Oct 2020 Stuff.co.nz

Timaru boyPhaegan Gordon-Patterson, 5, with mother Jazz Patterson at Little Wonders which is filled with sign language posters

A Timaru five-year-old with progressive hearing loss is excited to start school next year equipped with his “robot ears”. Phaegan Gordon-Patterson's language has improved “tenfold” since undergoing a bilateral cochlear implant operation close to a year ago, his mother Jazz Patterson said. Her greatest hope when Phaegan heads to Bluestone School in February is that “people don't see him any different” to other children. “I just want him to be treated like any other kid,” Patterson said. “Of course, I don't want him to be pushed to the background either, because he takes longer to learn things. He's still making massive progress.”

Phaegan's kindergarten, Little Wonders on Otipua Rd, had catered to his disability by putting up sign language posters and giving him a walkie-talkie at mat time, so he does not miss anything.

Patterson was confident his primary school would support him as well, because a girl with cochlear implants, Romy Hurst, was already enrolled.

A mother of six, Patterson started noticing something was wrong when Phaegan was about seven months old. His speech was not developing at the same rate as his five older siblings. After extensive hearing tests, it was discovered Phaegan suffered from enlarged vestibular aqueducts in both ears. “His cochlear hadn't fully formed and his nerves were just floating in liquid. It was quite disturbing to see it had got to that point.”

Phaegan was fitted with hearing aids in March 2019 – but there was concern his hearing would continue deteriorating. “We didn't know if it would be gradual or quick.”

PhaeganPhaegan Gordon-Patterson, 5, underwent surgery for two cochlear implants in November last year

Through the South Canterbury District Health Board, Phaegan was approved for a $70,000 operation to surgically insert cochlear implants. Phaegan underwent the surgery on November 21, 2019. “The night after was one of very little sleep because he was panicking that he couldn't hear anything, but he's improved in leaps and bounds since they were switched on the next day,” Patterson said. “His language used to have a lot of jargon. He would say the first, second, last word, and you have to figure out the rest. He got really frustrated if he couldn't get across what he wanted to say. Now, it's completely different. They're absolutely amazing.”

The family referred to the cochlear implants as “robot ears”, which Phaegan loved. Patterson said while the past year had been “absolutely crazy”, she looked forward to the next step in the journey.

Loud Shirt Day is the annual fundraising campaign for the Hearing House and the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme.

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