Aren’t the advances in medical science mind blowing?
I was watching Carte Blanche recently and was reminded of Chris Barnard performing the first heart transplant in 1967. Nowadays heart transplants are common place. People are given knee, hip, ankle and shoulder replacements. Bionic eyes are now enabling the blind to see! For eighteen years, due to my fall, I lived in the grey, soundless world of the deaf. Then nine years ago, I had my first Cochlear Implant. The world of sound joyfully entered my life once more. Two years ago, a Cochlear Implant was performed on my left ear that had no hearing whatsoever. Magically I am now hearing in stereo!
It was devastating to suddenly be cast into the deaf world, but imagine not only being born deaf but being born without ears!!!
Finn was born without ears. His condition is known as Microtia, this is when the outer ear hasn’t formed properly. He also had the added problem of Atresia a condition whereby your ear canals have not actually developed. In many Microtia cases, the doctor cannot tell what caused it. Lisa, Finn’s mother, had a text book pregnancy and she was never on any kind of medication. After the birth, she saw a geneticist who tested both herself and her husband, Dave. No genetic reason was discovered as to why Finn’s condition might have occurred. It was concluded that it was caused by some kind of environmental factor. A lack of oxygen to the womb around the seven week mark when ears are formed is a strong possibility.
“When we realised that our new, baby boy basically had no ears, we were shocked and scared. We had never heard of this condition. We would do whatever we could to help him and make his life easier. Our love for him was enormous, as with any first time parent, and nothing would stop us doing the best for him.”
At three months, Finn was fitted with a conductive hearing device, a BAHA. This was a soft band worn around the skull that improved his hearing dramatically. It sat on his mastoid bone and sound was conducted through this, straight to the inner ear. The closed-up ear canal and middle ear system were bypassed.
The Prosser’s then began seeking out other options for their boy. Finn needed ears and South Africa didn’t seem to offer the best solutions. Doctors would only perform a rib graft ear reconstruction procedure when he was 9 or 10 using his own rib cartilage to build the frame of the ears. It would involve 3 or 4 operations per ear and take around three years to complete. In South Africa, they also wouldn’t open up the ear canal. They would only attach a hearing aid such as a BAHA to the mastoid bone. In America, however, they found their prayers were answered.
Dr. John Reinisch wanted to cosmetically improve the surgery used on Microtia patients. He invented a technique, known as MEDPOR® ear reconstruction. For Finn, two larger than normal ears would be moulded out of polyethylene which he would grow into as he got older. This would eliminate the need for future surgery. Finn’s own skin and blood vessels would be grafted over these structures. This safe, effective technique had been used on patients between the ages of 3 to 60. Finn was 4.
The Prosser family flew to California and Finn’s first ‘new ear’ operation was performed in April. Dr Reinisch worked closely with an ENT surgeon, Dr Roberson. When the doctor removed the turban of bandages wrapped around Finn’s new ear, the adults were talking excitedly to one another, commenting on his new appearance. Finn’s practical, down to earth comment stopped them all:
“Wow, I can really hear so well. I don’t need my BAHA anymore!!!”
One of the biggest advantages of the whole procedure is that it can be performed on people at such a young age. With his ‘new ears’ Finn is now able to start school hearing. Capable of learning just like his compatriots!
Children can be really cruel. When I was seven, I sat next to a girl that had a mass of freckles all over her face. Two boys in our class used to reduce her to tears. They would chant that Sandra had a face that looked as if flies had pooped on it! Imagine how children would have reacted to a boy with no ears. Mockery, jeers and taunts would have followed that gorgeous, blonde mopped child everywhere. I dread to think of what that would have done to Finn.
I applaud doctors who keep pushing the boundaries of medical science. If it wasn’t for Dr. Graeme Clark’s tenacity the Cochlear Implant might never have been invented. I wouldn’t now be able to hear! If it wasn’t for Dr. Rhemish, Finn would not have his ‘new ears’. I am knocked sideways by his expertise. He was able to construct a new set of ears in an almost God-like manner!
My admiration for Lisa and Dave Prosser is vast. Their son needed two incredibly expensive operations that could only done in America. One and a half million rand per ear! Family and friends have embarked on a variety of fund raising schemes to help, but this is a huge amount of money to raise. I heard of Finn and his ‘new ears’ through Val, my golf professional. She organised a golf day to raise money for Finn. Unfortunately I was not good enough to participate! But, I am a writer so I thought that I could write and let the world know about the miracle of Finn’s ears.
I guess each time Lisa and Dave look at Finn with his two incredible hearing ears, their eyes must do a double take.
And their hearts must lift.
If you would like to help towards the cost of Finn’s ‘new ears’
Standard Bank – Sandton City
Account no: 407617655
Branch Code: 018105