Come listen to the story of Akshara. Young Akshara was a healthy baby until the age of 4 months. One day she fell really sick. For the following 2 days, she became really ill, weak, and restless. Sunitha, her mother, and her father admitted her in a hospital. She then had a round of fits, and was treated by the doctors for it. They also advised the parents to take her to National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS). Sunitha and her husband were told that Akshara had contracted Meningitis. They didn’t even know what the term meant at that time. Akshara went into a coma for 10 days. Her parents saw some relief when she woke up, but it was short-lived. The doctors informed them that as a result of the illness, Akshara might either have visual or hearing impairment, or display signs of mental retardation, or even full or partial paralysis. After she woke up from her coma, the doctors began running tests to check her brain activity. Everything was fine, except she wasn’t responding to sound. They conducted an audiometry test and confirmed that Akshara was now deaf. Sunitha and her husband were sad but relieved. They knew it could have been a lot worse.
After several consultations and referrals, they got Akshara a cochlear implant at the age of 7 months. (A cochlear implant addresses the physical issue of hearing impairment, but it doesn’t mean that as soon as it is done, the person hears perfectly. The deaf person’s mind needs to be trained to make sense of the barrage of sounds the brain is receiving. Intense Auditory-Verbal Therapy is required for the cochlear implant to be of any use.) It was during this time that they met Hemamalini, a trainer at VAANI. It was on Hemamalini’s suggestion that Sunitha brought her daughter, Akshara, to VAANI’s Sadhan Centre in Dasarahalli when it first opened. Akshara became VAANI’s first student at the Dasarahalli Center, and our first in Bangalore. Akshara quickly took to Hemamalini and began to receive all the supplementary training that she needed. The undistinguishable sounds she had been hearing, slowly started making sense; forming words and mental images for her.
Ever since she has been coming to VAANI, her mom says that she’s started socialising a lot more. She has made many new friends at the VAANI centre and at the regular school that she goes to. Her relationship with her younger brother remains a typical brother-sister relationship, filled with fights, jealousy and lots of love and affection!
Sunitha says that Akshara has become very independent. In the coming years, she will let Akshara pursue whatever she wants and will encourage her to do as she chooses.