PERSONAL NOTES

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Cochlear implants are sensory devices put in the inner ear. They help deaf children to achieve hearing and speech. Only one in 10 deaf infants has an implant fitted.

Tricia Kemp, 41, set up the first support group for parents of children who have an implant or are being considered for one.

My son, Alex, six, was born deaf. We paid £30,000 for him to have an implant in Germany four years ago.

Some families get on with having a deaf child; others fall apart. It helped me to fight for something to be done. It kept me going.

I set up the group 18 months ago with Marian Batt, whose child also has an implant. She looks after the North and I look after the South. We get in touch with parents using the implant centres: they give the families a letter about us. On a child's operation day, we send a good luck card.

I guess we've got about 120 members. We put parents in touch with each other. We have big get-togethers. It's nice for kids to see 20 or 30 others wearing an implant, good for siblings to see their brother or sister is not the only one with a funny plastic thing with leads attached to the side of the head. They are not that common, people still stare.

Parents obviously worry about the operation. They worry about the scar, how long the hair will take to grow back, whether their child can go swimming or horse-riding; about whether they will have enough speech therapy; about the rate of progress their child is making.

Many worry about what the deaf community thinks. Some of the deaf community are opposed to implants. They say children born deaf are part of the deaf culture and do not need to be given hearing. I want to give my child choice - to live independently in the hearing world or to live in the deaf community.

Alex has gone from a child who couldn't hear Concorde to one who can hear the pinger on the microwave. It's fantastic.

Pros: It's very worthwhile providing help for other parents - the thing that was missing for me. A lot of the families have become friends.

Cons: It can be time-consuming. One family rang me up at 10.30pm on Christmas Eve. Marian has had hate mail from

people violently opposed to implants.

Cost of running the group: Minimal.

Time spent a week: 1-6 hours.

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