Volunteering in Panama
the moment when the children hear for the first time
Carina Rodríguez, Clinical Manager at Advanced Bionics Latin America, has supported the Hear the World Foundation’s pilot project: the first donation of cochlear implants (CI) in Panama from the very beginning. She has advised Hear the World in the planning, implemented the project locally and lead the first successful activation.
After two years of preparation, the activation of the first donated cochlear implants finally took place in Panama in February 2017. It was an emotional moment for Ivana (3 years), Jozmar (4 years), Alejandro (4 years) and their families – after the successful activation the three children could hear for the first time in their lives. Two Hear the World volunteers, the CI experts Carina and Sigrid from Advanced Bionics not only wittnessed the big moment but were responsible for the successful activation.
We talked to Carina about her engagement and what it means to her.
How did you get involved in this project?
For more than two years we have been working together: Advanced Bionics Latin America staff, Hear the World and its project partner FUNPROI, to make this first stage of the Hear the World Panama project a reality. From the beginning I had the privilege of being involved, providing advice to Hear the World related to the treatment and rehabilitation process through the CI and to make this project a success. Since this is the first project in connection with cochlear implants that HTW leads, it was necessary to accompany them every step of the way and provide them with adequate counseling in all aspects of medium and long-term follow-up.
What did you learn from your time in Panama?
I have learned something of great value for those of us who work in countries with limited access to advanced medicine treatments: that everything is possible when there are human groups that work with effort and commitment in the search of the necessary resources to help and benefit the most disadvantaged.
What was the most memorable experience while in Panama?
Although I’ve experienced it many times while working with patients with CI, nothing beats the moment when a child can perceive for the first time a stimulus that until that moment was unknown.
These moments, although predictable and imaginable in some aspects, are always memorable and never cease to amaze us. Expressions and reactions of surprise, bewilderment, fear in some cases, crying before the unknown or simply laughing at the first stimuli, as we have experienced in one of the children during their activation of the CI.
What would be your vision for this project?
My vision is undoubtedly a project that continues to grow and benefits and improves the quality of life of Panamanian children and why not, children from other Latin American countries and the world.