Sept 2017 Ahmedabad Mirror

It was a moment Shyam Prajapati had been waiting for and when it finally arrived, it left him too overwhelmed to be able to speak. His five-year-old son Prince heard sounds for the very first time after his cochlear implant. A bit shocked, initially, because sound was an alien sensation to the child, he began crying upon hearing the light sounds generated by the computer controlling his implant and speech processor. Prajapati, 32, a diamond polisher from Khodiyarnagar, believes his son will soon be able to hear, comprehend and respond to voices. “The doctor has assured us that with surgery and therapy, my son will be able to hear well and will even learn to speak. What greater joy for a parent?”

Prince Prajapati The moment 5-y-old Prince  heard first sounds

Dr Rajesh Vishwakarma, head of the ENT department, said, it is a usual reaction for children to cry because even the light sounds come across as cacophonic for someone who has never experienced that sensation before. “The child starts hearing the world right from the womb and gets used to it by the time it is born. However, in this case, the child is hearing very late and will take some time to adjust. But once that happens, a whole new world of opportunities awaits Prince,” he said. Prince is among 36 children who recently underwent the cochlear surgery at Ahmedabad Civil Hospital under Gujarat government’s school health programme. Over the past four years, the hospital, which was the first government- run institution in the country to offer this service in 2004, has given the gift of hearing to 408 children. Not only are the surgeries conducted free of cost for kids under six years of age, even the post-operative care and the maintenance and replacement of the machine for 10 years is free. A cochlear implant device costs anywhere between Rs 2 lakh-3 lakh. Adding the cost of post-operative care in private hospitals, the total bill could be well over Rs 6 lakh, said Dr Vishwakarma. Workshops are held regularly at Civil Hospital to explain to the parents of children with profound hearing loss all about cochlear implant, equipment care, maintenance and speech development methods.

These children will soon be integrated into mainstream schools. With the ability to hear, they will learn to speak and comprehend and have equal opportunity to pursue their dreams.” Harshita Bhaktani, 6, was the first patient to be operated under the government programme in December 2013. Her father Haresh Bhaktani said, “My daughter was just two years old when she underwent the surgery. We were very worried then but the doctors instilled confidence in us. Today, Harshita is in Class II and has a chance to compete with others her age on an equal platform. The surgery was the best decision we took.”  Vinod Chauhan, a farmer from Khambat, got his son Pravin, 4, to the hospital five days ago for the surgery. “I do not understand much about science and medicine. But I have faith in the doctors. They told me my child will start hearing soon and I believe them,” he said.

The ENT department has trained surgeons from across the country in carrying out the surgery. Two other hospitals in Gujarat – Gandhinagar Civil Hospital and Rajkot Civil Hospital – also offer these services to enable children with profound hearing loss become self-reliant and get integrated into the mainstream society. Dr Manish Mehta, HOD of ENT and in-charge medical Superintendent at Rajkot Civil Hospital, said, “I was mentored by Dr Vishwakarma. In December 2016 we carried out our first operation. We have patients coming over from all over Saurashtra and have completed 38 surgeries till now.”

The problems after this surgery are few and far in between, assures Dr Vishwakarma. There are mostly software glitches that can be fixed soon enough. “In case of hardware damage in accidents or injuries, the cost for a new machine is borne by the manufacturer for a period of 10 years,” he said.

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