Monthly Archives: July 2008

Cochlear Implant Surgery, Part 2

11:50 am:
I realize someone is tapping or shaking me on the shoulder and my eyes flutter open.  “Wendi!  Wendi!”  Some nurse I don’t recognize is smiling and waving.  I think I smile back…man, it’s SO hard to keep my eyes open, what is going on?!

It slowly dawns on me that I’m in the recovery area.  (This whole time is very hazy for me so my recollection isn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be, but these are the things I remember.)

Thinking back on it now, I don’t believe I had any thoughts like “Oh, the surgery is over!” or anything.  I just remember telling myself over and over, “Keep your eyes open.  Don’t fall back to sleep.  They want you to stay awake.  Try to look alert.”  I would keep seeing people I didn’t recognize come within my field of vision, smile, give me a thumbs up or whatever, but they weren’t talking to me.  I didn’t have my glasses so it was all really hazy.  I do remember squinting at the clock which was right in front of me on the wall, trying to figure out what time it was.  I think it was a little before noon but really, I’m not sure if that time was before or after I got my glasses back.  I kind of doubt I was able to make out the time without my glasses on!

I think the first thing I was really aware of, other than that it was extremely difficult to keep my eyes open, for some reason, was that there was a totally gross taste in my throat.  I kept clearing my throat and swallowing and UGH, it tasted like someone poured rubbing alcohol down my throat.  Every time I swallowed, it tasted like alcohol.  My throat didn’t hurt; it just felt like I really needed to clear my throat more than anything.

At one point, a nurse came up and asked if I knew where Dave was – was he planning to wait in the waiting room?  They were having a hard time finding him.  I was still kind of out of it but alert enough to tell her that yes, as far as I knew, he was going to be in the waiting room.  However, he had planned to do some shopping, so maybe that’s where he was.  I remember thinking, “Wow, he’s still at the computer store?!”  😆  (There’s a MicroCenter and a Fry’s both near the hospital, and he had planned to run over there once I got into surgery.)  I figured he would’ve gone to the store around 8:30 or so and would already be back by then!

I laid there for a while, periodically letting my eyes drift closed and then yelling at myself, “Open them!  You need to stay awake!”  It was just so boring though…I could hardly see, and there was nothing to focus on close to my face.  I felt the blood pressure cuff on my calf constantly pumping up and releasing – it was so weird because I’d never had anything like that before and didn’t know what it was.  I think it was only on my left leg though, not on both legs, but I can’t be positive of that.  To be honest, I have to credit Shari for reminding me about it in her comment on my last post.  It’s funny because at the time, it was the main thing I was thinking about: “Oooh…there’s that weird feeling…what IS that?!” but I had actually completely forgotten about it til she mentioned it.  I had a blood pressure cuff on my right arm but it only went off once in a great while.

It seemed like only a few minutes passed before the nurse was back and had my glasses.  I asked Dave to fill in this portion for me, and he said that he had actually given my glasses to Dr. Battista around 11 am, after the surgery was over.  The doctor had told Dave it would be at least another hour, hour and a half before he could come see me, so if he wanted to go out or whatever, that would be a good time.  So he did actually go to the computer store but he got back about 5 minutes after they started looking for him.  They found him at 12:35 so they must have started looking for him at 12:30.  I had my glasses well before that, so obviously the nurses must have found out that the doctor had my glasses and not Dave, and got them from the doctor.

Anyway, he had modified my glasses with a dowel rod.  We figured this would be more fool-proof than a chain because we realized we didn’t know how thick my bandage would be, so we didn’t know how long to make the chain.  He took both arms off my glasses and taped them to a wire frame that had the dowel rod taped to one side.  Then I just brought them up to my face and held them there – it worked perfectly!

At first I was keeping the glasses up to my face constantly (at this point it was around 12:15 pm) but I quickly realized there was not that much to see (LOL!) so I put my arm down and let it rest.  I used the glasses whenever someone came in to talk to me, which made things so much easier.  I made sure to lay my arm down every time the blood pressure cuff started to puff up, though.

Dr. Battista came in right after I got my glasses.  He smiled, gave me a thumbs up and said the surgery went perfectly.  It only took 2-1/2 hours, instead of 3, to do both ears!  He asked if I had any questions and the only thing I could think of was whether he was able to get all the electrodes in or not.  (I’m surprised I was coherent enough to even think of this, to be honest.)  The implants I received each have 16 electrodes that get inserted into the cochlea.  Sometimes, though, for unforeseen reasons, not all the electrodes can go in.  That’s still okay – the implant will still work – but obviously I was hoping all of the electrodes made it into each cochlea.  And they did!

The doctor left and I rested some more.  Finally a nurse came in and told me that the bed I was on was too big and they needed to move me to a smaller one for the trip back to the original pre-op area I had been in that morning.  (I guess it’s pre- and post-op!)  I briefly worried about falling during the transfer, just like in the operating room, but it went fine and they were able to get me moved to the new bed pretty quickly.  They took off the blood pressure cuffs and removed my IV before they moved me.  Right after that, I was being wheeled back down hallways, into elevators, and back into the familiar pre-op area.

12:45 pm (or so):
I was there only for a minute or two when Dave came in.  It was so good to see him!  I realized the reason I was having such a hard time keeping my eyes open was because of the bandage.  It was wrapped VERY tightly around my head, over both ears.  I had lots of packing and gauze over each ear, kind of like Princess Leia.  It was wrapped down to my eyebrows, and was pushing down on them.  (If you take your fingers, lay them horizontally on top of your eyebrows and then press down, you’ll see what I mean.)  This forced my eyelids closed and also made me look extremely pissed off.   😆  I used my fingernails to kind of scootch the bandage up off my eyebrows, which helped tremendously but made Dave very nervous.  He kept saying, “Oh!  Don’t do that!” and I just ignored him and pushed the bandage up.  Poor guy!

We talked for a while, with Dave telling me what the doctor had told him about how extremely well the surgery went, and me telling him about that icky taste in my throat but that otherwise I didn’t feel bad at all.  I wasn’t in pain, wasn’t dizzy, wasn’t nauseous.  I was just really fighting to keep my eyes open!

