February is a pretty special month for Isabelle. She and her twin sister Jasmine celebrated their seventh birthdays on February 20. But February 4 belongs to Isabelle alone. “We call it her hearing birthday. It’s one year from the date when her cochlear implants were activated,” says Isabelle’s mother Vicki Labriola.
Diagnosed with progressive hearing loss shortly after birth, Isabelle was fitted with hearing aids at six weeks of age. But cochlear implants—surgically implanted devices that provide a sense of sound to the profoundly deaf or hard of hearing—were the best option. As her hearing loss progressed, hearing aids could no longer meet her needs. The implanted devices, provided in concert with services from Boston Children’s Cochlear Implant Program, could help Isabelle build language and communication skills.
Vicki and her husband Jason decided to proceed with the surgery in February 2014. They weren’t sure how it would work, because by the time Isabelle was scheduled for surgery, she was completely deaf in her left ear.
How did it work out? “It’s a whole different world from last year. Although Isabelle talked with us, she was very shy with other people. Now, she won’t stop talking. I think that’s because she is so much more confident in her hearing. She really lets people into her world,” says Vicki.
Q: Yesterday one of my daughter’s friends committed suicide. She was a sophomore in college. I am saddened and angry. I went to the girl’s Facebook page and saw that she had 1,194 friends. All of her pictures show her with an impossibly bright smile. Her wall is full of messages sounding like, “I know we have only talked once, but you meant so much to me.”
I wonder if you have any advice or resources about the relationship between social media and depression/suicide. I need to educate myself and talk to my daughters and younger sons. I see a remarkable disconnect between their reality and how they appear on social media. I have always been annoyed by my daughter’s use of the word “friend” for someone she barely speaks with, and I dislike it when my children (and their peers) post pictures where they are always partying, smiling, laughing, as if there was no other moment to share.
~ Saddened by suicide, USA
I opened the door to my 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom on a bright October morning. It was a Friday—her “best day” as she called every Friday—and when light poured into her purple room, I thought her swollen mouth was one more symptom of the nasty cold and cough she’d been battling. The antibiotic would kick in soon.
When my daughter looked worse the next day, I took her to her pediatrician, who sent us to the emergency room. A virus, we were told. Come back tomorrow if anything changes. It did: Her eyes were red, she had a fever, and her mouth was blood red and much more swollen. “A bad virus,” the ER doctor told us.
By Monday morning, my daughter had even more sores in her mouth and red spots on her back. Her fever spiked at 104. We rushed to the pediatrician. “I never thought I would have to say this, because it’s just so rare,” the doctor said, “but it looks like Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS).”
When my older children were in elementary school, I sent in cupcakes for their birthdays or for class parties.
My youngest is in elementary school now, and for his birthday, I sent in pencils and temporary tattoos for classmates — because the school doesn’t allow us to send in sweets anymore.
When the change was first made, my reaction was: For real? Banning sweets? Since when did some cupcakes at a birthday party become so dangerous and a big deal? Even as a pediatrician, I thought it was silly. There’s nothing wrong with eating sweets as long as your diet is overall a healthy one.
But therein lies the problem. Not all kids’ diets are healthy. And, as I’ve thought about this more, I’ve decided that there’s something to be said for setting standards — and an example.