There are special moments in most people’s careers, but one of the most special for me resulted from an event where I wasn’t really working at all.
Thirty years ago, just before Christmas, I met a couple on a train. They were visiting from Botswana and told me they had a 16-month-old deaf son, Hughan. I asked what they were doing in London and they told me they’d been seeking advice from specialists for the best options for their son’s future.
I gave them the best advice I could on cochlear implants, which were still in their early days. I had just finished writing a review article on the status of developments and advised them to try for the Australian device.
We did not keep in touch— this was before omnipresent connectivity, but I later learned that when Hughan turned three he was unable to hear most speech sounds using his powerful hearing aids, so his parents had to choose between a signing programme or a cochlear implant.
In 2011, Hughan’s mother Sue found me online and shared her story. This is what she said:
“Because of information we had been told that day on the train in 1989, we didn’t hesitate with the idea of Hughan having the Cochlear Implant, especially if it was the Australian device.
He was the tenth child to receive the Cochlear Implant in Cape Town in 1992.”
Today Hughan uses his implant well and has complete access to the hearing world, and normal speech.
It gets better!
Hughan met Emma, a New Zealander who is also profoundly deaf and uses cochlear implants, via his mother’s special Facebook page that she started to share tips and experiences with other parents of hearing-impaired children.
Last Saturday, I attended Hughan’s wedding. What a happy day!
These two beautiful young people met as a result of a combination of a chance encounter on the train by Hughan’s parents and the dedication of a mother to help parents with deaf children.
I’d like to end this blog by extending my very, very best wishes to Hughan and Emma, and add a thank you to Graeme Clark and the early team at Cochlear.