Jaidyn is a typical five-year-old child, who is quite smart and active for her age.
However, she has had one major setback in her short life, which her loving parents are now trying their absolute best to correct.
Jaidyn is deaf in both ears, but she was fitted with a cochlear implant on her right side in August, 2012, which made it possible for her to hear sounds and words through that ear.
Since the implant and visits to a speech and language therapist, she is now speaking at the stage of a two-year-old. She is now learning to say the names of fruits and vegetables and other basic verbal communication skills.
Though the journey has been long and extremely costly, her parents Joy and Kenrick Baptiste are proud of how far she has come.
But during an interview with Barbados TODAY at the Rockley, Christ Church office of Jaidyn’s therapist Louise Frazer, the parents acknowledged that in order for their child to reach her fullest hearing potential, she must also have a left ear implant, which is expensive.
The cost of the first implant, including follow-up medical visits, travel expenses, accommodation and other miscellaneous expenses, was just over US$70, 000. Most of that was covered by a local insurance company and by a donation from the Sandy Lane’s Charitable Trust.
But meeting the cost of the second implant has been proving much more challenging.
“We really need help with funding to get the second implant done. This is our major drive now. It was always our goal to get her second implant,” Joy said.
“As time passed, it has become more burning because I believe that she would be much further if she had that second implant. She has come a long way from where she was two years ago. But I believe that if she had the second implant it would have been even better.”
She said her daughter was now in a race against time, explaining that “it is better if you have the implants done close together because it is like a muscle. If you exercise one side of your body it would be more developed than the next side. So now if she gets the implant in the other side of her ear, it has to play catch up and that is why we are pushing it more.”
The two years since the first implant was done have flown by very quickly, but the family still remembers the long and painful, but yet rewarding process as though it happened yesterday.
When their daughter was a mere two years old, the couple noticed that there was a delay in her ability to speak. They decided to take her to see a paediatrician who sent them to Frazer’s office.
“When we came in, Louise said that she thinks she is deaf. I would never forget when she clapped and Jaidyn didn’t respond,” Joy recalled.
Jaidyn was then referred to other specialists for more testing to be carried out to determine if Frazer’s call was true.
Unfortunately, all the results were positive and proved that the toddler was born with the disability.
Since the implant, which was done in Miami, the family has been making trips predominantly on their personal finances thus far, but it has continued to prove challenging as Jaidyn should be travelling to Miami every three to four months for medical follow-up, but right now she only goes every six months because of financial restraints.
“Jaidyn must also attend speech therapy sessions weekly to help her with her language development as she had zero language before having the implant.
“In June last year we planned and executed several fund-raisers, as well as received assistance from various charities, schools, clubs and corporate Barbados, which enabled us to travel and pay Jaidyn’s medical costs for the two subsequent trips and her weekly sessions,” the mother said.
As the family once again looks at raising funds to assist with an upcoming doctor’s visit in Miami in July, as well as for Jaidyn’s left ear implant, they are appealing for financial help from kindhearted Barbadians.
Frazer, who has played an integral role in Jaidyn’s journey, giving speech therapy twice per week to the child who is in reception at a mainstream primary school, is also echoing the family’s call.
She indicated that there were approximately eight to ten children in Barbados, Jaidyn being the youngest, with the cochlear implant, which is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing.
“Jaidyn is a smart cookie. I would like to see Jaidyn having the second cochlear implant because she has only got one in, and now, when they are implanting kids they would put two in straight away,” Frazer said.
The professional further explained: “If we think of her hearing age, she is only two years old because she has been hearing for two years. If you think about a two-year-old child now starting to talk and put words together, there is where Jaidyn is at now. What we are doing now is to play catch-up and just try and push her forward so that she can say basic words.”
Kenrick, who remained quiet throughout most of the interview, said his family just wanted other parents who may have a child facing a similar challenge to know that the cochlear implants were out there.
The father said he and his wife, who also have an older son, have a strong desire to someday start a charity to raise funds and offer assistance and support to other families walking a similar road.
“We want Barbadians to know that the implant is something that can be done. Before someone told us about it we didn’t know that there was something called a cochlear implant,” Kenrick said.
As she pledged to do her best to make life as normal as possible for Jaidyn, Joy declared that she just wants to see “Jaidyn succeed”.
“For her age she is independent, sometimes she is a little bit too independent. She doesn’t think that she is dependent or she doesn’t realise that she has a disability. She may realize that she can’t communicate to other persons as well as she would like to, but she ensures that she gets her point across even if it’s through using gestures.
“I don’t ever want her to feel that she has to be limited; that she can’t achieve what she wants, be it [in] education or physically,” Joy said, as she listened to the sounds of her two children interacting as they played with toys in the distance.
On Sunday June 1, the family in association with Xtreme Hikers and Precious Touch Foundation Inc. will be hosting a fund-raising hike and picnic, round trip, Bath, St John, starting at 6 a.m. The registration package is BDS$25 and will include lunch, music and karaoke. Those interested may contact Joy at 253-1873 or Kenrick at 233-8855.