Less than 24 hours after Brady Burley came into this world, a test revealed what no one could see.
Brady cannot hear.
Brady’s parents Staci and Ryan were shocked, scared, confused and worried for Brady’s future.
Brady suffers from a rare genetic abnormality called Connexin 26 Disorder. The condition doesn’t show up on standard counsel testing, so even if you have the testing done, it won’t show up.
Brady’s parents believed he would never hear until Dr. Loren Bartels stepped in. He was the first doctor in the state of Florida to help a child hear with Cochlear implants.
“There is a decision process we go through with these children. The key is, are they deaf?” Dr. Bartels told 10News reporter Courtney Robinson.
Essentially, parents must assess the risk to their child. Dr. Bartels says a baby must be healthy, their lungs have to be mature and the baby’s head has to be large enough to fit the implants.
The procedure is FDA approved for children at least 1 year old. Brady is 5 months old, which is rare, but -- as Dr. Bartels explained -- was necessary.
“It’s important to do these children as young as possible because the data show if you do the implant any later than 6 months of age the long-term language development pays a price,” Bartels said.
Brady is Bartels’ youngest patient, but Staci, Brady’s mom, says they never questioned their decision.
“He was profoundly deaf, like there was nothing, so at that point there was no questions,” she told Courtney Robinson.
Brady’s parents say the reward was worth the risk.
“You’re praying that it works. You’re hoping you get a reaction, so you know something’s happening. When we saw that smile, we’re like, ‘Oh! It worked! Yes! He can hear us!” said Brady’s dad.
Brady is 6 months old now and at home with his parents and big brother. But, he still has regular therapy sessions.
Dr. Bartels: “This baby doesn’t know mommy’s voice as different from any other, so this child has a lot of learning to do and it will happen pretty rapidly.”
Brady is hearing, communicating and learning.
“When you hear him repeat what you’ve said, it’s amazing that it’s happening,” said Ryan.
The struggle isn’t over for Brady though. He will need years of therapy from deaf and hard of hearing coaches and speech therapists. But, Bartels says by the age of 3, you’ll never know he’s deaf and needs cochlear implants to hear.
His parents hope Brady will be an advocate for other babies born deaf. They want other parents to see his story and fight for their children to get implants as early as they can.
Early intervention is key for infants with hearing loss
There's a Hillsborough County Public Schools program to help families and children who have hearing loss and/or are visually impaired. It starts at birth. Your child doesn’t even need to be in school to get the help they need from qualified therapists.
“We get them ready for their neighborhood school before they even start kindergarten,” Kathleen Pitrowski said.
Pitrowski is a parent-infant teacher with the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Parent-Infant Program through Hillsborough County Public Schools.
Pitrowski has been doing this for 35 years. She began working with Brady when he was two weeks old.
“Time is so important. That we get these babies young and get in homes to support the families in their hearing journey. There’s so many decisions to be made in the language acquisition years,” Pitrowski said.
Those language acquisition years are considered most critical from birth to age three. Pitrowski says during that time, children are best able to learn a language.
“This job is a labor of love and a privilege to join families in their hearing journey,” she said.
The Deaf/Hard of Hearing Program works in conjunction with Early Steps at the University of South Florida. In Hillsborough County, four parent-infant teachers work with families across the county.
Children and families must show documented and qualifying hearing loss to enroll in the program. Michelle Henry is the coordinator. You can email her at Michelle.Henry@sdhc.k12.fl.us
If you live in another county in Tampa Bay you can find resources for your infant and family with USF’s Speech-Language Clinic. It provides services to children ages 0-5.
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