Josh and Mike Ryan running City2Surf to benefit The Shepherd Centre

On a mission: Josh Ryan, with his little girl Ava, is in training for this Sunday's City2Surf along with his father Mike. Picture: Robert Peet
On a mission: Josh Ryan, with his little girl Ava, is in training for this Sunday's City2Surf along with his father Mike. Picture: Robert Peet

Woonona dad Josh Ryan says this Sunday’s City2Surf will be a challenge, yet it’s nothing compared with the life-changing surgery his little daughter will undergo five days later.

Five-month-old Ava is the inspiration for Mr Ryan, and his dad Mike, who have entered the annual Sydney fun run to raise funds for hearing loss charity The Shepherd Centre.

Staff at the Wollongong office have been there for the family since the initial diagnosis, and will be there to support them through cochlear implant surgery and beyond.

“Just one day into her life, like every other newborn Ava underwent the routine SWISH screening test and recorded a poor result,” Mr Ryan said.

“My wife Michelle and I were shocked but were reassured that many babies fail the initial test – but then she had a poor result on the second and third tests and we knew something was wrong.

“She was referred to Sydney Children’s Hospital for further testing – one of the tests simulated the sound of a jumbo jet at 25 metres away from her and she couldn’t hear it.

Ava Ryan has sensorineural hearing loss and will receive cochlear implants on August 17 to help her hear, speak and communicate effectively. Picture: Supplied

Ava Ryan has sensorineural hearing loss and will receive cochlear implants on August 17 to help her hear, speak and communicate effectively. Picture: Supplied

“At two weeks old she was diagnosed with bilateral profound hearing loss.” 

With no family history or experience of hearing loss the couple was left devastated and confused.

“We didn’t know what it meant – we weren’t sure if she’d ever be able to hear or speak or do any of the things we take for granted like going to school or playing sport with friends,” Mr Ryan said.

Then they were referred to The Shepherd Centre, which gave them the information and support they needed to understand Ava’s condition, and plan for her future.

They’ve met other families with similar stories and have been educated on the options available for Ava.

Josh and Michelle Ryan with baby Ava and brother William. Picture: Supplied

Josh and Michelle Ryan with baby Ava and brother William. Picture: Supplied

“Through the centre’s First Sounds Program we were able to get a thorough understanding of Ava’s hearing loss so we could make the decision on the best treatment for her,” Mr Ryan said.

“She already has hearing aids but they only amplify sounds and due to the extent of her hearing loss are not the best option.

“We believe that cochlear implants – which allow the brain to experience sound – should give Ava a very good life; a life of hearing and talking and communicating.”

To help Mr Ryan raise funds visit the City2Surf website and search under ‘Running to Support the Shepherd Centre’.

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