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Cochlear Implants in Children: Ethics and Choices

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INTERVIEWER: Did you feel pretty apprehensive at the operation?

MOTHER: For the surgery, yeah, . . . and her facial nerve was damaged for probably . . . 8 or 9 weeks. It was horrible, it was just really bad.

INTERVIEWER: What happened?

MOTHER: Her eye wouldnít shut and [her face] drooped down so when she smiled only [one] side went up.

INTERVIEWER: So, what did they say about that? Did they say, Donít worry, it will go away, or what did they say?

MOTHER: No, they were worried . . . . They thought it would be permanent. They did some tests on the nerves, I donít know what you call it . . . and they thought it would be permanent.

INTERVIEWER: Did they tell you at the beginning this was a risk?

MOTHER: They did, but the doctor said, Itís never happened to me.

INTERVIEWER: Did it clear up gradually?

MOTHER: Yeah, just kind of quickly [after about 2 months].

Mother of a 10-year-old girl implanted at age 3

A mother of a son who was deafened by meningitis when he was 2 years old said she felt that the implant center was not completely honest with her when he was implanted in 1990. She said that after the surgery started:

[My son] was in for about 2 hours when the doctor came out and said, We could only put in one channel. And I said, Why? He said, Because the cochlea was ossified. I said, Didnít you see that on the x-ray? And he said, Yes, but I thought that sometimes itís not solid, sometimes itís not hard, a lot of times, most of the time, itís soft . . . but his is just like bone in [the cochlea].

Later in the interview, the mother was asked if she had known that only one electrode could be implanted if she would still have gone ahead with the surgery.

MOTHER: I would not have gone through with it because . . . itís a big surgery to put him through . . . . You know, at least with seven, fifteen, twenty-one [electrodes] you have a chance of one or two or three working. But with one, you only have one chance.

INTERVIEWER: Do you feel like the doctor was honest with you about that, or do you think he was not?

MOTHER: I feel, really, that he was so eager to do it that he wasnít honest with me.

Mother of a teenager implanted in 1990

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