Hearing Again: Jessica's 'Miraculous' Recovery

Surgery left woman deaf, but cochelar implant brought symphony of life back.

Dec. 5, 2008 — -- In August, "Good Morning America" featured a story about Jessica Stone, a 23-year-old who suffered from neurofibromatosis -- a rare genetic disorder that causes benign tumors to grow along her nervous system.

She was no stranger to surgery, but last winter she got some devastating news -- a life-threatening brain tumor needed to be removed, but the operation would also leave her deaf.

As she counting down the days until her world went silent, Stone prepared by videotaping the images that accompany some of her favorite sounds -- her family's laughter, her dog, waves at the beach -- hoping those images would remind her of life before losing her hearing.

After Surgery, New Hope

She had the operation at the University of Michigan Medical Center in April, and after 13 hours of surgery, the tumor was successfully removed.

Shortly afterwards, she got another piece of stunning news. According to the doctors, Stone still had a hearing wave, meaning she could still detect sound.

"It was just like a whole new world for us," said Cindy Stone, Jessica Stone's mother. "We had all new hope again."

Though still deaf, Jessica Stone had a bit of hearing function left, which opened the possibility she might be able to hear again with a cochelar implant.

As Stone recuperated from the surgery over the summer, she tried to adapt to her new silent life.

"Not hearing my mom say, 'I love you,' or calling my brother and sister to see what they're up to and if they want to go hang out, it's just, to me, it's really tough," she said.

Then this fall, Stone went through another surgery to put in a cochlear implant. She and her family waited several long weeks before they could turn it on, and there was no guarantee it would work.

"Honestly, if it doesn't work, it's not the end of the world. And no matter what the outcome, I am just really fortunate," Stone said.

The morning of activation, the whole family was equal parts tense and hopeful.

"The chance to be able to communicate again -- you know, I mean, we can communicate, but there's things that you like to say to your daughter and wish she could hear," said Jessica's dad, Russ Stone.

When the implant was activated a few weeks ago, several seconds that felt like an eternity ticked by.

Finally Stone said, "I hear it! I hear it"

Her parents wept with happiness and relief.

"To see the look on her face and her eyes widen up -- it's just overwhelming," Russ Stone said.

It will take as long as a year for Jessica Stone to get used to a new way of hearing, so conversation still won't come easily.

"It's not going to be the same, music isn't going to be the same, my family's voice isn't going to be the same," she said. "But I am open to change. I am very open to change."

Meanwhile, Stone has been redisovering the sounds of her life.

"I heard the waves, and it's so different, but at least I could pick it up," she said.

Her family believes Jessica Stone's indomintable spirit will get her through the tough times and let her savor her success.

"She has truly taken a horrible thing and she's tried to pull something positive out of it. And that's how she's gonna continue to live her life," Cindy Stone said.

ABC's Grand Rapids, Michigan affiliate WZZM first reported this story.

You can find out more at Jessica Stone's Web site www.lifeinspiresme.com.

Find out more about neurofibromatosis www.nfinc.org.