Nov 2018 Marlborough Express

Twelve-year-old Megan Gerritsen has been wearing a hearing aid since she was 3-months-old. 

And even after getting cochlear implants in 2015, Megan and her mum still faced trips to Christchurch every three months to see specialists.

megan gerritsenBlenheim girl Megan Gerritsen, 12, was 6-weeks-old when tests picked up a hearing impairment.

The young Blenheim girl, who also has a rare metabolic disorder, used to suffer seizures as a result of extreme fatigue brought on by the long journeys. A new outreach initiative at Wairau Hospital, in her hometown, has not only stopped the burden of the long drives and resulting seizures, but she's been getting her best test results yet. Her delighted mother Stacey Gerritsen said not having to travel to Christchurch for tests had helped keep her daughter's seizures under control. Gerritsen put the better test results down to not being tired and stressed when seeing her specialists.

The Bohally Intermediate pupil had been able to join the school's choir and kapa haka group.

She also found it easier to join in with games as she could hear her friends, even when they were standing behind her. Megan was the first person to successfully undergo auditory brain stem response testing under general anaesthetic at Wairau Hospital in June 2015. Her specialists realised hearing aids alone were not enough and she underwent surgery to have cochlear implants fitted. While the implants helped her hearing, the travel took its toll. "She was car sick and got very tired. She became so fatigued she had multiple seizures," Gerritsen said. "Now she doesn't have to travel to see her team, they come to her. She's hearing sounds she never heard before and for the first time she can hear a full range. It makes such a difference to her; she's part of everything and far more aware," Gerritsen said.

Each year, about 170 babies were born in New Zealand with mild to profound permanent congenital hearing loss. Nelson Marlborough Health audiologist and district team leader Jackie Clemmer said the audiology department in Blenheim could now provide a sound-treated, calibrated testing room. The outreach service planned to visit three times a year depending on patient demand, Clemmer said. "It's excellent that we have this option at Wairau Hospital."

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