New mom turns to fellow alum to save daughter’s hearing
Ann Harper Campbell ’04, ’05 had a cold when she was pregnant with her daughter. Not the best timing, but she didn’t think much of it.
The illness was actually something more sinister. While Georgiana was in the womb, Campbell had cytomegalovirus virus (CMV) — passing it on to her baby — which is the leading cause of childhood hearing loss.
“Fortunately, New York state has a policy that all newborn babies are screened for hearing loss,” says Campbell, of Manhattan. “Even more importantly, Weill Cornell Medicine had just instituted a protocol to screen hearing-impaired newborns for CMV.”
Besides hearing loss, CMV can cause other problems, including mental disability and seizures. Campbell’s daughter went on antiviral medication, which kept the infection from turning into something more severe. However, she couldn’t hear in her right ear, and the left was at risk. Surgery could help.
When looking for surgeons, Campbell found George Alexiades ’90 at Weill Cornell.
“I looked him up, saw he went to Binghamton, and thought it was kind of meant to be,” Campbell says. “I know the quality of people who go to Binghamton.
“His office was so patient-centered. Each time I went there, I felt like we were the only people he was seeing. When you have a 10-month-old whom you’re going to put to sleep and drill a hole in her skull interfacing with the brain, you really want to feel you’re the only one on the docket that day.”
The surgery to give Georgiana a cochlear implant was a success.
“It’s very important that we did this surgery early on,” Alexiades says. “When kids get older, the speech centers of the brain are recruited to do other things because they have no access to sound. Even if the children are able to hear later, they can be well behind their peers and have to work hard to make up for lost time.”
When the device is on, Georgiana — now about 2 years old — hears fine in her right ear. Because she could lose hearing in her left ear, she is screened every six months.
“It’s always great to see children do well. When it’s the daughter of a Binghamton alum, you want it to go extra well,” Alexiades says.
Campbell says the experience has changed how she approaches her job as a nurse practitioner because she’s more aware of what it’s like to be in the shoes of the people seeking her help.
“I have a little more understanding for people who come into my office,” Campbell says. “I know they feel a lot of emotions that may or may not have something to do with me. This experience helped me to be a better listener, to not rush people, and to think about how much that personal touch really counts for people.”