Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christmas Pictures from San Diego

from left to right: (back) Chris & Jason
(front) Brad, Marissa, Laurie, and Steve

Brad, Chris, Marissa, and Jason
(notice their bells around their necks?)

Steve and Laurie Pullins

The Kids messing around!

Christmas Cookies!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas in San Diego

We returned from California late last night. I didn't have much time to regroup or unpack before I had to go to bed in order to get a decent night's sleep before returning to work this morning. I have a million things to do tonight but am too tired and jet-lagged to do anything - so I'll write.

We had a wonderful time as a family with Chris in San Diego. I know he was thrilled to have us there so that he did not have to spend Christmas alone. We spent five days together and kept busy. Steve and I stayed in a hotel while the rest of the kids stayed at Chris' house. We went bowling twice and had a blast. The bowling alley was quite noisy environment but I didn't care! We also ate and fixed meals together, made Christmas cookies, went shopping, watched movies and just relaxed as a family. We also saw the movie "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis. I still have a hard time understanding what is going on without closed captioning but I was able to pick up some of the dialogue. But, it is hard to read animal lips on the screen! For some reason I thought I knew the storyline and got it mixed up with "Beauty and the Beast." I couldn't figure out why the lion and the witch didn't fall in love with each other. I realized my mistake later and will have to watch the movie again with closed captioning when it comes out in DVD or video.

One of the highlights of the trip was going to the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California to see "The Glory of Christmas." It has been a dream of mine to see it someday and it was beautiful! This year was the 25th anniversary of the Christmas pageant there. The pageant was great and worth the trip. It was complete with live animals, including three camels, several llamas, children carrying baby lambs, etc. to the Cave of the Nativity. There were also angels that flew high over us in the audience. The music was recorded and there were no live instruments playing. I was a little disappointed with that but the Crystal Cathedral looks like it does not have room for the stage AND an orchestra. I still struggle with music "sounding right" but it helped to hear the songs that I was most familiar with. When there is a lot of music playing, my processor has trouble deciding what sounds to minimize and what sounds to focus on. I hear the best with simple instruments and voices, especially solos. My favorite was the song "What Can I Give Him?" sung by a little boy who looked like he was about eight years old. Some of the scenes were very intimate and truly showed the true message of Christmas.

Steve and I toured the beautiful grounds before the show. We also met one of my online friends, Karen VanDenBrink and her husband, Paul (we had made arrangements ahead of time to get together). I had met her once before when she came to Tennessee several years ago and she has twin daughters who are also hearing impaired. We met on a quilting chat group online and have communicated by email and computer since then. I talked about her earlier when I started this blog. Anyway, we had dinner together afterwards at Hof's Hut, which was a local diner, and enjoyed visiting in person. The kids went skiing and snowboarding for the day while Steve and I were at the Crystal Cathedral.

I'm having more CI moments again. I'm noticing and hearing a few new things every day. Maybe it is because I am rested and am not so worn out and stressed like I was before the holidays. Chris has crickets in an aquarium IN his house for his roomate's scorpions and they were very noisy and annoying. A few months ago I was thrilled that I could hear them for the first time. This time I just wanted to dump the crickets in the aquarium with the scorpions to silence them! It was a relief to return back to the hotel so I didn't have to listen to them anymore. We also drove by the ocean a few times and saw the monster waves that everyone was talking about.

New CI moments:

  • Heard the strum of a guitar from another room with the door shut.
  • The sound of my sweetner pouring into my paper cup at the hotel while making tea.
  • The florescent light above our kitchen sink "crackled" when I turned it on this morning.
  • I'm catching and picking up more phrases from the radio and television and in the car without lipreading.

Christmas morning was special and of course I heard the wrapping paper and all the wonderful sounds of Steve fixing breakfast for the family (which is a tradition for him - he makes the best french toast!) I made bells for the kids and hung them around their necks with gold ribbon. Our time in California flew by too quickly and it was time to go home again. But, it will be a vacation to remember!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Have a Blessed Christmas

It is less than a week before Christmas and I wanted to send some Christmas blessings to you. I know there are many of you who read this and I don't know who you are but the wishes are still the same to my family and friends, old and new. We are truly blessed this holiday season. I know I am!

I am off work today so that I can pack, run errands and get some things ready before we fly as a family to be with Chris in San Diego for Christmas. It will be a different and fun Christmas for us but I do know that we will make a memory! We won't be in our own home on Christmas morning nor will we have a White Christmas but we will be TOGETHER!

These last few weeks have been filled with music for me. I'm listening to music everywhere I go! Two weekends ago I went to THREE Christmas musicals or cantatas. I had a headache the following morning from all that sound but I didn't care! Most of it sounded good. Our church performed a song sung in a duet called "I Have Seen The Light" at the end of the program and it just brought tears to my eyes because I have waited to hear that song in church for over 15 years. Steve sang it in a trio years ago when we lived in Chillicothe, Ohio and it is one of my favorite Christmas songs. I loved hearing it again and it sounded so great. I got to hear it twice because I went to the first performance, left and went to my friend Linda's church for her cantata, and then came back just in time to hear it again the second time! I'm still having trouble when there is a lot of music going on with band instruments, voices, orchestra and percussion being played all at once. My processor doesn't like it and can't decide what it wants to hear the most and what to put in the background. Music sounds the best with familiar songs, a few simple instruments being played or solos being sung. Last Thursday we went to Marissa's high school Christmas program where her school choir and orchestra were performing. That sounded the best of all. Maybe it is because the instruments being played in the orchestra are not in as much competition with one another and I can hear the voices of the choir. I loved it. I even heard another sound that I didn't recognize during one of the songs and Brad said that it was a tamborine being played in the back!

I have discovered a new "toy" that I like. I traded cars with Jason right after Thanksgiving so that he could get his car repaired in Tennessee instead of Alabama. (To make a long story short, in was in a drive by shooting after the Auburn/Alabama game just before Christmas and several shots went in his vehicle, causing some damage. We are so thankful that Jason and his friends were not hit or hurt but the police did recover nine slugs from the scene.) Anyway, Jason has a satellite radio in his vehicle. We traded vehicles for three weeks. The radio has never been something that I've used all these years. I didn't really pay attention to it for almost two weeks, partly because I couldn't figure it out. I played with it for one day while Steve drove and discovered that I LOVE SATELLITE RADIO! I found several jazz stations that Steve and I both like and FOUR stations right next to each other that played Christmas music! The sound quality is so good and much clearer than a regular radio. I could even recognize songs being played as soon as they came on. When I told my therapist, she suggested that I try to listen to Talk Radio to see if I can understand what is being said. I didn't get a chance because Jason and I traded cars back but I have a feeling that Steve and I will end up with satellite radio in our cars soon!

Speaking of therapy, I am making progress. Susie says that I am halfway between "closed set" and "open set" sentences. That means I can recognize a sentence if I have a picture in front of me or if I know ahead of time what she is going to talk about. I can recognize some sentences and phrases without knowing ahead of time (open set) what the subject matter is but it is hard! Phrases like "Breakfast is ready," "What are you hiding under your coat," "I would like ice cream with my pie," are some sample sentences. I will be going back to Bill on January 3rd to have my processor "mapped" again because I feel like I need some fine tuning. I'm not suppsed to go back to him for six months but I can tell already that I need another adjustment. But, in the meantime, I'm still listening and still practicing. I love being able to hear this well and give thanks to God every day for this wonderful electronic miracle!

In closing I would like to share a prayer that we said in church on Sunday:

Loving Father, help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of shepherds, and the worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.

Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.

Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

Love and Christmas blessings to you from me. Laurie

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Quick Update

The Christmas season is in full swing and I feel like a long tailed dog in a roomful of rocking chairs! I hardly have time to sit and think and be still! But, I am being quiet for a little while this morning so I thought I would share a few thoughts before I get too busy. I don't even have my music on yet - I need some quiet time.

I'm enjoying the sounds of Christmas - I hear music everywhere I go - in the stores, in the car, at work, and even on my iPod! The other night I was listening to my iPod while I was working on my computer, Steve came upstairs and said, "Are you listening to your iPod?" When I told him that I was, he commented that he was yelling at me from the bottom of the stairs and I could not hear him when he called out to me. I told him, "Now you know what I went through all these years when you couldn't hear me while wearing headphone when you were listening to music!" We had a good laugh about that.

As far as hearing new things, I've shifted from trying to listen for environmental sounds to concentrating on understanding speech. Therapy is coming along and Susie says I'm making progress. Right now I'm having trouble telling the difference between the "k" sound and the "t" sound. It doesn't matter if the sound is at the beginning or end of a word or if it is used in a sentence, I still can't get it. But that will come. Susie is wonderful because she explains to me why it is hard to hear certain sounds like the "t" and "k". It is because there is a slight difference in the frequency rate. Try saying and hearing the difference between "eat" and "eek", "meet" and "meek", "sheet" and "sheik", "till" and "kill". I asked Susie if I would be able to hear those sounds if my processor was programmed a little higher and she said probably not. It is just a matter of training the brain to recognize and hear the difference between different sounds. I am hearing words and phrases when I am not really concentrating. I still get things mixed up, too. For example, I heard one of my coworkers say "purchase security" and I thought she said "social security."

