imagine, the train was full and we asked a lady if we could sit with her.

Settling down in our seats we got talking to each other. She realised our son was wearing hearing aids and explained that she was studying the cochlear implant.

At that stage the Australian device was ahead of the American device. After explaining some technical issues with the designs of the implant, she mention to us how the implant worked and its potential to help many profoundly and severely deaf people.

At this stage Hughan was 16 months old. We explained we were in England on holiday from Botswana and we had seen the two specialists in the morning. She told us that she had studied at University with the Audiologist that we had met in the morning.

This was the most incredible coincidence and unbelievable experience – just like winning the lottery!

On Sunday 4th September this year, 2011, I was clearing through some bags of paper that we had been storing under my sewing table.

I had recently given up sewing and we had dismantled my table and I was tidying up.

I came across a plastic bag containing our train tickets and the information from the Ear Nose and Throat Specialist and Audiologist and a piece of paper with our expenses from that trip.

I took the contents of the bag through to show Willem, who was in the kitchen cooking (we couldn’t believe that this bag had travelled with us from Gaborone, to Cape Town, than on to Harare and finally to England without being seen). Willem noticed a little piece of paper attached with a paperclip on the front with someone else’s handwriting on and an Australian address.

Willem suggested that maybe this was the lady we had met on the train in 1989.

I went straight away to Google Dr Elaine Saunders and the Australian address on the paper.

To our amazement  we read that she has been awarded woman of the year in Australia for all of her work that she has done with the cochlear implant, and helping the deaf – it is incredible how many people Elaine has helped.

I sent an e-mail to Elaine on the morning of 5th September 2011.

We couldn’t believe it when we received an e-mail back from her saying that she was the person we had meant on the train and she remembered meeting us.

Elaine  had come over to England on holiday to spend Christmas with her mother that year. After speaking to her mother, her mother also remembered her mentioning our meeting on the train all those years ago.

After all this time we have been able to say “thank you” to Dr Elaine Saunders. This has meant so much to us as without the information that we learnt all those years ago in 1989 we may never have come across or considered Hughan having the cochlear implant.

Hughan was the 10th child to have the cochlear implant in Cape Town in 1992. This was still pioneering times and we put our trust and faith completely in the hands of the specialist.

Without the information that Dr Elaine Saunders gave us on 22 December 1989, Hughan may never have learnt to talk and be able to speak on the telephone.

“Thank you so much Dr Elaine Saunders”.




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One comment

  1. Adrian says:

    What a brilliant story and such a happy ending. I am a great believer in fate and it all sounds like it was supposed to be.

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