Rome’s remarkable journey

Rome would be unable to speak without the support of the Joyce Fisher Charitable Trust.
Now five and attending his local primary school in Taumarunui, Rome may be profoundly deaf but many people would have no idea of that given that he can hear with his cochlear implants and can speak due to therapy he received via The Hearing House and funded by the Joyce Fisher Charitable Trust.

Born in October 2009, Rome’s mother Sarah and father Mike first started to become worried that he couldn’t hear well when a door might slam at their National Park home and Rome would not react. At the age of four months he was diagnosed as profoundly deaf by an audiologist at Waikato Hospital.

“I wasn’t sure how to react,” says Sarah. “I felt empty to start with, and then started to think about the future. I knew we weren’t doomed and thank God his disability was not life threatening, but I’m sure every parent wants the best quality of life for their child.”
Shortly afterwards Rome received cochlear implants, the first funded by Government and the second as a result of fundraising by his family. He started to cry when the cochlear implants were switch on because he had never heard anything before. “Then he cried some more because he could hear himself.”

But the switch-on is only the first step in a deaf child with a cochlear implant being able to hear. In order to learn to speak they need a minimum of three years’ auditory-verbal therapy in order to learn how to interpret those sounds as language and then to develop a normal spoken vocabulary.

Since switch-on Rome has received audiology and therapy from The Hearing House, a children’s charity based in Auckland that provides services to profoundly deaf children in the upper half of the North Island. He was the first child on its Tele CHAT service, which provides therapy to families unable to make the journey to Auckland each week and which the Joyce Fisher Charitable Trust has funded. It allowed Rome’s mum Sarah to receive specialised auditory-verbal therapy via Skype each week and to expand Rome’s vocabulary to the point where he started school in October 2014 with age-appropriate language.

Lady Joyce Fisher was a significant supporter of The Hearing House during her lifetime when she made regular donations from her charitable trust and also visited its premises in Greenlane and, since her death in 2009, her charitable trust has continued to assist The Hearing House and by doing so has transformed the lives of hundreds of deaf children just like Rome.

For parents like Sarah and Mike, that generosity means their son will grow up able to fully participate in the hearing world – he can listen to music, converse with his grandparents on the phone and chat to his friends and their wider family. “It is a long process, but as they say ‘Rome wasn’t built in day’,” Sarah says. “In our eyes he has the best quality of life now and it’s reassuring to know he will grow up with the world as his oyster and can do anything!”