MONTREAL – A Montreal boy has been making international headlines this week.
Three-year-old Auguste Majkowski has become one of the first recipients of a radical procedure to help enable him to hear.
Until he was six months old, Auguste Majkowski’s parents didn’t know he was born into a world of silence.
“He was so normal that doctors didn’t think anything was wrong”, said the child’s mother, Sophie Gareau.
She suspected something when she didn’t hear her son babbling as a toddler.
“From one test to the next, it led us to understand that he is officially deaf.”
Auguste was born without auditory nerves to his ear, so there is no way for sound to get to his brain.
The three-year-old’s audiologist, Geneviève Paquette, worked in audiology for many years.
She explained this is a relatively rare case, and it’s the first case of this sort that she has come across in her career.
So far, it has been an emotional journey for Sophie, who said,
“I can remember watching him just playing, and I started to cry thinking he’ll never be able to play music”.
She took some time to gain perspective on the situation, “You have to let it sink in, cry it out, and then get over it and move on – you have to move on for the sake of your child”.
One day, however, while browsing Facebook, Sophie heard about a highly experimental procedure at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles that could help her son and Auguste was the perfect candidate.
“At first, I was against it, I didn’t want to go into it,” she said, “we had done cochlear implants, and that was enough – we were fine with him being deaf, we accepted it, but at the same time, everything was leading me to that operation”.
The operation is called ABI (auditory brainstem implant), and although the procedure was free due to a research grant, Sophie still had to raise significant funds to enable them to spend the required time living in LA before and after the operation, so she opened up a crowd-funding site.
“We managed to raise more than $25,000 in only a few weeks, which is amazing” she said.
“The support from back home was invaluable! “It was so stressful – you know, it’s your child, and it’s brain surgery, but I was receiving so much love from Montreal and everyone who supported us, and all of a sudden, we weren’t alone in this anymore”.
The procedure went ahead as planned in May.
Doctors at the hospital surgically implanted a hearing device in Auguste’s brain stem.
It took 6 hours, but the results are far from instantaneous.
Auguste is now back in Montreal, working with therapists at the Institut Raymond Dewar, where the therapy involves games in which Auguste completes certain fun tasks when he hears a sound.
It’s a tough but rewarding daily experience.
“Little things like hearing a doorbell, a dog barking, a car honking , this is why we did it, and to help him lip read, because if you hear a little, you can lip read better, and that can help you in life,” explained his mother.
Recently, Sophie went back to Facebook for more help, this time to ask advice on what should be the first song she plays for Auguste, if they can get to the point that he can hear music.
“I said, hey what would your song be?”
And the big question is what would Sophie’s own choice be?
“My choice is Somewhere Over the Rainbow. It’s so nice, so beautiful, and super appropriate with the lyrics.”