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‘A Christmas miracle’: Insurance company covers cochlear implant surgery for Clifton Forge baby

‘It feels like a million pounds have been lifted’

CLIFTON FORGE, Va. – Nine-month-old Manning James is just like any other baby. He loves exploring, looks up to his big brother Mason, and is sometimes a little too curious for his own good.

But there’s one thing that makes him stand out. Manning was born on March 29, 2020, completely deaf in both ears.

“He was born full-term, very healthy. We didn’t notice anything different or wrong with him, but he did fail his newborn hearing screening. He failed it twice,” said his mom, Noelle Brantley.

She said there is nothing wrong with Manning being deaf, but the diagnosis led to a roller coaster of emotions for her and her husband because they never expected anything but a healthy, normal baby.

“We don’t have any family history of deafness on either side. We don’t know anyone who’s deaf, so it was a really big shock for us,” said Noelle.

When doctors told her that Manning could get cochlear implants and be able to hear, she jumped at the chance to give him that option.

“He can be up to speed with his peers with speech and, you know, he can listen to music and do whatever he wants to do, be whatever he wants to be,” said Noelle.

They scheduled the surgery for December 30 and started preparing: coordinating with the insurance company, Aetna Medicaid, getting Manning hearing aids and taking him to doctor’s appointments in Roanoke three to four times a week.

Everything was fine, until earlier this month.

“We talked with his insurance company and they said, ‘It was 100% covered. You guys won’t have to worry about anything.’ And that was the case up until three weeks before the surgery when we got the letter of denial saying that they didn’t see the necessity for it,” said Noelle. “It just felt like a bomb dropped on us.”

At a loss, Noelle made a TikTok video and started a GoFundMe page to raise money in case they had to pay for everything out of pocket, about $450,000. They ended up raising around $10,000.

Monday morning, two days before the surgery, Noelle got a call.

“They had approved the surgery,” she said. “It feels like a million pounds have been lifted.”

Now, Noelle is returning the money raised because this Christmas she got the best gift of all.

“Just knowing that he can get the surgery that is absolutely life changing for him at the time that he needs it, is just incredible,” said Noelle. “It’s definitely a Christmas miracle.”

About the Author:

Lindsey joined the WSLS 10 team as a reporter in February 2019 and is thrilled to call Roanoke her new home!