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We had several reasons to celebrate in Yerevan in July 2012

One was the 20-year anniversary of the ENT department at the Erebouni Medical Centre.

Local personalities from politics (amongst others the previous and the current Minister of Health) and economics delivered speeches and gave interviews for the media. Specifically welcome and acclaimed was Prof. Eghia Noel Garabedian, director of the ENT department at the Armand-Trousseau Hospital in Paris. It was him, who recognized the necessity to establish an ENT department at the Erebouni Medical Centre in 1991, who during one year encouraged his Armenian countrymen, mainly painters and Armenian medical doctors, to make donations and thus – with 2 Million Franc – made the official opening possible in the year 1992. As a result young ENT doctors could spend time for training in his clinic and achieve a high level of professional competence. 10 years later Prof. Garabedian returned to Yerevan and delivered a large part of his speech in Armenian. The audience thanked him with thunderous applause.

Some people who were not informed previously may have been surprised to see 12 parents with children, all wearing a cochlear implant. Children and parents were dressed up and waited excitedly for the end of the ceremony. They knew that this was the moment when they will receive the so-called “upgrade” speech processor for the CI. In 2004 the Cochlear Implant programme was established at the Erebouni Medical Centre, the necessary financial funds to purchase the devices came mainly from private donations during all these years, costs for the surgeries were practically none as the surgeons who were flown in from abroad waived their fee, and expenses related to hospitalization, fitting and rehabilitation were relatively small. Some of the speech processors, however, have “aged” by now, the risk of failure is significantly increasing and these children would be deaf again in case they would not receive a replacement processor. The economical situation of the majority of parents is such that they could not afford to buy a new speech processor in 10 years.

In Germany and in most Western countries children are entitled to get a new speech processor after approximately 5 years, the costs are covered by the insurance companies or by other governmental institutions. “Where are these speech processors, which are used but not needed any longer” I asked myself and contacted some of the bigger rehabilitation centres and clinics in Germany and Switzerland. A written appeal to parents and audiologists resulted in a quite significant number of devices being donated. All these we handed over on July 19 in Yerevan. The joy of the recipients was obvious, some of the children thanked in Russian (because I do not understand Armenian unfortunately) and all of them came again next day to meet with Dr. Vigen Bakhshinyan, to share with us their first impressions, but also to ask questions and express potential concerns. We will answer all these in the very near future in our weblog… When finally also Prof. Garabedian “looked in briefly” and talked to the parents we were all very satisfied.

It is now important to continue this initiative. We will continue to solicit donations, but we will also start a project (a Public Private Funding) and we will contribute to taking care that local medical doctors will be regularly trained so that they will be in a position to ensure sustainability for the CI programme based on their own responsibility and independence.

We will encourage parents to network with Russian speaking parents all over the world via Internet; we will work with schools to ensure the required additional support for children with CI – especially when learning foreign languages – using the possibilities of “Web-Inclusion”.

Monika Lehnhardt                                                                              July 5th, 2012


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