Last night I went to a Christmas party with the ladies from my church. I got lost trying to find the house. Luckily, I had Tina's phone number in my purse so I pulled off to the side of the road, found my T-Link in my purse and set it up with my cell phone. When Tina answered the phone, I told her that I was lost and that I needed her house number. I heard her say "fifty one forty one" but had to ask her if it was "five one four one" or "six one four one" because I couldn't tell if she said "fifty" or "sixty". I also heard her say that she had balloons on her mailbox. I was about 3-4 miles away and was able to find her house. It felt good to be able to make a phone call for help without having to struggle and drive around at night when I didn't know where I was.

I've gone to several other parties this past week. Went to the annual Christmas party for work at the Hilton. It was very noisy there! It was interesting to hear 50+ pieces of silverware clicking and scraping on plates as people were eating. I could hear voices laughing and talking. I normally don't like to go to parties because it has always been a struggle for me to carry on a conversation with so much noise around me. But, I have a program on my processor that minimizes background noise (BEAM) for me and allows me to hear the person I'm talking to. It is probably my favorite program on my processor. It's great. I had to sit up close to hear the program because Steve and I sat at a table in the back of the room. We had two different soloists and they sounded so beautiful and made me cry.

I also went to our monthly SHHH (Self Help for Hard of Hearing) meeeting on Thursday night. I was in charge of organizing it so I went early to set up the room with Christmas tablecloths and decorations. We had a good turnout and it is a great support group for people with hearing disabilities. We all have something in common and understand the struggles of living with a hearing loss. I had to smile when we had to leave because we all got out our umbrellas in the rain to protect our processors and hearing aids!

Tomorrow I will be sharing my testimony during both services at church. I'm going to share how I have received a wonderful gift this year because God uses the hands and minds of people to work miracles. And how this electronic miracle allows me to hear like I've never heard before. It is so exciting for me to hear the sounds I hear that others take for granted. It is a true and real blessing from God and I claim it as His work through the hands of His children. During the holiday season we are constantly trying to find the right gift or present to give to others. You are given gifts from God. You come as a unique "package" filled with special talents and a purpose to serve. When you live in a way that exposes your "specialness" and use your talents in that purpose, you are a blessing to others, no matter how small or large. The best gift you can give to someone else is YOU. You can make a difference with a kind word, thought or deed. I can hear because someone used their God given gifts and talents to create this cochlear implant for me and for others who cannot hear. This is such a joy for me and is a very real gift from God. I still look the same on the outside but inside my "cup runneth over!" God has shown His goodness to me in numerous ways through other people. For this I am thankful. No matter how big or small your gifts and talents are, you can impact someone's life in a very special way. So, pause and listen to God this season so that you can hear His purpose and plan for your life and what He wants you to do with it.

"Use the talents you possess - for the woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except for the best." ~Henry Van Dyke

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Is It December Already???

I know it has been a while since I've written an update. . .I'm sitting here with my morning cup of coffee and am listening to Christmas music on my iPod and will write! I have so much to say and will try to summarize everything briefly. . .

California: I had a great "three day date" with Chris in San Diego. It was so nice to have my Marine son all to myself! Usually when the kids are home, they are busy hanging out with their friends or doing other things. I try to have a "date" with them once in a while so I can have some one-on-one time with them. When I arrived at the San Diego airport I got the biggest hug from Chris! It was so nice to hold him and hear his voice! He was very interested in my implant when I showed it to him. He lives in a house with three other guys and it was an "experience" living in a bachelor pad for three days! Chris let me have his room and bed and I was very comfortable. We went out to eat a few times. He took me to the Camp Pendleton base and showed me around. Went to Starbucks a few times. We also went to the ocean twice so I could "hear" it! Chris took me for a three hour ride to the beach on his motorcycle and that was fun. I'm not really crazy about motorcycles but I knew he would be careful. I took my CI off while we rode because I didn't want to take the chance of it falling off. I did put it back on when we got to the ocean. We walked out on a long pier and I just "listened". It was GREAT! I wanted to stay there all day. We also heard a man in a wheelchair playing his saxophone from a distance. Beautiful music to my ears.

I had no trouble with my flight to and from CA with my CI. Going through security was uneventful and was just like any other time I have traveled. On the plane, I was thrilled that all of my cords for my CI and HA worked with the movie and music plug ins. But, I didn't watch the movies for two reasons: I still need some close captioning and the audio did not match the video (that drives me crazy!) so I gave up. I tried listening to the music instead but could also hear the "whine" of the plane at the same time. So, I just plugged in my iPod and listened to music as I knitted. It worked out well and I was happy that I didn't have to sit in bored silence for four hours. My ear did "pop" in my hearing aid ear but I did not have any discomfort with my CI side. Things did sound funny after I landed but went back to normal the next day.

Riga: We bred Riga two weeks ago. Hopefully I will be able to hear "puppy sounds" in January!

Auditory therapy: I'm going to auditory therapy twice a week. Susie says I'm making good progress even though I don't feel like I am. I just need to be patient. Patience is not one of my virtues! I look forward to my therapy sessions and am understanding more sounds all the time. I'm able to grasp and pick up vowel and consonant sounds better at each session. Susie says it will take some time for my brain to adjust to the new sounds that it is hearing. My communication for all of my life has been AUDITORY and VISUAL with lipreading. Now I am trying to build up my "Auditory Dictionary" without lipreading. It is hard for me but would be very easy for a hearing person. I tried to listen to the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears online the other night and could not get many of the words. If I could have slowed down the speaker, I might have done better. Susie says that she notices that I pick up words quicker when she slows down. Eventually she will be able to speak faster and I will be able to understand at a quicker rate. Later she'll add background noise. But for now, KISS (Keep it Short and Simple!)

Thanksgiving: We went to Ohio for Thanksgiving and had a wonderful time with family and friends. I was able to see relatives that I had not seen since my implant (and had to do a little show and tell, too!) Heard some wonderful sounds, too:
  • voices of family and friends
  • windchimes on my brother's patio
  • the wind blowing
  • sirens off in the distance
  • clinking of silverware and glasses
  • playing "Shepherds Play Your Melody" on the recorder while my brother accompanied me on the piano
  • being able to carry a conversation in a car, noisy room, or restaurant
  • whistling teakettle
  • the timer on the oven when the food was ready
  • wrapping paper ripping and rustling as we opened Christmas gifts
  • cameras clicking
  • music playing in background
  • called sister in law Allison on the phone quickly while I was packing to ask a question and got my answer
  • being able to talk with my cousin across the table (she was glad I could still lipread because she talked quietly a few times when she didn't want anyone to hear what she was saying)

Even though I heard some new sounds at Thanksgiving, there were also the familiar sounds that I "heard" before my implant - the ones that my heart "hears". I am thankful for the love and sharing of my family and friends, my health, and the many blessings that we have. God is so good. As my pastor says, God’s economy is that of surplus! It's called “GRACE.”

CI and HA: I am wearing my CI and hearing aid together. I've tried going without it but my hearing aid seems to fill in the sounds that my CI doesn't give me. It gives me the richness and fullness that I need, especially with voices and clarifies my CI sounds.

My Best Friend Dawn: I have not been able to get together with Dawn for several weeks and I miss her. But, she is going through a difficult time right now. She sent me an email recently telling me that her mother has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and that she has been spending a lot of time at the hospital or at her parent's home. I only know and understand her pain too well. . .my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at this time of year 13 years ago. . .

Will write more later. . .love and hugs to all!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What Am I Thankful For?

Our local newspaper asked readers to write a small paragraph on what they were thankful for so I submitted a short poem. . .

* (Sing to the tune of ``Raindrops on Roses'')
Sweet nothings from my husband, kind words from children,
Sounds of birds singing, leaves rustling in trees.
Coffee percolating and raindrops that fall...
These are a few of the sounds
That I'm thankful for.
Because I am hearing them for the very first time...
After receiving a cochlear implant
Just a few months ago!

Laurie Pullins, Maryville

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Before And After Hearing Tests

Click on this picture to see the full view. I have gone from a profound hearing loss to a MILD hearing loss with my CI. A true miracle and gift from God. I am truly blessed and thankful!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Pictures from California

Chris on the pier near Oceanside, California

Me enjoying the sounds of the ocean!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I am making preparations to fly to San Diego, California tomorrow to see Chris! I have not seen him since I got my CI. I absolutely cannot wait to hug him and spend time with him because I haven't seen him since June. I want to hear his voice and hear the ocean with him. I've been busy loading songs on to my iPod so that I will have music to listen to as I travel. That will be nice because I've always had to sit in silence on airplanes. I also got my cables for my CI by FedEx and DHL yesterday and will have them for my travels! I wonder if I will be able to plug in my TV/HiFi cable to the TV on the plane to watch a movie in place of the earphones that they always pass out. We'll see. It will also be an experience to go through security with my CI but I am prepared. I have my card next to my driver's license in my purse that informs others that I have a electronic device in my head. I also wear a medical alert bracelet.

