A North Carolina toddler who was born deaf was able to hear her parents for the first time Monday after undergoing life-changing surgery.

Laken Westbrook, 1, was fitted with cochlear implants, which are considered the quickest way to restore hearing, MyFoxAtlanta.com reported. Laken faced several setbacks in her journey after the family’s insurance company refused to cover the procedure, and then doctors discovered too much fluid in her ear.

“You know, we’ve been through so much and just like any parent that’s been through the same thing, you know it’s that day leading up to it, you know that’s like the climax of the story,” Gary Westbrook, Laken’s father, told WFMyNews2.com.  

After deciding to pay out of pocket for the procedure, the Elon, N.C. family received additional funds from friends and family to help cover the $20,000 down payment.

“I don’t know that we would have ever done it ourselves. To see how that worked, it was amazing,” Gary told the news site about the support they received. “There’s no way words can show our gratitude.”

The Westbrooks watched as their daughter made eye contact and stopped to listen when she heard their voices in the doctor’s office Monday.

“She’s never done that before,” Stacy Westbrook, Laken’s mother, told WFMyNews2.com.

Beth Whitfield, a teacher of the deaf who is working with Laken, added that the early years are the most crucial part of a child’s development.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what affect hearing is going to have on other areas of development,” Whitfield told MyFoxAtlanta.com.

Laken was treated at University of North Carolina Hospital Chapel Hill.