Dec 2019 Columbus Ledger-Enquirer
No wonder they call her Amazing Grace. After meningitis made her deaf, doctors confirmed 4-year-old Grace Bradley has regained her hearing with the help of an implant and frequent visits to The Columbus Museum. “This is exactly why all of us here at the museum work in this field,” said education and engagement director Lucy Kacir. “We want to make a difference in people’s lives. This is an unexpected way that we got to do that, and that just feels amazing.”
As she watched Grace play in the interactive gallery for children, called Transformations, her mother described the gratitude she felt for her daughter’s transformation. “It’s just an absolute blessing,” Ahkelia Brunson said. “She’s like a joy in my heart when I see her doing everything.”
Grace spent Christmas 2018 in the hospital battling meningitis. The infection left her deaf in both ears because the resulting inflammation destroyed the inner ear, which turns sound into a neural signal the brain interprets as hearing. After surgery to receive cochlear implants, Grace and her maternal grandmother, Rosaline Anderson, frequently visited the museum during the spring and summer, based on advice from an audiologist. The museum’s background noise is low and the stimulation is high.
Two weeks after the surgery, Grace’s hearing devices were activated.
“She could hear sound, but she couldn’t distinguish what it was saying,” Brunson said. Then the settings on the devices were increased every two weeks until she could hear normally. And the museum’s environment helped Grace gradually regain her hearing.
Anderson retired from Aflac the day Grace was diagnosed with meningitis. That allowed Brunson to continue working at Fox-54 while Anderson took Grace to the museum.
“They have a kids area where they can actually touch the stuff,” Brunson told her mother. “Grace loved it,” Brunson said. “They started coming three times a week.” “It was just like our second home,” Anderson said. “They knew us, front desk, security. They were all so kind.”
The stations in Transformations allow children to do activities such as: Make art. Build stuff. Perform plays and puppet shows. Read books. Explore technology.
“There’s really something for every child,” Kacir said.
Kacir has worked in the field for five years. Before that, she was a preschool teacher for a decade. She isn’t aware of a similar case of a museum helping someone recover their hearing. But as an educator, she understands the impact. “The activities in Transformations are fun and enjoyable,” she said. “It’s really great for a young child like Grace and her family to be able to come to over and over again and get those therapeutic medical benefits from being in the space and also the educational stimulation of the fun activities that have learning goals attached to them to keep her happy and wanting to return.”
By the time Grace started pre-kindergarten at Rigdon Road Elementary School in August, her hearing was fully functioning. And now Anderson works part-time in the museum as a visitor representative at the front desk.