Some new sounds that I've heard lately:
  • Heard Riga walking on the floor above me while I was in the basement
  • Sounds of fall: leaves rustling in the wind and falling off the trees
  • Understood Steve talking to Marissa from the car in the dark without lipreading
  • Talked to Allison, my sister-in-law on the phone for about 15 minutes on Sunday night

I had auditory therapy today and did pretty good for my first appointment. I have trouble distinguishing words that begin and end the same but have a different vowel in them, like "pet," "put," "pout," "pot," "pat," "pit." Had the most trouble with "pit" and "put." I understood short phrases pretty well like "the cat is in the bag", "he looked at the sock", etc. The appointment was only 30 minutes and was over before I knew it.

This little electronic miracle has made such a difference in my life and my confidence level. I cannot believe that I was able to function for so long with my hearing aids as well as I did. But, it is because I was fitted with the right hearing aids at the right time and had good training. All this is helping me make good progress with my CI.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart

As I sit here this morning, I have my window open behind me and can hear birds singing outside. I am also listening to songs on my iPod and giving thanks and praise again to God for my new world of sound. Every day I continue to be overwhelmed with His generosity, blessings, and love for me. It is so exciting for me to hear things that other people take for granted. I continue to be awe of this new miracle in my life that has been given to me through technology. God is so very good and blesses me more than I ever deserve. . .

I heard a few new sounds this week. I heard a carbonated drink "fizz" over ice when I poured it in my glass. I heard my boss say, "I'll be back in a minute" as she walked past my desk. I wasn't even "listening" for her and was thrilled that I heard her. Jason is home this weekend with Maddie, his cocker spaniel. She is a very sweet and active little dog and her feet pitter-patter so fast on the floor when she is excited!

I am also happy to report that my tinnitus is going away. I don't notice it as much anymore. It seems to be settling down. I think my auditory nerve was mad at me whenever I took my CI and HA off at night because it was not getting any sound. So, it said, "Well, if you are not going to give me sound, I'll just have to make it up!"

I had my hearing tested this week with my CI and HA and tested with a MILD hearing loss! When I get a copy of my hearing test, I will post it. I tested in the 30 -40 hearing dB range and spiked at 20 dB at 6000 hz! This is a big change from the severe/profound range that I've been in for most of my life. Susie, my audiologist tested me with my CI alone and also with my CI & HA together and said that I DO benefit from my hearing aid. My hearing aid seems to round out the sounds that I am not getting yet from my CI. She also did not like the "spike" and says that Bill needs to round that out when I get my next map. That may explain some of the "echoes" and "tinny" sounds that I hear and may also explain why music sounds funny sometimes. On Monday I will have a speech comprehension test done to see how well I am understanding speech with my CI and HA. All this information will be so valuable to Bill when he sets my next map because he will know exactly what adjustments need to be made. (Look to your right on this blog and I will add a link on how to read a hearing test or audiogram. Click on the "NEXT" buttons.)

Susie shared with me that she has been praying for direction about her career and the hearing center that she works in. She would like to do more work with CI patients. Steve and I have talked in the past about how it would be so great for the hearing center to be able to work with CI patients and do the mapping, etc. But, they have to have the funds and resources and be connected with a specific surgeon that will refer them, etc. They also have to have special training from the cochlear implant companies and be qualified. Susie says that she refers at least 3-4 patients a week to Dr. Merwin and another doctor in Knoxville for cochlear implants but those patients have to go somewhere else for their appointments, evaluations, and mapping sessions. The business manager at the hearing center says that they cannot afford it right now. I shared with her that this hearing center has been my "home" for 12 years and that I feel safe there. I just know that there are others who feel the same way I do. I know everyone that works there and am comfortable with them. It was hard for me to leave my "comfort zone" to go to Knoxville and trust another doctor and hearing center with my ears but I really did not have any other options except to go to Nashville or Atlanta. Susie also shared with me that some patients HAVE to go to Nashville (which is three hours away) for their evaluations, appointments, surgery, mappings, etc. and that it is very difficult for them, especially if they have low incomes or transporation issues. She had one patient who was on TennCare and waited for hours to see a Dr. in Nashville, only to find out that the doctor or insurance company didn't have all her information and paperwork. It was hard enough for this patient to get to Nashville and to be turned away and have to start all over again was a big blow. I told Susie that "if they (the hearing and speech center) build it, they will come." I know there are other patients like me who would come to the hearing center for our appointments, mapping sessions, therapy, etc. I am fortunate that I can have my therapy there but I still have to go to Bill for my maps because he is associated with the doctor who performed my surgery. . .So, I will pray for direction for Susie and the Blount Hearing and Speech Center. . .

I am going to go work in the yard outside and do some "listening" on this beautiful fall day. I need to plant my winter flowers and rake leaves, etc. I also have "nursery duty" at church tomorrow and will get to hear the sounds of little children again!

I will close this entry by sharing with you that as I walk with Jesus every day and draw closer to Him, I find that my thankfulness to Him is an ever-growing symphony of praise that flows from my heart to His. As I look around me, I see that our world is full of heaven. There are so many riches that God has given to me and to you. He is always one step ahead of us and answers our prayers in ways that we never imagined. He puts people in our paths to show us kindness, love, and joy. Everything that we have comes from HIM. For that reason alone, my heart is full of gratefulness and thanksgiving.

Hebrews 13:15 (Amplified Bible) "Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name."

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Birds and Chocolate Pudding

Birds and chocolate pudding are great together! That is how I started my morning today. Steve and I spent some time outside this morning listening to the different chirps, calls, and songs of the birds. It was wonderful. I heard robins, blue jays, wrens or finches, and a few other birds that Steve could not identify. I also had chocolate pudding for breakfast with my coffee. What a great way to start the day!

I know I haven't written in here for a while. Actually, I have been busy writing all afternoon since I was asked to be the featured writer for the CI Hear website for November and need to have my story turned in by tomorrow. So, if you are reading this, look to your right, click on the CI Community link and scroll down to the CI Feature Story of the month.

I've been busy "listening" these last few weeks and love all the new things I am hearing and experiencing. My world is filled with the sounds of family, friends, music, and all the little things of life that fills my soul with joy. I am also experiencing some tinnitus (ringing in the ears) that I don't like but that is only temporary and can be adjusted with the right "map." I hear it when I take my ears off at night and it sounds like the wheels of sound are still turning in my head! It is usually gone by morning or it goes away when I put my CI back on. I think I have some sinus issues going on, too, and antihistamines seem to keep the tinnitus from bothering me.

I got my third "map" since I last added an entry to this journal. I had trouble hearing the tones and beeps because of the tinnitus but was still able to get "mapped." I'm still having some CI moments but not as many as before. The new sounds that I heard after I was first hooked up are becoming clearer and more distinct and I can hear them from farther away than before. This morning I heard the kitchen clock while I was standing in the middle of the kitchen. That is progress! The first time when I noticed it, I was standing right next to it. Riga sounds like a horse running through the kitchen with her toenails and dog tags making noise.

I am not really understanding speech yet without reading lips and it may take a while to get to that point. Lately, though, I have been pleasantly surprised when I can pick up a phrase or word without reading lips. Last Sunday night I heard the pastor say "for this we give you thanks" during a long five minute prayer but didn't get anything else. On Thursday night I was sitting in the knitting shop working on some socks that I was making. The store owner, Antje, was sitting next to me placing an order over the phone and I heard about 50% of her conversation! She was basically calling off amounts and numbers like "I need 4 of the number eights, six of the number nines, etc." and I also heard her say, "thank you very much for all your help." I just sat there and smiled as I listened to her! Music is still not as good as I'd like but that will come. Instrumental music and single voices sound great but when there is a combination of voices and muscial instruments, it is hard to pick out the voice singing the songs. Maybe that is normal but I don't know what normal is. And it is worse in church or an auditorium, especially when people clap or make other noise because my processor shuts down the loudest noise that it hears, thinking it is background noise. That can be fixed with another adjustment. My job is to be patient, practice listening, and locate sounds when I can and let my brain do the work.

Also, last Sunday, Steve, Brad, Marissa, and I went to the movies to see "Dreamer." This was my first time seeing a movie since I got my CI. It wasn't close captioned and I was a little lost but I was able to get a basic idea of the story line. The movie theatre was loud and I couldn't get the sound right no matter what I did with the processor. I did hear someone behind me eating popcorn very loudly! I usually wait until movies come out on video or DVD so I can watch them with closed captioning.

Last week, I went to the Hearing Center to talk with Susie, the speech therapist about starting some auditory training. We will start working together next Wednesday. One of the first things she will do is to test my hearing to find out how much I've improved with my CI. She also asked me lots of questions about what I was hearing, what my settings were on my CI, and if I was using my accessories with my kit. I told her that I haven't been using my accessories because I haven't received them yet! She also suggested that I may want to have Bill put one of my old maps back on my processor to see if I do any better with it. (Bradley also said the same thing last weekend when he was home and said "Mom, you did better with your first map than you did with your second and third one.")

Susie also suggested that I practice talking in the dark with Steve or someone that I'm comfortable with. I'm happy to report that Steve and I can talk in the dark! On Friday night, Steve and I practiced talking in the dark and he was just too funny. I told him to count from 1 to 10 and call off random numbers and he would call out zero, twelve or any other number but 1 through 10! I can't understand the number three or four but get the rest. They sound alike and don't sound right like I think they should sound. So, my audiologist may need to do some more programming on my processor the next time I see him.

