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Local doctor finalist for award for Haiti work | News – yoursun.com

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Dr. Ricardo Gauthier is a finalist for the 23rd Annual Oticon Focus on People Awards in the “Hearing Care Practitioner” category.

Dr. Ricardo Gauthier is a finalist for the 23rd Annual Oticon Focus on People Awards in the “Hearing Care Practitioner” category.
PUNTA GORDA — Only one trip to Haiti was enough for audiologist Dr. Ricardo Gauthier to get hooked.
“Once you do a project like that, meet the people and experience the culture, you just never stop,” Gauthier said, “it’s one of those things you want to keep doing.”
Gauthier, who has a private practice in Punta Gorda, has been traveling to Haiti once a year for two decades providing hearing health care to around 300 to 400 deaf and hard-of-hearing children on the island.
He is fluent in Haitian Creole and has been involved in Hope of Hearing Haiti since 2001.
Hearing aid manufacturer Oticon named Gauthier as a finalist in November for their 23rd Annual Oticon Focus on People Awards in the “Hearing Care Practitioner” category.
Other categories include “Student,” “Adult” and “Advocacy.”
The national program recognizes adults, students and advocates with hearing loss, along with hearing care practitioners, who advocate for the hearing loss community on a daily basis.
Voting in these four categories opened Nov. 15 and runs through Dec. 17. To vote, go to Oticon’s website Oticon.com and click on the “Inside Oticon” tab.
“There are so many people involved in this project that could win this award and be a finalist,” he said. “I’m just glad that I can talk about Haiti and hearing loss.”
For each trip, Gauthier and a team of other volunteer audiologists and speech language pathologists work through local schools in Haiti to treat the children, spending around a week in the country.
“When you first go do this, you say, ‘I’m going to go help and reach out and give back,’ but once you do this kind of project you realize that you’re not just helping them, you’re helping yourself because you get so much more out of it,” he said.
“You realize how fortunate and grateful you are to be living in a country like this where you have warm water, you have a shower — you don’t have to worry about traveling miles to get water to cook and feed your family,” Gauthier added.
He went on to say that being able to travel to Haiti and help the children is almost like a rush.
“I think anyone who does any type of humanitarian project like this, you realize that it’s like ‘Wow, I want to see what I’ve done last time and what I can do to improve on the system that we have there because we have the teachers, the nurses, the children and we watch them grow up,” Gauthier said.
His work in Haiti isn’t without challenges, however, not only from the level of care they can provide, but also with security issues.
“We don’t have the ability to have sound proof booths and precision on the tests like how we want it to be,” he said. “But we are in a different setting in a third world country and helping a child who is hard of hearing, or almost deaf is so important.”
Part of that importance is because a top cause of death for deaf and hard-of-hearing children is that they can’t hear the cars coming in traffic, according to Gauthier.
“Giving them that hearing aid for them to wear so when there is oncoming traffic and they can hear the cars honk the horn because traffic is very difficult to keep organized,” he said.
Security for his team and even for the children who receive the hearing aids remain an issue.
“Sometimes we do have issues with the kids taking the devices home and then getting it stolen and someone grabs it so they can sell it,” he said. “We have to go to certain areas that we know are more peaceful.
“Near the capital is probably a place that we try to stay away from because when there is a lot of unrest there there can be problems with transportation.”
One of the hardest parts for Gauthier and his team is when they meet a child they can’t help.
“Sometimes you go to a school where a kid has a disability and they are so far off the chart that you can’t help them,” he said. “It’s really tough for the kids sometimes to realize that they don’t have any residual hearing enough to be able to help.
“It breaks your heart sometimes because they’re (the children) thinking well ‘maybe this could be my chance that I could get some help’ but sometimes, unfortunately, they don’t make the cut and it’s essentially another let down for them.”
Despite the challenges, Gauthier feels like he’s with family on vacation when he’s there.
“You have so much fun that you don’t really see it as work,” he said. “We do a lot but we don’t really see it as work; it’s almost like a vacation.”
“It’s one of those things where you feel like you have family down there,” he added. “They are the most beautiful most resourceful people that I have ever met.”
In Punta Gorda, Gauthier and wife Rosalyn have two sons. He said his wife is the one who really deserves an award.
“Every time I go down there she’s holding her breath,” he said. “While she always encourages me to go, at the same time she’s the one that has to go through it every year knowing that I’m out there.”
Email: daniel.sutphin@yoursun.com

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