One of the nurses came by and asked if I wanted anything to eat.  I was absolutely not hungry, so I said that I was fine and no, I didn’t want anything.  Dave and I continued chatting and I think another nurse came up and asked me the same thing.  I said no, I’m fine, I’m not hungry but thank you.

I kind of closed my eyes and Dave started patting me on the arm.

“Honey…they won’t let you go home until you eat something, and get up and walk around.”

He kept telling me this, every few minutes (I kept dozing off).  Finally I started focusing on what he was saying.  I was trying to wrap my mind around it…I thought the offers of food were just on an “if I wanted anything” basis – I swear, I don’t remember anyone ever saying that I needed to eat before I could go home.  I told Dave, “Well, okay – it’s not like I can’t eat, I just really wasn’t hungry.  But sure, I’ll eat something…what can I have?”

Dave went to talk to the nurse, and then told me I could have toast, Strawberry Jell-O or … something else.  (I just went to ask Dave if he remembered the third choice and he couldn’t either.  See?!  This is why I have to get all this stuff down…my mind is like a sieve!)  🙂  I forget all these details so quickly.

Well, anyway, all I can say is thank God I didn’t pick toast!  I would have probably spit it out, since I can’t taste bread and the texture feels really gross on my tongue.  I chose the Jell-O.  I realized at this point that I was going to get a chance to try out my taste buds, so I got kind of excited and that cracked Dave up.  I was also looking forward to eating something to help get rid of that rubbing alcohol taste in my throat.

I got the Jell-O and a glass of water with a bendy straw.  That took care of one of my questions – whether I could use a straw.  I knew I wasn’t supposed to blow my nose for 2 weeks after surgery, and I have to sneeze with my mouth open (ewww) but I wasn’t sure about using a straw.  I took a tentative bite, on the front of my tongue, and told Dave, “Yeah, I can’t taste anything on the front of my tongue.”  As I got ready to swallow, though, I realized I could taste everything just fine on the back of my tongue and on either side.  I got really excited and told Dave that I could totally taste the fact that it was sweet and strawberry-flavored.  I was thrilled!  We spent some more time talking while I finished the Jell-O and drank more water, and slowly woke up more and more.  I was extremely relieved not to feel nauseous, by the way.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect as far as dizziness and nausea went.

Then Dave mentioned that I still had to get up and walk, before they’d let us leave.  Did I feel like I could do that?  So I told him, yeah, what the heck, I’ll give it a try.  I mean, I was tired as hell but the only way I’d know was to get on my feet and see how I felt!  So he got the nurse again, and she helped me to slowly sit up on the bed.  I sat for a second to check my bearings…no dizziness.  Whew.  Then she helped me down, carrying the IV bag.  We walked slowly in a circle around the nurse’s station, straight to the bathroom where I’d forgotten my sample earlier in the day.

I was thinking, “Well, hmmm.  I don’t really have to go to the bathroom, but okay…whatever.”  The nurse led me into the room, hung the IV bag up on a hook, and told me to pull the call cord when I was finished and they would help me back.  I was stunned to find that I really, really had to go to the bathroom!  I guess it was that IV solution.  I had no problem – did what I needed to, pulled the cord, then the nurse and I walked back.  While I was gone they had removed the bed and brought in a reclining chair, so I sat in that, covered in warm blankets, for about 20 more minutes.

Then they brought my clothes back, pulled the curtain and told me that I could change.  I was momentarily confused – I remember asking Dave, “I just change right here?!”  I think I assumed I would go back to the bathroom to change, since that’s where I changed when I first got there.  So I got dressed – no problems there either.  Dave helped steady me as I got into my clothes, and I had a shirt that buttoned so there was no pulling anything over my head.

Let me just stray off to the topic of shirts here for a second.  Everyone recommended a shirt that buttoned up, for the day of surgery.  As surgery day approached, I realized that this is the shirt I would be spending the day in as well.  It was really a dilemma for me because I’m used to t-shirts and my only button-up shirts are kind of dressy-casual.  I realized, though, that I have a long nightshirt/nightgown that buttons in the front with about 4 buttons.  It doesn’t totally unbutton, but just enough to make the neckhole much larger.  This is all you really need once you get home.  I guess if you’re unsteady or dizzy, it might be easier to avoid pulling a shirt over your head.  But if the bandage is the only issue, like it was for me, then any kind of shirt that has a few buttons at the neckline will be large enough to get on and off.  I have a lot of polo-type shirts and that’s what I ended up lounging around the house in.  My nightgowns all have buttons so when I changed at night, it wasn’t a problem to get them on and off.  It took about a week for me to be able to get a t-shirt on without it bothering me; even after the bandage was off (2 days later) my head was still too sore to tolerate a small neckhole like most t-shirts have.

So!  Now that you know more than you ever wanted to know about what shirts to wear before and after CI surgery…

After I got dressed, I slipped my sandals on and was ready to go.  That was another tip I received – don’t wear shoes that you have to bend over to put on and tie up or buckle.  I was lucky to get my surgery in the summer because sandals were an easy solution!

1:50 pm:
I sat back down in the chair and thought, “Man, I hope I get a wheelchair to go to the car.”  Right at that point, a nurse came and told Dave he should go get the car from the parking garage and meet us out front.  He took off and shortly after that, a wheelchair arrived for me.  Yay!  They helped me get settled and then wheeled me not only through the hospital, but out into the front area where Dave had the car parked.  I was SO glad I wouldn’t have to walk through a parking lot or anything because I was still really fighting the tiredness from the anesthesia.  All I had to do was step up out of the wheelchair and right into the car, where Dave had the seat reclined for me.

I closed my eyes and dozed for the entire ride home.  The whole time, from recovery until I left the hospital, I was really forcing myself to stay awake.  I have to give Dave the credit for keeping me awake and reminding me of my goal to leave the hospital as soon as I possibly could.  I had warned him ahead of time that I would probably be content to just sleep for days if I was left alone, but that I did NOT want to do that.  I absolutely wanted to get home as soon as I could!

So I reclined in the car, thinking, “I did it!  I can’t believe I did it and I’m on the way home!”

Once we got home, I had to climb 2 flights of stairs to get into the house.  That was pretty exhausting!  Dave got the couch set up for me while I changed into more comfortable shorts and my nightshirt.  And that was pretty much it – from there on in, we started leaving updates here as I went through recovery.