I also told Susie that I was hearing birds during the day and at night, too, but couldn't tell what kind they were. She told me that there are day birds and night birds and they have different calls. I may have heard an owl the other night. Susie is going to let me borrow some of her sound cards that have the sounds of different birds on them so I can get a feel for what they sound like.

Every day is new gift for me. I know I will have to work hard at listening and that I still have to ask for help every now and then. I am thankful that God has provided this miracle of sound for me and I start each day praising Him when I put my processor and hearing aid on in the morning. For He is my everything, my reason for breathing, for being alive. When I trust Him fully, he will continue to transform my life with His amazing grace.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Morning Symphony

The birds are singing for me! I have heard them the last two mornings because fall is here and the weather is getting cooler. I feel like I am in a concert or symphony of birds because I hear so many different ones! Wow. When I experience something so beautiful, I just cannot help but thank God that He did this for me. Whether it is a beautiful sunrise or sunset, a full moon, a rainbow, a thunderstorm, or something that He has created, I give Him my thanks and praise Him. It's not about us but is all about Him. He created this beautiful world FOR us. For me and for you. So, I will sing and praise Him this morning with one of my favorite hymns by Eleanor Farjeon. . .

Morning has broken like the first morning;
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning!
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word!

Sweet the rain's new fall sunlit from heaven,
Like the first dewfall on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning,
Born of the one light Eden saw play!
Praise with elation; praise every morning,
God's recreation of the new day!

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Our beloved Riga. Since I talk about her often, I thought I would share a picture. She is a solid black German Shepherd, is three years old, and is a wonderful dog. She loves to ride in the car, walk in the park and play ball. She understands the word "walk" and "ball" and gets very excited when she hears them so we have to spell those words when she is around! I enjoy having her for my companion and cannot imagine my life without her. We hope to breed her soon. It will be fun to hear "puppy sounds" someday.

Adjustment Needed

It's time for another update from me. This last "tune-up" that I had over a week ago has not been as good as the first one. I'll be going back to Bill on Tuesday morning for another adjustment to my processor and I am ready! I still continue to hear new sounds almost every day but not as much as I did the first two weeks. Voices are sounding very mechanical right now and I feel like I'm hearing everyone underwater or through a speaker phone. Music does not sound as good as it did before even though I have a "music" setting on my processor. It sounds like rap and is very static-like. Not a good thing! I have also noticed my sound quality diminishing towards evening and don't seem to hear as good like I do first thing in the morning when I turn on my processor. It could be my brain getting "tired" or maybe the map on my processor is not strong enough.

Also, my tinnitus is bothering me quite a bit. I never did have a problem with it until after the implant. I only notice it when I take my processor and hearing aid off at night but it is gone by morning. It sounds like a constant buzz in my head as if the brain is still "hearing" sound after everything is turned off. This is normal and is only temporary, I've been told. All these "problems" are part of the process and the auditory nerve needs to be stimulated at a faster rate so that I can proceed to the next step. I am on two CI forums online and the feedback that I'm getting tells me that the second mapping is usually the worst one and it will only get better after that. I hope so!

Last Monday I was sitting in Steve's office talking with him and kept hearing a clicking noise. I asked him if he had the radio on and he said no. He said that the only noise in the room was the clock ticking on his desk and he could barely hear it. The clock got louder as I got closer to it. That was a good CI moment! I also heard Riga "sigh" while I was talking with Steve and ignoring her. The tags on her collar jingle when she walks around the house or scratches her neck. This past Tuesday I had a doctor's appointment and heard the ear thermometer "beep" while the nurse was taking my temperature. Never heard that before! I've always had to look at thermometers several times to see if the reading was done or not. Other sounds are becoming clearer and more distinct and I can hear them from farther away.

The program on my processor that puts the background noise in the background for me is nice. I could hear salespeople talking to me very clearly while I was shopping in the mall with Marissa.
Newspaper pages and rustling papers are a little irritating to me right now and sound very loud. Last night I heard Steve wipe his arm with a paper towel. Leaves make a noise when they are stepped on. This morning I heard an "auditorium" of birds outside. I could even hear them in the house while fixing breakfast for me and Steve. I also heard the kitchen timer ticking. I noticed that the kitchen timer speeds up when it is ready to go off. I also heard Steve running his brush through his hair while we were in our bedroom.

On Thursday night, Steve and I went to the monthly SHHH meeting. Dr. Merwin, who is my doctor that performed my CI surgery, was the speaker. What a great meeting that was. He did a wonderful Powerpoint presentation and it was fascinating. Even though I have done a lot of research on cochlear implants, I learned a lot. He talked quite a bit on implanting children, catching them early so they don't get delayed, and the qualifications and criteria for CI's. He also talked about the progress and advances that have been made in CI's in the last 20 years. What was interesting to me is that he started his career as an electrical engineer before he became a ENT doctor doing cochlear implants. He has been doing cochlear implants since 1991 and did the first adult implant in Knoxville at that time. He was also the first one to do a child implant in Knoxville a year later. He was very patient with the questions people asked him during his presentation and was very knowledgeable about the subject. He even used me to demonstrate where he makes the incision, etc. during the surgery and took my processor off my head to show everyone what it looked like. We could tell that he really enjoys what he does with technology and medical science. I had the opportunity to thank him again after the meeting for giving me the gift of sound. He was very pleased to hear about all the new sounds that I've been hearing. He is a miracle worker!

Today is Susan's birthday. This is the first birthday she has had with sound since she was implanted earlier this year. Happy Birthday, Susan!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Just a little quiet. . .

I've been a little quiet this week. Was "mapped" again this past Tuesday and was completely overwhelmed with sound. Kathy came with me this time and was fascinated by the whole process. Bill moved me from two programs to four and it was just too much. I have a program for regular everyday use, one for the telephone/cinema, one for music, and one for noisy situations. I just couldn't handle the sound overload and even turned the volume on all four channels from 9 (the highest) to 1 (the lowest). And it was still too loud. On Thursday night, the sound of the newspaper pages turning and aluminum foil crinkling hurt my ears! I went back to Bill yesterday afternoon (Friday) and he dropped me down 11 levels, whatever that means. It is almost too quiet now but I need to be patient and just take one day at a time. I will admit that I am a little discouraged with the sound quality but I will not give up! Everything sounds like static and voices are not sounding "natural". Music is not as good as it was before so I've set the iPod aside for now. But, this is part of the process to figure out what my "hearing fingerprint" is.

Even though I am not crazy about my current "map", I am hearing sounds louder and clearer and still having some CI moments. Kathy and I took a walk on the Greenbelt after my session on Tuesday. I was able to hear a cricket as we walked by some trees and heard the water trickling down the stream. The sound of cars and trucks going by drowned out the sounds that I wanted to hear, like my voice and Kathy's. I can hear the blinker in my car better but now I hear the car running, too. Not sure if I like that. I really haven't "heard" background noise before and it is something I will have to get used to. We do live in a noisy world!

Chester, our cat is sitting in my lap as I write this. I can hear her purring!

Sunday, October 02, 2005


I heard BIRDS this morning! I've been trying so hard to hear the birds ever since I was hooked up to my CI almost two weeks ago. Now that it is getting cooler at night, we have our bedroom windows open to let the breeze come in. After I took my shower this morning and put my processor on, I kept hearing a "click, click, click" over and over again. I thought the fan in the room was stuck but it was fine. Steve wasn't too crazy about being woken up at 7 a.m on a Sunday morning with his wife asking him "what's that noise?!!!" He said that there was a robin chirping outside. I quickly got my coffee and sat on the front porch for a little while to listen some more. Heard a "tdtdtdtdtdtdtdtd" sound that sounded like a woodpecker. Steve said that robins don't "click" but have a "chirping" sound and that I might want to mention it to the audiologist when I see him on Tuesday. He may need to make an adjustment so it sounds right.

Worked in the nursery at church today and loved every minute of it! Another gal worked with me and we had five boys and one girl. I loved hearing their little voices and the sounds of their musical toys! I think I had as much fun playing with them as the kids did!

Also heard the metal expanding and contracting on Steve's car as it was cooling down when we pulled into the garage after lunch. Went to a Faithful Men meeting tonight and didn't have as much trouble following the conversation around the room like I usually do. Heard them sing, too, and they sounded better than ever.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Me and Marissa after Concert

September 27, 2005

Marissa and her MUSIC

Marissa and I have a "date" on Monday nights. We always go to Knoxville together for her piano lesson and then go out to eat afterwards. I look forward to our time together because it is one of the few times I can have her all to myself and spend some mother/daughter time with her. She sang in the car as we rode together and I just soaked in her beautiful alto voice. She has the same singing voice that my mom had and sounds like an angel.

Dawn and I visited for an hour at Starbucks. I told her that I was exhausted and so tired. I've been averaging 5 hours of sleep a night because I stay up late listening for new sounds and can't wait to get up in the mornings! She commented that I probably haven't totally recovered from my surgery and she is probably right. I've also gone through a whole range of emotions this past week.

