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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Helping Hands: A young girl may lose her hearing without new device

Nine year old Fathma was born with profound deafness

Fathma Saleh, 9, at her families flat in the Bur Dubai area of Dubai on December 15, 2017. Christopher Pike / The National
Fathma Saleh, 9, at her families flat in the Bur Dubai area of Dubai on December 15, 2017. Christopher Pike / The National

Nine-year-old Fathma is a healthy, beautiful young girl. She goes to school, loves to draw, paint and take videos of herself and her friends.

Looking at her, you would never guess that she was born with impaired hearing. It took great efforts from her parents for her to become the young, ambitious girl she is today.

“I quit my job to train Fathma with speech therapy in my own way and am happy that she has done well and is continuing to progress each day,” says her mother, Rubeena Ismail.

Rubeena was the first to realise there was something wrong, when her daughter was four months old.

“As Fathma was not responding to any sounds we decided to get a diagnosis through tests suggested by the doctors,” she says.

The results confirmed their suspicions – Fathma was diagnosed with a profound lack of hearing.

Her parents, who have been living in the UAE for more than two decades, took their daughter to India for surgery.

Fathma was declared a viable candidate for a cochlear implant, a surgically implanted electronic device that provides sound, for both of her ears.

The cost for the implant in the UAE was Dh240,000 for one ear, so they opted to go to India were they could have both ears done for the same amount.

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The family used their personal savings, took out a bank loan and had help from a charity fund to pay for the surgery. After the operation Fathma thrived, and with the help of her parents she goes to a regular school in Dubai. She is now in Grade 3.

“As we cannot afford professional speech therapy, I work with her at home and she is doing very well,” Rubeena says. “We are very happy.”

Unfortunately, the implants require external devices to work properly and those that Fathma has been using since she was 8 must be replaced.

That will cost Dh120,000 and the family does not have insurance to cover the cost of replacements.

“This is causing hindrance in Fathma’s development and progress,” Rubeena says. “It is highly unaffordable but Fathma needs the replacement badly.

“We are a middle-class family and with one earning member, this is much too expensive for us. We are just praying for miracles to happen. Allah is there, so inshallah.”

Hisham Al Zahrani, manager of zakat and social services at Dar Al Ber Society, says: “Fathma’s hearing device is now not working properly and if not replaced she will stop hearing again.

“It is hard to imagine what a traumatic experience it is for a child – after going to school and hearing her family, friends, teachers and all the sounds around her – for all that to suddenly stop and to hear nothing.”

How to help

Send “thenational” to the following numbers or call the hotline on: 0502955999
2289 – Dh10
2252 – Dh 50
6025 – Dh20
6027 – Dh 100
6026 – Dh 200