Ottawa tot hears Christmas bells again

A sick Ottawa toddler can hear jingling bells and Santa's bellowing "Ho-ho-ho" again this Christmas, thanks to surgical implants.
Kate Drury, 3, had cochlear implants surgically installed so she can hear again after an undiagnosed disease deafened her. (CBC News)

A sick Ottawa toddler can hear jingling bells and Santa's bellowing "Ho-ho-ho" again this Christmas, thanks to surgical implants.

Kate Drury, 3, has an undiagnosed illness that stole her hearing when she was two years old. This month, doctors at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto put bilateral cochlear implants — electronic devices that provide a sense of sound — into her ears.

Kate's family turned the implants on for the first time during the holiday season and left them on for her visit with Santa.

"It's a Christmas miracle, it really is," Kate's mother, Julie, told CBC News. "It's a great gift. Everyone wants to do the best for her."

Kate is one of 21 patients whose treatment is co-ordinated by the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario's complex-care program.

The toddler is considered medically "fragile" and the surgery had looked like a longshot after Kate had an extreme reaction to an anesthetic. It was more hard news for Kate's family members, who have learned sign language to communicate with her.

But doctors pressed on with the surgery, which has been successful.

"Yesterday she was in her playroom. She had her back to me. ... I said 'Kate, Kate' and she was startled," her mother said.

The family hopes Kate will be able to recognize more sounds in the future and learn to speak soon.