Last night, Marissa had another high school concert at the First Baptist Church. The Maryville High School Music department did a concert called "Mostly Mozart." It was the best concert I have ever heard in my life! I heard the harp being tuned over the crowd before the program started. I heard the symphony of the different instruments in the orchestra. And the voices in the choir as they sang Mozart's "Requiem" was just so beautiful. I videotaped the whole thing so Steve and the rest of the family could hear it later.

Sounds are getting better and better every day. I'm in awe of the environmental sounds that I am picking up and am hearing new things all the time. It is taking awhile for the speech distinction to kick in but I love hearing everyone's voices. Had lunch with the Kristines yesterday. (They are our "adopted" daughters from Latvia. Both of their names are Kristine and they are going to Maryville College for the next two years. The Faithful Men from Fairview are supporting them as they finish their education.) Anyway, I picked them up for lunch at school and we went to the Soup Kitchen. It was so good to see them again and talk with them and hear their sweet Latvian voices. Before we ate, we held hands to pray. They both sang the prayer to me. . .how beautiful and special that was. They make my heart sing. Our time together was too short because I had to get back to work and they had classes but we will do this again. When we said goodbye, they "blew" kisses to me and said, "Can you hear that?" I sure did!

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Most INCREDIBLE Weekend

It has been the most incredible weekend of my life. I'm still on Cloud Nine and don't want to come down! On Friday night and Saturday I went to Beth Moore's Living Proof Conference at the Thompson Boling Arena in Knoxville with my Bible Study group. The Thompson Boling arena is on the University of Tennessee campus and is where the basketball games, graduations, etc. are held. Beth Moore is a gifted Bible teacher and woman of God and is a great motivational speaker. Her Praise team was WONDERFUL! I just soaked it all in. I sat in the deaf section in the front with my best friend, Dawn. Susan and her friend also joined us. It was nice to be able to sit in the front where we could see BUT the only drawback was that the speakers were right in front of us and were quite loud. I would have been able to hear better if we had moved away but then I would not have been able to read the interpreter's lips. I kept taking my processor off trying to adjust the sensitivity and volume settings but wasn't quite sure how to figure it out. But the conference was wonderful. Picture these sounds for the very first time:
  • the sound of 19,000 women singing acapella in the arena with no music playing
  • 19,000 Bible pages turning in complete silence
  • 19,000 women praying and worshipping together
When I made my coffee the last few mornings I was excited because I could "hear" the coffee granules falling into the paper filter. I could also hear the coffee maker perculating and brewing the coffee. What a great morning sound! Dropped my medicine on the floor when I was taking it and heard it hit the floor. I dropped it a few more times because I wanted to hear it again! I guess it was pretty "dirty" by the time I put it in my mouth but I didn't care. (Did you know a child eats a pound of dirt by the time they reach kindergarten?)

I was so tired on Saturday afternoon so I took a nap with Steve. We listened to the Miles Davis Jazz CD and it was so beautiful. I heard it with just my CI and did not wear my hearing aid. And I implanted my worst ear. It is becoming better than my hearing aid side but I still need both ears for balance.

On Sunday morning, I went to TWO church services. I went to our home church, Fairview United Methodist Church for the 8 a.m. service because I wanted to see if I could tell a difference with my "new sound." I had stopped going there earlier this year because I was having so much trouble hearing and understanding what was being said. Then I went to my new church, Sycamore Tree UMC, which is where I've been going. I found my pastor right away because I wanted to hear his voice. He was so overjoyed with some of the stories that I shared with him before the service that morning and asked me to share my testimony in church. He caught me off guard when he said that and I didn't have time to say no. But I told him I would be happy to do it. I have never liked talking to a group or into a microphone but felt such a peace wash over me as I stood in front of the congregation. I wasn't nervous or shaking at all as I spoke. Pastor Jeff wanted me to tell my story because so many people had prayed for me and that it would be good for them to hear and see the answer to prayer. This was something that they could put their finger on and could relate to. I told the little boy story and the iPod story and thanked everyone for their love, prayers, support and for being patient with me when I could not hear or understand. I still have a long way to go but the beginning is GREAT! Later, after the service, one of the new mothers in the church brought her baby to me. I held him in my arms and just sobbed. Let the little children come to me so I can hear them.

P.S. I heard the RAIN this morning!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Picture? Present?

Remember last week when I mentioned that I thought Marissa was "up to something?" Well, it wasn't just Marissa. . .read on. . .

On Friday night when I got home after a very long day, Bradley, came running upstairs to hug me. He had just come home from college and dragged me into the kitchen. Steve is standing there with a digital camera waiting to take a "picture". Brad proceeded to tell me that he, Jason, Chris, and Marissa had gotten together to get me a "present." Apparently they had been planning this for months ever since I started this journey. (They even talked about it when I was in the same room with them on different occasions and I never heard them.) Picture? Present? It isn't even my birthday or Christmas! He told me to close my eyes and placed a "black box" in my hands. I was speechless when I opened my eyes and the tears flowed again. The kids had put their hard earned pennies together and purchased a Nano iPOD for me! (I've never been able to enjoy listening to CD players, radios, etc.) And all my favorite songs were already loaded on it! On the back it says . . ."all that is left is loving you forever". . . (which is one of the lyrics to my favorite Carole King song).

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Little Boy and the Car Turn Signal

Yesterday was Day Three of new sounds for me. Tears of joy and emotion have been flowing every single day since my hookup on Tuesday. Yesterday I was sitting in the waiting room at Dr. Merwin's office waiting for my followup appointment. A little boy came in with his mother and I was drawn to him right away because I am a mother of three boys (and a daughter, too!) He had a little toy truck in his hand and was holding his mom's hand with the other one. He couldn't have been more than three or four years old and started talking to his mother in the most sweetest, innocent, and melodic voice I have EVER heard. It was music to my ears. Tears began to stream down my face because I realized right at that moment what sounds I had missed when our boys were little (they are now grown men). . .I found a Kleenex box across the room and heard the tissues make a "whooshing" sound as I pulled them out! Later, when I shared this with my sister, Kathy, she had tears in her eyes, too, but said, "I will tell you this. . .when your boys were little, they had very sweet little boy voices, too." People have shared with me that having grandchildren is the most wonderful experience a person can have. I know it will be DOUBLE JOY for me someday because I will be able to hear what I missed the first time around!

In Matthew 19:14 Jesus says, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." I saw heaven in that little boy yesterday. Is this one of the reasons why Jesus loved the little children so? Because he loved the sounds of their kind, thoughtful, and innocent voices? So, let the children come to me. I want to hold them and hear them. Don't be surprised if you see me working in the nursery again at church or at the park listening to the children on the playground. I want to hear those little voices that I haven't heard before. I "heard" our kids with my hearing aids but not like this. No wonder Mom wanted to come right away when our babies were born. . .not only did she want to bond with them but she wanted to hear them, too.

Ok, now that I have stopped crying, I will write a little more. I LOVE the sound of the turn signal in my car. Now that I can hear it, I will never again forget to turn it off! I am like a child again because I keep playing with it while I'm driving down the road. So, if you see a crazy grown woman driving down the road in a blue SUV with her blinkers on, it's me! Bradley used to irritate me when he was little because he had to check every single thing that moved or made a sound. (He is studying to be a mechanical/robotics engineer at Virginia Tech.) I'm beginning to understand why he did those things as a child because I'm doing those very same things now!

My batteries died yesterday for the first time right after my doctor's appointment. I had no warning so I will need to tell the audiologist to put the warning beep on the processor. They are supposed to last 3 to 5 days but I figured out that I got 43 hours of use from them.

I'm having some other great CI moments and will list them briefly for now:

  • flute music on my Christmas PanFlute CD sounds so beautiful and so clear
  • high heeled shoes clicking on the floor across the room
  • printer printing checks
  • word processor/typewriter keys
  • the crinkle of the Cheetos bag
  • guy at Starbucks sounds really nice!
  • dollar bills make a sound when I count them (love the sound of money!)
  • Miles Davis Jazz CD - oh my, I can hear all the different instruments playing!

I met Susan for dinner last night before our SHHH (Self Help for Hard of Hearing) meeting and we talked until it was time to go. I was able to get some of my questions answered that I had about my processor and we both shared our CI moments. It is just so nice to have a friend that knows exactly what I am experiencing. She was hooked up to her CI seven months ago and is still hearing new things!

The SHHH meeting was great and very informal. There was a lady there asking LOTS of questions about cochlear implants and three of us were able to give and share some information with the group. I couldn't wait to get home to Steve! He got back from Washington, D.C. about 7:30 p.m. and we had not seen each other since Monday morning. I could hear his bare feet on the area rug in the kitchen as we were talking. He was so happy and excited to hear about my experiences so far! He was able to help me localize some sounds that I had been hearing in the house. So, yesterday was a good day. Amen!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Day Two After Activation

I could hardly wait to get up this morning to put my speech processor on (those of you who know me KNOW that I am not a morning person)! I only had about 4 1/2 hours of sleep but I didn't care. I was so eager to hear again and just didn't want to miss anything! I had to wait until after my shower and after my hair was dried before I could put the processor on. Even though it is water resistant, still didn't want to take any chances. I'm still learning and trying to figure out what I am hearing. The sound quality is not what I expected and everything still sounds very foreign to me. Everyone and everything sounds a little metallic, like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. But, the amount that I am hearing has already exceeded my expectations. It can only get better! When I first connect the processor to the implant, sounds are very loud at first but then settle down. The same thing happens when I change programs. I think I'm going to drive everyone crazy asking "What is that noise?" This is a new adventure for me. Is this what babies first go through when they first arrive in the world? I find myself being very quiet and still and yet I'm very busy watching and listening for every new sound.

