An 11-year-old Tauranga boy with a severe hearing impediment has developed a special bond with his neighbour’s newborn lamb.
Rory Mackenzie recently spent three days nursing Buddy back to wellness after he was born ill and the pair have been inseparable ever since.
Rory only has ten per cent hearing in his left ear and has worn various hearing aids throughout his life.
He underwent surgical treatment at Starship Hospital five weeks ago to get a Bonebridge implanted into his skull.
It is a high-performance hearing implant placed underneath the skin. Externally, Rory wears a Samba audio processor which sits on his head, thanks to a magnet.
While waiting for the swelling to reduce post-surgery, Rory hasn’t been able to partake in his usual hobbies – playing rugby and riding his bike.
Instead, he has devoted every waking moment to spending time with Buddy in the neighbour's yard.
Rory’s mum, Toni Mackenzie says she thinks the relationship has helped with Rory’s healing by making him happy.
“He’s devoted all his time to the lambs and nothing else. We don’t really see him anymore, sitting with the lamb is all he wants to do.
“Whenever he gets up in the morning he eats breakfast then goes to the lambs and comes back for his ride to school. When he comes home from school he runs straight back to them.
“In the weekend he disappears for the entire day, he will often miss lunch to spend time with the lambs. We have to really encourage him to come home to eat.
“He seems calmer than normal, he seems satisfied being able to care for them, giving them love and attention.”
Rory told The Weekend Sun it is easy to spend so much time with Buddy because he doesn’t talk.
He is the first child in the Bay of Plenty to undergo this surgery and had the external piece fitted last Friday.
Tauranga Hospital audiologist Anna Van Pomeren says people with one-sided hearing, like Rory, will often struggle to pick up background noise.
“This implant will give him more environmental awareness and help keep him stay connected in class,” says Anna.
Immediately after having the external piece fitted, Rory was introduced to new sounds he had never heard before.
He also starting hearing familiar sounds at an increased volume.
“He jumps a bit now when he hears the lambs ‘baa’, but he’ll get used to it,” says Toni.
Rory says when he is wearing the new aid, it can be quite sore when Mum is talking to him because it sounds like she is yelling.
He has started picking up unfamiliar background sounds like buzzing bees and police car sirens from a distance.
Toni thinks this hearing aid is going to make life a whole lot easier for Rory in the long run.
“Already – just in three days - this aid has drastically improved Rory’s hearing in large group environments. He can sit around and engage in conversation without having to turn his better ear to people.
“His learning at school will be better, and he will be able to easily hear his mates calling for the ball at rugby.
“Life in our house is loud because Rory has two younger brothers. This aid is just going to make life so much easier for all of us.”