P.E.I. curler who had ‘life-changing’ surgery eager to compete in Canada Games

Makiya Noonan was 13 months old when she underwent surgery for cochlear implants — at the time, according to her family, she was the youngest person in Canada to get both implants done in one surgery.

Now 16 years old, the P.E.I. curler is gearing up to compete in the Canada Games in February.

Makiya doesn’t remember life before her implants, but says she can’t imagine living without them.

“I’m very thankful that I do have them and being able to hear the world,” she said. 

“I find it very cool, since I don’t remember it [the surgery].” 

Makiya Noonan, seen with mom Kristin Noonan, was 13 months old when she underwent surgery for cochlear implants in 2007. (Submitted Kristin Noonan)

The teen from Summerside, P.E.I., said many people don’t know she’s deaf — the implants are hidden by her long, dark hair.

“People they have no idea unless I tell them,” she said. 

‘Real potential’

Makiya got into curling after trying an introduction to curling program at school and fell in love with the sport.

Coach Robbie Lenentine describes her as a positive and outgoing person who makes everyone laugh — and says she’s also a very talented curler.

“This girl has got real potential.”

Makiya Noonan stands at the curling club after a recent practise.
Makiya Noonan curls with Team Lenentine. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Lenentine isn’t sure if noise will be an issue at the Canada Games, so the team has tested out a microphone that will allow the skip to speak directly to Makiya.

“They tried it at practice once,” he said. “There will be a lot of crowd noise, and at any competition you go to there’s a lot of noise on the ice.” 

Life-changing surgery

Mom Kristin Noonan said having the surgery so young was hugely beneficial.

“We knew it would be life-changing,” she said. “She’s got perfect speech, she hears very well and we still do sign language on the side, so she has full communication.”

Coach Robbie Lenentine stands on the curling ice with Makiya Noonan.
Coach Robbie Lenentine says Makiya has a lot of potential. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Kristin says Makiya has never let being deaf hold her back.

“We’ve taught her from day one to be proud of her deafness.”

Canada Games prep

Makiya and her teammates say the competition at the Canada Games will be intense. The team is competing at a national event in Timmins, Ont.,  just before the games to help them prepare. 

Her teammates have all seen her implants and know how they work — and Makiya has taught them some sign language for fun.

Canada Game Team poses at Cornwall Curling club.
From left: Erika Pater, Kacey Gauthier, Makiya Noonan and Ella Lenentine will represent P.E.I. at the Canada Games. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Teammate Kacey Gauthier says they communicate just like any other team on the ice. They just have to pay a bit more attention to electrical outlets to make sure the batteries for the implants are charged when they’re travelling.

“I think it’s really cool, honestly, the technology,” Gauthier said. 

Makiya hopes to keep curling beyond the Canada Games, maybe making it to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts one day.

She says the team is good at encouraging each another, and they’ll be doing lots of that to get ready for the games.

“We are very comfortable with each other,” she said. “They are truly amazing, I’m very lucky to spend lots of my time with them.”

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