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RCT-5 doctors examine deaf Fallujah girl

28 Aug 2006 | 2nd Lt. Lawton King

Regimental Combat Team 5’s medical team heard the call for a girl who could not. 

At the request of the Fallujah city council, members of the RCT-5 medical staff visited Fallujah Surgical this weekend and examined the hearing capacity of a 6-year-old Fallujan girl who was pronounced deaf and mute last year.

The girl was evaluated by Navy doctors including Lt. Cmdr. Manuel Tanguma, RCT-5’s surgeon, Lt. Cmdr. Curt West, the RCT-5 psychiatrist, and Cmdr. Elizabeth Beazley of Fallujah Surgical.

“It shows concern,” said West a 39-year-old Naval Academy Graduate from Temecula Calif.  “This is a goodwill gesture.”

“It proves the relations we have with civil authorities and leaders,” added Navy Petty Officer Orlando Soriano, a 24-year-old hospital corpsman from Martinez, Calif., who assisted in the procedure.

Doctors welcomed the girl by presenting her with snacks and a stuffed-animal cow.  Her thank you to the doctors was returned as a warm smile.

“She’s a real cute girl,” Soriano said later.

Once she had grown comfortable in the medical environment, the doctors interviewed a family member through an interpreter to learn all of the pertinent information and reconstruct her medical history.

Doctors determined the hearing deficiency was not hereditary or spawned by birth defects.  They momentarily stowed their notepads and began to check her vital signs.

“I can’t find anything that’s wrong,” said Tanguma after the preliminary tests.

He then produced a two-pronged, oblong device that, according to West, enables doctors to gauge the audio capabilities of the ear drum.

As Tanguma allowed the instrument to work its magic, West supplied observations and suggestions.

“Sounds like recurrent infections have impaired her hearing,” he said, “which in turn has impaired her speech development.”

Following the examination, Tanguma arrived at the same conclusion and offered his diagnosis.

“I think that she had one of two things go wrong,” he explained. “She either had meningitis, or she had multiple ear infections that scarred the bone.”

Though the doctors determined medication would not remedy matters, they all concurred hearing aids may mitigate the damage.

They also agreed that the evaluation represented a progression in mutual trust and had implications that extended well beyond the medical realm.

“I think it is a good sign when the people start trusting you enough that they trust their children to you,” Tanguma said.

“I was surprised there weren’t any cultural barriers that got in the way of examining the child,” West added, “which again says they trusted us.”