Girl gets pro bono cochlear implant

Aloshay with her mom Candice Isaacs.

Eight-year old Aloshay Arendse from Kraaifontein finally got her hearing restored after undergoing cochlear implant surgery on Tuesday May 9 at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

Aloshay is no stranger to hospitals. At the age of one year and seven months she received a liver transplant at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. 

Aloshay then had to be treated for bone marrow cancer. She spent 11 months in hospital and endured 28 weeks of chemotherapy. 

At six years old, she was diagnosed with steeply sloping hearing loss and received hearing aids for both ears.

According to her mother, Candice Isaacs, “Aloshay was born with normal hearing, but lost it due to the medical and surgical interventions. It was a tough time for all of us, especially having to watch her transition her way from one challenge to the next…but we had to make difficult decisions in order to save her life”.

Life Kingsbury Hospital’s Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist, Dr Gary Kroukamp suspected that the hearing loss was caused by medication given for infection, and that the cochlear implant would provide (near) normal hearing again. 

The two-hour procedure entailed surgically inserting the cochlear implant under the skin behind the ear and an electrode array being inserted into the cochlea, stimulating the nerve endings used for hearing directly.

Aloshay is in Grade 2 at Carel du Toit School, and is described as a hard working pupil who is making good progress despite the degree of her hearing loss. She has been trying to overcome her loss of hearing through lip reading.

“The primary benefits of performing this life-changing surgery is spoken language acquisition, improved speech intelligibility, reading comprehension and high frequency hearing which is missed with hearing aids. Furthermore, this will drastically improve her quality of life”, Dr Kroukamp said.

Aloshay is the fifth patient in South Africa, to receive the cochlear implant CI532 Slim Modiolar Electrode – the world’s thinnest full length perimodiolar electrode. The implant is a soft, flexible and atraumatic electrode designed to protect and preserve the delicate structures of the cochlear. The implant, which was tested and fully functional, will be switched on in three weeks’ time once the swelling has gone down and Aloshay has fully recovered from the surgery.

The pro bono collaboration to give Aloshay back her hearing involves several partnerships including the Bidvest Hear for Life Trust who donated the cochlear implant, Dr Kroukamp, anaesthetist Dr Nick Meyersfeld, Life Kingsbury Hospital, Red Cross Children’s War Memorial Hospital, and Tygerberg Hospital.