So here I sit, 9 days later.  I would say that one week from my surgery was the turning point for me – I really, really felt much better and had a lot more energy.  I’m about 75% back to my regular routine at this point.  I can get through the day with one nap or no nap at all.  I can make a quick dinner and stand up without feeling like I just got finished running a marathon.

The pain has never been intense, but I also did not shy away from pain medication.  I took it on a regular schedule and switched to extra-strength Tylenol about 4 days ago.  Now I’m not taking the Tylenol on a regular schedule, just if I need it.  (I still get some aching and throbbing where the stitches are; no headache though.)

I came home with a prescription for nausea medication and a prescription for Vicodin; no antibiotic pills or ointment.  I took one nausea pill the night of the surgery, after I got sick so unexpectedly.  I think that was from the anesthesia though, because I had no nausea at all – it just came on with no warning and then was over just as fast.

I’m still sleeping on the couch, because I have to be careful not to sleep on either side and that’s the easiest way to keep myself from rolling over.  If I had only one side done, though, I would’ve switched to my bed long ago.  I think I’ve got a setup that will work for my bed though – I tested it this afternoon and I’m going to give it a try tonight.  The couch isn’t bad but I’m afraid it’s going to bother my back eventually, and I really don’t want to have back problems!

The doctor had told Dave to expect two weeks for my recovery, before I’m fully back to normal.  I think that’s just about right.

My next appointment, for a post-op check, is on August 8.  I think my stitches must be dissolvable so I assume the doctor will just look things over and see if I’m healing well.

I’m so glad to be at this point.  I know I still have some recovering to do but everything just gets easier and easier each day.  Now all I have to do is wait for August 20, my activation day!

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Cochlear Implant Surgery, Part 1

It’s been one week since my cochlear implant surgery, so I thought I’d honor the day by writing up the actual surgery experience. This is the kind of thing I really wanted to read before my surgery, so I hope it might help anyone who might be considering this surgery and wonders what it’s like. I know it’s different for everyone, of course, and we all have different surgeons and different bodies and different recovery periods. (That’s my little disclaimer!) Still though, it’s nice to have some of the mystery removed.

Just to recap — I had Advanced Bionics HiRes 90K cochlear implants placed in both ears during this surgery. I’m completely deaf (since April of this year) so I had no residual hearing in either ear and it was an easy decision to have both implanted at once. I was just extremely lucky that my insurance company approved it without a fight!

3:50 a.m. on July 22:
The alarm shakes me awake. As I suspected, I had a hard time going to sleep the night before. I planned to go to bed around 9 or 9:30 pm and I think it was closer to 11 pm before I finally drifted off.

I jump out of bed, adrenaline pumping, and throw on my shorts and t-shirt. Dave is still in bed and I decide to let him sleep. He did kind of wake up when the alarm went off but he really doesn’t need to be up yet anyway.

Originally I thought we would leave at 5 am, since the hospital is about a 45 minute drive from here and I really doubt we’ll hit much traffic at that hour. However, Dave is concerned because we’ve never been to this hospital and they stressed that we need to be standing at the desk, ready to check in, at 5:45…not pulling into the parking lot at that time. He wants to make sure we have time to navigate parking and find where we need to be, so he suggests leaving at 4:30 instead.

4:30 was my original wake-up time, so I’ve bumped it back to 3:50. This is really kind of silly since I can’t eat or drink, can’t wear make-up, can’t wear my contact lenses, and although I could do my hair that would really be pointless. All I need to do is put on fresh clothes, wash my face, make sure we have everything we need (camera, case for my glasses, contact lenses in case I feel like putting them in afterward) and go. I can do this and be sitting in the car in 10 minutes, max.

But I’ve found a new thing to worry about. I’ve become paranoid that I’ll go to the bathroom on the operating table. I confessed this to Dave the night before and he laughed and assured me that it wouldn’t happen – I don’t know if they put something in the IV or if it’s the effects of the anesthesia or what. Still though, I’ve got my regular routine and figure if I give myself about 30-40 minutes of being up and around, even without eating and drinking, maybe I’ll be able to take care of things (ahem) before we leave. So that’s my crazy reason for waking up so early today.

4:50 am:
We are leaving the house. I did not accomplish my mission and have stopped worrying about it. I spent my time online, going “no mail” or on digest for my mailing lists, checking up one last time on the blogs I read regularly, and visiting the Hearing Journey forum. It’s been kind of nice to have this time instead of just rushing right out the door, so I’m glad I got up a little earlier than necessary.

5:45 am:
We literally walk up to the registration desk at exactly 5:45 am. We ended up leaving later than we planned but the drive was seamless and parking was easy. It was a little alarming walking into the hospital and seeing all the “You Must Have A Visitor Pass!” signs though. All of the information desks were empty and I wasn’t sure if we should stop at one and ring a bell or something. Dave, being more of a rebel, was confident that we should ignore the signs and push on without Visitor Passes. We walk along until we find the Ambulatory Surgery department.

First there’s some general paperwork to sign. I notice that the doctor listed on the bottom is Dr. Wiet, not Dr. Battista. They both work in the practice that I go to though, and I figured maybe the hospital just puts everything in Dr. Wiet’s name since he founded their Center for Hearing Restoration and Ear Research.

We are directed to the elevators and the second floor. Before we get there, we find bathrooms but I hesitate…what if I have to give a urine sample? Oh, what the heck. I really have to pee!

We finally meet up again and head upstairs. As soon as we get to the counter, there is a gentleman confirming my name, doctor and something else…not my social security number, but I know there’s a third thing they keep asking. Every professional that I come into contact with asks me these things and I finally realize it’s to make sure they’ve got the right person. It makes me think of nurseries and baby switching.

We mention to him that my doctor is Dr. Battista, not Dr. Wiet, but he says that Dr. Wiet is doing the surgery. That’s news to us but I figure maybe because it is simultaneous bilateral surgery, which they don’t get a lot of just yet, he wanted to be in charge. Whatever – I trust them both implicitly so I just shrug and smile.

He points around the corner where there’s a little desk and tells us to go there. I realize right away that I didn’t need to bring my purse – they never did ask me for identification or my insurance card. Everything is already in the system. Poor Dave – he’s in charge of my purse for the day!

