Book would help children facing cochlear implant surgery

3:22 PM, Aug 17, 2011   |    comments
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Azariah Spurgeon

For more than a dozen years some of East Tennessee's youngest surgery patients have gotten through the ordeal with the help of a stuffed dog named Josh.

A new version will focus on children who are hearing impaired.

"She failed her newborn hearing screening," Whitney Spurgeon of Newport recalled.

She and her husband weren't that concerned until their daughter Azariah failed several other hearing tests. She was deaf.

About the time of her first birthday, Josh and Whitney Spurgeon decided on cochlear implant surgery to help her hear.

"As her mother you want her to have every opportunity that life can give her," Whitney Spurgeon said.

Surgery patients at East Tennessee Children's Hospital receive a kit from Josh and Friends. It's a therapy tool that includes a stuffed dog and a book about Josh the dog going to the hospital.

"I think it's important for kids to feel comfortable when they're going in to something like this. And for parents too. Stuffed animals are a good way, children love them, and it's a good way to make them feel comfortable," Spurgeon said.

Now the Downtown Sertoma Club is teaming up with Josh and Friends.

"The primary focus is helping the 50,000,000 people in the United States with hearing health programs," Sertoma International President John Kerr said.

The Sertoma version of the Josh and Friends kit would include the plush toy and an "I'll be OK" book chronicling Josh the dog's cochlear implant surgery.

"Sertomans are always wanting to help people with hearing health, but we always focus a whole lot on the children," Kerr said.

Sertoma is holding a fundraiser at Club LeConte this Friday. It's a Texas Hold 'Em poker tournament and it benefits the Josh Project.

"All the money that they come to play in the tournament will go towards the production and illustration of this book," Poker Fundraiser Organizer Alan Stuckey said. "It's a great mesh with what Sertoma is all about. I think that we can provide something for Sertoma here in Knoxville that can hopefully live past this event."

The event will raise money to give children like Azariah a Josh kit to comfort them.

"She is set to have her second implant January 3rd with Dr. Little at Children's Hospital," Spurgeon said.

The folks at Sertoma hope their version of the Josh and Friends book is ready by then.

"We can't wait to get the book and the stuffed animal," Spurgeon said.

The Sertoma Club is a 501(c)(3), so any donations or sponsorship is tax deductible. The entry fee is $100 which includes food and one seat in the poker tournament.

Should you not wish to play and still would like to help this worthwhile effort by making a donation or sponsoring a table, please call Downtown Sertoma Club at 865-525-1921.

You can pre-register or just show up at Club LeConte at 6:30 this Friday, August 19, 2011.

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