“The thought of my younger son calling me baba (father) brings tears to my eyes,” said Sikandar Sher, the father of Hassan, a three-year-old deaf boy, who is amongst 56 kids getting a free of cost cochlear implant (CI) from Bahria Town Hospital Lahore.
Sher, who is from Swabi, says he brought his son to the hospital for getting the implant.
“I got my son checked from several hospitals. They told me that the only way he was ever going to hear was by getting the implant. However, the procedure is very costly. A few months back, I saw an advertisement that Bahria Town Hospital was providing the implants to such children free of cost. Allah has blessed many people with success, fame and money, but only a few have the heart to spend their share of money on social welfare,” he said.
Fifty-six operations are being done at the cost of Rs120 million in six days (November 13 to 18) at the hospital. This is the third series of such operations. Earlier, 126 children have been surgically implanted an electronic device to provide a sense of sound at a total cost of Rs560 million over the past six months.
Bahria Town Hospital Administrator Brig (r) Dr Ghulam Mehdi said that 25,000 patients had either been operated upon or received other treatment at the hospital under the Bahria Town Donation Programme. These patients included people needing heart and eye surgeries, dialysis and cancer treatment.
Mehdi said that they had also sent some patients to India for treatment. “Malik Riaz has been graciously increasing the funds for welfare. This allows us to accommodate more and more patients,” he said.
On the direction of Amber Shehzad Malik, Bahria Town Donation Programme director, a specialist surgeon from England has been called to the hospital for performing the cochlear implant surgeries.
Dr Nadeem Mukhtar, a doctor at Bahria Town Hospital, said that there was 100 per cent success rate in cochlear implant surgeries. “We are only treating kids up to age of five. Chances of recovery decrease for older children. The best age to get a cochlear implant is two years. These implants are only 40 per cent of the effort required for the child to be able to fully hear. After the operation, it is for the parents of the children to help them with speech therapy,” Mukhtar said.
He said that it took some six months for a kid to recover after the surgery. “The treatment cost is around Rs2 million for each child. This treatment has been available in developed countries for the past fifteen years. This is the first time such operations are being carried out free of cost in Pakistan,” he said.
Asif, a father of two deaf children who are getting the implants, said he could not afford the procedure on his own. “My daughter Daima, 3, and son Rafaur Rehman, 2, are getting implants from this hospital. I can never thank Bahria Town enough for what they have done for my family,” he said.