Your Impact - Mathew Spears' Story
I’ll never forget the day my son was admitted to the Health Sciences Centre after days of fever and worry, thinking that he had a bad cold, only to discover he had Meningitis. The disease is a bacterial infection that affects the brain and spinal cord, and can lead to the loss of limbs, severe brain damage, or even death.
We were so scared.
Mathew Spears
But this is a story of hope, and of triumph.  And I’m going to give away the ending.  Mathew is a happy and healthy little boy today, and we owe it all to the care he received at the Health Sciences Centre.
Mathew originally got sick in March of 2014.  He had a high fever of 104, and after days without reprieve became lethargic and listless to the point of falling over while sitting up on the couch. Our doctor told us to go immediately to the emergency room.  HSC doctors and staff started performing tests right away on Mathew, who was a far cry from the happy-go-lucky, bouncy kid my husband Ian and I knew and loved.  We stayed at the hospital that night, worried.  It was the first of many sleepless nights to come.
They had to do a spinal tap on our little boy, and five days later we were told he has meningitis, and the consequences could be severe.  After another 13 days of waiting and tests, it was determined that Mathew’s meningitis was Haemophilus Influenza Type F, one of the rarest and one without a vaccine.  None of the doctors at HSC had seen Type F before.
All the while, Mathew’s fever was still riding high, and nobody could figure out why it wasn’t subsiding.  And then the seizures started.  One seizure one day, and then multiple seizures over a two hour period the next day. It was terrifying.
Finally, it seemed as if Mathew was slowly starting to recover, although he had to relearn basic things he could already do like sitting up and walking.  A number of additional tests were performed to rule out any possible side-effects of the meningitis.  We were completely surprised when the audiologist gave us the news that Mathew lost his hearing.  We immediately started to wonder what this would mean for our boy, and the life ahead of him. It was heart-wrenching.
But before we could worry too much, Dr. Darren Leitao, co-director of the HSC Surgical Hearing Implant Program and recipient of research funding from the HSC Foundation, told us that Mathew might be able to "hear” again with the help of a device - but it had to be done right away for the best chance of success.
Mathew Spears
Let me tell you about what a miracle these cochlear implant devices are.  HSC is renowned for its advanced technology, and it’s all thanks to people who support the HSC Foundation with financial gifts.  These cochlear implants are on the cutting edge of science, not even available in Manitoba until just three years ago.  But in that time, Dr. Leitao and Co-Director Dr. Jordan Hochman and their team have performed over 110 successful implants, 17 on children.  A processor worn behind the ear captures and processes sound through electric signals, and then transmitted to a receiver that is surgically implanted into the skull behind the ear.  It’s not exactly the same as hearing, but is a very close approximation of hearing.  They allow people with severe or, as in Mathew’s case, full hearing loss to hear!
As Dr. Leitao will tell you, the impact of this program is tremendous.  Before cochlear implants, if an adult or child could not benefit from a hearing aid, the options for communication were limited to lip reading or sign language – both entirely visual. Think of all the things that you miss without hearing: music, the emotional cues you pick up in tones of voice, and the impact on how you learn and work.  And all of the smaller sounds we almost take for granted - the sound of walking on snow, leaves rustling in wind, birds tweeting…all of this connects you to the world around you, and when someone receives a cochlear implant, it is like having their eyes open.
It really is a life-changing miracle of a device, and a procedure that didn’t exist anywhere just a few decades ago, and not for children until the 1990s.  We are lucky to benefit from years of research and refined practice.
The care Mathew received at HSC all throughout his journey - the testing, the operation, the counselling and advice – is a prime example of the extraordinary care happening for families every day at HSC Winnipeg.
If you live in the province, chances are you will visit the Health Sciences Centre at some point.  And whether you need help yourself or are visiting a loved one, HSC is the place you can count on quality, compassionate care when you need it most.  When you support the HSC Foundation with a financial gift, you help them bring hope to life for even more patients like Mathew, and families like ours.
Erin Spears
Mathew & Family