Saturday, February 23, 2008

Countdown Has Begun - 23 Days to go!

23 Days until Reimplantation.

And yes I’m nervous . Horribly so. I’ll be going out my daily chores, and minding my own business, and all of a sudden I remember that I’ll soon be having my re-implantation. I get a rush of nervousness where I want to run around the house naked and screaming. Well – okay – just screaming, but I put the naked bit in there because it sounds more exciting!!

I can’t remember feeling this emotional 15 years ago with my first Cochlear Implant operation, but the circumstances back then were so different to my present situation.

15 years ago, I was in hospital with intractable vertigo. It would just not let up. Day after day we would hope that the vertigo would pass, but no. The doctors finally decided to do an 8th cranial nerve section on the left side to get rid of the vertigo. However, this was my only hearing ear, and there was a high chance that when they cut the balance nerve, that I would lose all my hearing in that ear as well.

At this stage, although I wore a hearing aid on my left ear, I was still able to hear on the phone with it, and so wasn’t really quite eligible for a Cochlear Implant for that reason. However with a high chance of losing it all during the operation, it was decided to implant me first, get it up and running and make sure I can hear, then do the nerve section operation on the other side.

The Cochlear Implant operation itself was uneventful. I felt like I had been run over by a bus for 24 hours, but it didn’t make me any more dizzy than I already was. Back then they shaved off half my head, and the incision was a huge C shape, from the temple, right down to underneath the ear. All stapled up, I looked like Johnny Rotten the punk rocker. Didn’t even need to wear make–up, my white face was enough!!

Switch on was incredible. Having had to lip-read all my life, within minutes of being switched on, I distinctly heard the words ‘That’s Incredible’ spoken by the audiologist, without lip-reading. That was the indication that my Cochlear Implant would be a success. Over the next few years, I went on to gain understanding of speech without lip-reading at the 98/100% level in quiet situations without background noise, although I did have to work at it and practice to get there. I’ll address that in future blogs, as I compare the new implant with the old.

Even though I was able to undersstand two words without lip-reading on the first day, it was extremely tiring learning all these new sounds, and they didn’t sound that good. A bit ‘slow’, ‘deep’, and ‘donald duckish’ are words I think I used in describing it way back then. All this new hearing made me exhausted, so I took the implant off, and was asleep by 7pm!!

I was still in hospital, and the next morning I woke just before the doctors rounds. I looked on the bedside cabinet. There was my trusty hearing aid, and next to it the cochlear implant. I went to put on the hearing aid, as that what I knew and was easy. But guilt got the better of me. The government had just paid $40,000 to have this implant, so I better wear it. So on it went and the hearing aid stayed where it was.

I was really surprised. All the Donald duckish sounds had completely disappeared overnight. Nothing was deep or slow, instead, everything sounded just like I had always heard. Doctors came round, and their voices were the same. I suddenly heard a bell, and asked them what it was. It was the drug bell, when a nurse needed the key to the drug cabinet she’d ring the bell and whoever had the key would pass it on. This had been ringing 50x a day for the last month while in hospital, and I had never heard it. Then I heard a telephone. Now that was quite a way from my room and that too I had never heard.

I was really hearing much much more than I had ever heard with my hearing aid. I did try wearing both, but the Cochlear Implant gave me so much more that in the end the hearing aid was banished to the deep dark recesses of a drawer, never to be seen again. I never did find it again!!

A week after switch on, I was transferred to Neurosurgery and had the 8th cranial nerve section operation on the left side. Although there was a high chance of losing my hearing with that operation, the surgeon was so good, that I lost nothing. It did stop the vertigo too, for six years. Six years I was vertigo free. Then it came back – but that’s another story for another rainy day.

My original implant operation was done on 26th March, 1993, and I was switched on, on the 27th April 1993, one month later.

My re-implantation is tentatively booked on the 17th March, 2008.

23 more days to go.

My present situation is so different. Sometime in the last few years, my left ear has totally given out. It’s now completely dead, and I will never be able to have a cochlear implant on that side. So this time round, there’s no ‘backup ear’. This time round, there could be scar tissue build up around the existing implant, which means reinsertion may be difficult.

I’m going to focus o the positives though – that this time round it’ll be easier because I’ve done it all before. That the technology is newer and hopefully better.

Countdown has begun… 23 days!!

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