A nine-year-old cancer survivor who was left with severe hearing loss after chemotherapy medication is able to hear again, and the beautiful moment was captured on video.
The emotional footage shows Liam Kelly, from Chicago, wriggling nervously as his cochlear implant is turned on, and breaking into a huge smile moments later as he realized he could hear the world clearly for the first time in seven years.
When his mom Maureen, 38, asks ‘How do I sound?, the perplexed boy, who hadn’t heard her voice properly since he was two, replied: ‘Fine’.
Amazing: Cancer survivor Liam Kelly, 9, is able to hear again after receiving a cochlear implant
Warrior: The boy, from Chicago, had severe hearing loss from chemotherapy medication
The brave boy was given just a 30 per cent chance of survival when he was struck down by neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nerve cells, in 2010.
Doctors removed a tumor from his belly and he took platinum-based chemotherapy medication to help him battle the disease, which had spread through his body.
Liam miraculously pulled through but the medication destroyed sensitive hair cells in his inner ears and left him with profound hearing loss.
Six months later, the cancer returned but thankfully Liam beat it again – yet the exhausting battle meant his deafness was a low priority: He used a hearing aid to help him make out certain sounds and coupled with lip-reading, he could just about work out what people were saying.
But it wasn’t until he had surgery to have a cochlear implant fitted that he was finally able to hear noises like wind rustling leaves in the trees and birds singing.
Mom-of-three Maureen, a nurse, said: “It is heartbreaking to watch your child go through hearing loss when you can clearly the world but he can hear nothing.
Heat-warming: Liam had a cochlear implant fitted in his left ear in a four-hour operation earlier this year, and three weeks later the doctors switched it on
Survivor: Doctors gave Liam a 30 per cent chance of survival when he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2010 when he was just two (pictured with his mom, Maureen)
She shared that Liam’s hearing was perfect before he was diagnosed with cancer, but he gradually lost it because of the medication.
He eventually became unable to hear loud sounds like fire alarms, and although he could follow what people said to him if they spoke really loudly, Maureen said, his hearing was ‘similar to that on an 80-year-old with hearing loss.
Liam’s mom reported that when she asked him what life was like before his implant, his response was: ‘It was really quiet’.
‘He couldn’t hear whispers or birds chirping or the crack of a can being opened, so he now says, “Oh my goodness I have never heard that before,”’ said the mom.
‘These are things we take for granted – the little sounds that make up your day. But it was just empty for him.’
Fighter: He beat the cancer after having a tumor removed from his belly and going through chemotherapy, and again six months later when it returned
A long battle: The chemotherapy medication destroyed sensitive hair cells in Liam’s inner ears, which left him with profound hearing loss
Cochlear implants are electronic devices which replace the function of the inner ear by sending sound signals to the brain, unlike aids which amplify sound.
A processor worn behind the ear ‘listens’ to sound and translates it into digital code which is then transmitted through a coil worn on the outside of the head and converted into electrical impulses. These stimulate the inner ear’s hearing nerve, which in turn sends impulses to the brain where they are interpreted as sound.
Liam had a cochlear implant fitted in his left ear in a four-hour operation earlier this year, and three weeks later the doctors switched it on.
“It was amazing but we were nervous,’ said his mom, who lives with her husband William, 41, and their two other children, Jack, five, and Erin, two.
She continued: ‘I was thinking, “What if he doesn’t like it?” and I was worried he would hear sounds and get upset.
‘But he is such a cool character. He didn’t say much but I said, “Can you hear me?” and he said, “Yep.”
He made it through: ‘He couldn’t hear whispers or birds chirping or the crack of a can being opened, so he now says, “Oh my goodness I have never heard that before,”’ said Liam’s mom
All better: Liam’s mom reported that when she asked him what life was like before his implant, his response was: ‘It was really quiet’ (pictured with siblings Jack, five, and Erin, two)
Dr Nancy Young, a cochlear implant physician at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago where Liam was treated, said Liam’s hearing loss was very significant and hearing aids only provided limited benefit.
‘Using powerful hearing aids to make sounds audible, he could only understand about 25 per cent of words in a typical classroom situation.
‘There were many sounds he could not hear despite his hearing aids, for example soft high frequency sounds in spoken language such as ’s’ and the singing of birds.’
Liam can now fully enjoy his cancer-free life, and he and his family couldn’t be happier to finally be able to move on.
‘It has totally changed his life. It is super. I know it will open so many doors for him,’ said Liam’s mom.