Iowa doctor to perform pro bono surgery for 5-year-old from South Sudan

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CLIVE, Iowa (KCCI) - A 5-year-old girl has traveled 7,500 miles with her family from South Sudan to the Midwest to receive a life-changing surgery pro bono, thanks to the kindness of a central Iowa doctor.

Awok “Paulina” Nyikango has been deaf since birth and will receive a cochlear implant, a device that’s placed into the inner ear during surgery to stimulate the hearing nerve.

After the surgery this morning, she’ll need to heal for about two weeks before it can be turned on.

“I am a believer,” said her father, Nyathjwok “Stephen” Nyikango, who works for the U.S. Embassy in South Sudan. The journey from East Africa to Dr. Matthew Carfrae’s office in Clive has been long, but well worth it for the family.

“To be honest, I can’t imagine hearing her talking, but I will be really, really happy,” Nyikango said.

Paulina’s parents realized when she was 14 months old her babbling never turned into words.

According to a GoFundMe page set up by the family, there is basic medical care in the country, and they couldn’t find a speech therapist to teach Paulina sign language, nor were there any special education classes in South Sudanese schools for hearing-impaired children.

“I’m afraid my daughter will not really get a future there,” Nyikango said. So he brought his daughter all the way to Iowa for this surgery.

“This is the only way for her to participate with the hearing world, and for her to have a chance to develop language and speech and help her communicate with others,” Carfrae said.

Carfrae has volunteered to perform the surgery pro bono.

The chances of the implant allowing Paulina to hear are extremely high.

“There is going to be a whole symphony of sound that is going to open up to her, and it’s going to be remarkable,” Carfrae said.

Right now, Paulina only uses a few signs to communicate, but soon, she might be able to say her first real words.

Although Carfrae has agreed to do the surgery pro bono, there are still huge costs associated with the implant and speech therapy afterward. To help with medical expenses, go to