WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Our Extraordinary Person of the Week is actually an entire family, dogs included. Tatum Lanier is the 1000th child to get a cochlear implant from the UNC Medical Center. Her brother got his 5 years ago. 5 out of 6 members of this extraordinary family are deaf and showing the ‘sign’ of the times.

“We’re turning it up a little” said the audiologist at the Children’s Cochlear Implant Center at UNC.

September 16th was the day the Laniers turned on the 2nd cochlear implant in the family.

Tatum and Gavin

Tatum and Gavin

There to help his little sister on her big day was 7 year old Gavin. “Hi Tatum, can you hear me?,” he asked.

His lil’ sister, Tatum, is following in his footsteps.

“When I found out that I was pregnant with her(Tatum),” Melinda Lanier said, “I knew there was a chance that she would be deaf, just like my son.”

With the help of interpreter Betsy Watts, WWAY’s Daniel Seamans sat down with Melinda and John Lanier, both deaf, to talk about their amazing family.

The story begins like young love stories do.

“We met at deaf camp when I was like 9 years old,” Melinda said. “We started hanging out on the the weekends and became best friends and decided to get married when I was in college.”

John and Melinda Lanier

John and Melinda Lanier

Gavin would be the first born and born deaf. At age two the Laniers decided to get a cochlear implant for him.

“It’s just amazing how he is able to communicate with the hearing world,” she said. “He just talks really well. his speech and listening skills have really developed over the years.”

Gavin’s skills have developed so good, in fact, that this seven year old is translating for his parents.

“A couple of times I have had to ask my son, “what was the waitress saying? and he will interpret for me,” John said of Gavin’s ability to hear and speak with the help of the cochlear implant. “Yes! He can really interpret for us,” Melinda agreed.

Which brings us to UNC Chapel Hill where one year old Tatum just became the 1000th child to receive a cochlar implant at the Children’s Cochlear Implant Center at UNC.

“Can you hear me, Tatum?” Melinda ask as the staff slowly turns up the volume on her new implant.
“Can you hear mommy?”

Tatum and her mom and dad

Tatum and her mom and dad

Tears of joy are shared as a child hears a mother for the first time.

Not everyone agrees with the decision of implants so young. Some say that the child should make the decision,
but research says young is good.
“There is also a critical window for speech and language deveopment,” Dr. Craig Buchman said. “So earlier the better and the literature has really held that up.”

Oh yeah, it’d be a dog gone crime to leave out the two other family members in the Lanier house hold. Nya and Oli. Oli was rescued and Oli also shares a common bond.

“We felt people didn’t want her because she is deaf, and we knew she would fit in with us,” Melinda said. They noticed Oli had been on a Boxer rescue website for too long, so they adopted her.


Oli, Gavin and Nya

As for Tatum, a slow process of learning two worlds is in her future. But if you look at how far her brother has come and you look at the love from the Laniers….you can see the extraordinary ‘sign’ of the times.

It’s a gradual process adjusting the volume. We spoke with Melinda via text earlier today(9/23/2015) and she said they are at the #2 setting on the implant. That is half way to full volume.

IMG_0339 (2)

Oli, Tatum and Nya

And to quote this proud mommy, “She smiles every time I put it on after she wakes up. It’s so adorable. She smiles because she knows she’s gonna hear my voice”.

A wonderful sign of the times.

Categories: Community, Extraordinary People Next Door, Features, Local, New Hanover

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