Never Knew Birds Could Sing

In late March, 11 kids from the remote communities of Hopevale and Wujal Wujal headed to Cairns as part of a group Ear, Nose and Throat surgery initiative organised by CheckUP, Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service and Coral Sea Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon Dr Suki Ahluwalia.

CheckUP Regional Coordinator Juliana Foxlee caught up with Dr Suki  about a week after the operations.

‘There are many children up on the Cape who have a lot of problems with their ears and hearing loss and have needed assessment and surgery for many years. However, these children have not been able to access these services via the usual channels because the services are oversubscribed and no one going into these areas to do the surgery.

‘We managed to put together a package where the kids could all come down here together, I suspended my private practice for a few days, saw all the kids on one day and then on the following day they all had their operations. The day after they all headed home.

‘This particular group of patients had a lot of trouble with their adenoids and glue ear. They generally need the fluid draining from the middle ear space and their adenoids removed at the same time. This improves their nasal function and the function of their ears as well."

‘Having fluid stuck in the spaces in your ear is a bit like trying to hear underwater so you can appreciate the kind of hearing loss these kids have and often it has been going on for years. The simple direct removal of that fluid allows hearing to improve straight away. There is a huge change in the children, they are much more attentive, they are all happy and smiling because suddenly they can hear everything; they are now very responsive, and able to interact.

‘Doing this work is huge, absolutely huge – some of the best operations we do are the smallest and they make such a huge difference. Last time we had a child that came through  said they never knew that birds could sing. It was such a fantastic little operation that day and you can make a world of difference to those kids.'