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Kidsday: A decade of cochlear implants

On Nov. 10, we were invited to a celebration to honor the 10th anniversary of the Apelian Cochlear Implant Center at North Shore/LIJ Medical Center, where we had our surgeries.

We were a little nervous, even though we have been there many times. When we pulled up, there was a big white tent filled with people. All the people who have helped us in the last eight years were there: audiologist Barbara Popecki; medical director/surgeon Dr. Andrea Vambutas and other doctors and speech therapists.

They had food and music, and then a few doctors spoke about what an amazing 10 years it has been for the center. It was very interesting to hear them talk about how important this center is to so many kids and adults who have hearing and speech problems. We also got to see Nishan and Elizabeth Apelian, who donated a lot of money to help get the center built!

Dr. Vambutas also talked about all the great things they are planning for the next 10 years.

When we were younger, we really didn't understand much about what was going on with our hearing, but now that we are older, we realize how lucky we are to have the Cochlear Implant Center here on Long Island. We are only two of about 250 people who have had this surgery here.

Alannah wrote that she got her cochlear implant when she was 1. "I go there every couple of months to get my mapping [kind of like a tuning of sound]. That helps me to hear even better. When I go to LIJ to get my ears tested and get mapped, we always play really fun listening games. In January, I am going to get a cochlear implant in my other ear. I am looking forward to that, so I can hear sound all around me instead of just on only one side.

"If you are a deaf kid, you should have a cochlear implant because kids could listen to their favorite TV shows, listen to music, talk on the phone and hear all the cool sounds I hear when I'm playing outside. I love that I can listen to my mom's stories, have fun talking with my friends and listening to music. I am learning to play the viola and the piano. I don't think I could do that if I didn't have my cochlear implant."

James Tedesco is a triplet. He wrote, "When I was 4, I went profoundly deaf in both ears. Profoundly means that I lost all of my hearing. My mom and dad took me to a lot of doctors, and they did tests, but the tests all came back negative. I am in a small percentage of kids for whom there is no explanation of why they went deaf.

My mom and dad started looking for different ways they could help me. My doctor suggested they bring me to North Shore/LIJ to meet with specialists that help kids and adults with hearing and speech problems. . . . I hear very well now. I play flag football, CYO basketball and my favorite sport -- baseball. In baseball, I wear a helmet on the field to protect my implants."

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