Kewtown family looking for the gift of sound

The family of little Leah Roodt, 18 months, needs to raise R240 000 for her second cochlear implant. Here she is seen with her mother, Carmelita Roodt.

Leah Roodt is a bubbly little 18-month-old who brings her family so much joy, and nothing would make this Kewtown family family happier than for her to have the complete gift of sound.

Leah was diagnosed with congenital rubella syndrome, commonly known as German measles, when she was only a few weeks old. Her mother, Carmelita Roodt, unknowingly had the condition while pregnant with Leah, and it was passed on to her before she was born.

The condition affected Leah’s heart, sight and hearing. Hearing tests revealed that she was profoundly deaf and was a candidate for a cochlear implant. The procedure, however, is expensive, and something the family cannot afford.

However, in October last year, Millicent Worship, Leah’s grandmother, was invited to speak on radio.

She was told it was to create awareness about the condition, but was pleasantly surprised when she heard that Leah had been selected by donors to undergo her first cochlear implant, valued at R270 000, for free.

This was an initiative of KFM, Bidvest, Tygerberg Hospital – University of Stellenbosch Cochlear Implant Unit and the Netcare Foundation.

Ms Roodt said Leah had been only five days old, when she noticed something on her baby’s eyes and took Leah to the Mitchell’s Plain midwife obstetrics unit (MOU).

“They referred her to Red Cross Children’s Hospital. She had cataracts on both her eyes, and further tests revealed she had congenital rubella syndrome. At three weeks, she had her first operation to remove both the cataracts. Since then, she has been wearing contact lenses. I was taught how to put them in. After that, doctors discovered two holes in her heart. Luckily, she did not need surgery on her heart, as it was found that the holes will slowly be closing over time. When she was seven months old, she was put on a waiting list at Red Cross Children’s Hospital for a hearing test,” Ms Roodt said.

Ms Worship said that shortly after Leah had been put on the waiting list, she got a call from the Carel du Toit Centre, based at Tygerberg Hospital.

“They asked if we would like their help, as the waiting list at Red Cross Hospital was too long. In May last year, she was diagnosed with being profoundly deaf, and they set her up with hearing aids. A few weeks later, in June, another hearing test was done and it was found that the hearing aids had no effect. Then Leah was referred to the Tygerberg Hospital – University of Stellenbosch Cochlear Implant Unit. More tests were done and she was found to be a candidate for a cochlear implant. We were told to do fund-raising for it, as it is very expensive. I was overjoyed when I got the call from KFM, and they informed me that Leah would have the operation for free,” Ms Worship said.

Three days after this phone call, Leah had a cochlear implant on her right ear. Leah now needs a second cochlear implant for her left ear.

This will cost R240 000, and the sooner she has it, the better it will be for her speech development.

“We are very grateful for her first cochlear implant,” Ms Worship said, while Leah’s great-grandmother, Linda Boltney, added: “As a family, we wish we had the money to pay for the second cochlear implant she needs.” The family have started saving money for the maintenance of the cochlear, which is also expensive. “All the equipment the batteries, the coil, the charger cable and so on – is very expensive. I am unemployed, and only Leah’s dad, Salcido (Roodt), works,” Ms Roodt said.

They are planning to hold fund-raisers to pay for the second implant, and have also appealed for any financial assistance. Ms Worship said any money donated, through the bank account set up for Leah’s cause, would go directly into the Tygerberg Hospital – University of Stellenbosch Cochlear Implant Unit’s account. If you can assist, contact Ms Worship at 082 390 5762.