Giving the Gift of Hearing

South Florida family benefits from Ear Institute gift.

Coral Gables (January 30, 2012) — Janet De Las Cuevas first noticed something odd in her son Edmund when he was about three months old. “He wasn’t reacting to the sound of a dog barking or when we’d call his name,” she says. “By five or six months, we knew something was wrong.”

Edmund’s father, Phillip Polinski, says the news was tough to bear. “I remember the car ride home, realizing that my child is not in the same category as normal kids anymore.”

This young couple, like thousands of parents across the U.S. each year, learned their child was profoundly deaf. Edmund was so hearing impaired that he needed cochlear implants. Hearing aids would have no effect.

Edmund’s parents found the answers and support they needed at the Barton G. Kids Hear Now Cochlear Implant Family Resource Center at UHealth-University of Miami Health System, established by a generous $5 million gift from events impresario and father, Barton G. Weiss. Their dramatic and inspiring story was recently produced as an episode of “Breakthrough Medicine,” the televised special reports showcasing unique programs at UHealth.

Weiss made the gift in April 2010 after struggling with his own daughter’s deafness. Jadin, now 5, received cochlear implants from Thomas Balkany, director of the University of Miami Ear Institute, and now speaks English and Spanish.

“I wanted to give something back from what I’d learned,” says Weiss in describing the reason for his gift. He says families don’t need to go through pain and suffering. “Just knowing there is an answer, there is a solution and the University of Miami has it.”

In the television program, Polinski says he just wanted what’s best for his son, and “as soon as we started talking about cochlear implants, we started talking about going to UM.”

The “Breakthrough Medicine” episode, “Hearing is Believing: Treating a Child’s Deafness,” demonstrates how the resource center helps families like Edmund’s learn about the surgical procedure and the near lifetime follow-up visits that will lie ahead.

Judy Horvath, LSLS certified auditory verbal educator, is a listening and spoken language specialist. As director of the Center, Horvath is a primary resource for each family, as she works with all the children undergoing cochlear implants. In addition, families go through the process with the support and guidance of a team of specialists that includes an audiologist, a psychologist, and speech language pathologist.

The Barton G. Kids Hear Now Foundation was established in 2008 by Weiss to focus on helping children who are deaf transition to a world of hearing. One in 12,000 babies is born with hearing loss each year in the United States. The Barton G. Kids Hear Now Cochlear Implant Family Resource Center at the UM Ear Institute helps families cope with deafness and the process of restoring hearing.

Weiss’s gift further enhances an already renowned program. The UHealth Cochlear Implant Program is one of the largest in the world, treating patients from North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. It has restored hearing to nearly 2,000 children and adults.

Says Polinski, “Coming to the University of Miami was the right choice. It led us to Dr. Balkany, it led us to Judy, to all these people who are doing so much for my son, and his life is getting better every day.”

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From left, Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, Fred F. Telischi, professor and chair of otolaryngology, UM President Donna E. Shalala, Barton G. Weiss, and Thomas Balkany, at the gift announcement for the Barton G. Kids Hear Now Cochlear Implant Family Resource Center in April 2010.

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