Oct 2018 KCCI Des Moines
Paulina Kokding is an expressive, vibrant little girl who came all the way from South Sudan to Des Moines for the chance to hear. Her father, Nyathjwok "Stephen" Nyikango, has dedicated his life and income from working at the U.S. Embassy to help her hear. Nyikango said that in South Sudan, medical care for the hearing impaired is almost nonexistent. “I'm afraid my daughter will not really get a future there,” he said.
Dr. Matthew Carfrae, with Mercy West Lakes, performed the surgery to insert Paulina’s cochlear implant pro bono. Surgery went smoothly and after a few weeks of recovery, Paulina returned to the doctor's office, where the implant was turned on. After five years of saving, praying and hoping, an audiologist captured on camera the moment Paulina heard a beeping sound for the first time.
On Tuesday, Paulina's parents saw the video for the first time. “I'm very happy,” Julia Samson, Paulina’s mother, said after watching the video. “Very happy.” Paulina now has the implant turned on all day long. Doctors said her brain needs to adapt and reprogram since it has never heard sound before. Right now, speech sounds like static to Paulina. Samson said that, with therapy, she will hopefully start to understand. “Can't wait for that time when she can start talking and calling me 'Mom' and telling me stories and all that,” she said. “I can't wait for that.”
Paulina’s parents said seeing their daughter succeed in new ways is a dream come true. “Our hope is really to see her as a successful child and having a future,” Nyikango said. Paulina is in a kindergarten class for the hearing impaired, where she is thriving. The family is in Iowa on a six-month visa but hopes to extend its stay so that Paulina can continue to receive speech therapy.