The Extra Mile
When a Health Care Professional Refuses to Give Up
Two years ago, Sergio Rios, a top student at a West Baltimore public high school, developed an infection called sarcoidosis that led to temporary blindness and progressive hearing loss. At first, Sergio lost hearing in his right ear, which couldn’t be corrected with a hearing aid. But he retained some hearing in his left, so his mother brought him to The Hearing and Speech Agency for a left-side hearing aid.
A few months later, they returned saying that the hearing aid did not seem to be working properly. Sun Young Lee, HASA’s pediatric audiologist, examined the hearing aid and determined that it worked fine. A hearing test showed that Sergio’s hearing had declined. In fact, he had become almost completely deaf.
Sergio was a candidate for cochlear implant surgery. A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to patients who are profoundly deaf or hard of hearing. But there was one problem: Sergio and his family had no insurance.
“Here was a young person who had been hearing until age 15, so he didn’t miss out on language development,” explains Sun Young Lee. “I knew that the cochlear implant was going to have a huge impact on his future—and not getting one would close so many doors for this very bright teenager.”
Sun Young was determined to help. She found a program that would donate the cochlear implant device, but Sergio’s family would have to pay for the surgery and associated services out of pocket, which was impossible. She contacted professionals both at HASA and in the community for ideas and discovered that Children’s Medical Services might be able to help him. Sun Young put Sergio and his mother in touch with someone at Children’s Medical Services who walked them through the application process.
“We were so grateful that Sun Young Lee cared so much about our situation,” says Sergio’s mother, Susanna Rios. “When she explained to us how critical the cochlear implant would be to Sergio’s future, it was like we all became a team to help him.”
Recently, The Hearing and Speech Agency got word that Sergio’s application for medical services was accepted and that plans for the surgery can proceed.