An Irish girl who was born deaf and given no hope of ever hearing by doctors has defied the odds after learning to understand basic vocal instructions following a life-changing medical procedure
Alicja Nowicki, 10, suffers from one of the severest-known cases of Charge Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which left her with 14 major conditions, including an inability to swallow or smell, poor vision and deafness.
Although the Cork youngster received brain stem implants when she was just two, becoming the first Irish child to undergo the complex surgery at the time, the subsequent improvements to her hearing ability were limited.
However, Alicja, the oldest of Anna and Radek Nowicki's three children, has shown what her parents described as "incredible improvement" in her hearing over the past months after she received a cochlear implant in her right ear.
Her progress since the complex surgery has been so successful that earlier this month, as she celebrated her 10th birthday, she was able to hear her parents sing Happy Birthday to her for the first time.
And on a day-to-day basis the youngster, from Ballintemple, Co. Cork, is now not only able to comprehend simple instructions from her parents, but also to interact with her younger sisters Nadia, three, and new baby, Ida.
Her mother, 39, said, "She has made incredible progress with her hearing. It's a miracle, really, how far she has come since she had the cochlear implant last year.
"She was able to have this because the specialist discovered she had nerves in her ear, something we were previously told she didn't have.
“But it's made a huge difference in that she can now understand basic information. For example, if I ask her to give me her hand, she will do that.
"And only a few days ago she gave her baby sister, Ida, a cuddle when she heard her crying. Again, that is something she wouldn't have been able to do before she received the cochlear implant."
Despite Alicja’s progress, her parents still remain concerned about a number of her other conditions, not least her rapidly deteriorating vision. The youngster's complex illness also left her unable to swallow or smell, and with breathing and heart problems.
Over two years ago her right leg, which has no tibia, no knee joint, half a knee joint and a club foot, was reconstructed at a specialist hospital in Florida, enabling the courageous youngster to walk for the first time.
For further information, Alicja’s progress, visit www.alicja.org.