I sit down and a nice nurse comes over to take my blood pressure. It’s astronomically high – 163/104. This is actually very typical for me, since I’ve dealt with high blood pressure for years now—it started during my pregnancy with Eric in 1990. It runs in my family and I’ve been taking medication for it since 1994. Still, though, when I’m nervous like I am today, my blood pressure shoots up. I explain all of this to the nurse and tell her that I did take my BP medication this morning. Thankfully she seems unconcerned – if she’d freaked out over my blood pressure reading, I would have become even more nervous.

She hands me a cup and a gown and booties. I have to give a urine sample. I laugh nervously and explain that I just went to the bathroom, but she pats my arm and says they only need a couple of drops. She tells me to remove all of my undergarments and put the gown on with the opening in back. I am a little horrified that I have to be completely naked under the gown. 😮  Then she tells me to go over to bed 7 when I’m done. I think, “Too bad it’s not bed 8.” Eight is my lucky number.

I’m able to give a decent-sized sample, surprisingly. I set the cup on the ledge over the sink and set to tying the hospital gown so my whole backside isn’t exposed during my walk over to my bed. I realize I’m able to tie it up so that it completely wraps around with nothing hanging open in back – what a relief!

I head over to bed 7 and sit down. Dave is already there and we chat for a little while. Another nurse comes in, goes over the info with me (name, doctor, ??? birthday? What is that last bit of information?) She asks if I gave a urine sample and I realize with horror that I left it in the bathroom. It’s been a good 10 minutes or so by now – did someone dump it out? Is it still there?

She goes over to the bathroom and all is fine – she’s got the sample. She sticks stickers with my name, doctor, etc. on the bag holding my clothing. She sits down to ask me a huge list of questions – the ones about whether I have epilepsy or stomach problems, whether I drink alcohol or smoke, etc. The only question I have to repeat back to her is the sleep apnea one – it’s not something that usually comes up in conversation so lipreading that question was a little difficult! I realize that so far, I’ve been able to lipread everyone really well and haven’t been worried at all about communicating like I did during the pre-op testing. I guess I have other things to worry about!

We are in this area, pre-op, for quite a while. The nurse re-checks my blood pressure and it’s come down quite a lot – still high, something like 130/92, but definitely better than before. She puts on the ID bracelet, takes my pulse, then tells me that she has to measure my calves for pressure stockings to prevent blood clots. She disappears for a while, then reappears with a package and IV stuff. She starts pulling things out of her pockets and setting them on the bed.

First the stockings – she tells me she’s going to put them on and get them started, and then I can pull them up. I’m thinking to myself, “Do they go up obscenely high or something, where it would be improper for her to pull them up?!” I’ve never worn anything like this before and wonder if they’re going to be uncomfortably tight. She starts each one and then puts my bootie on over the stocking. They are white and I look ridiculous, like I wore tights to my CI surgery in July. I pull them up to my knees and they don’t hurt at all; I actually forget I’m even wearing them.

The IV is next. I’m glad I’m lying down for this. The few times I’ve had IV’s it’s been a little bit of good, little bit of bad – some of them have been fine, a few have been so difficult to place that they tape them to high heaven and beg me not to move my hand, and one time they just couldn’t even get one started. (I was in the ER for dehydration and my veins must have collapsed.)

I close my eyes, feel the sting, look over at Dave. He’s giving me a thumbs up. The nurse starts taping my IV and I glance down to make sure it looks okay. I see the liquid starting to drip down the tube – it must be saline or whatever they use in IV’s. It’s nothing that makes me sleepy or relaxed.

After a couple of minutes I realize that there’s pain pulsating from my vein, I’m assuming as each drip goes in. It’s starting to make me feel woozy and lightheaded. I mention it to the nurse and ask if it’s normal for the IV to hurt; she reassures me that the pain will go away in 5 or 10 minutes and yes, it’s normal. That calms me down a little bit.

She goes off and we’re alone for quite a while, talking. She comes back and asks about the pain – yes, it’s gone. She’s got a green bracelet for me to wear that identifies my allergies to penicillin and sulfa drugs. Then she says that they need to give me a new ID bracelet because Dr. Battista is doing my surgery. That gets cleared up and she tells us that I’ll be going down to the pre-anesthesia area around 7 am or a little later. We explain about Dave being my interpreter, for any people that I have trouble lipreading, and she says it’s not a problem for him to come with me. I think normally at that point, the family members have to leave so I’m glad we cleared this beforehand.

We take some pictures and talk some more. There’s about 10 beds in this area, in a circle around the nurses’s station, all with curtains that can be pulled around for privacy. My curtain is open a bit and I watch various people get wheeled off, wondering what type of surgery they’re having and if they’re scared or excited.

7:15 am:
Another person comes in, introduces themselves, goes through my ID routine (name, doctor, birthday – I checked the bracelet to be sure because it was driving me crazy!).

They pump something up on my bed and I rise in the air. We’re on the move, being wheeled out of the pre-op area and over the elevators to go down to pre-anesthesia. I wait for my bed to hit the walls on the turns but the ride goes smoothly. I’m a little embarrassed in the elevator with other people looking at me but it’s a short ride, thankfully.

We wheel into another room full of beds and curtains, this one longer and without a nurse’s station in the center. There’s a little computer on a counter behind my bed. Right away another woman comes up, does the confirmation dance (I’m getting used to it now), and starts talking. She’s very nice but oh my gosh. She smiles constantly…big huge smiles, stretching her lips, even when she’s talking. When she finds out I’m lipreading she slows down just a little too much. I have to ask her to repeat a lot, but we get through it. She ends up being the most difficult person for me to lipread that day.

Her questions were mostly about allergies and if I’d had anesthesia before. We mention my problems with nausea in the past and she tells us to make sure to tell the anesthesiologist about it.

It’s not long before the anesthesiologist comes in, and I’m actually surprised at the fact that she’s a woman. I’ve always had male anesthesiologists in the past; I used to wonder if very many women even went into that field! She seems a little…I don’t know, hesitant?…when she’s talking to me. I’m not sure if it’s a personality quirk or if she’s just not sure I’m understanding her, so I make sure to repeat back what she says to me so that she can see I’m comprehending it all.  We talk about the nausea and she tells me that she can give me something through the IV, but because of the nature of my surgery she can’t absolutely guarantee that I won’t be nauseous when I wake up. That makes sense to me and I tell her that’s fine, I totally understand.

