Giving the Gift of Hearing: The Kaiti Fortenberry Story - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

2005 CMN Miracle Child

Giving the Gift of Hearing: The Kaiti Fortenberry Story

Doctors at UMC diagnosed 6-year-old Kaiti Fortenberry with severe hearing loss at birth. We learn how technology and the help of UMC gave her the gift of hearing.

"It was overwhelming at first because you're thinking how do I communicate with this little baby? You're used to comforting them but she couldn't hear," explains Julie, Kaiti's mom.

Just days old, Kaiti was diagnosed with severe hearing loss. It was a diagnosis the Fortenberrys had a hard time accepting since there was no history of hearing loss in the family and at just six weeks-old, Kaiti received her first hearing aide. "When they turned it on her face just lit up and her eyes got really big and it was neat to see her reaction to sound," recalls her mother.

It was the first time Kaiti was able to fully experience life around her but it was only the first of many advancements to come. "Hearing loss doesn't go away and if you're hearing impaired that's for life," explains Frankie Sims, a Speech Pathologist at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. The Speech and Hearing Clinic, began working with Kaiti when she was just 3-years-old. "At that point she was wearing two hearing aides," she recalls. But it wasn't long before Frankie noticed a change in Kaiti's voice, a deeper tone that made her fear the worst. "Sure enough she had lost all of her hearing," says Frankie.

When hearing aides were no longer enough to help Kaiti's hearing, her parents turned to cochlear implantation. It was a hard decision for the family. "Because we didn't want to change who she was," says Julie. Yet the family could no longer stand the frustrating situation of not being able to communicate with Kaiti. "There was a wall between us and her, she was unable to understand us and we were unable to understand her," explains Gary, Kaiti's father.

In August of 2003 Kaiti underwent cochlear implantation. An electrode was put inside her inner ear and on the outside a microphone and processor to convert the sounds so that Kaiti could hear. It wasn't long before Kaiti's family noticed a dramatic change. "Her vocabulary, speech and comprehension really increased," says Gary.

Thanks to the implant, today, Kaiti is communicating at a level normal for her age and leads the life of a child without hearing loss but her family was faced with yet another challenge. Servicing the implant required dozens of trips to Dallas, a highly stressful situation for the family, but that's where Children's Miracle Network stepped in providing a grant that purchased equipment so that Kaiti and her family can receive treatment right here in Lubbock. "Because of what UMC has done we now have a computer, software, we have the equipment that allows us to check her processor to make sure it's functioning. We have the ability with the computer to program what we call maps and that's like the memory settings of what she hears," explains Lisa Flores, a Clinical Audiologist.

She says thanks to CMN this equipment will also help other children on the South Plains. "Kaiti is the first in many that we hope that we'll be able to help here in West Texas." says Lisa.

"I foresee that she'll lead a life similar to that of a hearing individual as opposed to having to make adjustments because of hearing loss," adds Frankie.

"It has helped open our eyes towards others who may be in the same situation," says Julie. The Fortenberrys say they realize these are the puzzle pieces that make up life. For them, a little love and technology make it complete. "Someday Kaiti will thank you too, we promise you that," says Gary.

This Fall Kaiti will enter a normal kindergarten class and she will no longer need speech therapy thanks to her cochlear implant and help from CMN.

2005 Children's Miracle Network Telethon
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