London

Community raising $12K to replace London man's stolen hearing device 'means everything,' wife says

Members of a London, Ont., family are elated after the community came together to raise $12,000 for a tiny device for Gaston Rodriguez that will have a massive impact on his quality of life.

Gaston Rodriguez has been without a receiver for his cochlear implant since 2019

After two years of silence, Gaston Rodriguez will get a replacement receiver for his inner-cochlear implant after a successful online fundraising campaign. His wife Monica says her family is 'wholeheartedly thankful to people because they wanted to help our family and him.' (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Members of a London, Ont., family are elated after the community came together to raise $12,000 for a tiny device for Gaston Rodriguez that will have a massive impact on his quality of life.

"This means everything to us," said his wife, Monica Rodriguez, after learning that an online campaign raised the money to pay for a device that allows him to hear. "Seeing Gaston suffer all this time was very difficult. ... Sometimes we don't value what it means to be able to hear." 

As CBC News reported last month, Gaston has spent more than two years in silence after a processor that works with his inner-cochlear implant was stolen. 

Gaston, who was born in Mexico and emigrated to Canada with his family in 2017, suffered permanent hearing loss as a side-effect of contracting meningitis as a toddler. 

Unlike hearing aids, which simply amplify sound, cochlear implants use a sound processor placed behind the ear. The processor captures sound signals and sends them to a receiver surgically implanted under the skin. The signals provide the wearer with the sensation of hearing by bypassing the damaged part of the inner ear. 

Gaston's implant was installed in 2013 in Mexico. But after he arrived in Canada, the processor needed to be replaced.

Staff at the Cochlear Implant Program at London's University Hospital managed to get him a used processor to work with his implant, but it was stolen in 2019 and his family couldn't afford a replacement. 

Roadblocks to funding

Efforts to seek funding sources to replace the processor ran into roadblocks, many to do with the fact the family is awaiting permanent residency status. 

Not being able to hear has limited Gaston's ability to get work in his field of construction and painting. He leans heavily on lip reading to communicate and the job-site mask mandates due to COVID-19 make it difficult to communicate with co-workers. The family has two school-aged children and Monica works as a domestic cleaner. 

The replacement processor has been ordered, and once properly fitted and tested, Gaston will have a much easier time connecting with the outside world. He expects to have it in about two or three weeks. News it's on its way has lifted his spirits, his wife said.

"Gaston started to cry and said he couldn't believe he'd be able to hear again," said Monica in an interview with CBC News. 

She said the long stretch of silence has been a great strain on Gaston and his family. 

"When one part of your family is fractured, the entire family is fractured," she said. "In this case, Gaston is a fundamental part of my family and has always been an independent person. In Mexico, he was always the breadwinner. Coming to Canada and going through all of the hardships, plus not being able to hear and starting from scratch, has been very difficult."

Gaston's wife said he is looking forward to resuming his English classes, getting back to work and listening to music.

"I'm wholeheartedly thankful to people because they wanted to help our family and him." 

With files from CBC's Sofia Rodriguez

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