Good News Friday – Cochlear Implant edition

This week my Good News Friday post is going to be completely personal, though it relates to Israel’s medical industry.

I am sitting in Jerusalem right now, keeping my daughter Vered and son-in-law Pini company in Shaare Zedek Hospital as their 9 month old baby daughter Shaked (my baby’s baby) underwent an operation for cochlear implants yesterday. Shaked was born with profound hearing loss – news that came like a bolt out of the blue shortly after she was born. After a few days of shock and helplessness we pulled ourselves together and started looking for answers.

Shaked a few hours old

Thank G-d Shaked was born in Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem. That is where she was diagnosed shortly after birth, and that is where her operation was carried out yesterday. Shaare Zedek’s cochlear implant department is one of the leading ones in the country and is headed by one of the most talented, kindest and modest doctors I have ever met, Dr. Ronen Peretz.

In fact, when Vered was in the pre-op prep area with Shaked before the operation and the doctor turned up, everyone said Mazal Tov. She thought it was for her birthday, which was yesterday 😅, 6th Heshvan. But it was because Dr. Peretz was made Professor. And he was all embarrassed and shy about it. He’s so modest and unassuming. A real mensch. Dr. Peretz himself came out halfway through the operation to tell us that the first side was a success and that they were going to proceed with the 2nd side. We did not expect the doctor himself to come out. We expected at most a nurse or secretary.

Until she was old enough to undergo the operation, Shaked has been treated at AV Israel, a hearing rehabilitation organization. Vered and Pini had been given a list of hearing rehab places, including AV Israel, by the hospital at the time of her diagnosis. The decision to go with AV Israel was made easier by our wonderful neighbours, the Crosbie family, who are friends with an amazing lady, Josie Eisner, the co-founder, along with Ayala Tal-El, of AV Israel.  Having that personal connection made the process an even easier choice for the family.

Shaked at 8 months

Shaked has been treated for the last almost 9 months by the wonderful therapists Miriam, Debbie, Dorit the social worker and so many others at AV Israel, who promote normal communication through speech and play therapy to prepare the child for the moment when they begin hearing properly.

You can learn about the wonderful work of AV Israel at their site. Their philosophy is that these previously-deaf children should be mainstreamed. They should not learn sign language or be sent to special education which used to be the norm in Israel.

Ayala Tal-El won the Prime Minister’s Prize for AV Israel’s work a few years ago. Watch this video (click cc for English subtitles) which describes how she heard about cochlear implants, how she promoted the process of cochlear implants and rehabilitating hearing for deaf children, and her eventually success in persuading the Israeli educational establishment to mainstream these children :

 

AV Israel’s website has some great videos about the rehabilitation process, with subtitles. Watch this video below to see the process on which Shaked has only just begun. We hope and pray that she will reach the high level that these two cute little boys have reached. The parents in this video have similar reactions to our own:

 

As to the medical side, here is a promotional video from Shaare Zedek about the cochlear implant. The video has no subtitles, but I have translated the dialogue below::

Narrator: When Dvir was 2 he gradually lost his hearing until he became deaf. The cochlear implants he received in both ears enable him to hear and essentially changed his life.

Idit and Baruch Gittleman, Parents of Dvir: Today he goes to kindergarten in our community, he talks, he participates in the lessons, he had a party this week, he danced, he recited, exactly like everyone else.

Narrator: The cochlear implant has 2 components: an outer unit comprising a microphone and processor which turn sound signals to electronic signals; the inner component was implanted in an operation.

Dr. Ronen Peretz: In effect during the operation we implant an electronic system into the cochlear, and that electronic system stimulates the enrve directly.

Avi Markovitz: And then Dr. Peretz turns on the cochlear implant and he did “snap”, and immediately I had a life. I couldn’t believe it! I heard it!

Narrator: After the operation there begins a rehabilitation process accompanied by speech therapists and a team of multi-disciplinary experts.  The challenge is to teach the patient to process the sounds that he hears into language and speech.

Riki Salem, Speech Therapist: it’s a stimulation that is electronic, not acoustic, and the brain has to learn to interpret these signals.

Narrator: The cochlear implant dept. in Shaare Zedek is one of the leading centers in Israel and another center of excellence and devotion which gives our patients the highest quality treatment.

For the technically minded, here is a video about the way cochlear implants work:

 

And here is a video of Dr. Peretz giving a talk about the actual operation to insert the cochlear implants. Unfortunately it is only in Hebrew and it is too long for me to translate.  But at 11:40 you can see Debbie, one of the speech therapists who saw Shaked at AV on one of her first visits. 🙂

 

Please G-d Shaked will make a full recovery and will advance quickly in her treatment on the way to full hearing.

Please keep Shaked Mazal bat Vered Ayala in your thoughts and prayers.

I would like to thank Dr. Ronen Peretz and all the staff at Shaare Zedek for their wonderful treatment of little Shaked, and their warm and professional attitude. May Hashem always guide them in their healing and care.

Wishing good news and Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem.

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20 Responses to Good News Friday – Cochlear Implant edition

  1. cba says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I will keep Shaked Mazal bat Vered Ayala in my thoughts and prayers, and look forward to updates!

    Shabbat Shalom.

