A CAMPAIGN RUN BY parents to have children fitted with two cochlear implants instead of the standard one has received a new boost.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams is among those who has pledged his support to the Happy New Ear campaign, and met with Deanna Cairns and her son Billy (4) last week after he brought up the issue in the Dáil.
Deanna Cairns spoke to TheJournal.ie in January about the issue, explaining that around 20 parents of children fitted with the implants had joined together to campaign for bilateral implants to become routine.
They handed a petition to Beaumont Hospital, which fits the implants, and have been trying to set up a meeting with Health Minister James Reilly. They have now gotten a much-needed boost with the mention of the issue in the Dáil.
Deputy Adams brought up the appeal in a Dáil question, telling Dundalk native Billy’s story. He pointed out that internationally it is considered best practice to implant both ears, but that children in Ireland – except the North of Ireland – are only fitted with one as standard.
The big problem as the child grows is that the nerves to which the implant should be connected die if they are not being used, which means the hope of a further implant is lost. These children are in a race against time.
He asked the Taoiseach to consult with the Minister for Health and the Cabinet committee on health to secure agreement for the release of the funding for bilateral cochlear implants.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that Beaumont Hospital has put forward its business proposal in regard to bilateral cochlear implants.
I have spoken to the Minister, Deputy Reilly, about this issue. He will consider the business proposal that Beaumont Hospital has submitted to the HSE in the hope that these cases can be dealt with efficiently and speedily.
“Beaumont Hospital and HSE management have met to discuss the proposition made by Beaumont Hospital,” said the Taoiseach. “The purpose of the meeting and others to follow was and is to identify the options for developing bilateral implementation processes for children.”
There is an allocation of €4.1 million this year and the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, will follow through with the HSE and Beaumont Hospital management in developing that process and putting in place clear criteria to see whether we should follow the decision taken in 2009 by the national institute in the United Kingdom on bilateral cochlear implantation.
Deanna said that she and the other parents were delighted to see their situation discussed in the Dáil – but that Billy has have an operation on his existing implant on 3 April. She believes it would be more beneficial for him to have a second implant fitted at the same time.
Our problem is going to be there is a good chance they are going to [provide] the newborn babies [with bilateral cochlear implants]. Our fight is going to be the kids that already have one implant.
“We didn’t think it would get this far so far, and so quickly as well,” said Deanna of the campaign, adding that Fergus O’Dowd held a meeting with Happy New Ear on Monday of this week.
Deanna said the group “are very hopeful” and are glad that government deputies are now supporting their cause.