In an incredible moment, twin baby girls were able to hear the sounds of the world for the very first time Wednesday when hearing aids they received as a gift from an Orange County foundation were turned on.
Looking, even really closely, it's almost impossible to tell Kiara and Kayla apart.
The 6-month-old girls are identical in every way, including their disability. Both were born deaf.
“It was so stressful when we heard about it,” the girls’ mother, Gemila Hernandez, recalled.
The diagnosis devastated both Gemila and her husband, Raul.
“I remember one day I was walking, I heard the birds chirping,” Gemila said, recalling thinking her little girls could not hear it.
“Before we knew their diagnosis we would tell them so much everyday how much we love them,” Gemila said. “And then when we learned about the diagnosis it was so hard for us because I question, have they ever heard me say I love them?"
To add to their heartbreak, the Hernandezes called their insurance company and learned even more devastating news. Most insurance companies — including theirs — consider hearing aids "elective" or "cosmetic" and don't cover any of the costs.
“I remember when we got the email, I couldn't even compose myself,” Gemila said.
But Wednesday, it was a different surge of emotions as the twins were fitted for their hearing aids, thanks to the nonprofit Hearaid Foundation.
“Most people don't realize that a mild to moderate hearing loss could severely affect their speech and language development,” said Cheryl Tanita, chief audiologist for Hearaid, the Newport Beach headquartered organization.
The foundation that helped the twins provides thousands of devices to children, many of whom are born deaf.
Now, thanks to that gift of hearing, these girls will grow up in a world with sounds, including hearing their mother's voice.
Both parents watched as first Kiara, then Kayla, were able to hear for the first time.
All the attention from the doctors, their parents and the others gathered to watch their reactions was perhaps too tiring for Kiara, who fell asleep soon after the first moment.
But the sparkle in Kayla’s eyes as her ears took in their first sounds was unmistakable.
“It's beautiful!” Gemila exclaimed. “Before, I told them, a million times how much I love them. Now I'm going to say it so much more.”
For more information or to donate to Hearaid Foundation, visit their site here.