Gift of sound: 3-yr-old Rutba hears her parents for the first time

Little Rutba’s eyes open wide with wonder, as she hears her mother’s voice for the first time, after being outfitted with a cochlear implant. Your heart melts on seeing the mother crying tears of happiness.

Youngest of the three sisters, Rutba was born profoundly deaf, an apprehension that her parents developed when she was about 8 months old.

“She couldn’t hear any voices or sounds, which a normal human hears and responds to. Alarm sounded when we used to call out her name, and she had absolutely no reaction to it, each time,” her mother, Rubina Begum recalls.

Farooq, her father and an electrician by profession in Doda, took her to several doctors he was suggested, in the state and outside, for his ‘very dear’ and ‘lucky’ daughter’s treatment. That was when, the doctors and hundreds of test reports confirmed that Rutba is suffering from hearing impairment.

“Doctors in PGI Chandigarh suggested a hearing implant, but it required us to stay in Chandigarh for atleast 3-4 years, for regular monitoring and post-surgery therapy. A doctor from a private clinic in Gandhi Nagar, Jammu, in one year span, raised the charges for surgery from thousands to lakhs, but, without a guarantee that Rutba will be able to hear properly after treatment,” says Farooq, who approached highest authorities of the state for help.

He adds, “We were told that government hospitals in Jammu don’t have the facility for this particular treatment, and private hospitals in Jammu and outside the state, were unaffordable. Even if we belong to a BPL family, all we asked for is our daughter is able to listen, so that she can speak. Our relatives and friends were supporting us, as much as they could.”

The family is grateful to the person, on whose kind suggestion, the family landed at Dr Rohan Gupta’s door, an ENT Consultant in Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Katra, 9 months ago.

“When Rutba came to me, she had severe to profound hearing loss in both the ears. At first, we made a vain attempt through a hearing aid, only to discover that she needs an implant,” mentions Dr Rohan, who has now 9 successful Cochlear implant surgeries in J&K, to his credit.

The family and the hospital, both knew that the cost of the surgery is as high as Rs 7-8 lakhs. So, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, with the approval of the then J&K Governor, NN Vohra, who was also the ex-officio Chairman of the Shrine Board, funded the surgery. The family had to pay only Rs 1 lakh 10 thousand.

Rubina says, “Uparwale ne hi ladki di hai, humne ussi ke hawale kar diya tha sab kuch. Wahi dekhenge jo bhi hoga.” (God has given us Rutba, we left everything to Him, hoping that He would take care of her.)

In April 2018, she underwent surgery, led by Padma Shri Dr JM Hans and Dr Rohan Gupta. And now, her parents, Farooq and Rubina, are sharing her story to give hope to other parents.

Dr Rohan Gupta stresses that unlike others, Rutba’s parents, undeterred by financial constraints, “They did not grieve or gave up on her, rather, they took notice of the issue at an early stage and put in every possible effort to ensure that she is able to listen and lead a normal life.”

Post surgery, Rutba requires regular monitoring, wherein, the implant is tuned at a comfortable and softer volume. Also, she is being provided with continuous rehabilitation therapy, which involves making her adapt to various sounds, and most importantly, teaching her how to speak.

“She has very good IQ levels, and as such, she is catching up very well,” states satisfied Dr Rohan.

The couple is currently living in a rented room in Gujjar Colony, Jammu, for the sake of easy access to the rehabilitative process. The other two daughters, enrolled in schools in Doda, take tuitions here. Farooq, being the only breadwinner of the family, has to go to Doda for work.

From screaming – in reaction to any sound she was hearing for the first time which was ‘noise’ to her, to uttering words like mumma, papa, apple, ball, cat, and responding to whenever called, Rutba has come a long way. Her ability to hear and speak will continue to improve, and eventually, as the doctor says, she’ll be right on par with other children of her age.

On a happy note, she is going to join a school in March 2019.


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