An Apple A Day…
The past couple months have been mainly focused on medical visits. At the end of January, I finally got an eye exam. That was one of the things I refused to do after I went totally deaf, because I didn’t think I could handle lip reading in a dark room with my contacts out. My vision is really bad so without contacts, I can only see things that are about an inch in front of my face. I’d basically be French kissing my optometrist if I was close enough to read his lips without my contacts in.
So! Fast forward a bit, the cochlear implants are working marvelously and I’m having more and more of a difficult time reading small print with my 44 year old eyes. Time for that eye exam!
I’ve been wearing contacts since I was about 12 years old, starting with the hard kind. I switched to soft contacts when I was 18 and could afford to pay for them myself (since they were much more expensive back then). Ever since, I’ve worn the same kind of soft contact lenses, the kind where they come in a glass vial and you wear them for about a year. When disposables came along they just kind of seemed like a silly extra expense.
Now, however, it’s getting more and more difficult to find the lenses you wear for a year. Disposable contacts are pretty much the most common ones out there, and that’s what I ended up with after my visit in January. I’m still trying to get used to throwing them away, which just feels wrong to me. I spent so many years being super-careful about NOT throwing my contacts away, or flushing them down the drain, or whatever…it is really strange to just toss them in the trash after a couple of weeks!
The eye exam itself was much easier than I expected. I told my doctor about my hearing loss – it was my first visit, so he didn’t have any kind of prior history on me. When I tell people about my hearing now, I say “I’m deaf, but I hear with cochlear implants”. Surprisingly, a lot of people know what I mean without further explanation. (I always like showing people my CI processors and explaining how they work though.)
I explained to the doctor that I lip read, so he did actually stay really close to me once my contacts were out and the lights were dimmed for my exam. That was a little funny, having someone in my personal space, but it was also extremely helpful because I never had a problem understanding him. All of the “Better or worse? This one or that one?” questions were pretty predictable and not a problem for me. He was a pretty talkative doctor though so the biggest challenge was the small talk, but it put me at ease and he was understanding if I needed him to repeat himself.
So I survived my first eye exam as a dear/cochlear implant gal, and now I use disposable contacts along with a pair of BIFOCAL glasses when I’m not wearing my contacts (early morning/late night). I officially feel my age! I also have a trusty pair of reading glasses that I use more and more during the day, when I have my contacts in.
After my eye exam, in late February, Dave went for his “I’m over 50 now” obligatory colonoscopy at the VA hospital. That was quite an experience for him, one he promises he will NEVER repeat, LOL. He had two huge boxes full of preparatory pills, liquid and powder, plus instructions on how to prepare the day before the exam. Anyone who’s had a colonoscopy knows what I’m referring to here…you have to fast the day before, on a clear liquid diet, plus take all kinds of laxatives to clean your system out before the actual exam.
Poor, poor Dave. I felt so sorry for him. He started his morning, at 7:30 am, with 10 or 12 laxative tablets. Once those hit, he was totally nauseated along with the, um, expected result. I think those made him feel the worst, actually. Later in the morning he had to drink a bottle, maybe 10 oz?, of some kind of liquid. He did that, and then I mixed up this big gallon jug for him to start drinking later in the afternoon. The jug came with just powder in it, and we had to fill it with water, shake it up, and leave it in the fridge until 2:00. Then he had to drink 8 oz every 10 minutes until it was gone. Every 10 minutes I dutifully set a glass of this stuff in front of him, until nearly 5 pm. Then at 7 pm he had to drink another one of the (10 oz?) bottles.
In the meantime, he could have clear broth, Jell-O and popsicles. Now he won’t even look at Jell-O…and I don’t blame him!
He said that day was the worst day of his life, even worse than when he had chemo before his bone marrow transplant. It really makes me look forward to when I turn 50 and have to go through this!
The exam itself wasn’t even a big deal, and he came through with a clean bill of health. I spent the morning in the hospital waiting room, testing out my ears. It was pretty amazing the things I could hear, and how much more relaxed I am now in a waiting room. Instead of sitting, tense, watching every movement to see if our names are being called, I can relax, read, whatever. In fact, when they first called Dave back, he didn’t even look up…he had no idea they called his name. I tapped his arm and told him I thought they were calling him – I wasn’t positive, but I was pretty sure I’d heard his name being called. And sure enough, it was!
After Dave’s hospital visit, it was my mom’s turn. She’d been having trouble breathing for a couple months and it was getting worse. In a stroke of good timing, the doctor she sees for her defibrillator checkups told her that she should really be seeing a cardiologist (she had a heart attack in 1999, which is when they gave her the defibrillator). So she saw the cardiologist, who ordered a stress test. That prompted him to order an angiogram, and during that she had 4 stents placed in one of her arteries because it was blocked.
