Event to raise funds for Morgan County toddler's cochlear implants

Oct 26 2012 - 7:59pm

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Austin Manning
Austin Manning

MORGAN -- Heard about the Great Pumpkin?

The Great Pumpkin Auction fundraiser will be held at 5 p.m. today at the Morgan County Auditorium, 48 W. Young St.

The event will raise money for year-old Austin Manning, a son of David and Michelle Manning, of Porterville. Austin needs cochlear implants in both ears.

Doctors discovered Austin was deaf shortly after he was born, while he was in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, said Austin's father.

The Mannings immediately began researching Austin's options.

Organizers invite people to contribute "highly decorated pumpkins, preferably ones that can be used from one year to the next."

Tickets for the event are $6. The evening will start off with a small cannon shooting candy and prizes. Dinner, which starts at 5 p.m., will be pizza, homemade root beer and soft drinks.

There will also be a cupcake walk, face painting, bingo and a small haunted house, Michelle Manning said.

The auction starts at 6 p.m.

Federal and state laws forbid insurance policies that deprive cochlear implant candidates from the only opportunity to alleviate their hearing loss.

However, the family's insurance will pay only $35,000 total on cochlear implants, David Manning said, so the family is trying to raise $125,000.

"We have $13,000 worth of items to auction," Michelle Manning said.

"There are chain saws, table saws, a vanity, blankets, water coolers, photography sessions, airplane rides and motel rooms. It's not just donated from the community. We have donations from Idaho, Ogden, Layton and Morgan."

Besides Austin's joys of hearing, cochlear implants will ultimately save money. The University of Miami School of Medicine Cochlear Implant Center finds these implants are among the most cost-effective medical procedures because they can eliminate much of the $1 million expected lifetime cost to society of a person who uses only sign language.

"They like to do the surgery as early as possible, but insurance won't cover (cochlear implants) until he's a year old," David Manning said.

Although the Mannings say they still have more than $100,000 left to raise, Austin is scheduled for surgery on Nov. 2.

Some children are excited when they first hear sounds, and some have a harder time of it, David Manning said.

"Hearing with cochlear implants is different than the way we hear with all the hairs that vibrate in the cochlea," he said, "(but) within a couple years, he should be able to function just like anyone else.

Michelle Manning created a blog, Audibleearsforaustin.blogspot.com, to inform people about her son's progress and to accept donations on Austin's behalf.

Some of the responses have been surprising, David Manning said.

"The deaf community does not view cochlear implants very highly," he said. "The gist of it is that he is born deaf, God made him that way, and why would you change that?

"As parents, we feel for Austin, this is the best path we can provide for him. This was not a decision we've taken lightly. We feel very strongly that, for him, this is the right thing."

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