TINY Paige Evans could be one of the youngest patients to have a pioneering operation to repair her hearing.
The six-month-old from Hartlepool was born profoundly deaf after her mother Bethany Tait contracted group B streptococcus, a bacteria which causes severe infections in newborns.
At just two weeks old, little Paige endured further suffering when she was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with meningitis, linked to the ‘group B strep’.
After Paige overcame the killer brain bug, her parents were dealt a further blow when she failed to respond to hearing tests and it was confirmed that she is profoundly deaf.
But there is hope for little Paige as medics plan to give her a cochlear implant – and she will be one of the youngest people in the country ever to undergo the revolutionary treatment.
But first, her parents, Bethany, and Paul Evans, 28, face an anxious wait to see if she is suitable for the surgery.
They find out next week whether Paige’s existing cochlear has been too severely damaged by the meningitis to be able to take the implant.
In the meantime, Paige, who could still be left with learning and mobility problems in later life due to the group B strep, has been wearing tiny hearing aids to help stimulate the nerves in her hearing canal in preparation for any potential surgery, and Bethany has been inquiring about taking a sign language course.
Bethany, 20, from Annandale Crescent, Hartlepool, said: “I want her to hear us, it was horrible to think she may never hear us say how much we love her.
“When the doctors said there was still hope, I was over the moon, thinking she will be able to hear and at Christmas I will be able to buy her musical toys.
“Paige doesn’t respond as much as other babies, it does upset me.”
There are risks to the intricate eight-hour procedure, which includes doctors delicately cutting behind Paige’s ear and drilling through the skull to insert the implant, but the couple say they have been assured by doctors that their baby is in safe hands.
They will have to wait a month before they can switch the implant on and find out whether their daughter can hear.
The couple’s first baby, Harley, died aged just an hour old in October 2009, after Bethany went into labour at 22 weeks.
She miscarried a year later, so Bethany and Paul, who is originally from Thornley, were overjoyed to hear they were expecting Paige.
But Bethany she was diagnosed group B strep two weeks before the end of her pregnancy.
Antibiotics can be administered to combat the disease, but need at least four hours to work, while Bethany was only in labour for three hours.
Paige was born at the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton on March 11 and Bethany admits she had a feeling “from day one” that something was wrong with her hearing.
Paige was just two weeks old when she could not stop vomiting and tests at North Tees revealed she had meningitis.
Following a course of antibiotics, she was well enough to come home.
But she was referred to James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, for her hearing problems after failing a hearing test at One Life in Hartlepool.
Bethany said she wasn’t really surprised to hear the news that she was deaf, having spent so much time with her in her early days while she was ill in hospital.
But she added: “We have our fingers crossed for next week.
“No matter what happens, she was born that way, that’s just how she is and we love her.”