Herewith the short summary of the personal story / testimony of Monita Bester (founder of Tiny Handz CC in 2008)
My life-changing story started in the Eastern Cape (Port Elizabeth) where I was also born. My husband and I resided in Uitenhage (30km outside of PE).
In my 4th year of marriage, I was diagnosed with German Measles whilst 10 weeks pregnant. Dr’s wanted to abort the baby as the risk of the virus that caused the measles (Rubella-virus) was very dangerous for the baby and could cause various medical conditions like deafness, blindness, cerebral palsy, underdevelopment of the heart and/or brain and even variety of others.
Being a Christian I did not want to go the abortion-route but chose to trust God to protect my baby, even though he was not planned and we did not want to fall pregnant at this stage. I had to believe God had a higher purpose.
I prayed a lot and chose to take God by His Word and confessed healing scriptures over Ethan whilst pregnant. God was faithful to His word and immediately started doing a work. The proof was there when the doctor took my blood test 2 weeks later and the anti-body count of my body was 3 times higher than humanly possible. I believe God did this to protect my unborn baby.
Ethan was born at 37 weeks. He was born completely deaf and also diagnosed with cerebral palsy quite early. He was a very ill baby and fell ill constantly. He got his first hearing aids at 3 months, which did not help him at all, we realized afterwards. He wore them up to 1-year of age.
Being a very sick baby with a low immune system (children born with rubella normally do not have a long life expectancy because of the low immune system), his lungs collapsed and he could not breathe on his own anymore. He was put on a ventilator to breathe for him. Doctors treating him said that he would not survive but that we would have to make peace with the fact that we would most probably lose him soon. Again, I chose to trust God for a miracle and prayed a lot and confessed scripture, reminding God of His promises. Again, God was good and faithful to His Word and touched my son miraculously. He was taken off the ventilator after 4 weeks.
Then the paediatrician involved was more determined to help Ethan. There is no cure for Rubella, but he wanted to help him get a treatment that would help him to live longer. He could not get hold of one doctor in the country that wanted to assist him, because when you look at medical condition on paper, there was not much one could do. The doctor eventually reached out to other medical professionals overseas and started communicating with a doctor in Japan, who was treating a similar case with a one-year old girl. They then sent Ethan’s blood over to Japan with the Red Cross and started putting Ethan on a treatment plan. He was put in hospital every 4-weeks for treatment. With every treatment he got an LP (lumber punch) to see how active the rubella virus was and if it was diminishing at all. In the meantime, we took him for prayer, many times. Trusting God for healing. Hallelujah! God was faithful once more. In Ethan’s 4th month of treatment, the tests results showed that there were no trace of rubella in Ethan’s body at all! Today still, Ethan is Rubella free and he is now 13-years old and one of the strongest boys in school!
To come back to the hearing: my son and I moved to Cape Town (whilst going through a divorce) and once meeting with professionals, I was advised not to use Sign Language. Because he was approved for a cochlear implant, the therapist involved told me that if I were to use signs, it may hinder him from wanting to speak. I did not know this then, but this was a very untrue statement and I would live to regret the decisions made at that point. I know my son would be a different boy today, have I followed my ‘gut’ and started signing earlier. But I tell people my story so they do not make the same mistake…
SO, I did not sign with Ethan. After 2 failed operations, only the 3rd operation was successful and almost 12 months have passed. So by the time he could hear for the first time, Ethan was already 2.2 years old. He received therapy etc. but the speech did not improve. He got a 2nd implant which also did not help the speech, but the hearing got even better yes. I will never regret the Cochlear Implant!
When he was 4, the school he was at (Carl du Toit) told me that Ethan would have to go to the school for the Deaf (De la Bat in Worcester). I was heartbroken as I then realized I could have started signing with him much earlier if this is where he was going! I immediately started going for evening classes in Cape Town to learn SASL and within 2 days of showing him signs, Ethan started signing back to me! This was such an awesome experience for me to be able to communicate with my son that, at that stage, I did not care if he never spoke! The two of us then moved to Worcester and I was very blessed to get work at the National Institute for the Deaf. There I learned more Sign Language and about the Deaf Culture and how amazing Deaf people and their culture are. My son bloomed and improved daily. His speech even got better. SO much so that we could take him out of the school for the deaf after 2.5 years and put him in a school that followed the normal school curriculum but that also catered for his physical disability (he still was a child with ADD and cerebral palsy). He then started at Martie Du Plessies in the middle of Grade R at the age of 6. An amazing achievement, if you consider what he has been through!
When I moved to Bloemfontein, I struggled to get permanent employment. I then started Tiny Handz, first-off with the idea to teach parents to use signs with their babies and with the help of therapist from the Department of Education, we compiled training for those in contact with special needs children or adults who struggle with their speech.
Tiny Handz teach key words to be used alongside speech. We do not necessarily follow the Sign Language grammar rules in the use of the signs, as we want those children who have the ability of speech, to develop speech within spoken language rules as far as possible.
Sign Language has changed my life and the life of my son and it is wonderful to see how God Almighty is using Tiny Handz for His glory. Today we have created a Tiny Handz Community where-in parents, family members, teachers and therapists can refer and advice with their training as a basis, eliminating any other confusions with regards to different signs available. I am humbled and privileged to stand in His service as He continues to do a wonderful work in our country and in the lives of wonderful, wonderful people.