Health heroes scoop national award 

14/10/2019 00:00 
A team led by a UCLH consultant has been given an award after helping an 8-year-old girl hear and speak for the first time.

At the age of just 22 months, Leia Armitage was the first child to undergo an auditory brainstem implant insertion in London.

Leia, now eight, was born with a rare form of deafness and was never expected to hear or speak.

Surgeons, Professor Shakeel Saeed, consultant ENT and skull base surgeon from UCLH, Professor Dan Jiang, consultant ENT and skull base surgeon from Guy’s and St Thomas’, and Mr Nicholas Thomas, consultant neurosurgeon from King’s College Hospital, came together to carry out the procedure in 2013 at King’s College Hospital.

The highly complex procedure involves inserting an electronic hearing device directly into the brainstem as the cochlea and auditory nerve are absent.

Leia’s parents, Bob and Alison Armitage, nominated the team for the Groundbreaking Pioneer category at The Sun’s Who Cares Wins awards.

Bob, from Dagenham in Essex, said: “As a family we are pleased that the pioneering work of the team has been recognised.

“It’s taken over five years to get to this point and a lot of rehab but Leia has defied the odds and is now putting full sentences together and has a wider vocabulary. There’s nothing better than hearing her say ‘I love you daddy’."

Leia’s implant was activated on her second birthday and she continues to have audiological and speech and language therapy at Guy’s and St Thomas’. 

Prof Saeed said: “This journey has been a great example of teamwork across NHS organisations in London. Now that this type of intervention is formally commissioned by NHS England, children who may benefit from an auditory brainstem implant can be assessed thanks to the efforts of Leia and her family.”

The Sun's Who Cares Wins awards is a chance to give recognition to the selfless medics, researchers, and volunteers who've made a difference to people's lives.

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