Category Archives: Medical Visits
I went to a new dentist last week, for my regular cleaning and updated x-rays. I’ve never been fond of the dentist to begin with, but since I got CIs it is extra challenging because being reclined makes my CI processors (aka my “ears”) fall off.
I’ve tried many things over the years — wig tape, headbands, scarves, even a knit cap. Nothing is foolproof (although the knit cap worked the best, since it also helps to keep my magnets where they need to be). However, I am not about to pull out a knit cap in August.
This time around I used something called a Snuggie from Advanced Bionics, basically tubing made to fit my Harmony processors that fits snugly around my ear. It works perfectly to keep the processor from being pulled off my ear as my head is reclined back. The only issue that remained was keeping the magnets from being knocked out of place by the headrest.
I played around with a scarf tied strategically over both magnets, but eventually decided it was too fussy. I figured I’d just deal with the magnet situation if and when it arose.
In the end I didn’t have too much trouble; they were able to adjust the headrest so that my magnets stayed in place during most of my visit. They did slip off when I was told to turn my head to the side, but those instances were brief and my other magnet stayed in place so I had enough hearing to still follow instructions.
What really impressed me, though, was when the dentist came in for the exam portion. She had a bit of an accent, and originally asked me a question when her back was turned (she also had a mask over her mouth, just for an added challenge). I had no idea if she was talking to the dental hygienist or me, so I stayed silent. She turned back to me, and I met her eyes and said, “I can hear you, but I also read lips to understand what you’re saying.”
Her face lit up and she pulled the mask down. “Thank you for telling me! That’s very good to know.” Then she turned to the hygienist and asked her to repeat everything for me — although the dentist kept her mask on, everything she said was repeated by the hygienist so I could read the hygienist’s lips. I’ve never had anyone in the medical profession do that for me before and it made a huge difference.
Not only did I get a clean bill of dental health, I came away feeling like my needs were met with respect, kindness and ingenuity. It almost makes me not dread going to the dentist again!
On our way home from Dave’s one-month checkup with his hepatologist in Fort Wayne, we stopped at Subway for lunch. Although we like the food, Dave kind of hates going there because the ordering process confounds him. They ask a lot of questions, and for someone with hearing loss that’s a real drag.
I have an easier time with this kind of thing (as long as it’s in person) because I lipread, so I am usually the one to order. I just consult Dave first to make sure what he wants, or if he starts to order himself then I will relay the questions to him if he misses them.
Since it was just a light lunch, we did our usual and got the same sandwich in the foot-long size, and then split it. This location had a drive-through but we decided to go inside because I really struggle to understand anything through those speakers.
We were the only customers, and as we walked up to the counter the guy started talking. I wasn’t close enough to read his lips and had no clue what he said (he was talking really fast and also had a bit of a southern accent). I did my usual and just assumed what he probably said based on my past visits to Subway.
I told him the type of sandwich we wanted and the type of bread. He said something else that I missed, but I knew they usually asked about cheese and I thought I’d caught part of his question. “Did you say something about pepperjack cheese?” He nodded, and I confirmed that we wanted it. Then he asked if we wanted it toasted, which caught me off guard. I had to have him repeat the question a couple of times. After I answered him, I added, “I’m deaf and I’m reading your lips, so that’s why I sometimes miss what you say.”
Now, usually I add that I have cochlear implants and I hear with them; that way people know that I do hear sound but they also know that I’m reading their lips as well. But I figured eh, this is just a quick lunch order and why go into all that detail? Here’s what happened when I just let that statement hang in the air without further clarification:
The guy stopped talking.
He had been keeping up a constant patter while we were there, which was making it hard for me to tell if he was asking a question, making a comment about our order, or even perhaps just talking to himself. My statement silenced him, and what a gift it was!
He quietly made the sandwich and just kind of looked up when he got to the veggies, waving his hand vaguely in the direction of the options available. I smiled and said we just wanted tomato, nothing else, and no sauce.
Obviously he thought I couldn’t hear anything and there was no point in really talking to me anymore, so he resorted to his version of sign language – and it was perfectly fine with me (even preferable, if I’m being honest). I thought it was kind of hilarious; it’s been a long time since I’ve had someone react that way when I say I’m deaf. Even before I got my CIs and I really couldn’t hear, when I told someone I was deaf and reading lips, they would still keep talking to me the same way they had been.
(Before I get to my next story, I have to interject and say that Dave had his viral load tested at this appointment, and we got the results yesterday. As of one month into his three month treatment with Harvoni and Ribavirin, he has cleared the Hepatitis C virus! He never cleared it in 2013; he went from over 4 million to 11,000 but that was as low as it went. This time he started at over 3 million and BOOM … now it’s undetected. ! ! ! !)