One of the reasons I wanted to get up early is because I want to HEAR the birds. That is supposed to be one of the first sounds that I should be able to hear. But, I don't hear them. I took Riga for a walk this morning and tried to listen for them. Maybe they are not singing. Or maybe I don't know what they sound like. I did hear dogs barking in every direction!

Marissa sang in a talent show today at school. I left work for a little while so I could run over to the high school to hear her. She did a great job. The only problem was that when people started clapping along with her, my processor drowned out her voice. That will have to be adjusted!

Here is a list of some of my new sounds so far:
  • heard a siren for 15-20 seconds but never saw it - that is great because I usually never heard them until they were right on top of me!
  • the twang of the guitar and the clang of the cymbals at the talent show
  • the butter sizzling in the pan when I made grilled cheese sandwiches
  • heard the music piping in at Atlanta Bread Company while having soup with Kathy
  • heard Riga's panting and breathing as she came up the stairs
  • Carole King in the car SOUNDS GREAT!

Talked with Brad several times today on the phone. I know he is excited about this! Every time he calls, he says, "Hi Mom! How are you? Can you hear me?" Also talked to Etta (my dad's wife) briefly and Chris. I'm not quite ready to talk to my Dad yet - I still need some practice. Chris was a little hard to understand because I kept hearing this "background" noise. Finally told him to hang up and text me. He said he was supervising some Marines at a pistol range and it was a little "noisy!" Only Chris would call me from a shooting range! Silly kid.

Activation Day Pictures

Listening for sounds

Talking with audiologist

My new Freedom Processor! It matches my

Audiologist making adjustments


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Activation DAY!

Well, it is late but I need to post SOMETHING because I know all of you are all out there waiting for a report. Today has been the most incredible, overwhelming, exciting, and emotional day for me. It is the first day of the rest of my life! Right now I am in sound overload with a head full of sounds and am still "processing." It is so new and different but I like it! I just need to sit and be quiet and figure things out.

This is only the beginning. I started my day out just praying and listening to my praise CD's in the car on the way to Knoxville. My dear friend, Dawn, met me in the lobby of the Baptist Medical Tower. We went up to the doctor's office together where I was going to meet the audiologist for the very first time and get my processor. I had been very apprehensive about meeting the audiologist for the first time and working with him because I was not comfortable with his "reputation." I won't go into details but this morning I felt that I needed to just go with the flow, keep an open mind and do my best with him. It was such an awesome experience and I know that we will work well together. To make a long story short, I asked him if I could ask him a question. He said, "Sure." I shared with him that these last few months have been a very special spiritual journey for me and that I was walking in faith today. I then asked him if he was a Christian. He smiled a little and said, "Yes" and was probably wondering where I was coming from. I told him that I was walking in faith today. . .Dawn is sitting next to me getting all teary eyed and almost lost it when he said, "Well, I'm not Jesus, but I will do my best!" Dawn told me later that his whole demeanor changed after that and we both feel that he and I will work very well together. It was just so important for me to "connect" with him and we did.

When we first sat down, he showed me my "box" with all my stuff (Brad will love this!) and explained everything to me. Then he hooked my processor to his computer and said that it would be silent for a while while he checked the electrodes in my implant. He was happy to report that ALL 22 of them were working and firing to the auditory nerve like they are supposed to. Yay! Then, we went through a series of beeps and tones. The beeps sounded like "pings" from a spaceship in outer space. When he turned on the processor, I told him I could hear something. He and Dawn looked at each other and then he said, "The only sound in this room is the fan right above you." I couldn't hear it with my hearing aid but I could hear it with the processor! He changed some more settings and we kept talking until he was satisified that the program was where it needed to me. I only have two programs set right now but will eventually get four. I couldn't hear Dawn's voice at first but could hear his so he made another change until I could hear Dawn. Everything sounds mechanical, like maybe a synthesizer. But, I like it. I still have a long way to go. I've been told that everything will sound better from now on! My auditory nerve has never been stimulated like this before so it will take some time for my brain to adjust to everything that I'm hearing. Sounds are not louder but better. Just strange and different but I like it. Almost sounds like bells ringing every so often. I like one program better than the other and will probably just stay there until I go back for another mapping session in two weeks. The appointment lasted two hours and went by so quickly! I took the video camera so we could film the whole process but we didn't get around to using it because we were so busy! But, Dawn did get some digital pictures. . .

We decided to meet at Panera Bread for lunch before I went back to work. On the way there, I heard my keys dangling and banging in the car! Drove me nuts so I took them off the key chain. I had not heard that before and I'm surprised it didn't bother anyone else in the car that had ridden with me in the past! Brad called me and wanted to know how everything went! I wasn't really set up to talk on the phone so we just talked briefly and agreed to talk later. Heard lots of noises in the restaurant but could hear Dawn perfectly. I was so glad she was there with me today! Steve was out of town and all the kids are either gone or in school so she was the only one who could be there. My sister, Kathy, was going to come, too, but she got a new job at the last minute and was starting this morning.

When I got to work, everyone wanted to talk to me and kept saying "Can you hear?" Well, yes, I can but I needed to just sit and be quiet and process it all. I am so thankful to have wonderful coworkers who are so respectful and supportive. So, I stayed at my desk quietly and just worked and listened. Noises sound different but I can tell an improvement. I'm just trying to concentrate to get used to hearing and comprending all these new sounds.

After work, I had a pedicure appointment. The girls in the salon were so interested and excited for me. I could hear the hair dryer, people talking across the room, the phone ringing, and the sound of the nail file!

Then, I went to parent-teacher conferences at the high school to talk with Marissa's teachers. I could hear people walking down the hall and shuffling their shoes on the floor! Made me think of Mom and how she used to tell me to pick up my feet all the time.

Last but not least, I went to Bible Study. It was our first one of the season and I did not want to miss it. The girls all wanted a report and were very understanding of my need to just be quiet and listen. I showed them the processor and how the magnet just attached to my head. I think it surprised them a little!

Just as I was leaving Bible Study, Steve called on my cell phone. Talked to him for 11 minutes and understood almost everything he said. For some reason, I cannot hear on the phone with the processor. I'm using my hearing aid side to use the phone because it sounds better. I may need to wait for another mapping to be able to use the phone with the processor. Also talked to Marissa, my nephew, Michael and my brother, Dan. (I don't think I have EVER talked to Michael on the phone and could understand him perfectly!) Talked to Brad's girlfriend, Kayla, and she came right over to see me after I got home. Steve and Marissa say my voice sounds different. I can't tell.

Today has been a good day. I was prepared for things to sound strange and weird but I feel really good that I am able to understand as much as I have today. So, I've made some good progress. I'm going to close with a poem that was in Dr. Merwin's office today which really sums up my whole day. . .

"Remember you go nowhere by accident,
Wherever you go, God is sending you.
Wherever you are, God has put you there.
God has a purpose in you being there,
Christ, who is in you, has something He
wants to do through you where you are.
Believe this and go in God's strength,
Love and power."

written by R.C. Halverson
Former Chaplain, U.S. Senate

Sunday, September 18, 2005

I Can Only Imagine. . .

I can only imagine what it will sound like,
As I walk by Your side.
I can only imagine what my ears will hear,
When You call out my name!
I can only imagine. . .

Only two more days until I get my processor. . .I can only imagine what my new world of sound will be like. . .I can only imagine!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Song in my Heart

Yesterday I woke up with a song in my heart and a spring in my step. I'm actually feeling better but still a little dizzy. Marissa is up to something. She wants to sing a special song for me when I get my new processor. She knows that I love to hear her sing. She keeps asking me to give her the lyrics to some of my favorite songs that would relate to my cochlear implant journey. I've given her several but she keeps asking for more. This morning I woke up with some modified verses to my all time favorite song "Amazing Grace" and wrote them down. I actually wrote two versions. One from my point of view and one from Marissa's. "Amazing Grace" means so much to me because God still showers me with His love and blessings even though I don't deserve it. I will publish the verses next week after my "hook-up" on Tuesday so stay tuned!

I had lunch with Susan today. We had such a wonderful time together and it was so good to see her again. We went to one of our favorite places "The Gift Garden and Cafe" and had spinach & artichoke quesadillas. My appetite is returning and I ate the whole thing! Susan and I could only visit for an hour because that is all I have for lunch and it wasn't long enough. She is struggling emotionally because she is from New Orleans and her family is staying at her house and her mother's house until they can find jobs and a place to live. The stories that she has shared with me is heartbreaking. I will see her again next week when we have our SHHH meeting in Knoxville.

I stopped at the hearing clinic today to get a T-Link for my brother. He wants the "double" link but they don't carry it but will try to find one for him. The audiologist asked me if I was still dizzy and I told her I was. She said that sometimes the dizziness won't go away until I get "turned on." I hope so!

