New Ears For Leo

By Kathy Junk

I am so excited to share this article about Leo, a child that was welcomed home to his forever family in 2018.  This boy is extra special to me because I met him while visiting his orphanage during April of 2015.  My daughter and I had the chance to take photos, video and get to know little Leo better.  We both fell instantly in love and I vowed right then and there to find him a family!  Here is a photo of Leo with my daughter Jasmine from our visit in 2015.

Jasmine with Leo

Then Leo waited.  Three years Leo waited.  Three years I waited and worried.  During that time I advocated for him every chance I got and even when his file was with other agencies I shared what a wonderful boy he was.  FINALLY his mama found him through our agency and brought him home to Utah – my home and Wasatch’s home!  These are the times that overshadow the frustration, sadness and long hours that come when working with international adoption.  Leo is a miracle and his mother is a miracle worker!  Please read further the story in his mother’s words and the exciting things that are happening to Leo. 

 “ Leo is doing well.  He has been through the wringer this last year…. all for the hope of getting ears.  First, he had his C1-C2 fused, then he had his jaw extracted (36mm on one side and 35mm on the other). We would have done more but we maxed out the equipment.  Of course, he then needed to have the “extractor” removed from his jaw, which proved very complicated.  What was scheduled as a 2 hour surgery, took closer to 8 hours.  They had not planned on putting “braces” on his gums to strengthen the jaw bone, but they did and added rubber bands as well.  I am not exactly sure what job the rubber bands served, but I am guessing it was resistance strengthening.  He has just recently undergone the removal of the “braces” and we coupled that with a dental visit which needed to be done under anesthesia since his jaw/ mouth is so small. 

Anyways, he WILL be getting ears but they will only be glued on.  It won’t help his hearing loss but it will give him more confidence.  This week we start on orthodontia, and soon we have an evaluation to have bone conducting hearing aid processors implanted in his head. 

We found that Leo is not fluent in Mandarin due to his moderate to severe hearing loss.  He is not fluent in English and is having difficulty with forming words…. we’re not sure he will ever be able to speak very well.  I have him enrolled at the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind.  It really is the best of both worlds.  They will help him learn to speak, but they will also teach him ASL.  He is thriving and picking up sign so fast…. except that I don’t know ASL, but I am working on it.  Finally, Leo has a voice for the first time in his life.

Things are rather crazy.  He needs bone conducting hearing aids but his insurance will not cover them.  During the appeals process they let us borrow two, but he broke them.  I offered to pay for them but they, apparently were very old and, refused.  He is currently wearing one bone conducting hearing aid on the left side.  It’s better than nothing, but not ideal.  I am hoping that with the processors being implanted, we will finally be able to get the insurance to cover it.

The ears in the photo on the right are only wax.  Work is still being done on the final ears but what a transformation!   

Leo’s Transformation
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