Friday, January 2, 2009

Nine Months Later

As my cochlear implant has become just another part of my life, I am starting to take my new hearing for granted. I'm still *so* grateful every morning when I put the CI on, and use the phone, and sometimes watch TV without the closed captioning. But so much now is "normal" for me that never was before. How can I convey the excitement of understanding my nieces and nephews so much better than ever before?

Even the little things are nice; I can hear the turn signals blinking in my truck, and when I leave the lights on there's a buzzer that goes off when I open the door, reminding me to turn them off. I can hear when the washer is finished upstairs, and I can hear when it is raining outside without even looking out the window.

The next step: see if my mom is a candidate. Her hearing has been poor and I think it is getting much poorer; she can barely understand a thing. I think it's her turn to go through this process.

If anyone out there is still on the fence about getting a CI, all I can say is I wish I had done this long ago.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Smiling and Nodding

The big birthday party yesterday for my brother and his friend really put the CI to the test. Amazingly, I was able to have extended conversations with several different people, including a nephew I had always had difficulty understanding---but not this time!

So many years wasted smiling and nodding, pretending to understand but missing so much. That's not who I am anymore. I feel so much more connected to the world, in tune with what's happening around me. Doing laundry, I can hear the washer upstairs, so I don't have to keep running upstairs to see if a load is done. I can hear the my dog breathe and know whether he's settled or restless without even a glance. I called my wife a few days ago and . . . well, see, that is the amazing thing. I called my wife! On the phone! I could talk to her when I wanted to, and hear her voice. I haven't used the phone for something like 15 years!

C.I. moments? Heck, I could fill notebooks. Sometimes I really take it for granted, already, I think, but every once in a while it just *amazes* me. The people who make these devices, the surgeons who implant them, the audiologists who map them---they are all angels doing miracles. The fact that it's technology does not make it any less of a miracle.

Of course, now that I don't need to wear my hearing aids anymore---my audiologist and my rehab specialist both say I had better wear one; I want to keep that other ear stimulated just in case. Unlike some, I lost all residual hearing in my CI ear. I used to love my hearing aids for what they did give me, even though they were annoying and not water resistant and uncomfortable and so on. The CI, though heavier, leaves my ear completely open and it's *so* much more comfortable than the hearing aid ever was. But now the hearing aid is just a nuisance. I don't have better comprehension with the hearing aid; it does seem to balance the sound out a little bit and music is better with it, but mostly it's just a pain. So I'm working on it.

Oh, if any of you out there don't know about this yet: web captel is *amazing*; it's so much better than relay. You have a normal voice connection, and the operator types what the other person says, but you only need to read that if you actually missed something. If you do mostly sort of okay on the phone, as I do, web captel is *wonderful* for when you miss. On the phone, when I miss something, it tends to elude me no matter how many times the other person repeats themselves, and that's very frustrating. I only miss the ability to thank the operator at the end of the call.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Can You Hear a Marathon?

Water resistant? How about four hours and fifteen minutes of running in the California sun, without a single hiccup?

Yes, I finished my Marathon on the 27th of April, wearing the Nucleus Freedom the whole way without a single problem. I got to talk to a lot of people on the course during the race, and heard a lot of wind noise, but it was great running this marathon able to hear everything that was going on.

I cannot complain about the time; it's slower than I normally run, but considering that it was less than eleven weeks after my surgery, and my first long run was less than a month before the marathon, I'm not unhappy.

The marathon I ran was the Big Sur International Marathon; if you have not run this marathon, you must! It's the most amazingly gorgeous course in the world. I run it every year without fail (nine years now).

My cochlear implant has been working wonders for me; there is so much more I am hearing and so much more I am understanding. I need to work harder on my rehab (audio books, use of the phone, things like that) but conversation with most people is pretty effortless.

I was disappointed to see that Battlestar Galactica stole my title (Six of One) without any acknowledgement. On the other hand, I'm so happy that new episodes are out!

Spent yesterday at the Maker Faire with a bunch of friends and family; another great thing to do.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

First *WOW* moment

Activation nearly a week ago was bittersweet; the ability to hear all the sounds around me is amazing, but speech comprehension was, well, not that great. For all the admonishments to keep expectations low, all the positive things posted on the blogs and groups do tend to make you hope for amazing results.

I haven't posted much because I've gone through a number of, well, "issues" is the current vernacular, I guess. I tried running a couple of times, just simple three mile runs, slow and easy, but that led to vertigo; in one case, the vertigo lasted for more than a day. So I've quit running for a bit. Considering I'm planning a marathon at the end of April, that's gonna be a problem.

My tinnitus flared up something awesome for a few days about two weeks after surgery; so bad I really thought I was almost going insane. That seems to have taken care of itself too.

Then yesterday, I kept getting these pains, felt almost like muscle spasms in my brain, every minute or so. That seems to have abated. Mostly, anyway.