My hearing hasn't been very good with just one ear. Even talking on the phone with the T-Link doesn't work as well. This shows how much my left ear helped me even though I didn't think I could hear as well with it. I cannot hear the doorbell ring but can hear the phone ring, the dog bark, airplanes flying overhead, etc. Riga is driving me nuts because she barks whenever she hears something and it isn't always the doorbell! I run to the door whenever I hear her bark but no one is there!

I was a little concerned this morning when my implanted ear started draining a little. It may be water from my shower. My ear is "tickling" a little bit, too. Maybe the nerves are starting to grow back. My jaw is still sore and tender and it hurts to open my mouth very wide or bite into hard foods.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My New Haircut

My hairdresser worked some "magic" with my hair today and cut my hair to cover my bald spot. I feel so much better! She said that cutting the length off my shoulders would keep the hair in the back from "separating" and exposing the bald spot. I'm not quite so bald anymore and have a stubble growing.Went back to work yesterday. It was hard but I made it as long as I took my anti-nausea medicine and didn't move around too much. It was good to be back to work with my coworkers and getting back into the routine of things. I was tired of staying at home!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Activation Date!

Great news! I called Dr. Merwin's office through the relay service this morning and set my date for my initial hookup. It is scheduled for Tuesday, September 20th at 8:30 a.m.!!! I went back to work today even though I didn't feel 100%. There is no way to know how long my nausea will last. . .but the medicine is helping. Yesterday I went to church for the first time since my surgery and it was so good to be there even though I didn't feel good. (I had been up during the night with hot and cold sweats and was very nauseous). But, I wanted to be in church. I couldn't hear Jeff or the music as well as I normally do but just being there and participating in the worship service refreshed my spirit. There were keychains with flashlights on every single chair as everyone walked into the worship area. Pastor Jeff talked about how each one of us can make a difference by bringing "light" into the world just like Jesus did so long ago. During the message, Jeff had all the lights turned off. (He told me ahead of time what he was going to do and explained to me what he was going to say. I really appreciated his thoughtfulness because otherwise I would have been left out and clueless in the dark!) We all had to turn our little flashlights on one by one if we had been baptized, or had accepted Jesus, or was a member of a small group, etc. My sister, Kathy came, too, so we had some "sister" time together. We stayed for the spaghetti lunch afterwards, which was the first real food that I felt like eating all week. Also went to Fairview Church that evening for the monthly Faithful Men meeting since I am their treasurer. Spent the rest of the night in my chair watching TV and knitting.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Freedom Implant & Processor

This is what the implant under my scalp looks
like. It isn't much bigger than my pinkie finger.
I had the opportunity to see one in person at a
SHHH meeting several months ago.

This is what the processor and magnet looks like.
My hearing aid is right next to it.

Still Healing. . .

My recovery time from my surgery is taking a little longer than I'd like. I'm tired of laying around and doing nothing. However, I have been able to do some knitting, reading, and praying. I know God has me down and out for a reason! I'm not a very patient person when it comes to my body. In Psalm 46:10, it says "Be still and know that I am God." God is quietly inviting me to come into his presence so He can work through me. . .maybe He is trying to tell me that time spent in silence may more normal in heaven than non-stop singing and praising. I can only imagine what heaven will be like when our short time here on earth is done. . .

To all of you who have prayed for me or called the house, sent me encourging emails and cards, brought or sent flowers and gifts, visited with me, provided meals and food for our family, taken me places, etc., I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I could not do this journey without all of your love and support. You have shown me a glimpse of what heaven will be like someday! And what a glorious place that will be!

I had my follow up appointment yesterday with Dr. Merwin. Steve was glad to chauffeur me around for the day since I'm still dizzy and unstable. Dr. Merwin took the time to answer my list of questions and took my staples and stitches out. My head feels a little bit better. I'm not quite so bald now and have a little stubble of hair growing. He also did a "balance test" on me and sure enough I keeled over in less than two seconds! He thinks I have a sinus infection as well, so he prescribed some more antibiotics and some medicine for my nausea. After my appointment, we stopped at Starbucks for some coffee and tea. That is always a "treat" for me. I usually get a chai tea latte but this time I "splurged" and got a frappacino instead. It was really good. Steve and I sat outside for a little while and enjoyed the cool fall breeze. Then, we stopped at the credit union for a little bit because I had some things I needed to take care of. That took a little while because I hadn't seen my coworkers for almost two weeks! Steve stayed in the car and made a conference call for work while I did that.

As you can tell, I am up early and decided to write some more. I haven't felt well the last 24 hours and cannot sleep. My equilibrium is still "off" and I'm still struggling with congestion, diarrhea and no appetite. I've managed to reach my Weight Watchers goal these last two weeks. What a way to diet! The Dr. says that I am taking a little while longer to recover. I have another follow up appointment with him in two weeks. I also need to call his office (their computer systems were down yesterday) and set up my activation date. I am anxious to be "hooked up!" I can still hear a little bit with my right ear with my hearing aid. But, it is not as good. I called Kathy this morning from my cell phone but couldn't understand her very well. I understood enough to hear "I love you" and "bye." Soon, that will change!

As I said before, I'm not a very patient person when there is much to do. I have heard the calls for help and aid for the Hurricane Katrina victims and want to do my part so badly. The news coverage of the devastation and human suffering in the media and news has occupied my thoughts during my recovery time. Like everyone else, I want to help to relieve some of the burdens of those who have been affected by Hurricane Katrina. Last week our church was calling for volunteers to train with the Red Cross to help at the shelters for the relief efforts. They were also calling for volunteers to put together health kits and flood buckets. I wanted to get in my car and drive over to the church when I had a "good moment" to deliver a check to help since I was not able to do anything physically. Our dear friend, Gita Mednis, who is a pastor in Latvia, ministered to me across the ocean through an email at a time when I needed a "mom" the most. She knew I was struggling with nausea and dizziness and begged me not to get in the car to go to church. She didn't want to sound like a "mother" but reminded me that my body needed time to recover. It is not a bad thing to take a little longer than most to heal. We are such a driven society and feel like we need to be doing something all the time. I felt like she was sitting right here next to me talking with me, holding my hand, and praying with me. She understood that it was so hard for me to let go. She also reminded me that cars and driving are not just conveniences and must be respected for what they are - machines that need to be driven with utmost care, respect and full faculties. She didn't want something to happen to me if I couldn't give my driving the full attention that it deserved. And she was right. She reminded me that there will be other opportunities for me to help. I cried when I read her email because God sent her to me when I needed "Mom." So, I didn't go.

Later, Pastor Jeff told me that my check will offset the cost for the disaster relief because the church had to purchase extra supplies for the health kits and flood buckets. (I had sent him an email saying that I was coming with a check that day.) I told him he would have a check on Sunday. So, I am still able to do my part. God knows my heart and understands. I do know that my prayers will make a difference. Little by little, no matter how big or small our part is, we can do it together and make this world a better place for someone.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Can I Hear Yet?

Several people have asked me if I can hear yet. The answer is no. I won't be able to begin my "Dance with Sound" until I get my processor (date to be announced). I am still healing and need to give my body time to adjust to the implant. The processor looks very similar to my hearing aid and will sit on my ear with a special hook to keep it in place. It has a magnetic sensor that will connect to the one under my scalp. When the processor receives "sound", the sound will be sent through the sensors to the ones in the cochlea where the auditory nerve sends it to the brain. I am still in awe of technology that is able to make this happen. I will have to be "mapped" with a computer when I get my processor and will have several mapping sessions with a qualified audiologist. I will have two or three in the first week, several times thereafter, and then regularly once a year for adjustments and fine tuning. Everyone has a different hearing fingerprint so my map will not be the same as someone else's. My brain will begin to process all of these new sounds and I will begin a new journey to sound. This is a new chapter in my life and my family's life. God is truly good, all the time.

On activation day I will be getting the new Freedom processor made by Cochlear America. The more I read about it, the more I like the features that it has. One thing thing that is going to be nice is that it was designed for splashproof protection. I won't have to worry about it if I put it on while my hair is still wet after a shower, if I drop it in some water, get it wet in a sprinkler system or walk in the rain. The Freedom also has a built-in telecoil that will make talking on the phone easy. There are no wires, no plugs, and no hassles. It also works with FM system connections. Wireless FM (Frequency Modulation) systems are used to improve hearing in meetings, classrooms and other environments. This is where my new telecoil for my cell phone will come in handy.

