So far in her three years of life, young Chapel Reed has already experienced life-changing events, the most recent being a rare brain surgery to allow her to hear.
A loving family in Vidalia, Louisiana, adopted Chapel from China, just over a year ago. She was born with no outer ears, facial nerve abnormalities and no hearing. Neurotologist Moises Arriaga of CNC Hearing and Balance Center, together with a team of neurosurgeons, placed a cochlear implant, accessing the site through the middle fossa portion of the brain. This procedure is extremely rare and complex and never attempted before in a young child, for placing an implant.
It was a success. Six weeks after surgery, the implant was activated, triggering her hearing by using the only hearing nerve she has left.
“We didn’t know she was deaf when we adopted her,” says mother Calley Reed. So she and husband Daniel began learning sign language with their seven children. Their local doctor referred them to Dr. Arriaga to consider options that might allow Chapel to hear.
Dr. Arriaga led a team of neurosurgeons including Pediatric Neurosurgeon Jerome Volk, MD and Neurosurgeon Frank Culicchia, MD operating together at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans to pinpoint the precise neural pathway to implant the cochlear device. The doctors performed a middle fossa craniotomy, going through the skull. This procedure has been used in only 10 adults worldwide and Chapel is the youngest to ever have the complex surgery to implant a Cochlear device.
“We are thrilled at Chapel’s results and feel the prognosis is excellent,” Dr. Arriaga said. “She’s a bright, expressive little girl with an incredibly supportive family. The family understood the complexity and risks and didn’t hesitate to take every opportunity to help Chapel hear. She just received sound for the first time; the hard part comes now- learning how to attach meaning to this strange new sensation coming from her ear to her brain – she needs to learn that sound has meaning,” he said.