Operation Smile is a charity organization for children – donate non profit
Operation Smile is a charity organization for children – donate non profit

September 22, 2011

Fernanda Oliva

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Fernanda Oliva after her cleft lip surgery being fitted for her new hearing aids at Operation Smile Honduras' clinic.

Stepping into Sound for the First Time

Fernanda Oliva is a beautiful, sharp, smart child and attends a regular school in the small community of La Florida, but she cannot hear her name or the sound of laughter. She was born deaf.

Fernanda was also born with a cleft lip that marred her sweet smile. Her cleft lip was surgically repaired by Operation Smile Honduras, and she's now being treated at their clinic for follow-up care for her speech and hearing.

From what her parents reported to us at the last Operation Smile international medical mission at Hospital San Felipe in Tegucigalpa, their daughter was born hearing impaired, and as a result is speech delayed.

Fernanda's audiogram showed a severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss on her right ear and a moderate to profound sensorineural loss on her left ear.

Operation Smile's speech therapist Cathy Snyders and the rest of the medical team, spent time talking to this family and immediately felt compelled to help Fernanda with her hearing needs which would allow her proper language development and better educational opportunities.

That's when "wheels started turning" to get sweet Fernanda fit with hearing aids as quickly as possible. Cathy traveled back to the U.S. and diligently began her search for a benefactor. Audiologist Jennifer White quickly responded in a big way, and not only sent hearing aids, but also all the necessary supplies and accessories for a proper fitting!

With Ana Power's assistance at Operation Smile’'s headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, the hearing aids made it to Honduras, but we worried when Fernanda's family was having a hard time getting her back to Operation Smile Honduras' clinic all the way from a mountain village in El Paraiso.

Every now and then Fernanda's mother, Dora Elena, would call to let us know that they were having trouble arranging for the long trip to the Operation Smile's clinic in Tegucigalpa, but reassured us that they would eventually be here! To our relief, they finally made it on September 7, 2011.

It was wonderful to see Fernanda's first reactions to the sounds she had been missing. Once the hearing aids were turned on, she immediately responded to our voices calling her name.

We slowly walked around the clinic, and she was surprised to hear her own footsteps, music coming from a radio, cartoons on the waiting rooms' TV, and familiar voices over her mother's phone! She delightedly laughed when she heard me crinkling paper!

Still hand-in-hand, we slowly ventured outdoors and she was startled by traffic sounds and her footsteps on the gravel patio. Her mother's face was so full of hope as she enjoyed every minute of seeing her daughters' reactions to sound! She perceptibly noticed that Fernanda wasn't "yelling" when she spoke as well.

After a while of taking in a new world of sounds, Fernanda became quiet and introspective; I asked her if she wanted me to remove her hearing aids. She refused. She was so trusting throughout the whole experience - sensing that the gift of hearing was something good and wonderful for her!

Before leaving, she readily allowed me to take ear impressions for her permanent ear molds. I was concerned about how to get permanent ear molds in a timely manner - without the hassle of mailing and ordering them from the U.S. However, together with Operation Smile Honduras' orthodontist Guisela López, we sat down to make the ear molds in our clinic, with our own resources and creative know-how.

As an audiologist, I never tire of watching children "step into" a new world of sounds for the first time! A sincere Honduran “GRACIAS” goes to Jennifer, Cathy and to all of those who made this Operation Smile success story possible!

- Gloria Delgado-Vilches, M.S., Audiologist at Operation Smile's Comprehensive Care Center in Honduras

Tags:   Patient Stories, Comprehensive Care Center, Our Blog, Honduras

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