EAST CANTON, Ohio (WJW) – The ability to hear just got a whole lot easier for the small but mighty Papacostas twins of East Canton, thanks to life-changing surgeries.
“I’m Katrina.” “I’m Sophia,” the girls said, raising their hands.
The 8-year-old twins Katrina and Sophia said telling them apart is easy.
“I don’t like broccoli and I have earrings,” said Sophia.
“And Sophia has blue glasses,” added Katrina.
What you can’t see is the years of worry that their mom, Sabrina Summers, spent wondering about their health. As infants in the NICU, it was discovered the girls were deaf in one ear.
“We didn’t even know until they were four that they had this Noonan syndrome,” said Summers. “So, to me, it was just like my child one has a heart condition and now they’re both going to be deaf in one ear. How is this going to be?”
Noonan syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that can prevent normal development throughout the body and can impact people in a variety of ways, including heart defects.
Katrina and Sophia wore hearing aids as babies and continued to do so for years until it no longer served as the best option to improve their hearing. From there, it was a race against time.
“We were worried that it wouldn’t be done by the time they were 8,” Summers said. “For the best results, that’s the optimal age.”
In January, the twins received cochlear implants, a surgically implanted device that helps to improve hearing.
“Single-sided deafness was just approved for criteria for cochlear implantation less than two years ago,” explained Dr. Samantha Anne, the Medical Director of Pediatric Ear and Hearing Disorders at Cleveland Clinic Children’s.
“All their lives they’ve been using a hearing aid, but unfortunately the hearing aid was not helping them at all,” said Dr. Anne. “They were completely deaf in that ear.”
Since the surgery, which can take a year before fully knowing how much hearing has improved, their doctor says they are progressing well.
“The twins, their mom is amazing about making them do all the streaming and all the necessary homework at home and the girls are clearly thriving,” said Dr. Anne.
Now the girls can focus even more attention on their big plans for the future – working at NASA.
“I want to be a chemist,” said Katrina. Her sister added, “I’m going to be an engineer, maybe. I’m thinking of being a baker too.”
Their mother says they spend time each day doing exercises to improve their hearing.
“I’m just very proud of them and I didn’t know until I was a mom that you could be that proud, but it’s an amazing feeling watching them grow up and not struggle as much as I was afraid that they might.”