Sept 2017

A mother who gave birth to identical twins after just 24 weeks never thought she'd be sending her daughters to a mainstream school, but Pippa and Sophia Devane bravely battled against the odds.

The twin sisters, aged 5, started primary school at St Joseph's in Mountmellick, Co Laois.

For their mother, Debbie Devane, this is another major milestone she is extremely grateful for. 

"When we were in hospital, even when the doctor used to mention the word home, you couldn’t imagine that it would ever happen. But before we knew it, there was the christening, their first birthday, their first day at play is such an achievement for them to be starting a mainstream school, and I'm so proud," she said. Doctors told Debbie she would require surgery for Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome when she was at 21 weeks. Twin to Twin occurs when identical twins share a placenta and one receives more blood supply than the other. Just three weeks later, she had an emergency C-section. Sophia was born first, followed quickly by Pippa, who weighed only 500g. "She was curled up like a little kitten," Debbie said. From heart failure to being placed on a life support machine, the first few days after their birth were touch and go.

Sophia & Pippa devaneSophia and Pippa Devane with brother Zack

"It’s a miracle that we're sending them to school, it all feels a bit surreal. I’ve three older boys in school and I was worrying that the girls were never going to get there, or be able to go to a mainstream school, now I'm worrying about them blending in," she said. As a result of their complicated birth, Sophia is missing four fingers and Pippa is deaf, but Debbie said that doesn't stop them living a normal life. "Pippa has a cochlear implant, which helps a lot, and the two of them are very positive little girls. Sophia is starting to be a bit more conscious of her hand the older she gets, and I worry about her being singled out, but I think most parents have that fear."

The Laois woman praised the staff at St Joseph's for all the support they have provided the family in the weeks leading up to the their big day. She was especially thankful to Pippa's visiting teacher Claire Sheehan, who helped "organise everything”. "We’ve been very lucky with the school, they’ve been fantastic. They have all the equipment in place to help Pippa hear better and it's been a really easy transition. They've all been on board and we really feel like the help is there. The teachers are telling us not to be worrying."

Pippa and Sophia, on the other hand, aren't worried at all. "They're so excited, they can't to get started," Debbie said. "I’m a bit nervous about them starting school as they’ll probably pick up more coughs and colds, but every day, they're getting stronger and stronger."

Sept 2017 PRWeb

Jeffrey Laverty was born profoundly deaf. He didn’t say his first words until he was almost three years old, when he got his first hearing aids. He learned American sign language, but then he stopped speaking again. His parents kept looking for ways to help, and when he was 11 years old, he got his first cochlear implant. “I started hearing a lot of new sounds, and it changed my life!” Jeffrey says. He now has cochlear implants in both ears, and his life has changed again. Fast forward a few years, and Jeffrey is married with a family and starting a new career thanks to the assistance of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), a federal-state agency that helps people with disabilities get or keep a job. Jeffrey worked with VR Counsellor Jennifer Wester to decide on his career path and which services he needed to reach his goal. First, VR paid for his tuition and books so he could train in HVAC – heating, ventilation and air conditioning. “I went to Lively Technical School for the training, and I fell in love with the job doing duct work,” Jeffrey says. VR also bought waterproof processors for his cochlear implants because of the nature of the job, working outside in the heat and humidity of north Florida.

Jeffrey now works for Benson’s Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. as an air duct crew member specialising in cleaning duct work in established buildings and designing the duct layout for new construction. He’s enthusiastic about his job and is eager to share the ins and outs of making sure a home’s duct work is properly placed and working well. “My job is to do the duct work; the duct cleaning and duct change out. I have a lot of experience doing the job, and I’m still learning a lot. I love my job. Everything’s great!” 

Jeffrey Laverty

Sherry Barner, Jeffrey’s supervisor at Benson’s, says that working with someone who has a disability has been a good experience for them. They had never hired someone who was deaf before, so it was a new situation for them. “I think we’ve overcome any challenges that have arisen,” she says. “Jeffrey’s a great worker. We enjoy having him here. He’s still learning, but learning and growing is all part of this experience.”

When asked about accommodations for Jeffrey, Sherry explains, “As far as accommodations go, we just talk and text. He had an interpreter for three months who went with him to all of the jobs and that helped. He also has an interpreter come when we have company meetings because it’s difficult to hear with all of the people here. That way he doesn’t miss anything that’s being said.”

This was the first time Benson’s had worked with VR to hire someone with a disability. “I would say it’s a positive thing to do within the company if you have the capabilities to do it and depending on the disability,” says Daniel Boyette, General Manager at Benson’s Heating and Air Conditioning. “We’re limited with who we can hire because of the amount of physical activity it takes to do our job. But Jeffrey’s just a great guy, we don’t see him as someone with a disability.” Jeffrey is thrilled with everything VR and Jennifer did to get him started in his new career. “Jenny did a great job! She helped me get new upgraded processors, to help me hear better in a group environment, and now I can hear. I can hear them talking very well. It’s changed my life. It’s changed my world!”

Sept 2017 KWTX Texas

Pierce Robinson, the grandson of Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center CEO Glenn Robinson, who survived a rare form of life-threatening bacterial meningitis, lost his hearing in the process. Then received a cochlear implant that doctors doubted would make a difference; he smiled as an audiologist activated the implant. We were not expecting much, due to the fact that they turn it on a very low setting to start. However, once again, God had a different plan!” Pierce’s parents Melissa and Jacob Robinson posted on social media. It didn’t take Pierce long to hear sound. “As he smiled at us to show that he could hear, we were reminded that God is still writing this little guy's story!” the post said. Pierce’s audiologist confirmed the toddler could hear all ranges of sound and could hear his parents talking in the room for the first time in months.

Pierce Robinson

Pierce lost his hearing in both ears after falling ill to a rare form of bacterial meningitis. He first showed signs of the illness when he woke up having seizures. Doctors at an urgent care clinic near Katy, where Pierce’s parents live, tested the toddler for flu and RSV and when the tests came back negative, they concluded the child was suffering from a virus and needed to rest. But when his condition didn’t improve, Pierce was rushed by ambulance to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston where he was immediately put in the paediatric intensive care unit. Doctors put him into a medically-induced coma to stop the seizures, but weren't sure what would happen when they started to wake the toddler up or how extensive the brain damage would be. When Pierce was released from the hospital, he was able to walk with assistance from his parents, but wasn’t speaking and didn’t respond to any noises if the source of the sound was out of his sight. Pierce had an auditory brain stem response test that then confirmed the deafness.

Pierce’s family was originally told doctors were confident only of placing a partial implant in the boy’s right ear, because Pierce’s left ear had fully ossified by the time it was discovered he couldn’t hear, but when they went in for the surgery doctors were able to put in a full implant, although they had no indication if it would work. “We have a long road ahead with a ton of therapy as Pierce learns to listen and process things again, but today is a day that we will celebrate! Pierce’s family will move to Austin where Pierce can attend the Texas School for the Deaf, a decision that was made before the family knew the implant would be successful. They still plan to enrol Pierce in the school so he can learn sign language and work on his speech.