I know, I'm whining, and it's ugly; all of these complaints are relatively minor. The good news is we had a family gathering today and I was *amazed* how well I understood people! My sister Mary, I frankly have not been able to understand even with lip reading for nearly a decade. Today, I could easily understand her (with lip reading) with the CI! I mean, every word came in loud and clear. My hearing aids never gave me that. Pretty cool; even mundane conversations are *powerful* when you can hear and understand them, and really participate rather than just try to keep up.

It was only a taste; I still have trouble with most people, and the TV, and stuff, but that one single conversation was truly eye-opening.

I also had a nice chat with another recent implantee; it was nice to exchange observations. In some ways learning to use this device is a bit of a lonely business; there really aren't that many people to chat with about the experience.

I go for my second map on Tuesday. I am a bit uncomfortable with how much my whole life really pivots around my success or failure with this device, but I am optimistic, if not very patient.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Six of One

Friday, three days post-surgery, and I feel fine!

Not strong, exactly, and still a bit light-headed, but I haven't had to take any pain medications yet today. I took Andy for a short half-mile walk and the sun felt really nice.

I had my hair cut off---very short buzz cut---in anticipation of downtime during which I would not be able to shower. That worked out great; I can clean my scalp with a washcloth and feel nice and clean, and I don't have to worry about drowning the incision site. Guys, I highly recommend it.

I don't remember anything between the anetheseologist saying "you'll feel a bit light-headed" in the pre-op room and waking up about eight hours later in post-op. Susie says I was concious when they wheeled me to the surgery room, but I sure don't remember that at all.

Taking the pressure bandage off this morning, three days after surgery, was such a relief.

Here's a hint: if you're uncomfortable and can't sleep, take the narcotics. They help a lot. It's not a contest to see how long you can do without the drugs. I can see how people might get addicted to these painkillers.

I also used one of those airplane pillows, the ones that look like a horsecollar. I was able to arrange this so I could sleep on my side as well as my back (even my non-operative ear was very sore from the pressure bandage).

My new name in the collective will be "Six of One".

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

By Your Command

Oops, mixing up my sci-fi. I'm back from the hospital and hanging around at home. No real pain, just some general discomfort; maybe that's just the narcotics speaking.

They said I was a "cheap date", but the I didn't see the cocktail they mixed. It was potent though; when I woke up I was chatty Cathy.

But the electronics are in, and in the big picture that is the important thing.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Well, I Asked For It!

I had pretty much made up my mind to go forward with the cochlear implant in December, but I decided to make my final decision during the annual trip to Carmel that my wife, I, and the little yellow Lab take every New Year's. The time in Carmel is marvelous to clear the cobwebs, eliminate the thousand pressing details of this modern life and just focus on what's really critical. During that time it was clear to me that moving forward with this device, my hearing, and my life, was the right thing to do.

When I got in to Kaiser in early January to schedule the surgery, they told me they were booked up for the next three months, and to come back in February to see what was available. I can't say I was shocked, as I've read on the various mailing lists and discussion groups about people waiting very long times, sometimes six months and more, for the surgery, but I have to admit I was crestfallen. Perhaps I whined a little, but I would never admit it.

As February approached, I grew concerned that someone would beat me to the punch, grab the next available date for surgery, and I'd be pushed back even further, so I complained to my audiologist, to my wife, to my surgeon, even to poor little Andy who, being a Labrador, was extremely sympathetic. Labs are good that way. My surgeon wrote back and told me if I had any difficulty, just to talk with her that day because she would be in.

So I was there, waiting, in the waiting room, very first day of February, practically as soon as the doors opened. I did it for rock concerts when I was a kid; certainly I can do it cochlear implant surgery (and, I'd be guaranteed front-and-center seating!) I figured best case would be May sometime, but I was steeling myself to be pushed off again. I figured, maybe a pediatric case showed up (it's very important children are implanted early so they can develop language), maybe someone deafer than me. But I'd do all I could. You can't win the game if you don't play.

So finally, called into the office where they schedule surgery. The young lady asked my name, looked at the schedule, and said "How does February 12th sound?"

My heart almost stopped. I was so anxious to get this done, to have this chance to hear again, to be further along this journey, and so sure that I would have to wait, wait, wait. When she said February 12th, I was so happy! Calmly, I said, "That would work just fine," took my paperwork, and got out of there.

I was singing all the way home. (You never want to hear a deaf man sing.)

Today I went in for my pre-operative appointment. Apparently the wonderful people at ENT 296, Kaiser Santa Clara, had huddled together and figured out a way to make it happen soon for me. Above and beyond. These people are great.

Anyway, door just opened, wife is home, time to do family stuff, and go to sleep; at this time tomorrow I'll have some transistors *inside* me. Can't lift more than five pounds for two weeks; great excuse to slack off those weight training sessions at the Y. Family calls.