Every parent looks forward to hearing his or her baby talk for the first time. The first word, syllable, or even unrecognizable sound that the baby makes give them a warm feeling inside.
For the North Carolina couple Gary and Stacy Westbrook, however, it was a different story. They were overwhelmed with joy when their one-year-old baby Laken responded to their voices for the first time, after undergoing cochlear surgery.
For a little while, the Westbrooks struggled to raise money for the surgery, after finding out that their baby was born deaf. Cochlear implant surgery may cost up to $100,000, and the family's insurance company could not cover for the procedure. However, with the help of family and friends, Mr. and Mrs. Westbrook were able to settle the surgery's down payment of $20,000. After several months, Laken was able to undergo the surgery.
Just last month, doctors at the University of North Carolina Hospital Chapel Hill then performed the said procedure, implanting devices that would restore Laken's hearing.
"I don't know that we would have ever done it ourselves. To see how that worked, it was amazing," says Gary when asked about the support they received from friends and family.
In another statement, Gary talks about how they have been through so much and refers to the day as the 'climax of their story'.
It would have been a month after, last Monday, when actual results of the cochlear surgery were seen - or heard - when Laken responded to her parents' voices at the doctor's office for the first time. Laken followed where the voices were coming from and made eye contact when her mother clapped and spoke. Stacy said that she has never done that before.
"I'm looking forward to seeing what [effect] hearing is going to have on other areas of development," says Beth Whitfield, a teacher to the deaf and who is currently working with Laken.
Whitfield also stresses that the child's early years are the most crucial part of his or her development. Of course for baby Laken, keeping a room quiet enough to let her to fall asleep is a new, but is a much-awaited mommy-and-daddy duty.