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Sharing Stories

Liberty’s Story

Liberty was born in the Family Birthing Center at San Ramon Regional Medical Center in 2003, where a pediatrician from Children’s Hospital Oakland & Research Center Oakland is on duty 24-hours a day. “Her mother, Charmane, experienced a normal pregnancy and delivery,” according to Obstetrician Emil Eyvazzadeh, M.D.

Like other newborns in the Family Birthing Center, a nurse performed a Newborn Hearing Screening on Liberty. Surprisingly, the test indicated a profound hearing loss in her left ear.

After leaving the hospital, the family took Liberty to see Katrina Stidham, M.D., a neurotologist and skull base surgeon. She thoroughly examined Liberty and ordered more comprehensive hearing tests as well as other medical studies to determine the cause of the deafness.
A urine test detected that Liberty had been exposed to cytomegalovirus (CMV), a type of herpes virus can cause congenital conditions like deafness in newborns.

Charmane may have passed on the infection to Liberty during the first trimester of her pregnancy, when she had a “bad cold”. At age six months, Liberty lost the hearing in the other ear as well, a problem that can occur for some children exposed to CMV in utero.

Liberty’s parents learned she was a candidate for a surgical procedure to help patients with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss, placement of a cochlear implant.  When Liberty was 11 months old, her doctor successfully performed the cochlear implant procedure at San Ramon Regional Medical Center. The base of the cochlear implant is placed behind and above the ear and secured. A mastoidectomy provides access to the inner ear. An opening in the cochlea (called a cochleostomy) is created and the electrode is inserted into the cochlea.

A month after surgery, audiologists turned on and “mapped” Liberty’s cochlear implant using a specialized program adjusted specifically for her. She uses a small computer processor that attaches to the implant via a magnet to receive sound signals.

Less than a year later, Liberty is hearing and speaking, and her physicians and teachers believe she will be ready to mainstream in a regular classroom by kindergarten. Her parents are considering a second cochlear implant in the opposite ear in the future.

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