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Family sets up foundation to help inform others about cochlear implant surgery for children

Help Kids Hear Note: Please see related story by clicking here.

GRAND JUNCTION - Kobe Johnson is 2 ½-years-old, but in the hearing world he's just an infant.

Kobe had cochlear implant surgery in July. The device, implanted under the scalp, activates the nerves in the ear so they can produce sound.

In August, the little boy heard his mother's voice for the first time. Now, the sound snow makes when he takes a step stops him in his tracks; the hum of an airplane in the sky brightens his eyes. The world is new and noisy.

It's taking time and a lot of therapy to teach Kobe what every sound means. Just like a baby, he's having to learn sounds, and he's slowly learning to talk.

"Hearing him say mama is amazing. It's beyond words. There was a time I never thought I would ever hear my son say that," said his mother, Denise.

Cochlear implants are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. David Kelsall of Swedish Medical Center says the device and surgery typical cost between $65,000 and $85,000. This does not include years of follow-up therapy that other physicians feel help the patient learn to understand what they are hearing and how to talk.

Kelsall says it is a wonderful option for families of deaf children. But he points out it is a choice that not every family feels is the right one to make.

"No one is saying that everyone who is deaf should be having cochlear implant surgery, but it a choice that they should be given," said Kelsall.

Kobe's family has dedicated a tremendous amount of time and energy to help him adjust to his new world. Through their experience, they've also become committed to helping other families through this journey. They started the Kobe Johnson Cochlear Foundation.

The foundation's mission is to provide funds and education to families of children under the age of 12 who are candidates for a cochlear implant. They hope to get families the information, contacts, and financial support they need as quickly as possible. The contact information is listed below.

The Kobe Johnson Cochlear Implant Foundation
c/o Mesa County Teachers Federal Credit Union
PO Box 1089
Grand Junction, CO 81502-1089

The CNI, or Cochlear Implant Assistance Program helps provide cochlear implants despite financial obstacles. The group helped pay for Kobe's implant. The Angel Network is non-profit group that assists with hearing rehabilitation. You can find information on these resources by clicking on the CNI Center for Hearing link.

(Copyright 2004 by 9NEWS KUSA-TV, All Rights Reserved)



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