A family night at the table at a South Florida home is filled with chatter. Most families would take the buzz of four kids chirping away over homework for granted, but for the Guillou children, sound was never heard until recently.
That’s because the four Cutler Bay siblings were all born deaf. Twelve-year-old Marcus, 10-year-old Mathew, 8-year-old Michelle, and 5-year-old Maria were all born with an auditory mutation.
Curly-haired Maria Guillou isn’t shy, saying, "I cannot hear when people are talking to me.”
But that has changed after Dr. Fred Telischi from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine implanted each child with cochlear implants within the last 2 to 3 years.
"There's an external processor on the outside of their head which gets the sound and sends it into electrical impulses and that stays on with magnets behind the ear,” he said.
Those impulses are sent to an internal probe that sends them to the brain, allowing the kids to start hearing sound.
Their progress was slow at first. As part of their ongoing speech and auditory therapy, Telischi’s clinic encouraged the kids to do something special for Thanksgiving. In clinic, they practiced putting together a “Pumpkin Parfait.” They’re encouraged to use their words to work together – adding ingredients, stirring, and of course taste-testing.
It's a family task that wouldn't have been possible without their grandmother, Peggy Guillou, an amazing woman who took custody and is raising them. Her grandkids were all outfitted with hearing aids, but they didn’t work well for the kids. She sought to have them outfitted with implants and introduce them to the world of sound.
The elder Guillou says the days are fill with developmental therapy.
"We do a lot of work with them. We do therapy at home. They get therapy at school,” she said. “They get therapy today where you were at UM. And now they are speaking and enjoying music, enjoying to sing. Things I never expected.”
Peggy Guillou already raised her five kids, but now enjoys firsts with her grandkids. She was there for their first baking task, and now, first sounds heard. She was there when Mathew heard the family bird for the first time.
"My mom said that ... oh that's the birds. She said you know that?” he recalled. “I said yes. I heard that.”
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