After the angiogram, though, she was still having trouble breathing. She made an appointment with a pulmonologist, who gave her some tests for lung function and diagnosed her with COPD and asthma. This really freaked my mom out; she’s 70 and really takes pride in being very active. She eats well, stopped smoking 30 years ago, and walks anywhere from 3-5 miles most days. To get a diagnosis like that really depressed her.
Well, after that she just went downhill. The inhalers that she got were making her jittery and lightheaded, and she was still having trouble breathing. One morning in late February she called and asked us to take her to the emergency room. She was just distraught, crying and panicked. I was really glad that we live so close by (just a 5 minute drive) so we could be there with her, and my CIs helped me understand everything the hospital personnel said to her. Dave and I stayed with her until it was time for Paige to get home from school; at that point they had done a bunch of blood tests, a CAT scan and an ultrasound.
This was all in the emergency room, in a big room where there were curtains pulled around to make a little room within the big room for each patient. I could actually hear them talking to the person next to us, asking if she knew where she was, what year it was, etc. I mentioned to my mom (later on, after we left) that I could hear them and she confirmed that yes, it was a patient they suspected had Alzheimer’s. Again, a really weird experience with the inadvertent eavesdropping!
One thing I really puzzled over, though, was the announcements. One was obviously a computer, not a person, and it was accompanied by these horrible bleats of something that sounded like an air horn. I just couldn’t figure out what they were saying. Finally I asked my mom and it was something like “Code Red, Building North, First Floor”. Over and over and over. Once I knew what was being said it made total sense to me but it’s a good thing I don’t work in a hospital because I wouldn’t be responding to any loudspeaker announcements!
Anyway, we came home, got Paige and went back to the ER only to see my mom in the waiting room…they had released her with a diagnosis of anxiety and a prescription for Xanax. Over the next month she had two more ER visits, with one resulting in an admission (and no real diagnosis that we heard). It was starting to get frustrating, as she saw more and more doctors and kept saying that nothing was helping. She was getting despondent, wanting to just give up, and we just felt helpless to do anything for her. One doctor said she had COPD/emphysema, one said if she had COPD at all it was very mild. She just hated the inhalers and was having trouble sleeping, plus she was really depressed. I get my worrying and anxiety from my mom, and anxiety was definitely playing a part in her health issues.
Finally, she saw a doctor who felt her issues stemmed more from depression and that her COPD was actually very mild. He prescribed an antidepressant, which I really felt my mom needed. Initially, though, she refused to take it. There were so many warnings on the package and so many potential side effects, she just couldn’t bring herself to do it. We talked to her about it and she finally decided to give them a chance (she breaks them in half) and now she’s like a new person. She admitted that the biggest problem for her was that she was in denial about the COPD diagnosis…I think she was hoping to find a doctor who would say she didn’t have it, and give her a miracle pill that would make her all better. Now though, her attitude is better (much more positive) and she isn’t panicking, which definitely helps her breathing.
There’s been a huge difference, dealing with medical stuff as a person who can hear (thanks to cochlear implants) versus being totally deaf, like I was when I had my pre-op tests and going in for the surgery itself. I mean, any medical situation is nerve-wracking in and of itself (for me, anyway) and when you add in the possibility of missing most of what’s being said, it just makes the whole situation even more stressful. I had such a calm feeling of being in control in all of these situations…eye exam, hospital visit with Dave, ER visits with mom…and what a difference it makes! For once I can forget about myself and really be present for the issue at hand.
The final hurdle I have to jump is a dental visit. I haven’t had a cleaning since late 2007. I was actually scheduled for a cleaning in mid-April last year, just 2 days after I went deaf. I went on April 16 to see Dr. Battista and that was the day I was officially declared profoundly deaf in both ears. By that time I was hearing nothing at all. My dental appointment was on Friday of that same week, and I had Dave call to cancel it. Dental visits are hard enough, with those masks over their face so I can’t lip read. I couldn’t imagine doing it without being able to hear at all.
Then we cancelled our dental insurance (can’t afford it) so now I’m kind of like, eh…my teeth feel fine, and I’d have to go to this new dentist (who takes the dental discount plan we now have…not insurance, but at least it’s something). They’ll need x-rays and a new patient exam as well as the cleaning, and that’s SO much money. Blah. I’ll go sometime this year (probably when I schedule Paige for her 6 month cleaning) but I’m kind of dreading it. I wonder if my processors and/or headpieces will fall off when they recline the chair? Hmmm.
Hopefully we won’t have any more medical situations this year…I think I’ve had my fill of hospitals for a while!