  2. ShimonZ says:

    Heartfelt wishes for a complete recovery for Miss Shaked.

  3. Pingback: Good News Friday – Cochlear Implant edition – 24/6 Magazine

  4. Chaim Freedman says:

    שתהי רפואה מוצלחת ושלמה

  5. Jeff Polaski says:

    When she first hears your voice, whether she frowns or smiles, it’s a blessing.

  6. Earl says:

    Astonishing. What an extraordinary benefit to baby Shaked and family!

  7. Joseph says:

    Get well soon, Shaked, bubele! The best wishes to the family!

  8. I am very pleased and excited for your family. Having this technology to help improve your granddaughter’s life is wonderful. Though as a parent of two youngmen with disabilities I do take exception to something in the post.

    The school of thought where she should not learn sign language. She not only should learn it, but she should also be exposed to the deaf community. For no other reason, than technology is not perfect and can fail us at any given time. She needs to know how to exist and thrive in the world as a non-hearing person. You should not take that safety net from her.

    In fact, sign language is something that is taught to speech delayed autistic children, to help them communicate until they garner language. It’s called baby sign language. It stops the frustration of not being able to get the simplest of needs and wants across to others.

    And yes she should be mainstreamed. In the US its not an either or. It is both. There is absolutely no reason a deaf child, or any child with a disability, cannot be mainstreamed with the right supports. Israel is going about this all wrong and needs to revamp its approach to disability with a look to the 21st century. For such a forward nation, this is unbelievably backwards.

    • anneinpt says:

      Hi Elise, thank you for your thoughtful comment.

      We’ve been having some discussions about teaching sign language, and my kids have discussed the issue with other parents of similar children, and the general consensus is to teach them sign language, but only after they have mastered speech properly so that they do not rely on sign language as an “easy way out”. Though with the implants, and her young age, picking up speech naturally should be fairly easy (we hope!) for Shaked.

      Like you I am in favour of teaching sign language as a fallback, and as you say, to be part of the deaf community too. Interestingly my niece, who is studying for a degree in special education, took an optional course in sign language and found it fascinating and opening new horizons for her. (she has no hearing disability).

      I had no idea about sign language being used with autistic children. That makes a lot of sense. Very interesting piece of information.

      Re Israel’s education system, like all other big public institutions, change happens slowly. But you can be reassured that the problem of refusing to mainstream was something that happened 15-20 years ago. The people of AV Israel pushed for this very change and succeeded thank goodness. Now it is the norm for “cochlear” children to be mainstreamed. And there is a huge amount of remedial support too: children with hearing problems are entitled to an “accessible” or “acoustic” classroom where the teacher wears a microphone and the walls are soundproofed to improve the acoustics. And depending on their level, they might be entitled to a teacher’s aide or extra coaching, all part of the free education “package”.

      In fact, once Shaked’s problem became known, more and more people came forward and told us of their children or friends who have cochlear implants and went through the regular education system, the army, higher education etc., and we had no idea at all that they had any problem. In fact it turns out that one of the Torah readers in our synagogue has implants, and he reads and sings perfectly. We had no idea till his wife told us!

      Truly we are lucky to be living in the 21st century.

      • I am so glad that I read your post wrong and that inclusion and acceptance is the norm in Israel. I do remember reading about the special autism units in the army, so I should have extrapolated that that goes for everyone with any kind of difference.

        I am also glad to know that there is terrific support in the Israel. It is funny how you never know about these things until you open up about what is happening in your life and then suddenly you find out, people you may have known forever have gone through the same thing.

        I found that out when I had my breast cancer diagnosis. I would talk about it, and women I had known for almost 2 decades told me, they too had had breast cancer. No one ever talks about it. I think for any and everything in life, if people actually would just talk about things openly then the stigma surrounding so many issues, disability and even mental health, would disappear. I think it would not only take away the fear from issues, but allow people to not be afraid to seek help when they need it (And yes this went far afield, but it is something I think about a lot).

        Anyway, mazel tov and thank Hashem that we live in the 21st century ❤️

        • anneinpt says:

          ! absolutely agree about being open with health or other problems. In the olden days people would be secretive and ashamed. Today we know that if we are open, we can get help and support both from the authorities but more importantly from people who have gone through the same situation and can give us the benefit of their advice. And as you say it removes the stigma.

          I asked my daughter’s permission before I wrote this blog and she said “of course you can write it!”. When I pointed out that people will then know about Shaked’s problem she said “so what?”. And added “in any case it’s not a problem, and if someone thinks it is, then it’s their problem not ours”. I really admire her attitude.

  9. Reality says:

    I only just now caught up on your post.What a fantastic way to create hearing for those with hearing loss.I hope all went well.Will you update on the process ?Its fascinating what can be done today.Well done to the staff at the hospital for all the care they give and for this great organization AV Israel.
    Now they have to find a way to do the same thing for blind people.I’m sure it’ll come soon.
    May Shaked Mazal bat Vered Ayala have a quick recovery and will be able to hear her parents soon.How exciting!

  10. Pingback: Thanks to the Doctors at Shaare Zedek, Shaked can Hear | The Canadian SHAARE ZEDEK Hospital Foundation a hospital with a heart

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