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Hidden talent

Jérémy's story

He has sung for both Céline Dion and the Pope. He has recorded two albums and co-authored a book. He was born deaf.

Jérémy Gabriel, of Quebec City, Canada, was born prematurely with severe facial malformations and other complications, requiring intensive care. He was diagnosed at 6 months with Treacher Collins syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects one in 10,000 babies. It is characterized by head, skull and facial deformities. In addition, children with this condition generally have absent or malformed ears, which can cause hearing loss, as it did for Jérémy. For the first five years of his life, he battled recurring ear infections caused by his hearing aids and because of the malformation of his ears, he could barely hear and had difficulty learning to speak.

Jérémy was referred to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Canada at the age of 5. There, the family met Lucie Lessard, M.D., a maxillofacial specialist and a plastic and craniofacial surgeon. On meeting her, the family was immediately reassured and knew Jérémy would be helped.

“If I had never been to the Shriners Hospital, I would have never met Dr. Lessard and I would have never had the opportunity to hear or speak more clearly. My life would be very different.”

Jérémy proved to be a great candidate for the BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aid) implant, and he received his in June 2003. After the surgery, Jérémy walked around the hospital to determine what he could now hear. He was fascinated with sound. He had never sung before, but now at the age of 6, he could sing.

At his school for the deaf, Jérémy's music teacher noticed that he had perfect pitch. She began to teach him more challenging songs, which he learned with natural ability.

Now in a high school specializing in performing arts, Jérémy is taking speech and voice lessons in addition to his very intense high school curriculum. He is an excellent student and is preparing for a career in the music business.