Our honeymoon surprise…

Ryan was born at 30 weeks gestation. At 3 lbs, and 17 inches he was truly our little “honeymoon surprise”. We were thrilled when we found out I was pregnant so quickly after our marriage. I guess I knew it could happen, I just didn’t think it would happen.

Needless to say a 3 lb. baby born at 30 weeks can have a lot of problems, Ryan was no exception. The doctors could no longer hold off my contractions. I had started them at 18 weeks. I lay in bed at home, I lay in bed at the hospital, it was inevitable he was coming early. The doctors decided to give me steroid shots to develop his lungs. After about 10 hours they said he was in heart failure from the shots and needed to be born immediately. They took Ryan by cesarean section on November 7, 1993. He was the cutest thing I ever did see! Ryan was fighting an uphill battle from day one. His lungs did not get the full effect of the steroids, so his lungs were not developed. His heart was enlarged because of the steroids. It was a “catch 22”. After two weeks he was able to breathe without the respirator, although he would continue to need oxygen. He continued to get better and then take steps backwards. This went on for a month. At which time they decided if he was ever to come off the oxygen they needed to try the steroids again. As you can only guess, he was back in heart failure. The steroids did help his lungs, and I’m so happy the doctors at Loyola were so “on top” of things. After 72 (heart wrenching) days, our little peanut came home. He was 5 lbs. and we were so happy with that!!

The next year flew by. When I took Ryan for his 12-month doctor appointment I mentioned that we didn’t think he was hearing very well. My doctor took no time to write me a referral to Loyola to have it checked out. At 14 months old he was getting his first (out of many) sets of hearing aids. Ryan pretty much didn’t bother with his hearing aids. He left them in. That is until his baby sister started playing with them. Kalie was born when Ryan was only 15 months old. Again I couldn’t keep a baby full term. This baby was born at 32 weeks gestation. Kalie was sicker than her brother. Now trying to deal with a new sick baby in the hospital, recovering from another c-section, and trying to teach my son to “listen” was a lot. Thank goodness for my husband, my rock! Without him I would have never survived this.

The years went by quickly. Before I knew it our little peanut would be going to preschool. What a day I had! I cried! Ryan still had no verbal words at 3. He could sign quite well (as did his sister but her speech was outstanding!). He did very well in school. He really loved being with the other children and really loved to learn. At 4 he was sent to another pre-school, this one closer to home. He was such a smart little boy (of course I’m the mom so I can say that!!). He was beginning to say some words, nothing too clear. I understood things he said but most people didn’t. When Ryan turned 5 we were told by his speech therapist at school he would probably never have good speech. We started looking into Cochlear Implant surgery. Although we knew he did “hear” with his hearing aids we felt we couldn’t lose if we checked into it to see if it would help him hear better.

On June 6, 2000 Ryan under went surgery for his CI at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, he was 6 years old. This by no means was an easy decision for us. We took our time and did our “homework” on the whole process. We studied the different CI companies, and the differences between them. The effects, the risks, the surgeons, we talked to people who had CI’s and those who’s children had them. We weighed the pros and cons. We finally decided if we were ever going to do it, it should be now.

Ryan of course wanted the CI (because some of his friends had one!); he of course didn’t have the capacity to understand how it would get into his head. One appointment we went on to talk to a surgeon, he picked up the magnet and tried to stick it to his head. After several unsuccessful attempts he got angry and asked why it doesn’t stick. Everyone got a big chuckle out of that.

When we went for Ryan’s first programming and “turn on” in July, we didn’t know what to expect. We implanted his “bad” ear incase it didn’t work. At least then he could still wear his hearing aid and get some benefit. After the audiologist finished programming she asked Ryan again “Are you sure this isn’t too loud?” He kept reassuring her it was “fine”. She told us when she turned it all on at once it might be overwhelming to him. She said he might pull the magnet off or cry. Everyone has different reactions. We prepared ourselves. She turned it on and I said “Hello Ryan” he looked at me and said “Hi mom, can we go home now?”…………Can we go home now??????? That was his response!! We all sat there in disbelief. After a moment the audiologist suggested we go into the waiting room for a bit to see if he has any reactions to it being loud. My husband and Ryan started pushing a bus back and forth to one another. Ryan has the same bus at home. After a few pushes he picked it up and said “It makes noise, mine is broke.” I almost started to cry, I said “Yours makes the noise too, you just never heard it before.” He didn’t believe me. After that Ryan and Daddy went into the washroom. Ryan yelped at the sound of the toilet flushing. He was in shock that it made noise. “Daddy! Daddy! Did you hear that? The toilet makes noise!” Daddy had to keep back the tears of joy. Then to wash his hands, oh my! The sink makes noise too!! His new hearing was opening up doors for him already.

Every day thereafter was something new. The first time he heard himself go “pee” I started to cry. He came running from the washroom, “MOMMY, MOMMY!!” I jumped up, “What’s wrong?” he had a huge smile on his face, “I heard myself go pee!” I really did start crying.

One day we were playing outside and he said “I hear something.” I looked around and I listened. I didn’t hear anything. He said it again, “I hear something.” After a few moments I realized he heard the cicadas in the trees. I was not paying attention to them anymore because they were so loud all time. I told him it was the cicadas, he couldn’t understand why he could hear them without seeing them. I explained they were in the trees. He looked up and down those trees. He couldn’t figure that out. How can I hear something I can’t see?

Ryan’s speech was improving daily. He was seeing an auditory therapist to help him understand what he was hearing. After about 9-12 weeks she didn’t feel he needed to come back. She said he was doing remarkable well and with constant conversations, and daily life she thought he’d adjust just fine. At Ryan’s IEP in 2nd grade it was decided he would come back to our home school district for 3rd grade with an interpreter. Ryan was very excited about this and of course a little apprehensive. He would be the only deaf child in our school.

Ryan quickly made friends. He still missed his deaf friends and we would do our best to keep in contact and visit them at school on our days off. He has never had a problem with communication with his hearing peers. The kids in Ryan’s 3rd grade class learned a lot of sign that year. The last day of school his class signed the song “God bless the USA” it was such a heartfelt thing to do. The kids asked the teacher if they could learn a song in sign, they learned it and wanted to perform it for the other classes. At the “award ceremony” on the last day, they sang and signed it. Ryan was so proud. His new friends not only accepted him for who he was they wanted to communicate with him any way they could. Ryan still has an interpreter with him in school, but his hearing and listening skills are incredible! More than I could have ever hoped for.

Ryan is ending 4th grade now. It is so bittersweet to see him grow up. My little 3 pounder is getting so big. I’m so, so very proud of Ryan. He has accomplished so much in the past four years with his implant. I’m writing this on 6/2/04 almost 4 years to the date of his surgery and I must say he wouldn’t be close to where he is today without that implant. The cochlear implant has changed his life, and ours. Ryan loves his hearing. Ryan protects his processor like it is an infant. Ryan has told us several times he couldn’t imagine living without hearing. He never wanted to wear his hearing aid again either. We tried several times to have him wear it in the other ear and he hated the sound.

A final note to parents considering Cochlear Implant surgery for their child: Remember to do the research. Don’t hesitate to contact parents who have done it. Most people are very happy to talk about their experiences. Not all implants are best for all children; you have to be the deciding factor on which one is best and why. We went to one surgeon our insurance company recommended and we RAN from her office. We knew we did not want this person touching our child, we fought our insurance company to let Dr. Young do the surgery, we knew he would be in good hands with her. Our intuition was right. Go with your gut instincts, if you don’t feel right about something, speak up!

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