Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Mother Fights System to Get Help For Deaf Son
Mother Fights System to Get Help For Deaf Son
By Brian Walzel
Published in the Tomball Magnolia TRIBUNE
The hours after a baby is born are supposed to be filled with happiness and elation, not shock and disbelief. Babies should be crying in their mother’s arms, not being run through a battery of tests. But that was recently the case for a local mother and her husband.
Luke Hrncir will undergo a procedure July 13 to install cochlear implants in the hopes that one day he will be able to hear and speak.
Less than 24 hours after Laryssa Korduba’s and husband Matt Hrncir’s first child, Luke, was born, it was discovered their new baby couldn’t hear and was ruled “profoundly deaf.”
It didn’t make sense to Korduba. Both she and her husband were healthy, there were no signs of abnormalities during her pregnancy.
“When a baby is born, the first question is, ‘Does it have 10 fingers and 10 toes?’ No one asks if it can hear,” Korduba said. “We didn’t know what to do next.”
Emotionally devastated, confused and distraught, the new parents left the hospital with their new child, but with very little direction and instruction as to what to do or where to go next.
“It’s a horrible thing to happen to new parents,” she said. “They sent us home with nothing. It was exceptionally scary.”
Over the next few weeks, as Luke failed a series of hearing tests, Korduba took it upon herself to find the help her son needed.
“My instinct was to figure out a plan,” she said. “People don’t realize the importance of getting help so early.”
After searching through the maze of the Internet, and finding several dead ends, Korduba and her husband discovered a non-profit organization in Houston, The Center for Hearing and Speech.
When asked why they chose the organization, Korduba said, “There’s nothing else.”
Early on Korduba and Hrncir realized there were two paths for Luke. He could either learn sign language and live his life never learning to speak, or somehow find a way to speak and live as close to a normal life as possible.
“We had two goals,” Korduba said. “We wanted him to speak and we wanted him to go to a normal school. If I want my kid to go to school and college, I want my kid to speak English.”
By working with the staff at The Center for Hearing and Speech, it was determined that Luke met all the requirements for a cochlear implant, a surgically implanted electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is deaf.
According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), cochlear implants bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Signals generated by the implant are sent by way of the auditory nerve to the brain, which recognizes the signals as sound.
Korduba explained that Luke, who has been on hearing aids since he was five weeks old, doesn’t get much help from them.
“With a hearing aid, you have to force them to use the little hearing that they have,” she said. “Being profoundly deaf, he doesn’t get a whole lot of help from the hearing aid.”
Once it was determined that Luke would undergo the procedure and get the implants, Hrncir and Korduba applied to Hrncir’s insurance plan for seemingly sure-fire coverage.
But the insurance company didn’t agree and denied their claim, deeming the procedure “not medically necessary.”
“They said Luke was too young and that it would be considered elective surgery,” Korduba said. “Luke met every specific criteria a child could meet. But they denied us anyway.”
Once again, Korduba and her husband were nearing a dead end. The procedure would cost $127,000 per ear without insurance. So Korduba lobbied for help, contacted Luke’s surgeon, turned to friends and even spoke with U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, who worked to get the ruling overturned.
Finally, the insurance company relented and agreed to pay for part of the procedure. Luke is scheduled to have the surgery for the implants on July 13, 12 days after his first birthday.
Three weeks after that, Luke will be fitted for the outer portion of the device, which, Korduba hopes, will help him begin to hear.
“I want him to function in a hearing world,” she said. “I want to hear him call my name. I cannot wait for that to happen.”
Following the procedure, Luke will undergo tri-weekly therapy sessions to get him used to hearing and begin speaking.
Now that her son is on his way to living a more normal life, Korduba looks back on their ordeal with concern, not for her, but for others who may be in the same situation. “I’m an educated person and I had difficulty managing the system,” she said. “Many people may not know where to go.”
Korduba wants procedures put in place to identify what the next step would be.
“The theory is there’s not much you can do. But that’s not true,” she said. “Research all of your options and don’t take no for an answer. Don’t be scared to ask your physician questions and get answers to your questions. Make your doctor find someone.”
*I love aggressive moms who fight for their kids*