February 8, 2001
Shevat 15, 5761


Deaf boy to finally get cochlear implant


Staff Reporter


MONTREALOn March 5, nine-year-old Ryan Duchoeny is scheduled to finally get what he’s been longing for and what his father’s been fighting Quebec health officials for for months: the gift of hearing.


Ryan is to receive a cochlear implant at the Fletcher Allen Memorial Health Care Centre in Burlington, VT.


The cost of the surgery will be $36,000.00 US ($54,000.00 Cdn). Half the funds have been raised to date.


Ryan’s father, Frank Duchoeny, is elated. "I'm thrilled. It’s all became of the publicity and campaign we put together," Duchoeny, a computer technician and Chomedey resident, said.


Duchoeny gave a portion of the credit to the Jewish community. Shirley Roll, a member of Duchoeny’s synagogue in Chomedey who is active at FEDERATION CJA, learned of Ryan's plight and spearheaded the fund-raising campaign. Roll also asked local rabbis to bring attention to Ryan’s situation from their pulpits. In addition, the Canadian Jewish Congress, Quebec region sent a letter to Health Minister Pauline Marois asking her to review the dossier.


Ryan’s case, largely through Duchoeny's efforts, made headlines across the province after a report was published indicating that Quebec Medicare was paying for breast enlargement surgery on a 15-year-old girl.


Duchoeny was so upset by the news that he called the Gazette. The next day, Ryan’s picture was splashed on page 1 of the newspaper, and the household was flooded by media calls.


Duchoeny and other critics, including Liberal health critic Russ Williams, have slammed Quebec's policy on cochlear implants. Only 40 cochlear implants are performed annually in the province, compared to hundreds in Ontario. Also in Quebec, there is a list of 125 families waiting an average of two years for the surgery. Only one surgeon, Dr. Pierre Ferron at Quebec City's Hotel-Dieu Hospital - who said that Ryan did not qualify because of his age and ability to "sign" - performs the procedure.


Despite the negative publicity, Marois declined to allocate more funds to make the operation more widely accessible and timely, saying her budget would not allow it. Duchoeny suspects the real reason is the $35,000.00 each cochlear implant device costs.


Duchoeny said he chose the health centre in Burlington after being referred there by Advanced Bionics, the company that makes the implant device. The surgery will cost several thousand dollars less than at the New York University Medical Centre, where Ryan was also judged a suitable candidate.


Another advantage is that Burlington is only two hours by car from Montreal, compared to seven hours from New York.


Duchoeny said despite the go-ahead for Ryan's surgery, he has every intention of pursuing Quebec Medicare for full reimbursement. At this writing, he was still waiting for a date to appear before a tribunal to appeal Quebec's refusal to do the surgery.


Duchoeny has also brought the case before the Quebec Human Rights Commission, alleging discrimination against his son.


Duchoeny said if he does get reimbursed by Quebec for the surgery, a11 the funds raised by the Jewish Community Foundation would be reserved for the next person in need of a cochlear implant.