Life Changing Appointment

30 years ago in May 1989...our son Hughan was nine months old and still a very happy, content baby. He enjoyed sitting and playing with the toys he could reach with no signs of wanting to crawl yet. He was also babbling well and often sat chatting to himself.

As there were no Paediatrician's in Gaborone, I decided to take Hughan to Johannesburg for his baby check up to see one there. This involved going through the boarder post between Botswana and South Africa. The Paediatrician was based at Morningside Clinic near Johannesburg. The journey was going to take about 5 hours and I arranged to stay with friends overnight.

Hughan was always very good in the car and used to travelling in his baby car seat. I was quite confident driving on the roads in Johannesburg, where there was a big concrete highway that passes around the city with different off-ramps off to the surrounding areas. Our friends lived fairly close to the Clinic, which meant we didn't have to travel far for our appointment.

During Hughan’s appointment the following day, the Paediatrician put him on the bed for his examination. Hughan lay very quietly while he was being checked over thoroughly.

While the Paediatrician was talking to me, I was unaware of him scratching the surface of the bed near Hughan's head. When he had finished speaking to me, he said " I think Hughan might have a hearing problem". As you can imagine, this came as a great shock and had a huge impact on me; explaining he had been scratching the surface of the bed and Hughan had not turned towards the sound it was making.

This is the first time that I became aware that Hughan may have a hearing problem. Hughan had been lying on had a plastic sheet and when the Paediatrician repeated scratching the surface to show me, the sound was quite loud and noticeable. Hughan still didn't respond to the sound. 

The Paediatrician did an examination of Hughan’s ears, and he mentioned that he might have “glue ear”(this is a condition when the middle ear fills with liquid, that becomes thick and sticky, and can cause hearing loss). Because of this he recommended that Hughan went to see an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist.

There were also no Ear Nose and Throat Specialist in Gaborone, but luckily there was one next to the Paediatrician's rooms at Morningside Clinic, so I was able to go straight after our appointment to book an appointment to see that Specialist.Unfortunately the soonest available one was in three weeks time. 

There was no ways at this stage that we would ever have questioned whether Hughan was hearing us, as we thought he was responding to sounds and also at a similar stage to babies his age, although he was not as active.

This felt like a life changing moment.

We returned home to Gaborone and the following day I decided to do my own little hearing test. It was nearly Hughan's lunch time, so I walked into the lounge where he was sitting with his back to me and called out to him loudly, but with no response. I then decided to get a pot and wooden spoon in the kitchen and return behind him, where I banged the spoon as loud as I could on the pot, but still he didn't respond.

This was devastating. How were we ever going to find out how we could help him hear. 

At this time there were no home computers with internet to google and search for answers yet. There was no deaf community in Gaborone that we knew of to get support from, our family lived far away in Zimbabwe, South Africa and England and my dear Mum had died when I was 23 years old.  

I had an absolute feeling of determination, I was never going to give up.

The only choice we had at this stage was to wait 3 weeks for our appointment to see the Ear Nose and Throat Specialist at Morningside Clinic.

Hughan was fitted with grommets (a procedure done using anaesthetic, which involves surgically placing a small tube in the eardrum, enabling airflow into the middle ear, helping to dry up the fluid) which involved returning to Morningside Clinic.

We had several more appointments and many trips back to Johannesburg. A hearing test was booked at last for the 13th October, 5 agonising months after we first found out maybe Hughan couldn't hear us. At last we would find out if he could.