Guy Cameron

PhD, Bbiomedsci(hons), Bmedsci

A Symphony of Healing: Transforming Lives Through Ear Surgery

January 09, 2024
In the quiet of the morning at Lingard Private Hospital in Newcastle, a monumental event unfolded that would change the lives of about 20 Indigenous children and their families. I had the privilege of being in the operating theatre alongside Professor Kelvin Kong, witnessing first-hand the incredible impact of a series of life-changing surgeries. The operations were not just medical procedures but acts of profound transformation, allowing these children to hear the world in its full volume for the first time.

Professor Kong, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon, led the team with a passion and dedication that was nothing short of inspiring. As each child woke up from their surgery, the immediate realisation that they could hear clearly was met with reactions ranging from surprise to joyous exclamations. For one little kid, their first instinct was to tell their parents to "shut up"—a phrase that, under these extraordinary circumstances, was music to everyone's ears. It symbolised not an act of rudeness, but a miraculous breakthrough in their perception of the world around them.

The surgery involved a seemingly simple but pivotal procedure to remove liquid from the children's inner ear. This intervention, though straightforward, had the power to profoundly alter the trajectory of these young lives. Professor Kong likened the experience to removing foam from a concert hall, revealing the loud and impressive echo that was always meant to be heard. The joy in the recovery room was palpable, as children and their families began to engage with life in a way they never had before.

This opportunity arose thanks to a surprise private donation exceeding $1 million, extending the NSW Health's HEALS programme's reach, which offers ENT, speech, and language services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The generosity of this donation meant that children who would have otherwise faced years on a public waitlist for ear intervention were seen and treated within just three months from diagnosis.

Professor Kong is not just a surgeon; he is a visionary whose passion extends beyond the operating theatre. He is driven by the belief that every Australian child should have access to ear health, a foundation for learning, speech, and future employment prospects. As an Aboriginal man, he also emphasises the cultural significance of hearing, as it connects individuals to their songlines, singing, and culture.

The event was a collaborative effort, with surgeons, anaesthetists, audiologists, Indigenous health practitioners, and Aboriginal medical students coming together to make a difference. It was a powerful example of what can be achieved when professionals unite with a common goal: to slash wait times, improve health outcomes, and provide immediate access to essential services for vulnerable populations.

Professor Kong's approach is revolutionary, advocating for a system of engagement that ensures no child is left behind. His work is a beacon of hope, showing that with the right structures in place, we can provide care and support for the most vulnerable in our society.

As I reflect on the day's events, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of pride and optimism. The surgeries at Lingard Private Hospital were a testament to what can be achieved when compassion, expertise, and community come together. For the children and their families, the surgeries marked the beginning of a new chapter, one filled with possibilities, laughter, and the beautiful symphony of life, now heard in its full glory.

This day was more than just a series of medical procedures; it was a celebration of culture, community, and the profound impact of hearing on a child's life. I am honoured to have been a part of this incredible journey, and I look forward to the continued efforts to ensure that every child has the opportunity to hear, learn, and thrive.


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