We ask about my glasses, since I need them to see to lipread. Dave explains that he’s going to modify them for me while I’m in surgery, so I can hold them up to my eyes in recovery (since I can’t wear either of the arms on my ears – both ears are being worked on and the bandage will cover them). We work it out so that they know to ask Dave for the glasses when I get to the recovery area after surgery.

I get asked questions about my dental work – do I have bridges, caps, dentures? I’m getting a breathing tube, apparently. This is general anesthesia, and she explains that I might have a sore throat afterwards but it won’t last long. She reassures me that I’ll already be asleep when they place the tube and I’ll still be asleep when they remove it, so I won’t even be aware of it.

She asks me if I’m nervous – do I need anything in the IV to relax me? Since I need to be alert to lipread, she’s hesitant to give me anything like that because I might be too sleepy when they take me over to the operating room. I assure her that I’m not anxious at all and it’s fine to do without the stuff, whatever it is.

She leaves and Dr. Battista comes in. It’s great to see him, and he’s smiling, very upbeat. He asks how I’m doing and I give him a big smile, tell him I’m really excited! I realize that I am – I can’t believe it, I’m almost in surgery, and I’m not scared! We talk for a little bit, and he tells us the surgery should take about 3 hours. I’ll be in recovery for at least an hour, and then back to the original pre-op area for 1 or 2 hours, however long it takes for me to feel strong enough to go home. He asks if I have questions and I don’t. I feel like I should have questions but really, I’m drawing a blank. He tells us the stitches will be ‘under the skin’ (I think that’s what he said) and I assume he means the dissolvable kind that don’t need to be removed.

He leaves and another guy comes in. He introduces himself, shakes my hand, does the ID stuff, and I have NO idea who he was. He did a few things at the computer and left. I think he might have been an assistant or nurse – Dave thought he mentioned he would be there during the surgery. The smiling woman comes back with a special antibiotic bag that’s placed on my bed. (Because I’m allergic to penicillin I’m getting something different.)

My anesthesiologist comes back, no more hesitation in her demeanor. She tells me that once we get to the operating room they’ll have masks on so she wants to go over everything with me now, while I can read her lips and she can answer any questions I have. I want to hug her – this was the thing I was wondering about the most…how would I lipread when everyone has masks on? So she goes over the procedure with me: I’ll have to move from the bed I’m on to a smaller operating table; there will be a foam headrest there for my head. They’ll start the anesthesia and the breathing tube will go in after I’m asleep. I can’t even remember if she told me anything else – I just remember the relief I felt that she took the time to consider this and come talk to me before I got wheeled off. It was a small gesture that calmed me in a huge way.

8:10 am:

Suddenly I’m ready to be moved to surgery. My glasses come off; now I can’t hear and can barely see. Someone says something to me and I laugh, wave my hand and say “Whatever” because I have NO idea what they said – we all crack up. (I think Dave handled that question, if it even was a question.) Dave gives me a kiss and I’m wheeled away, down the hall to the operating room. I give in to the fact that I’m pretty much helpless to communicate, unless someone gets inches from my face and pulls down their mask to talk to me.

The room is bright and bigger than I expected. I see the operating table and it looks so small. Can I really fit on that?! My bed is wheeled next to the table, dropped down to the same height and I easily scootch over. Whew. I was a little worried that I’d screw up and fall between the two tables onto the floor. (I wonder if anyone ever does that?!)

My head is situated on the foam pad and I see Dr. Battista giving me a big thumbs up – I smile back and do the same. Yay! The nurses start wrapping blankets around me tightly, arranging my hands and IV so they don’t slip off the table. The anesthesiologist pantomimes something for me that I totally understand, but I can’t remember now what it was – probably something to do with the fact that they were going to start the anesthesia. I remember getting drowsy and then…

Stay tuned for part two, recovery and going home. 🙂

Trials and Tribulations With Taste

I’ve been joking around that I’m on some kind of Atkins diet here.  The taste thing just kind of cracks me up – I’m not at all upset by it, like I was afraid I might be.  I feel pretty confident that my taste buds will get back to normal in a few months or, hopefully, within a year.  But in the meantime, I’ve discovered that of the things I can taste well, I really savor them.  The things I can’t taste or that taste too bland to really register with me, I don’t mourn at all.  And this is a girl who loves her bread and carbs!  🙂

The one thing that still tastes fantastic to me:  coffee.  I’m feeling well enough to be back to drinking my usual 2 cups in the morning.  Dave custom-roasts green coffee beans that we buy online, and we brew our coffee using a vacuum pot.  It is so good, so incredibly much better than store-bought coffee beans or already made coffee, and I was kind of worried that coffee would now taste terrible to me.  On the contrary, I can taste all the nuances of the different beans and the different ways they are roasted.  Every sip of coffee covers my tongue with absolutely delicious flavor.  I am not kidding when I tell you that I completely savor my coffee now!

I am eating a lot of fresh fruit, which so far packs a lot of flavor in every bite.  Something about the way fruit is eaten, or at least the way I eat it, means that the food hits the back and sides of my tongue where my taste buds are not disturbed.  And again, things that would normally not be very exciting to me, i.e., apple slices, are now delicacies.  Dave brought home two different types of apples from the store and I can distinctly taste the differences between the two.

I can taste sweet and salty and spicy things.  Every day I have a sugar-free, fat-free Jell-o pudding cup.  I can taste it and it’s not too fattening – it’s a great snack or component of a light lunch for me.

I can taste soup – Dave made really delicious baked potato soup with onions and bacon the day after my surgery, and that was delicious for dinner and then later for lunch.

Cheese is so-so.  I’ve tried wedges of cheddar (mild) which had no flavor, and mozzarella string cheese which is just alright – I don’t really taste it, I just get a salty sensation from it.

We barbequed the other night – hamburgers and spicy chicken sausage.  Although I can open my mouth with no pain at all, so eating a sandwich would now be fine, I asked for a hamburger with no bun.  I absolutely can’t taste bread, no matter where it lands on my tongue.  Rolls, sandwich bread, toast, buns – it’s completely tasteless.

