Albie Gibb
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Safe & Sound

Annabel and her partner Latham, first visited Ronald McDonald House South Island when their son Albie was six months old. After discovering that Albie was profoundly deaf in both ears he underwent cochlear implant surgery

Our journey began when Albie failed his newborn hearing test while still in the Maternity Ward, and then again at just one week old. At four weeks old Albie was referred for further testing with the audiology team in Timaru, where we found out that Albie was profoundly deaf in both ears. After the initial shock and denial, the feeling of devastation began to kick in. As a school teacher, I worried about the challenges Albie could face down the track, especially as cochlear implants hadn’t entered our minds as being a possibility for him.

Albie in hospital

Albie had an MRI scan which confirmed he had the auditory nerve they needed to be able to complete the bilateral cochlear implant surgery. To know that Albie was suitable for this life-changing surgery with the chance to be able to hear fully was utter relief.  At two months old, his first set of hearing aids were fitted to ensure his auditory nerve was kept stimulated until he was old enough to have his surgery.

We arrived in Christchurch for Albie to undertake pre-surgery assessments and were welcomed to Ronald McDonald House South Island. On arrival at the House, we experienced an instant feeling of homeliness as the warm and caring team members greeted us and showed us to our room. After a night’s rest we were up bright and early for the short trip to the Hospital as Albie was first on the surgery list. In May 2021, at six months old, Albie underwent life-changing surgery at St George’s Hospital and received a truly miraculous operation.

Less than 24 hours later our baby boy was meeting with the cochlear implant team and his new special ears were activated! It was then that Albie heard our voices for the very first time.

Words cannot describe the feeling we all had when my husband called his name and he instantly stopped playing with his toy and looked up straight at us. Following his surgery, Albie had numerous appointments at the Hospital, including switch-on with the team at the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme, check-ups with his surgeon, meeting with his audiologist for re-mapping (testing and tweaking of Albie’s volume for his cochlears) and rehabilitation work.

Staying at the House during this time meant we didn’t experience any added stress and we could focus on what really mattered – Albie. Everything we needed was there and the people at Ronald McDonald House would always go above and beyond to be accommodating, even with anything extra we needed for Albie. My Mum was even able to stay at the House so she could support us

during the surgery and the appointments that followed.

Fast forward two months and Albie is absolutely loving life with his special ears. He is the master at blowing raspberries, loves dancing to music, clapping his hands and having story books read to him.

Every morning when Albie has his special ears put on, his wee face lights up and he has the biggest grin, which is the best feeling in the world to see that.

We will be regularly travelling back to Christchurch for Albie’s post-surgery appointments but to know that we have our home-away-from-home to return to means the world to us and we’ll be forever grateful to the amazing people at Ronald McDonald House South Island.

Our local primary school kindly held a Mufti Day to raise money on behalf of Albie and our stay at the House. If you have ever donated to Ronald McDonald House, volunteered your time, or supported them in any other way, thank you!

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