Aarav’s Journey After Cochlear Implant Surgery

When Aarav Shewale was born on 6th Oct 10, everyone was happy and we celebrated and looked forward to a great life ahead. Little did we know that it would be an eventful one with a lot of ups and downs.

As time passed, we felt that he was not responding to sound and by his first birthday, the suspicions were very high. So we did a hearing with ASSR and BERA in Feb 2012 and found that he indeed had bilateral profound hearing loss. It was a nightmare as we never thought that something like this would happen. There were also other innumerable incompetent advices to go meet babas, oils, mantras, poojas and what not. There were also a few who told us that Aarav will never be able to speak or go to ‘normal’ school and that we should think of deaf schools.
The doctor who first diagnosed him told us to think of Cochlear implant (CI) surgery and referred us to Dr Vaid.

Our best advice came from Dr. Vaid and we have followed it to the T. When we met Dr. Vaid, in the first meeting itself she cleared most of the doubts and gave us the confidence which, as parents, we needed the most during that phase. She told us to visit the Big Ears department, meet with a few kids who have a CI and also check their Friday meeting program. After visiting Big Ears in March 2010 for the first time and meeting with Ms. Shanbaug, his audiologist and Shweta Deshpande, his speech therapist we were very relieved that we are on the right path. They also helped us to choose the right implant device. After these initial discussions, we got a lot of confidence about facing this situation.

Aarav was first implanted in April 2012 (right ear) and May 2015 (left ear) and during this period Ms. Anuradha helped us to coordinate with the AB team and insurance part.

After each implant, we took 1 year speech therapy twice a week in the Big Ears department with Shweta and later on they reduced that to once a week. But during this period we made sure that whatever we learned during the therapy, Aarav would practice at home along with his mother. Aarav’s mother made sure that she would take his practice at least 1 hour each day. The initial phase was not so good as even after all the therapy and practice Aarav was not speaking. He hardly said a few babbles. We told this concern to Shweta and she calming replied that there will be a day, when Aarav will start talking and then you will have to say “Aarav, please stop”. Time passed, almost after 8-9 months, one fine day he started making different sentences on his own. He then started babbling, talking for the entire day, although most of the things were irrelevant and not making any sense. But the jinx was broken.

Years passed and he got admission in regular hearing mainstream school. The initial phase was quite difficult as kids used to play with his headpiece. But we met with the teachers and educated them about the implant and headpiece. The teachers told all the kids from his class, why they should not touch his machine. From pre-primary he moved to primary. He started learning different things on his own, started enjoying music and dance.

He was at par with all other hearing kids and at times a bit ahead. But as parents we still wanted him to have more… So when he was 7 years old, his father decided that this year he would take him to Dhol Pathak to see if he can enjoy that and play dhol during miravnuk. For the first few weeks, he avoided and threw tantrums but soon regularly started practicing. The first time he played during Janmashtami in front of a big crowd, he was ecstatic and then never looked back. He is now one of the youngest Tasha players in the prestigious “Gandhar Vadya Pathak” and plays Tasha in all miravnuks.

As parents, we always feel that our child should get good marks in school and other competitive examinations but sometimes we forget that along with education, Sports play a major role in building a child’s character. Aarav’s father, himself an Ironman Athlete, initially introduced him to endurance running. He completed his first 3km run in 2013 at 3 years of age. He took part in the “Pune Running Beyond Marathon” (PRBM) event for 6 years and featured on their page as an inspirational child. Till date, he has taken part in different events and 10km run is the longest distance which he has completed. Aarav also was one of the youngest kids from India to go to Colombo, Sri Lanka and participate in the IronKids International marathon for children in 2018.

Although these were fantastic achievements, we still wanted to give him more…
One Sunday, we went to Oxford Golf Course for a picnic and there Aarav was introduced to golf for the first time. We enrolled him for the basic training along with his father. Aarav started liking this game and started playing on his own. After training for 6-7 months, we thought of pushing him on to play competitively.

He trained very hard. During the 2019 summer vacation, when all his friends slept their mornings away, Aarav used to wake up at 5:45 am every day and go play golf with his father. On weekends, he practiced almost 6-7 hours. He finally got a chance to play his first competition in India wide West zone in 2019 May. In spite of all the practice, He stood last and was quite depressed. But failure helped him to fight back harder and it made him more determined to play better golf. This year, 2020, he took part in the US Kids competition South zone and came 5th overall.

Apart from Sports and education, to ensure that his thinking skills are also challenged we enrolled him in a coding class. He loved the complexities and challenges that came with it. It was fun to see him debugging code and creating applications and games. After 40 or so classes and many hours of project submissions, Aarav is now a Certified Android and IOS App developer. He is not even 10 years old yet!

So to conclude was the journey easy? No, not at all. There was a time when we got frustrated. And many more where Aarav got frustrated. But as a unit all of us were determined that we will overcome this problem. Has that happened in 1 year? No. It took many many years and a lot of hard work to see this progress.

One should be positive and should make sure that you don’t give up or lose hope. There will be days when as a parent you want to give up and blame fate. However, we need to understand that, our kids have been given a challenge, but that challenges can be faced and solved. It’s just a matter of time. Also, always make sure that you as a parent have to be personally involved with these kids in all activities, whether it is speech therapy, school study, dance or sports. Continuous involvement and effort from parents will be the best push that the child gets to succeed in life!

Aarav’s parents