I tried toast with butter, rolls with dinner, a grilled cheese sandwich – all unsuccessful.  So I had a really delicious hamburger with no bun – I just cut it up and dipped it into ketchup, and could taste everything.  That same dinner I tried corn chips (generic Fritos) and barbequed potato chips.  Again, pretty much flavorless.  I really love chips and they are a weakness of mine, but now that I can’t taste them I don’t crave them at all.  Isn’t that weird?!  It’s completely different from being on a diet and not eating something because you know you shouldn’t, calorie-wise.  If I can’t taste it, it’s like the food becomes dead to me.  I don’t miss it.  I never expected this!

I do love bread.  Dave makes really delicious homemade bread, pretzels, rolls, etc.  A piece warm from the oven with butter on it – pure heaven!  So it’s not like I didn’t really care for bread to begin with.  Maybe by the time warm weather rolls around and he starts baking bread again, I’ll be able to taste it.

Pasta is a gray area…I’m Italian so I could eat pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I love it.  We ordered out one night and I got baked rigatoni – I could sort of taste it and it was enjoyable, but not as flavorful as it used to be.  I’d still eat pasta, just probably not as much as I used to quantity-wise.  I gave about ¾ of my dinner to Eric to finish.

We had pizza last night – although the crust had no flavor, Dave put lots of spices and toppings on so I could taste that along with the pizza sauce.  It was actually more enjoyable than I expected it to be, so that was a nice surprise!

Cereal is kind of okay – it has to be pretty sugary for me to really taste it though.  Oatmeal isn’t bad – we have the apple cinnamon kind and I can taste the apples really well.

Yogurt is delicious – fruit with yogurt is probably going to be a big part of lunch and/or breakfast for me for a while!

I am still not feeling up to making dinner yet although today is a MUCH better day than any previous.  I’m really glad that Dave enjoys cooking as much as I do – we have always kind of taken turns making dinner so he’s not at a loss if he’s got to cook.

So every day we play with our food now, looking for things that surprise my taste buds.  It’s kind of fun, actually.  Dave made a really tasty dessert last night – light ice cream with fresh peaches on top, kind of mashed a little bit so they were in a bit of their own syrup.  Yum!  Another success:  Italian ice.  I can taste it pretty well and it’s a nice, refreshing late-night treat.

Another surprise:  Dave bought little bite-sized cookies yesterday.  Cookies are another can’t-resist kind of food for me…I usually don’t keep them in the house because I love them and will eat them all!!  I tried one and blech…tasteless.  Paige actually laughed out loud and said she’d never seen someone make a face like that when they ate a cookie!  So there was a little container of cookies on the counter that had absolutely NO appeal to me.  How funny!

I’m a really picky eater, by the way – I don’t like fish, raw vegetables, salad or salad dressing, mustard or mayonnaise.  I won’t eat potato salad (or any kind of salad, other than fruit salad), cottage cheese, sour cream, parmesan or romano cheese.  I eat my sandwiches plain, no condiments.  My hamburgers – just ketchup.   It’s always been really difficult for me to follow specific diets with menus because I usually won’t eat 75-85% of what they tell me to.

So my biggest fear – that I would lose all sense of taste, or that things would taste metallic or just generally awful – did not come to pass.  Even with the taste disturbance that I did end up with, I’m able to see the benefits because I’m eating a little healthier now than I used to, and I’m really enjoying every darn bite of food that I take!  Isn’t it weird how things work out?!  🙂

Pictures – CI Surgery Day

I finally have pictures to share.  They don’t start out graphic but there are photos of my incisions at the end here so if you are squeamish, run quickly!!  😀

This is the morning of surgery, just as we were getting ready to leave the house at about 4:15 am or so.  I am in all my glory with no makeup on and no contact lenses in — I’m wearing my glasses.  (Dave modified these while I was in surgery, so I hold them up to my face now.  I only use glasses first thing in the morning and right before bed — otherwise I have my contacts in):

15 am

Wendi & Dave, July 22 at 4:15 am

This is in the hospital, while I was waiting to be wheeled down to the anesthesia area.  They have the IV in at this point but nothing “good” is going through just yet.  😀

In the hospital, before anesthesia

In the hospital, before anesthesia

I grabbed the camera and got a picture of Dave holding my purse, which is pretty much like asking him to wear a tutu and dance across the room for me.  He usually acts like touching my purse physically burns him…ha ha!  Here he is proudly doing his purse-holding duty for me:

In the pre-op area

In the pre-op area

This is after we got home — the same day I had the surgery.  The head bra was so tight that I looked like I was frowning — I’m trying my best to smile and raise my eyebrows here!  I’m still sleeping on the couch this way, because it’s the easiest way for me to keep my head elevated:

After Surgery on July 22, in the late afternoon

After Surgery on July 22, in the late afternoon

I’m wearing one of Dave’s old shirts in that picture, BTW.  I found that t-shirts were not even an option — the neckhole isn’t big enough.  But polo shirts work well because I can unbutton them enough to make a wide enough opening for my swollen head.  Luckily we have a lot of those, between the two of us!

Okay…warning!  Pictures of the stitches are coming up next.  This is your last chance to bail!!

My left ear (next two pictures).  This is just after we cut off the bandage.  My face was amazingly swollen this morning but I think it’s a little better now.  Anyway, left ear:

Left ear, after surgery

Left ear, after surgery

Left ear, right after we took off the bandage

Left ear, right after we took off the bandage

Now here’s my right ear:

Right ear, a little hard to see in this photo

Right ear, a little hard to see in this photo

And another photo of the right ear:

Right ear, after CI surgery

Right ear, after CI surgery

I look forward to posting pictures when my face isn’t swollen a mile wide — hopefully next week things will be looking a little better.  🙂

I am feeling quite a lot better tonight — my head isn’t quite as heavy and numb.  I am still taking the Vicodin though and don’t plan to stop just yet.  Breaking them in half is working out pretty well.  It’s getting easier to walk around and sit up for periods of time without feeling totally exhausted.  The doctor wants me to take it easy for 2 weeks though, so I don’t plan to jump up and start doing too much just yet.  I’ll be happy if I can get some more computer time in over the weekend!

