We recently covered the story of Joanne Milne, a 40-year-old deaf woman who was able to hear for the first time with the help of cochlear implants. Born deaf because of Usher Syndrome, Milne's cochlear implants were switched on March 24. Her mother was there to record the moment when she heard her own voice for the first time.
Milne's story was so inspiring, we'd like you to meet some other people experiencing senses and abilities we so often take for granted – for the first time in their lives.
In 2013, the world met Fields Taylor, a 3-year-old girl who had been mute since birth. Incorrectly diagnosed with epilepsy, Fields was later identified as having a rare and incurable genetic disease called Glut 1 Deficiency that caused a lack of glucose to flow to her brain.
Doctors prescribed a high-fat ketogenic diet that allows her body to use fat as an energy source instead of glucose. This dietary change resulted in Fields speaking for the first time in her life.
"I didn't really believe that something so simple as changing her diet could make such a big difference," her mother Stevie told the U.K.'s Metro. "It's just fabulous to know that she does have a voice inside her and we can finally communicate."
Sarah Churman received her first hearing implant in 2011 when she was 29. The result was this inspiring video, in which Churman (who later wrote a book about her experience called Powered On) hears her own voice for the first time. It has since reached almost 21 million views on YouTube.
Pierre-Paul Thomas, diagnosed from birth with a combination of damaged optic nerves, cataracts and congenital nystagmus, had resigned himself to a life without vision. In 2011, he fell down a flight of stairs, forcing the reconstruction of his eye sockets.
At a follow-up appointment months later, his doctor asked him if he'd like to fix his eyes. Thomas had the surgery, and can now see, though he's had to learn colors and reassures himself of objects by touch. Still, he told CBC News, "I was so happy to see people, to come out of the shadows."
Lisa Johnson was born blind and then shortly afterwards, diagnosed with glaucoma. She had her first surgery when she was just two-weeks-old. At 22, thanks to the Lions Club Eyebank, she received a corneal transplant. "When I saw my husband for the first time, I was really pleasantly surprised," she said. "To be able to see my kids ... there are no words for that."
Grayson Clamp was the first child in the U.S. to receive a brain stem implant at 3 years old that allowed him to hear things – like his father's voice – for the first time. "I've never seen a look like that today," his father Len told WRAL of Charlotte after a successful test of the device.
Dennis Aabo lost his hand in a fireworks accident almost a decade ago. In February, he was able to feel again thanks to a revolutionary artificial hand created by an international team. Italian neuro-engineer Prof. Silvestro Micera told the BBC that this is "the first time an amputee has had real-time touch sensation from a prosthetic device." The device is connected to nerves in Aabo's upper arm, though the real technological advance in the project is the electronics and software that relay the information to his brain.
As The Wire pointed out recently, these individuals often face ongoing struggles not conveyed in brief videos or articles. If you're interested in donating to organizations that help the blind, deaf or amputees, here are a few:
National Federation For the Blind – Donate Here
National Associated of the Deaf – Donate Here
Amputee Coalition – Donate Here