June 15, 2022
BANGKOK – For the past 20 years, Chadchart has been doing what he can to ensure his son, Sanpiti “Sandee” Sittipunt, can lead a normal life despite being born without any hearing ability.
Sanpiti, 22, recently graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle with a bachelor’s in history and thanks to his father’s determination, he has never had to go to special schools.
Ever the devoted father, Chadchart was not afraid to openly announce he was taking his first few days in office off because he wanted to attend his son’s graduation ceremony.
Chadchart’s battle for his son began on March 31, 2001, when Sanpiti was just 14 months old.
On that day, Chadchart said, he took the toddler to the doctor after people began noticing that the infant did not respond to voices.
His life changed completely that day when he was told by the doctor that his son was totally deaf. The nurses suggested that he start looking for a school that taught hand signals.
Chadchart said he was shocked and began crying for his baby’s future. He rejected the initial diagnosis and took his son to several other hospitals – but the diagnosis was always the same.
In fact, he became so desperate that he even resorted to prayers and promises, but to no avail. Eventually, he accepted the reality and spent the next six months looking into what he could do to ensure his son led a normal life.
He studied the options of sign language and lip-reading as well as hearing aids, which he later learned would not help as his son was totally deaf.
Eventually, he chose the riskiest option – cochlear implant surgery. At that time, there had been very few cochlear implant surgeries in Thailand and all were unsuccessful.
Yet, Chadchart did not give up and kept hunting until he learned that a surgeon at a children’s hospital in Sydney had been successful with more than 1,000 such surgeries.
When he approached the surgeon, he was rejected on grounds that there were many Australian patients on the waiting list. The doctor finally relented when Chadchart would not stop begging.
However, this surgery was just the beginning of the battle. He had years of hard work ahead of him, teaching his son how to speak and form words.
At that time, Chadchart was a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s Engineering Faculty and could not take leave too often to help his son. So he decided to apply for a research scholarship in Australia, so he could be with his son in Sydney.
While there, the devout father escorted his son to a speech therapist three times a week and also held lessons at home until Sanpiti began speaking normally. This took six months of intense hard work.
Since an artificial cochlear does not work the same way as real tissue, Chadchart decided his son’s native tongue would be English instead of Thai, which is a tonal language. Sanpiti began speaking Thai much later in life.
In an interview with Cochlear Southeast Asia in 2019, Sanpiti said his father was his best friend, who always stood by him and fought every battle side by side.
“My dad never gave up, no matter how hard our lives would be. My dad is my idol and I’ll use him as my role model. He always fought for me,” Sanpiti said.
At a recent interview with Krungthep Turakij, Sanpiti again exclaimed that Chadchart was his idol. “My dad is my biggest motivation and my mum is the best adviser for me.”
Sanpiti added that he liked going to coffee shops and visiting different places in Bangkok with his father. “I enjoy doing various projects with dad and I like to follow him around,” he said.
Sanpiti added that he hoped he could motivate others like his father has been motivating him. He said his aim is to start helping other handicapped people, so they too can lead their lives like other people.
“There are about 130,000 to 150,000 handicapped in Thailand who are under 21 years old. There are not enough laws and fundamental rights. I would like to help increase their chance of education and increase their quality of life,” Sanpiti said.
Published : June 14, 2022
By : THE NATION