Big thank you from

Parents ready for marathon effort to help deaf charity

THE PARENTS of a five-year-old profoundly deaf boy are set for a once in a lifetime challenge on April 17 when they run the London Marathon.

Norma Harron (36) and husband Richard (42), whose son Andrew attends Dromore Central Primary, are hoping to raise over £4,000 for a charity that has supported them, the National Deaf Children's Society.

Andrew has been profoundly deaf since birth and has depended on artificial hearing for the past three years after being was fitted with a 'bionic ear'. The device - cochlear implants - is an artificial hearing device that allows Andrew to hear the sensation of sounds by electrically stimulating the auditory nerve. The implants have not only boosted Andrew's confidence but have helped improve his hearing abilities and speech.

Grateful for the help and support Norma and Richard have had from the National Deaf Children's Society they now want to run the marathon.

They have already held a number of fund raising events including a coffee morning at Banbridge Road Presbyterian Church but last year they decided they wanted more of a challenge.

Norma admits she has not run since she was at school but has been training since last June.

The mum of two other children Abby (7) and Ben (8) says: "We wanted to do something not only to help the charity but to set ourselves a challenge. We are only too aware of the challenges that Andrew has to face all the time and will continue to face for the rest of his life and so this is only a small challenge compared to those that Andrew will face."

Andrew was born at Craigavon Area Hospital in February 2006, and diagnosed as being profoundly deaf when he was just six weeks old.

At three months Andrew was fitted with a hearing aid and underwent a series of assessments, CAT scans and tests before consultants at Belfast City Hospital conducted a four hour operation to install the cochlear implants to improve his hearing. For Andrew, it changed his life.

Norma said: "Deafness is not in the family. I have a relative who is 86 and she has perfect hearing. There are no hearing issues on either side of our family and this is the first time I have ever had to deal with someone who is deaf.

"We would not change Andrew for the world and obviously he has been given to us for a reason."

"Before the implants when Andrew talked I could not understand what he was trying to say and he could not understand me and he got very frustrated and would start to throw tantrums,"
explained Norma.

"Andrew could only say the likes of 'mum' and 'no' but now he can put sentences together. I feel that it has given the boost that he needs and it will help him lead a more fulfilling life.

"Since he had the implant he is just like any other wee boy. He is lot more outgoing and started the Boys Brigade, something he could not have done before.

"The charity gave us so much hope and support that we always wanted to repay them. The help and support we have been given has been first class."

Norma has been training for many months but her aim is just to complete the course.

"I don't think I'll be caught with the marathon bug - this is a one time challenge and one time only," she said.

"My husband and I have been doing a lot of running on our own so strength and endurance is not a problem, but I think blisters may affect my running.

"It does not matter how long it takes me - four hours or eight hours - as long as I pass the finish line."

Ulster Star