Meet Dustin Neerhof, a sweet little nine month old baby boy who was born with Microtia and Atresia of his left ear and hemifacial microsomia (diagnosed as having Goldenhar Syndrome). Dustin is a happy little boy who enjoys cooing and babbling with his identical twin brother and the two are quite the cute duo! Dustin just loves being cuddled by his parents and enjoys learning something new each day, but Dustin is having trouble hearing his parents voices because of being born with Atresia.
Dustin’s mom, Jaalah, says “the name Dustin means Valiant Fighter and Dustin has lived up to his name. He has had a very difficult start to his life being in and out of hospitals and emergency rooms having undergone five surgeries to date.” At first, Dustin was struggling with severe reflux and aspiration and had his first surgery when he was under two months of age for anti-reflux surgery Fundoplication and Gastrostomy Tube surgery. Dustin has been dependent on his feeding tube for his nutrition since this surgery. In addition to Dustin’s reflux concerns and feeding tube, he also had life threatening obstructive apnea and it was discovered that he was choking on his tongue, due to his jaw being misaligned from having hemifacial microsomia, which was interfering with his breathing. Dustin was dependent on a CPAP machine for three weeks of his life while living in the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit. Dustin’s parents found themselves faced with a difficult decision to choose either a tracheostomy or an invasive mandibular jaw distraction to lengthen his jaw. After much thought and discussions with multiple medical professionals, Dustin’s parents chose the jaw extension surgery. The surgery was successful and little Dustin was finally released from the hospital in April of this year and has been home since.
Now, that Jaahlah can focus on Dustin’s hearing loss a bit more, she realizes that he isn’t hearing everything and is very concerned that he will be missing out on many sounds. She is worried that he will struggle with his hearing as he gets older, especially with his vocabulary soon to develop. Unfortunately, the family’s insurance plan through Humana does not have any coverage included for hearing devices or hearing tests. Jaalah has been so busy with the twins, Dustin’s well being, and medical bills, that she has not yet been able to return back to work, now relying on her husband as their only source of income. Thankfully, Jaahlah found out about Ear Community through their audiologist, Dr. Katie Zawistowski at Children’s Hospital Colorado, and Cochlear representative, Wendy Fuller. Ear Community’s Founder, Melissa Tumblin says “When we received Jaalah’s hearing device application for Dustin, our board members immediately wanted to help him with a Baha 4 from Cochlear Americas! This family has been through a lot and aside from all that little Dustin has endured, it is so important that he be given the help and opportunity to hear right away.”
On September 10th, 2014, Dustin was fitted with his new Cochlear Baha 4 sound processor with soft band head band. A special thank you to Dr. Katie Zawistowski at the Bill Daniels Center for Children’s Hearing for Children’s Hospital Colorado for programming and fitting Dustin’s new Cochlear Baha 4 processor. Thank you also to Wendy Fuller of Cochlear Americas for being with Dustin and his family on his special day when receiving his Baha 4! Together, both of you helped make this family’s day not only exciting, but you helped them by putting them at ease and by being there for them because of your commitment to help a child hear. “Thank you for doing what you do for the children and adults just like Dustin, says Melissa Tumblin…these are the happiest moments when organizations like Ear Community, Cochlear Americas, and Children’s Hospitals look forward to, appreciate, and enjoy.” Thank you for coming together to help little Dustin hear better!
Ear Community is a nonprofit organization that helps the Microtia and Atresia community worldwide. Ear Community is so very thankful for the help that it receives and when other organizations come together to help Ear Community with its mission, to help children and adults born with Microtia and Atresia. “Thank you to Cochlear Americas for helping little Dustin hear better and for donating a new Baha 4 processor to him so he can hear easier as his vocabulary begins developing,” says Melissa Tumblin.
Ear Community would especially like to thank Kerri Lewandowski and Joanne Kernie of Cochlear Americas for donating a new Baha 4 to our foundation so our foundation could help another child like Dustin hear better. “Cochlear is the global leader in implantable hearing solutions. It has a dedicated global team of more than 2,500 people who deliver the gift of sound to those with hearing loss in over 100 countries. Its vision is to connect people, young and old, to a world of sound by offering life enhancing hearing solutions. In 2013, Cochlear celebrates 100,000 Baha System users – all with unique stories of how being able to hear again has impacted their lives. The Cochlear promise of “Hear Now. And Always” embodies the company’s commitment to providing its recipients with the best possible hearing performance today and for the rest of their lives.”
Hoping this will help make your life more enjoyable and full of sounds Dustin! Enjoy your new Cochlear Baha 4! All of us here at Ear Community are so happy for you!
Founder and Executive Director of Ear Community