More tomorrow, I’m sure!!  😀

3 Days Later

The head bra is gone!!  What a relief.  That has really helped with the pain, I have to say.  It was so tight that originally I could barely open my eyes — I had to push it back off my eyebrows a bit.  I looked like I was grimacing and pissed off — it was really comical.  But it was really, really tight and I think that made my head ache more.

Dave cut it off last night but I was afraid to wash my hair just then.  I waited until this morning.  To be honest, it felt good to shower but also kind of scary.  I am still nervous about touching my head and not sure where I should be touching or not.  My hair is clean and no longer crusty (LOL) but it looks like crap.  Actually, I don’t look like myself at all right now.  My face is totally swollen — both sides of my face by the jaw line are completely puffed out.  I still have a little bit of a crease in my forehead from the head bra.  Yikes!!  My hair looks frizzy and limp but that’s because I can’t style it.  I guess it really doesn’t matter what I look like since I don’t plan to leave the house for quite a while yet!

So, three days later.  My head feels very heavy and numb, but rarely am I in pain.  If we had a laptop I would be posting a lot more but it really takes a lot out of me to walk over to the computer and sit here to type, so the long, detailed description of surgery day will be a post for the future.  Right now I come over to the computer a couple times a day to check mail, mostly.

I’m still sleeping on the couch and imagine I will be for a while.  The lower part of my back swells a little bit from having to lay on my back all night long (no sleeping on either side since both ears were done) but it doesn’t hurt — I just feel this swollen lump at the base of my spine.  Weird!  Dave is sleeping out in the living room with me — the first night on the love seat, all curled up (poor guy!) and now on the floor.  What a sweetie.  When he isn’t here, the kids take care of me — Paige is especially doing a great job and she even made me a grilled cheese sandwich yesterday!

Dave said it looks like there’s some kind of “second skin” over my incision area — no stitches or staples.  He said the doctor mentioned the stitches were under the skin.  I have a post-op check on August 8, which I think is about 2 weeks after my surgery date.

I feel lightheaded from the Vicodin but I’m still taking it regularly — I break the pills in half during the day.  I may look really frightening  😀 but I actually don’t feel as bad as I expected to.  I’m not nauseated or dizzy.  I just don’t have a lot of stamina, so I am staying on the couch most of the day.

I’ve learned it’s not worth the calories to eat bread or any kind of bread item (sandwich, etc.)  It has no flavor at all, even if I push it to the back of my tongue.  So I’m sticking with soup, pudding, oatmeal, fruit — we had Italian ice last night and that was tasty.  The front of my tongue is still a dead area, taste wise.  But coffee tastes fantastic — I guess when I drink it, it goes straight to the back of my tongue.  Yum!!

My activation date and mappings were set up yesterday….August 20th is the big day!!  It’s also the day of Paige’s high school registration so we have to see if the school will make an exception for us and let us take her at 10 am.  My mapping is at 1:00 pm so we have to leave at noon; the school has her scheduled to get her books, etc. from noon to 12:30.  If they refuse to budge then I guess my mom will have to take her, but hopefully they’ll work with us.  Anyway, I go back once every week for 6 weeks for my future mappings.  Yay!

It’s hard to believe I’ll feel normal again, as I sit here with my heavy, numb head 😀 but I know things will be so much better in just a week, so I’m giving it time.  In the meantime, have I mentioned how happy I am??  😀  I can’t believe the surgery went so well and so quickly, with such minor side effects.  I absolutely do NOT regret doing both ears at once, you guys.  I admire those of you that have gone back for a second CI because I’m a wimp and wouldn’t want to go through this again…LOL!!  I’m serious — I’m really impressed by you all.  I actually hadn’t really thought of the extra recovery time, etc. when I first mentioned wanting to do both ears at once…and once I started to really think about it, it was too late to turn back.  Now it’s behind me and whew, I’m glad!!

Well, I think I’ll head back to the couch.  One of these days I’ll get to the details, I promise.  I know my posts are usually SO long but I really wanted to remember every little detail when I started this blog, which is why I write those kinds of posts.  I know some day I’ll look back and will have forgotten all those little things.  I never want to forget!  🙂

Thanks for all of your support and good wishes — I can’t tell you how much it means to me!

Quick Update from Wendi

Hi everyone!!!  It’s me — I’m up and about for a little while this morning.  🙂  We don’t have a laptop, otherwise I would’ve sent that post last night on my own, since I was doing pretty well but not really up to walking around much.  Big hugs to Dave for doing it for me.  🙂

This morning I feel much better than I expected to!  There’s some slight pain, but I’m breaking the Vicodin in half and taking it every 2 hours (that keeps nausea away since it can sometimes upset my stomach).  Last night I slept on the couch, propped up, and did take a full Vicodin to let me sleep a little longer.  I took a nausea pill too, just to be safe — I got a prescription for those as well.

I’m not dizzy and there’s just a slight disturbance with my taste.  I can’t taste anything on the front of my tongue but the back and sides of my tongue are normal, so I just push the food back there and it’s fine.  No metallic taste or weirdness, just a total absence of taste in the front/center.  That’s fine with me!

No paralysis (whew!!) and no nausea.  I did have one bad episode last night after I got up to take out my contacts and change into pajamas.  I was feeling fine, just tired, and sat back on the couch.  Took my pain pill then told Dave, “Oh my.  I think I feel a little nau…” and whoop!  I was, um, definitely nauseated!!  Poor Dave had a load of laundry to do then.  😮  But it just came out of nowhere, and then I was fine again.  I had a bloody nose afterward but that’s it.

And yes, the surgery took 2-1/2 hours for both ears!  My first question to my surgeon was whether all the electrodes went in and he gave me a thumbs up and “yes”.  Yay!!

Okay, I’m back to the couch.  Thank you ALL for your wonderful thoughts and prayers — you mean so much to me!!

Wendi’s surgery update

Hi All! …this is dave (wendi’s husband)….just a quick update on wendi’s bilateral implant surgery…it went absolutely great! Got to the hospital at 5:45am…surgery started just after 8am and her dr. was talking to me a little before 11am. Actual surgery time was 2 1/2 hrs. Everything went as well (or better) than we hoped & we were driving out of the hospital parking lot at 1:51pm.