The battery compartment completely detaches from the processor, so that I will be able to use it behind the ear (BTE) or as a body worn processor (BWP). The Dr. has told be that I will be getting two "behind the ear" processors, which will be great because I will have one as a backup if needed. The processsors are like "mini-computers." They comes in several different colors which are black, brown, beige, and silver. I'll be getting brown to match my hair color and will not be noticeable at all (once my hair grows back!) The Freedom implant and processor have both been built to accommodate future upgrades, both internally and externally. That means I will have access to future technology when it is available. (Steve thinks that that "bluetooth" technology is next and would not be surprised if my implant and processor have a "slot" set aside for that.) The internal processor under my scalp can be updated by reprogramming it with the latest technology that comes out. There is no more surgery involved. Think of the internal processor as a very expensive and special computer chip with enough storage space on it to be able to download new programs from a computer for future software upgrades. The smart chip that is inside the implant which is under my scalp is fully reprogrammable and has memory for new programs. Because the implant is upward programmable and has a chip in it, it can have new "maps" programmed into it by hooking it up with the processor and a computer. The computer interface will allow the audiologist to program my implant and process with the latest software available for my specific needs. The 22 channel electrodes on the sensory array that is in my cochlea will send send signals to the brain from the mapping of the processor. (Note: I have a link on this blog that shows how the implant works if you haven't clicked on it already.) The Freedom speech processor will hold my mappings and program settings. It is fully reprogrammable by the map settings that my audiologist will set for me. The Freedom processor is what holds the battery cage (three batteries) and the controls for the speech processor. This allow me to change my program setting that is held in the speech processor. When the smart chip in my head is ready to be updated, a transmit coil would be connected to a laptop computer. The computer would then put the smart chip into a "program" mode and have the chip ready to and store new programs. The chip is part of the internal array of the implant. It's right there along with the electrode array that goes into the cochlea, and the housing that holds it all and the magnet. It's part of the internal array, so it's built in. No need to implant anything else. The potential is there for upgrades. Kind of like all the bells and whistles on a computer that most of us don't even realize are there.

When my cochlear implant is mapped, the computer doing the maps combines with the 22 channel sensory array to set a map and that is how I will be able to hear. It's all in the software. Cochlear America is currently developing a new software program to enable N22 and N24 users (who are older implant users) to be able to wear the Freedom processor with its extra features like Beam and ADRO (which N22 & N24 users currently don't have access to with the 3G). The chip that's ONLY in the Freedom implant's internal receiver will be able to receive new software a faster application rate that will be activated via connection to my audiologist's computer. This would be done no differently than a mapping session - the processors (BTE or BWP) are connected by an interface cable to the computer. People with earlier generation implants do not have the "smart" chip that Freedom implantees have so they will be somewhat limited in how far they can go with newer technology as it evolves. Cochlear has been very successful in making cochlear implant equipment as backward compatible as possible. Some former implantees will not get EVERYTHING (i.e., faster rate strategies) but they have not been left behind in being able to benefit from and enjoy significant improvements over time. Maybe cochlear implants will become "wireless" one of these days. And I will have access to that when it happens.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Surgery Pictures

Waiting for Surgery

In Recovery

Resting at Home (my neck pillow was a

My Incision after bandages came off.
I feel like the Bride of Frankenstein!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Day After Surgery

What can anyone do or say
To make this pain go away?
It’s not about mine . . .
But those who are left behind
In Hurricane Katrina’s way . . .
All we can do is pray.

I’m having a hard time writing today only because all I can think about are the people left behind in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I’ve been recuperating from my surgery in front of the TV and am watching all the news broadcasts about the devastation in New Orleans and the South . . .

Hurricane Katrina had quite an impact on my surgery. Steve was trying to fly home from California and his flight was delayed on Monday night. He got to the hospital about 9:20 a.m. after I had already gone into the operating room. The hurricane came through Knoxville during my surgery and knocked the power out in the hospital three times – once while I was still in surgery and twice while I was in the recovery room! Thank goodness for generators!

Marissa and I arrived at the hospital just before 6 a.m. and they got me started right away taking my information and prepping me for surgery. They kept me so busy so the time went by quickly before they wheeled me into surgery. The nurses were all so sweet and wonderful and took good care of me. The anesthesiologist introduced himself and was so funny. After he told me what they were going to do, he told me to put my chin up, open my mouth wide, and stick my tongue out. Then he said, “Do you know why we do that?” I said, “No.” He said, “No special reason. I just get a kick out of it!” They told me that they would be putting a breathing tube in during surgery and would be careful with the crowns in my mouth. I appreciated that. Then the Dr. came in for some last minute questions and information. Before I knew it, I was done and in recovery! Surgery started around 8 a.m. and took about 4 hours. My very first pain that I had was not in my head but in my feet! The nurses kept rubbing them for me and gave me a shot for pain but nothing seemed to help. I was so happy to see Steve when I woke up because I had not seen him since Sunday morning. I saw Dawn and Susan at the end of my bed and got hugs from them, too. Steve, Dawn, Marissa, and Susan all stayed at the hospital for part or all of my surgery. I did not get to see Dawn before I went in because she got stuck in traffic and then had trouble finding out where we were. I missed her by about two minutes. But, she stayed with Marissa in the waiting room. They had a funny moment in the waiting room because they had not seen each other for a long time. Dawn called Marissa on her cell phone to find out where she was. As soon as she heard Marissa’s voice, they realized they were sitting across from each other! Everyone around them in the waiting room had a good laugh about that! Dawn and Marissa had a good visit and had breakfast together. Then Steve showed up and then Susan. Susan and Dawn became fast friends and chatted the whole time while I was in surgery.

Dr. Merwin said that the surgery was a great success and everything went well with no complications. The sensor/electrode array slid very nicely into my left cochlea, which is very good. I had a very tight pressure bandage around my head and had some trouble with dizziness and a bad headache. It wasn’t too bad, though. Steve took me home about 4 p.m. and I went straight to bed for a while. A friend from church brought the most delicious meal of lasagna made with ham and mushrooms, organic herb salad, homemade breadsticks, and some kind of cinnamon/apple cake. I had not eaten anything all day except for a few crackers and it tasted good. My jaw is still very stiff and sore and is hard to chew. One thing I have noticed is that there is a constant roar in my head. I'm wondering if it is tinnitus or some phantom sound. It sounds like a train, loud fan or something drilling in my head. I haven't had any trouble with tinnitus before and it is bothering me a little bit. Hopefully that will go away soon. I've been using a foam neck pillow to help me sleep and it has been a real lifesaver for me. My friend, Kim, from work gave it to me last year for Christmas.

Yesterday (the day after surgery) my best friend, Dawn came and stayed all day with me. I was so glad to have her here. When I told her that my feet were hurting, she immediately said she would rub them for me. She wasn’t surprised and said that another friend that she had taken care of after surgery complained of the same thing. So, she washed her hands, got some lotion and just rubbed my feet for about ½ hour while we talked. I was so grateful for that special touch and it helped to make me feel better. It just doesn’t seem to make sense that my feet would hurt after having surgery in my head! It meant a lot to me that she would do that for me and all I could think about was how Jesus washed and tended to his disciples' feet so long ago. . .I napped for about 2 ½ hours while she took care of phone calls, etc. After lunch, Dawn helped me take the bandage off my head and brushed out my hair for me. Susan came later with some wonderful chicken/spinach soup and chicken salad. Her husband and boys came with her. It was so nice to meet her boys for the first time. Susan has been so great for me about letting me know what to expect and how to handle things. We had lunch together on Monday before my surgery and she told me to EAT! She said I wouldn't feel like eating later and she was right. I had a nice, big juicy hamburger that day. . .something I haven't had in a long time! I am so fortunate and blessed to have great friends to give me the support and strength that I need. Someday I hope to be able to "pay it forward" like Susan has done for me.

Last night I took a bath and Marissa washed my hair for me. I feel a little bit more normal this morning. I still feel like I need to hold on to things when I walk around, like I'm off balance. I guess it is because the loss of fluid in one ear can make one lose their balance. My hearing sounds funny, like I'm in a swimming pool or something. My jaw hurts, making it difficult to chew food. The surgery site on my head is numb and feels like there is a lot of pressure inside. I cannot feel anything on the outside. I cannot even find the site of the implant. But, it is in there somewhere.

Article in Metron Daily News/August 31, 2005

Medical Marvel: Kathy Rees’ sister, Laurie, is doing well following cochlear implant surgery yesterday. A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing. Unlike a hearing aid, which simply amplifies sound, cochlear implants compensate for damaged or non-working parts of the inner ear. In about a month, after healing from the surgery, Laurie will be “turned on” and will hear things she never heard before!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Pre-Surgery Notes

I'm having a quiet Saturday morning. It's my favorite time of the week. Riga and I picked blueberries this morning and I have a blueberry/raspberry pie in the oven as I write this. I love stillness and peacefulness because it gives me time to meditate and think as I putter around in my kitchen.

The phone rang awhile ago. It was Baptist Hospital asking Steve if they could speak with me about my upcoming surgery. Steve started to tell them that I couldn't hear very well on the phone but didn't go there. Some people just don't think or understand why they can't talk to me on the phone when they call and ask for me! The hospital wanted to ask me some questions about my medical history, allergies, etc. so Steve relayed for me while I was rolling out my pie crust. Surgery day is only three days away! I have been waiting a very long time for this moment to come and now it’s right around the corner!

I'm going to start packing my hospital bag today and make a list of phone numbers for Steve or Dawn to call for me. Last night when Steve came home, he said "You've been 'nesting' again!" when he saw that I had rearrange the family room. I haven't been completely happy with the arrangement of our new furniture since we bought it six months ago and figured that if I was going to spend most of my time in there next week, I better get it arranged the way I like it. It looks a lot better now and I'm hanging new curtains in there this afternoon.