Saturday's 'Kid Captain': Kelby Telander

Nov. 6, 2009

IOWA CITY, Iowa — When Kelby Telander didn’t pass his normal newborn hearing test, his parents, Tina and Neil, were concerned. After several more failed tests, they were relieved when he finally passed. When he was 21 months old, his daycare provider expressed concern about Kelby’s ability to hear. The following day, testing by the Grant Wood Area Education Agency showed he was severely hearing impaired.

Although they were crushed by the news, his parents brought him immediately to University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. Found to have enlarged vestibular aqueduct syndrome, which causes hearing to come and go, their biggest fear was wondering what his future would hold. “Little did we know, we were about to find out what a lucky family we are,” says Tina.

Even at his young age, Kelby was fitted for hearing aids, and his parents could see a change right away. “He walked outside and was awestruck by the sound of the cars going by on Hawkins Drive. I have never seen his face light up like this,” Neil notes. However, as is typical in the disorder, his hearing continued to decline. Within six months of the diagnosis, the hearing in Kelby’s left ear was profoundly impaired.

Kelby was now considered a candidate for a cochlear implant, a surgically implanted device that directly stimulates the auditory nerves. As it happens, the Iowa Cochlear Implant Project is a world-renowned center for development of and research into the devices. His surgery was performed a month later and according to his parents, “his hearing was truly reborn.”

Through all this, UI Children’s Hospital has played an important role for the Telander family. “They have been there for us on and off the clock. They understand that, when you are dealing with your child, nothing can stand in the way.”

Kelby has not just benefited from the clinical and research expertise of the professionals at UI Children’s Hospital; he is helping future patients as a participant in the Cochlear Implant Grant Study. “Whatever we can do to help the next child or adult better their life with the gift of hearing, we are happy to do so,” says Tina.

The Telanders believe they “have truly been blessed to be located next to one of the best hospitals in the nation for otolaryngology and cochlear implants, not to mention world-renowned surgeons.”

Kelby can teach all of us a little something about facing the curve balls of life. The first-grader at Van Allen Elementary in North Liberty is very comfortable with his implant, telling people, “It’s okay to be different.” He is a typical little boy who has dressed up as a Hawkeye football player for Halloween and loves baseball, football, golf, tennis, fishing, and other sports.