She’s a little wore out right now but very little pain or swelling. Overall, I’d say not nearly as much discomfort as we both expected. She is taking her pain meds but only at half dose. She has meds for nausea but so far hasn’t needed them.

Tomorrow might be worse but today was a resounding success!

Thanks for all the good thoughts and really thanks for all the information & support you have provided. It made such a huge difference knowing what to expect and how others dealt with the issues that come up.

OK, I’m sure she’ll be posting tomorrow & wow!!….how can she type on this keyboard??? It makes my fingers feel like they’re backwards or upside down or something!!! 🙂

dave….for wendi

See You on the Other Side

I was going to write a really long entry today and here it is, way past my bedtime already!  How did the day go so quickly?!

Well, I’m setting the alarm for 3:50 am (ack!) since we have to be at the hospital — ready to check in — at 5:45 am.  We’re leaving early since we’ve never been there before and don’t want to be late.  Surgery is scheduled for 8 am and I have no idea how long it’s supposed to take.  The kids are gone..sniff, sniff…Paige is at my mom’s and Eric is over at a friend’s.

I had one episode of panic right before I started making dinner — I started crying and blubbering on Dave’s shoulder.  Then I pulled myself together and I’ve been pretty calm about it the rest of the night…I really have not been thinking about it much.  Dave went out to get money for the tolls for tomorrow’s drive and he came back with 4 really, really sweet cards — one from the whole family, one from him, one from the kids, and one from all our animals.  😀

I have a big aversion to having my picture taken at this point in my life.  I still expect myself to look like I did in my 20s and early 30s and let’s just say that’s not the case anymore.  🙂  (Those of you that have seen my Hearing Journey avatar…that’s from 2000.  Eight years ago.  I only wish I still looked like that!)

BUT…I might try to get over that and post pictures of my head bra.  We’ll see.  I mean, nobody expects me to look good right after surgery anyway, right?  I can only go uphill from there!  ha ha

All day long I’ve been doing the “this time tomorrow” thing….at 8 am, when I woke up, it was “This time tomorrow I’ll be in surgery.”  At 8 pm, “in 12 hours I’ll be in surgery” and…”Hopefully at this time tomorrow I’ll be home and it will be overwith!”

Now it feels like I’m almost at the top of the roller coaster…once I upload this post, I’ll shut off the computer and go to bed.  I’ll wake up and the 40 minutes will fly by as I get dressed and make sure we haven’t forgotten anything before we hit the road.  Once we get to the hospital (it’s about 45 minutes away) I won’t even have time to think about things.  So here we go.

The next time I post, I’ll be bionic.  Whoo!!

Still misunderstandin’

Okay, just one more old funny misunderstanding then I swear I’ll stop and actually write something current. I still haven’t found the love story … I thought it would be fun for everyone to see Dave’s writing since that’s how we originally met. I fell in love with his words before I ever saw his face! 😀

So anyway, I sent this to the Say What Club Connect list in June 1999. At this point Dave was spending more time at my house than his!

“Here’s a peek into our home with two HOH people (me and Dave, that is!!):

We have new neighbors and they have two dogs. One of them is a Rhodesian
Ridgeback, and Dave is kind of fascinated with him. He’s been wondering
out loud for a while now if they are rare dogs, so this morning I decided
to get online and do a search on them, see what we can find out.

On a side note, we were at the vet yesterday with our kitty, Sugar (booster
shot time). Dave was reading the bulletin board and noticed a flier on a
Basset Hound rescue society. I had only previously heard of things like
that for Greyhounds, so I thought it was pretty cool other breeds have
“rescue societies” for them. 🙂

Anyway, I’m looking at my page of search results and I call out to Dave,
“Hey hon, they have a Rhodesian Ridgeback rescue society!” He looks
*horrified*. He says “For the DOGS???”

I’m thinking, “Omigod, this is a bad thing??” I said, “Well, yea….” and he said “RECIPES???”

ROTFL!!! He thought I said “Rhodesian Ridgeback Recipe Society”!

Yea, I think I’ll sneak over next door and get me some ingredients for dinner tonight! 😮 ”

Oh my gosh, everyone. I wish I written down all the crazy things we mishear!

On a side note, we did both mention how different it was when we first got together because previously we had only ever been with hearing people. I’d never even MET somebody with a hearing loss, much less dated one. So we used to both kind of expect the other person to do the majority of the hearing in stores, etc. It took a while to get used to the fact that neither of us could hear all that well.

We finally settled into a workable compromise: Dave does most of the phone stuff, because on top of not hearing well on the phone, I also would get tongue tied and just hated the phone in general whereas he could care less. In stores and face to face, I usually stepped up because I lipread better. Even now with no hearing at all, I sometimes catch things he doesn’t because I don’t have the background noise distracting me like he does.

What did you say??

I’ve been going through old emails and files, trying to find the story that Dave typed up about how we met and fell in love.  It used to be up on a personal website of mine that I started in the late ’90s but it’s been taken down and I have no idea where I saved the HTML files that used to be up there.

Anyway, I found this email that I sent to one of my mailing lists on February 8, 1999.  (Dave and I had known each other about a year at this point.)  It just cracked me up, re-reading it, and it’s one of the funny examples of what it’s like to be in a relationship where both parties have a hearing loss.  Here’s the email, word for word:

“Here’s an example of some of the goofy things Dave and I mishear:

Last night we were getting ready to watch The Practice, and I had this total taste for cookies. <g> Dave asked me if I’d have a cup of coffee, if he made a small pot. I said sure, and then I said, “And would you partake in a cookie with me?”

He gives me this little grin and says, “Well, no, not tonight…but thank you for the offer!”

Just the way he said it and the little grin he gave me made me think he misheard me…so I said “Wait a minute…what did you think I said???”

He said, “Would you partake in a quickie with me?”

HAHAHAHAHA!!

Then I told him I was offended he would have turned me down…LOL…but when I told him what I really had said, we couldn’t stop laughing!

Too funny! I teased him all night about that!! <g> ”

….back to 2008 here.  😀  I’m not sure if anyone still uses that <g> symbol to denote “grin”.  I actually do still use it sometimes and I’ve found I have to explain to people what it means.  That really makes me feel old!!  🙂

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