Bright and outgoing Omar had a challenging start to life. Born in Pakistan, the five-year-old boy was twenty-nine weeks premature and was delivered by an emergency C-section. Not long after, he developed septicemia (this occurs when a bacterial infection enters the bloodstream) and the medication used to treat this contributed to his eventual hearing loss.
Dr Shahid Nazir, Omar’s father, explained the effect this had on the family: “We were devastated with his problems as you can imagine.”
“He was in intensive care for six weeks, with several complications which required potent medication.”
Finally, to the immense relief of his parents, he was able to be discharged home. After a while, Omar’s parents started to notice his hearing problems and he was diagnosed with profound hearing loss a year after he was born. This means even very loud sounds were not being detected. Powerful hearing aids were fitted to help Omar but they didn’t improve his hearing.
Omar’s parents found out that he was a suitable candidate for cochlear implant surgery. A cochlear implant is a device that stimulates the nerve in the ear to help people with profound hearing loss to have a sense of sound. His parents decided to have the implant in the right ear first and then fit a second one at a later date if it was a success.
Dr Nazir said: “Initially we were frightened with the prospect of surgery in a foreign land. It was a 4,000 mile journey to get to The Portland Hospital, far away from home. But the staff and personnel at the hospital were very supportive.”
He was booked in to have the device fitted in December 2010 at The Portland Hospital with Mr Ben Hartley. The surgery went well and he continued to live his everyday life while he recovered. Just a month after the start of the process, Omar had his first activation session.
The activation was a very emotional experience for Omar’s parents, and he was shaking his head and smiling after hearing in his right ear for the first time. He was able to turn to the sound of a drum and smile when he heard someone speaking.
After a few months of programming sessions at The Portland Hospital, he spoke his first words. A year after the implant, he could even speak in full sentences, making progress in leaps and bounds.
“Hearing Omar speak his first word was the most joyous day of our lives,”Dr Nazir explained.
“We have trust in The Portland Hospital and we’ve had a wonderful experience with them.”
Inspired by how well the first implant went, Omar’s parents decided to go ahead with the implant for his left ear in June 2012. Just one week after the new implant was switched on; he could detect speech at low levels.
Four years after his first implant, Dr Nazir says Omar is progressing well:“He goes to a normal school in Pakistan and he is now an independent child.”Omar is doing well in all his subjects; he’s learning to speak Urdu and English at home and is learning how to speak Arabic at school.
“We thank god and The Portland Hospital for giving Omar the chance to hear.”
Omar has managed to catch up with, and even exceed, his peers after speech therapy sessions, and has adjusted to having his implants switched on. He no longer needs speech therapy and is leading a normal, happy childhood.