The other hearing loss-related thing that happened around here was during a power outage. The power really doesn’t go out very often here, and when it does they get it back on within a few hours (at the most). It seems to go out at weird times, though, not during storms. The last time was about a week ago, after we’d had some rain come through. During the storms all was well, but about 3:15 in the morning my eyes just kind of flew open. I could feel that something wasn’t right; I just didn’t know what it was. I realized Dave wasn’t in bed, and then I looked over at the clock and saw that it was off – we had a power outage. (Dave had realized about five minutes before me and was getting candles.)
It wasn’t hot so we didn’t have fans on (or else the room suddenly getting hot would have woken me up). I realized that when I’m sleeping I’m more sensitive to light (and the lack of it) than I realized. I always assumed I wouldn’t wake up from a strobe light on a smoke detector, and that I’d need something that vibrated the bed to wake me up. (Those systems are, by the way, very expensive.) Now I’m kind of wondering if the strobe light would actually do the trick. I must be more sensitive to that kind of thing when I’m sleeping since I don’t have hearing to rely on. Very interesting!
In one of my posts last month, I mentioned that Dave will be starting treatment again for his Hepatitis C. I’m in a medical frame of mind because I have to find a new doctor this month, so I thought I’d catch everyone up.
I always hate looking for a new doctor. I feel more comfortable with women, so that knocks out a lot of possibilities. I have to guess whether the doctor will have an accent or not (I really, really try to avoid anyone with an accent – my medical stuff is just too important for me to be guessing about what the doctor’s saying). I want someone close by, so that if I’m really sick I don’t have to drive 45 minutes just to get to the doctor’s office. And I don’t know anyone in town to ask for a referral, so I just have to pick a female medical practitioner that works out of a nearby office and has a non-accenty-sounding last name.
I really only need to see the doctor to get my medication refilled (I take medicine for high blood pressure and cholesterol, both of which run in my family). Of course, losing 35 pounds and exercising every day has hopefully made a positive effect on both those things, so my medication may end up getting changed or even discontinued … we’ll see. But I don’t have any chronic health conditions; I just know my medications will run out on Feb. 18th and so I figure I should get a new doctor by the end of this month. I’m not looking forward to it.
Dave has it a little easier because he has to go the VA, and he just gets whatever doctor they assign to him. (Of course, figuring out WHERE to go was the hard part as far as the VA health care system is concerned.) When he went for his new patient visit at the South Bend Clinic, his doctor was really great – very easy to understand, willing to listen to Dave’s concerns and address them appropriately, very friendly and good natured. He’s an FNP, which is fine with us — I’m actually planning to make an appointment with a female FNP at the clinic I’ve been planning to go to (all the MDs are male, and I have had good luck in the past with FNPs).
One of the things he touched on at Dave’s visit in October was his unsuccessful Hep C treatment in 2013. We were surprised to find out that they have new medicine now, just a single pill with no Interferon shot. They seemed really eager to get Dave going on this new treatment, so he made an appointment in November for him to see the liver specialist.
This appointment was so cool. The South Bend location is just a clinic, and the liver specialist works out of Fort Wayne, Indiana which is about two hours south of us. Rather than make us drive to Ft. Wayne, they did a video conference appointment in South Bend (which is less than 30 minutes away). There was a medical technician there, and he set everything up … then we waited for the doctor to join us on the TV screen that was in the room.
Dave was able to understand pretty well – they had the volume turned up and we could see the doctor’s face to read his lips. He asked Dave all kinds of questions, went over his medical history, and then told us about the new treatment. It’s not supposed to have many side effects, at least not compared to the hellish treatment Dave was on in 2013 (Ribavirin and Boceprevir pills daily, plus Interferon shots once a week). Even though Dave didn’t clear the virus, he is still a good candidate for this new treatment.
Then the doctor asked the medical tech to listen to Dave’s heart and lungs. He hooked up a stethoscope somehow so that the doctor could hear the same thing he heard. The doctor told the tech where to place the stethoscope, and told Dave how to breathe (deep breath, hold his breath, etc.) It was really amazing!
I think the new medication is Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) but I don’t know much about it yet. I think Dave will just be taking the one pill, but it’s possible he has to take it with Ribavirin. I do know for sure that he doesn’t have to do the Interferon injections; the Interferon was what really messed up his thyroid and made him so sick last time.
