When Eric was 3 years old, he contracted bacterial meningitis, a life-threatening disease with a mortality rate of 34 percent and with 50 percent of patients experiencing long-term effects after recovery (National Institute of Health). His mom Angela breathed a sigh of relief when Eric seemed to recover unharmed.
A year went by and Eric was growing but showing signs of some developmental delays. Mom could tell something was off and decided to see an audiologist. That’s when they got the news: Eric had full hearing loss in his left ear.
“We made it through meningitis and I really thought he had no long-term damage. When we found out about the hearing loss, it seemed like it was the end of the world. As a parent I worried that he wouldn’t have friends, he wouldn’t be able to socialize, he wouldn’t do well at school or play sports. I had a worst case scenario look on it,” describes Angela.
Although Angela and her family had private insurance, it didn’t pay for hearing aids. They were just recovering financially from Eric’s long hospital stay after meningitis, she had two other kids, and was starting a business. She describes feeling drained at the thought of this life-altering news. To afford the hearing aids she would have to sell their car.
Eric’s Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist shared information about Any Baby Can’s Children’s Hearing Aid Texas (CHAT) program with Angela. She was able to fill out enrollment paperwork at the audiologist’s office and the process was extremely easy from there.
“I had a lot going on and was really overwhelmed. I didn’t have to travel to anyone’s office or submit 10 forms of paperwork. Any Baby Can makes it easy for families when it seems like nothing else is. Honestly, if it had been a hurdle, I don’t think I would have been able to juggle it all.”
Angela talked with a caseworker at Any Baby Can who was able to secure a hearing aid. She was also connected to other resources in the community specifically for hard-of-hearing kids.
Eric is now 9 years old and in the fourth grade! He had some speech and balance issues that have since improved. He’s in the Duke University Talent Identification Program and reading at an 8th grade level. His teachers say he’s a leader in his class.
“When Eric was little, we started saying things like he’s an X-man, extra strong with extra powerful senses. He never saw himself as different in a negative way. A few years ago he started playing soccer and instead of saying, ‘Do you think I can play with my hearing aid?’ he asked me, ‘Do you think it’s fair for the other kids since I’m extra strong?'”
Any Baby Can believes that children with developmental or medical needs like Eric are superheroes. We work with parents to help kids overcome challenges and allow their superpowers to shine through.
“When your child has an illness or disability, it can feel really isolating. Any Baby Can created a community for me, helped me feel informed about hearing loss, and helped me see a life beyond the diagnosis.”