D’Vyne was two years old when her mom, Yvonne, first thought, “Something feels off.”
It was a realization that built gradually over time. Yvonne used to spend her days babysitting her niece, who is only six months apart in age from D’Vyne. The two played well together, but soon Yvonne noticed her niece seemed to be progressing a bit faster than her daughter.
“My niece slowly began talking, saying ‘Mama,’ ‘Dada,’ and ‘please,’” Yvonne said. “I would then turn to D’Vyne and try and coax the same words out of her, but she would only make noises back.”
Yvonne brought her concerns to the attention of her mom and aunt, who did their best to reassure her. They told her it was common for kids to move at their own pace. Yvonne’s mom, Bernadine, reminded her that Yvonne’s own brother hadn’t even started talking until he was three years old. Yvonne agreed and carried on, her worries fading a little. That is, until one day later that year.
D’Vyne’s dad came home after a day at work and playfully shouted D’Vyne’s name to get her attention. When she didn’t turn around, her parents assumed she was too fascinated by the TV to have heard, so they tried again. And then they tried again. And again. It wasn’t until Yvonne stomped on the floor that D’Vyne finally turned around. Immediately upon seeing her dad standing there, she jumped up and ran over to hug him.
Several of these instances would occur throughout the year before Yvonne decided to take D’Vyne to have her hearing checked. In November of 2018, they visited a doctor in their hometown of Belize City, Belize. It was there that Yvonne’s worries were confirmed. The doctor told her D’Vyne was completely deaf in both ears.
“After doing several hearing tests and confirming that she couldn’t hear, the doctors in Belize told us about another family who had a similar experience. That family brought their child to Dallas to receive a cochlear implant,” Yvonne started. “I immediately asked him, ‘What’s a cochlear implant?’”
After getting more information on this possible treatment for D’Vyne, Yvonne began immediately researching to see if it was an option for them. In less than half an hour, Dallas Hearing Foundation returned her call, asking Yvonne, “How quickly can you get here?” In January of 2019, after undergoing several medical tests, securing B-2 visas, and packing their belongings, Yvonne and her family were on their way to Dallas.
“Before we even left for Dallas, someone from the Dallas Hearing Foundation told us about the Ronald McDonald House of Dallas (RMHD),” Yvonne said. “She explained it was a home where we would get three meals a day, take baths, and sleep for free.”
Shortly after checking into the House, D’Vyne underwent surgery to place a cochlear implant inside her ear. She experienced a few issues post-surgery, requiring her family to go back and forth from the House to the hospital over the following days. Once everything was resolved, the family started their journey at Dallas Hearing Foundation.
“The cochlear implant wasn’t turned on, so we went to the Dallas Hearing Foundation to start that process. They asked me if I was ready, as it’s typical for children to cry or scream upon hearing sounds for the first time,” Yvonne explained.
Once the implants were turned on, Yvonne took a deep breath and called her daughter’s name, “D’Vyne.”
“As soon as I said it, she looked at me and smiled,” Yvonne said. “After that, they tried all different sounds and noises to see if any of them bothered her, which they didn’t.”
Since the sounds didn’t shock D’Vyne and it appeared she recognized her name, the doctors concluded that D’Vyne wasn’t born deaf, but rather lost her hearing at some point in her first couple years of life.
For the next few weeks, the team at Dallas Hearing Foundation would work with D’Vyne through an auditory therapy program, teaching her how to listen and understand the new sounds she was hearing. By March of that year, D’Vyne had progressed enough for the family to return home to Belize.
Until D’Vyne is old enough to self-program her cochlear implant, her family will need to come to the U.S. yearly for treatment; however, they couldn’t travel in 2021 or 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In February of this year, the family checked in to the House for the first time in over two years. They brought with them a beautiful new addition to the family – D’Vyne’s two-year-old sister, Harmonee.
When D’Vyne isn’t in treatment or therapy, she and her family spend their days relaxing outside, playing in the playrooms, or meeting new families around the House. On March 20th, they celebrated D’Vyne’s seventh birthday with all her new RMHD friends.
“My favorite thing about staying here is meeting new people from all over the world,” Yvonne said. “Also, the service [the RMHD staff and volunteers] provide is great and always with a smile.”
Right now, D’Vyne is about three-and-a-half years behind in hearing, but the doctors and Yvonne are immensely impressed with her progress. Although they’ll be heading back to Belize soon, they look forward to returning next year to stay at their “home away from home.”