A Mother’s Day gift that keeps giving
Instead of having to use her hands to sign to him, Sinah Kakulubela can finally call out to her son, tell him she loves him and even scold him if necessary.
Six-year-old Tshego received a cochlear implant almost a month ago, and is now slowly beginning to process and understand the words and sounds he hears.
Kakulubela remembers the day Tshego’s implant was turned on, the stunned look in his eyes as he heard her voice for the first time speaking the words: “Tshego, mommy loves you.”
At first he was scared and wanted the implant turned off.
He thought everything was too noisy.
An energetic little boy, Tshego has become immersed in this new world of sound, finding any excuse to make a noise or listen to music.
Tshego’s sister, Ntebo, proudly shows a cellphone video of her little brother armed with a wooden spoon and pot lid, drumming up a storm in the family’s Zakariyya Park home in Gauteng.
He has also developed a love of hip hop, and jives happily in his backwards-facing baseball cap.
Ntebo said she had really noticed the difference in her brother when they were at their cousin’s birthday party last weekend.
“He was singing along and dancing. I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
His doctors say the six-year-old has already begun to process his newfound world of sound and to associate the sounds with what he sees.
One would never guess that only a year ago, Tshego had never heard anybody’s voice.
Before he regained his hearing, Tshego would often bang the toilet seat down over and over again because he realised the action would get others to respond.
When he tried the same stunt after receiving his implant, Tshego soon discovered why the racket had so annoyed his mother.
Tshego has also become fascinated with the sound of running water. “So, this is what water sounds like,” his mother recalls him marvelling at the sound.
But Tshego’s operation would not have been possible without the donations of
individuals and companies across the country.
Readers of the Daily News sister paper The Star first heard about the boy’s plight last year. Kakulubela was devastated to discover her government health insurance policy would not cover the cost of the operation that would restore her son’s hearing.
Kakulubela had not seen schoolmate Queen Serobe in 27 years, but after the two met at a class reunion last year, they embarked on a fundraising drive.
Serobe, who had entered the Soweto Marathon months before, decided she would now run the race to raise awareness for Tshego. She began asking colleagues and friends to pledge money to her cause. By the time the starting gun went off, Serobe had raised R40 000.
Known to Tshego as “aunty”,
the tenacious woman, who has become an integral part of the family, recruited Suzette De Beer’s team from the Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss, and fund-raising went into overdrive to raise the amount needed.
a grateful Kakulubela said: “Most of the donations came from women. Tshego has so many mothers out there.”