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Keira’s and her parents’ story: From Life in Vietnam to Miracles of Hearing

April 10th, 2009 by | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

When I was at the Cochlear Celebration, I saw a mother holding an adorable girl who looked like she was from somewhere in Asia, and she was wearing HOT PINK processors.  The mother then put her down and her daughter, Keira, proceeded to bounce around with laughter.  She was so adorable that I took pictures of her.  Robin, Keira’s mother, did not only graciously give me her permission to post the pictures on the website, but also wrote her story of her journey from filling out paperwork with an adoption agency to teaching her daughter to learn to hear and speak.

My husband and I decided to adopted a second daughter shortly after adopting our daughter, Alivia Xian, from China in September 06.  However, the waiting time to adopt from China had reached an all-time high of approximately 3 years.  Since we wanted our daughters to be close in age, we decided to look into other countries.  After much research, debate and weighing all possible pros and cons, we decided to adopt from Vietnam.  At this point, Alivia had just turned 2, and knowing how long we could be waiting for approval and then travel time, we requested to adopt a 12-18 month old girl.

When we finally finished our paperwork, which took approximatley 4 months, we were #17 on the waiting list with our adoption agency, which meant, we were looking at about a 6 month or longer wait for a referral of a baby girl.  In January 2008, nine days after our agency received our paperwork, I received a call from them.  I was sure I had messed up something in the paperwork.  We were told they had a referral of a baby girl for us!  I was speechless.  Literally.  We were emailed her photo and medical report, which was nothing more than a check-off list that she had two eyes, two ears, arms and legs.  We immediately fell in love and agreed to adopt her.  However, the catch was she was only 11 months old at the time of her referral.  Since we had been approved for a 12-18 month old, we had to redo several governments documents.  We were told the 16 families ahead of us on the waiting list requested newborns, so the agency skipped them all and called us first.

We know nothing about her birth family or if she was born deaf or lost her hearing due to an illness or outdated vacine.  We are pretty confident the orphanage did not know Keira was deaf.  It was a poor, poor orphanage with no means for conducting a real test.

Along with Alivia, we travelled to Vietnam in May 2008 and became Keira Hanh’s forever family on May 5, 2008.  She was 15 months old.  We were in Vietnam for 2 weeks to take care of papework and finalize the adoption.  Keira was so sick when we received her; she had scabies, bronchitis, a fungus on her tongue, could not walk and could stand.  She could not chew food, had never used a spoon and was severely malnourished.  We took her to the hospital twice while in Vietnam for medicine and IV drips.

With all this going on, I thought maybe something was wrong with her hearing, but so much had happened to Keira in just a few short days - new people, new place, new family, EVERYTHING was new to her, that I thought maybe she was just soaking it all up.  Besides, there was no way to have her hearing tested in Vietnam.

As soon as we got home to Las Vegas, I made an appt to have her hearing tested.  In June 2008, we learned she was profoundly deaf in both ears.  I remembering watching Keira during the testing – it was obvious she was not responding.  The testing graphs were on the computer screen, and although I had no idea what I was looking at, it was clear to me and my husband, that Keira was not responding at all.

When the doctor came in and told us Keira was profoundly deaf in both ears, I cried.  He immediately told us she may be a candidate for cochlear implants.  What are those?  I had never heard of such a thing and my husband only knew about them because Rush Limbaugh had recently received them.  We didn’t know anything about the technology, the concept, the capabilities…etc.  We were just overwhelmed and knocked sideways.

That doctor sent us to see Pam Hanson, M.S.CCC/SP, a local speech pathologist.  We went from his office to her office that same day.  She immediately met with us in the waiting room and spent a half hour of her time speaking with us and telling us everything was going to be just fine.  Right then and there, she called a cochlear implant surgeon she works with and scheduled us an appt.  We actually left Pam’s office smiling and feeling good!!

Keira had her first implant surgery in August 2008, at 18 months of age, and her second implant surgery in December 2008, at 22 months of age.  She sees Pam once a week for speech therapy and is doing amazing.  She says a few words and is close to many more.  Pam said she is one of those kiddos whose progress should be documented on film.  She makes new sounds each and every week and can TOTALLY hear us, although now that she is 2, she seems to have some selective hearing!!  She has made huge progress and is truly inspiring to us all.  She has no issues with wearing her implants behind her ears and never grabs at them or tries to take them off.  She seems to have totally accepted her hearing loss.

She is super bright, outgoing and just plain loves life.  Her 3 year old sister talks ALL DAY LONG, so we actually have a live-in speech therapist.  They are truly best friends and Keira has learned soooo much from Alivia.  And visa-versa.  Keira has been a blessing to us, truly, and taking into consideration how she became a part of OUR family, it really is a miracle.  We hope one day she will be a speaker and/or representative in the cochlear community and with her personality, we believe she will be.

2 Comments

March 12, 2010 at 1:36 pm

I can’t see any of the photos! Could you please repost them? I’d love to see them.
Thanks a bunch!
-Lindsey.

Suki Nguyen

June 26, 2011 at 4:27 am

I wish i have this family’s email so i could ask them about their wonderful experience. My son is also born in Vietnam as well and at 9 month of age, he came to Toronto and at 11 month, he was found severe deaf both ears. He had a surgery for billater cochlear impanted last week and we are waiting for the activation date. Thanks to Sick Kids Hospital, dr Papsin, his audiologist and most importantly his auditory verbal therapist, we are just waiting for his first word. Having the same problem as Keira, he didnt have his hearing newborn test so we dont know whether it is congenital or just developing by time to time.