Last week, we announced the 2nd winner of the ReSound Moment Maker Grant, Michael Mallahan. His organization, Hearing the Children, has been helping children with hearing loss in Guatemala since 2003. Here is the heart-warming story of Alejandra, just one of the children that Michael and his team have been able to help.
Alejandra was born in northern Guatemala, one hour away from the famous Mayan ruins of Tikal. She was the first daughter of a poor family; her father making five dollars a day working as a delivery driver for a local lumber mill and her mother worked as an aid at a local elementary school.
Alejandra’s family soon realized that their baby had a problem. She did not cry from the sound of a backfiring bus in the neighborhood or wake up from noisy firecrackers during festivals in their village. Mom and dad were very concerned. They saved for months to pay for a 15 hour bus ride into Guatemala City with Alejandra now a two year old. They saw an ear specialist who tested young Alejandra. He sadly told the parents that Alejandra was deaf. She would never learn to talk or be able to go to school. Heartbroken, mom and dad returned to their village to do the best they could.
Several years later, Alejandra’s aunt excitedly told her mom about a radio announcement she had heard. American doctors were coming to help children with ear and hearing problems. Perhaps they could help Alejandra. Mom and dad decided to go see if anything could be done. When they arrived at the clinic on the appointed day, they were amazed to see over a hundred families with children already waiting in line to be seen. They were fearful that Alejandra would not be able to receive care. They joined the line and waited all day for their turn.
Finally, after waiting for 6 hours, Alejandra was next in line. After a medical examination, Alejandra had a hearing evaluation. The audiologist happily told her parents that although Alejandra had a severe hearing loss, she could be helped with hearing aids.
That day she was fit with a hearing aid. At seven years of age, for the very first time, Alejandra was able to hear her mother’s voice call her name! Alejandra was fitted with her first hearing aid by a group of medical professionals from Healing the Children in Seattle, Washington.
She now wears two hearing aids and has learned speech to augment the sign language that she has been taught. She receives speech and language stimulation services in her own community. Every six months she has follow up care with an audiology technician who has been trained and is supported by Healing the Children. Each year when the audiologists return, Alejandra is there patiently waiting in line to see them again.