Photo Courtesy: UNC Health Care

CHAPEL HILL – The moment when three-year-old Grayson Clamp’s heard for the first time was captured on film and has since been embraced worldwide.  Last month, thanks to a team of doctors from UNC, Grayson heard his father, Len Clamp, say “Daddy loves you,” and both their lives changed forever.

Len Clamp and his wife Nicole adopted Grayson when he was a baby. The family lives in Charlotte; they also have a two-year-old son named Ethan.

Len said was he believes it was God’s plan for them to find Grayson.

“Actually watching just the sheer excitement in his eyes when he heard sound for the first time, and then watching him slowly piece together sound that he is getting and understanding and associating those to real life things has been tremendous.”

To see the video of when Grayson hears for the first time, click here.

Grayson was born with a rare condition that the medical community calls CHARGE, which affects many different areas of a child’s health. Grayson had a severe heart defect at birth, and they believe he cannot see out of his right eye. They don’t know the extent of his vision problems because he can’t communicate yet. Grayson was also born with out a cochlear nerve, which transmits sound information from the cochlea to the brain.

“He was a miracle just to be born,” Len Clamp said. “And then it was also a miracle for us to find him as foster parents when he came along and then ultimately to adopt him. I think we always knew there would be something unique in store.”

Doctors first tried a cochlear implant, but because he was born without the cochlear nerve, it was ineffective, as there was nothing to stimulate. His family then decided to move forward with the auditory brain stem implant, which had been used for adults, but hadn’t been tested for use in children in the United States.

The procedure requires doctors to implant a microchip in a patient’s brain. The microchip then helps the patient recognize and process sound by electrically stimulating the brain stem.

Dr. Craig Buchman, Chief of the Division of Otology/Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery in the UNC School of Medicine; Dr. Matt Ewend, Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at UNC; and Dr. Holly Teagle, Program Director for the Carolina Children’s Communicative Disorders Program, were just a few of the many doctors who have helped to give Grayson the ability to hear.

“There are no amounts of thank you’s that can be given. They are phenomenal surgeons, but they are really just phenomenal people,” Len Clamp said. “They very much have a genuine concern for the well-being of their patients. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten on the phone with them at all hours, day and night. They make us feel like we are the only patient in the hospital.”

As Grayson is beginning to understand sound, Ethan is beginning to babble. Len says it’s great to see both of his sons expressing themselves, in their own unique ways.

“Hearing him in the back of the car make sounds and point at things is great. If he’s working with one the therapists or we’re reading a book to him, he’s now trying to mimic sound,” he said.

Grayson will continue to work with UNC Hospitals for hearing and speech therapy.