When he went through the treatment in 2013, we had to go to classes to learn about each drug and its side effects. I don’t know if this treatment is that involved, but I don’t think it will be. I do know that we have to drive to Fort Wayne every two weeks to pick up his medication. They’ll give him a two-week supply; then two weeks later we have to drive there again to pick up the next supply, for a total of 12 weeks. I feel that this is a huge pain in the ass – four hours of driving, plus the cost of gas, and wear and tear on the car. But Dave said it’s absolutely worth it to him – he wants to clear this virus once and for all. I’m kind of hoping that after one or two trips, they’ll just have the medicine waiting for him at South Bend for us to pick up. (He doesn’t think this will ever happen.) I remember one of the guys in the classes we took at Hines VA was from a town about an hour and a half away. He was at maybe two of the classes, and then the nurse who was in charge of the program set it up so that he could pick up his meds at the clinic near his house. So I’m thinking maybe someone will take pity on us and do the same, even though it’s a different hospital.
We’ve never been to Fort Wayne, but we’ll be going next month so Dave can have a liver ultrasound – they want the results of this test before he starts his treatment. The doctor was kind enough to take into consideration the unpredictable winter weather we have in this area, and he’s having him wait until March to start treatment. He has another remote video conference appointment with the liver specialist in March (in South Bend) where they’ll go over the results of the ultrasound. And then probably later in March, or in April at the latest, we’ll make the drive to Fort Wayne to meet the liver doctor in person and get Dave’s first two weeks’ worth of medicine.
Hopefully this treatment will work, and I’ll be posting that he’s cleared the virus by the end of 2015!
Dave finally had his appointment at the South Bend VA Clinic and folks, we have a winner! We both liked the doctor (actually a FNP) and the clinic itself. Now that’s he’s official there, with a provider and everything, he can go there for minor illnesses and either just walk in (although he may not get to see his regular doctor) or call the day before and make an appointment for the next day. That was our biggest concern.
He does still have to drive the two hours to Fort Wayne, IN if he needs to see a specialist or to go to the VA emergency room. (If he’s having a heart attack or a truly emergent situation, he can go to the hospital here in town and let them know he’s a VA patient.) We are still getting used to the fact that we can’t just drive 45 minutes to a VA hospital like we did in Illinois, but I guess we have to live with it if we want to keep living in this area (which we do). The other option is to eventually buy a house closer to Ann Arbor, which has a really good VA hospital, but then we’d have a 4-1/2 hour drive back to Illinois. No thank you!
Dave was diagnosed with seasonal allergies and now he’s trying allergy medication to see if it helps with his cough. It’s not as bad as it was, so he might be on the right track. It does make sense, since we are surrounded by trees and new plants here.
I saw a new eye doctor on the same day Dave had his VA appointment, and I really like the new place. It’s kind of a pain having to find all new doctors, so it’s a relief to find someone I like right off the bat. Getting my eyes tested makes me feel very vulnerable; I am terribly nearsighted (my prescription in both eyes is -8.50) and when I take off my contacts for the exam, I can only see blurry shapes. I depend a lot on lipreading with new people, so it makes me very nervous when I can’t see. On top of that, the doctor is usually to my side giving me instructions as I look through the various lenses for the test.
I explained my hearing to everyone I had to deal with, and I had NO problem understanding anyone. I know my CI hearing is really good, but I still get nervous when I’m put in an unknown situation where I’m not sure how loudly/slowly someone speaks, if they have an accent, etc.
So I’m testing some new contacts now — I still use and love bifocal contacts, but I’m trying out a stronger prescription for the reading/up close stuff. Otherwise my prescription didn’t change, which was kind of nice. For a week and a half I’m trying out a mid-level bifocal in my left eye and high-level in my right, and then the next week and a half I’m wearing ‘high’ in both eyes. So far I can only really tell a difference when I’m watching TV — the mid level seems to work better. It’s only been a day though, so I’m curious to see if eyes adapt the way ears do when we get new mappings.
When I go back in three weeks, I’ll give my doctor my final choice as far as contacts go and then she’s going to dilate my eyes. When I told her I’d never had them dilated before she was horrified; I guess when you’re as nearsighted as I am, it’s common to have problems that would show up with that test. Of course, I came home and Googled and now I’m terrified she’ll find retinal tears and holes when she does the test. The thought of having procedures done on my eyes makes me feel faint, so I’m trying not to dwell too much on the what-ifs because otherwise I’ll make myself crazy (er, crazier).
Halloween is Friday and alas, Dave is certain we’ll have no little trick-or-treaters at this house. He thinks we’re too far outside of town. On top of that, it’s going to be cold (in the 40s) and possibly rainy, so any kids we might have gotten may choose to stay home. We did buy two bags of candy, just in case. That’s one of the mysteries when you move — how many kids will you get at the new place on Halloween? I suspect we’ll be eating a few M&Ms and Snickers bars on November 1st.