Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Thoughts and Research

I really should be going to bed after a long day at work but I need to add some thoughts and research information before I forget. I joined a CI forum on the Cochlear website and am getting a wealth of information from other members. I am so thankful that technology has advanced enough in this day and age to help the deaf and hearing impaired in such an incredible way! I wish my mom was here to share and experience this special time in my life. I know she would have loved the Internet, computers, and email. We used to use a special program years ago that allowed us to talk via computer to computer through modems but we had to make arrangements ahead of time to have our phones and modems turned on at the same time.

Some forum members are saying that one needs to get a meningitis shot a month before the surgery as a precaution. The Dr. didn't say anything about that so I will have to call him and ask the question.

Also, I've been told that I will lose my lipreading skills after the implant because I won't need them anymore. I have a hard time believing that. That is all I've ever done for the last 46+ years! Maybe everyone is different. I will also have to re-train my brain to understand speech by listening and reading to children's books on tape. Imagine that! Me at my age listening to Dr. Suess and Curious George!

I have decided to implant my left ear. Since I have a choice, I think it would be wise to save my "good" ear, which seems to have more comprehension in it. Since the implant destroys residual hearing in the implanted ear, I don't want to sacrifice my better ear. It doesn't seem to make sense to take the chance on losing my speech understanding in that ear. Is this God talking to me? I think so. By getting my "bad" ear implanted. I would still have the choice to continue using my hearing aid in the "good" ear along with the CI if needed. This would give me sound input and direction from both sides. Preserving the bilateral effect seems to make a lot of sense at this point. There doesn't seem to be any valid data that says the better ear should be implanted.

I will add to this section later. . . so keep checking back. . .time for bed

Friday, May 13, 2005

2nd Appointment

Yesterday was an interesting day. I could not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before, couldn't wear any lotions or makeup or perfume, or take any medications. My skin was so dry without my lotions and I felt naked without my makeup! Steve took me to Dr. Merwin's office on his way to his office in Oak Ridge and dropped me off. I was scheduled to be there all day and was told to find someone to take me home. My two Bible Study friends planned to meet me for lunch and were planning to take me home after I met with the Dr. at 1 p.m. My best friend, Dawn, was going to pick me up at the Dr.'s office at 11:30 a.m. and was going to take me to meet my friends for lunch and join us. Those plans got changed! I'll explain in a minute. . .

The ENG test was an experience and something I had never seen or done before. The audiologist was very good about explaining things to me. I had to take my glasses off so that she could attach the electrodes around my face near my eyes. I am almost blind without my glasses and it was hard to read her lips in a darkened room during the tests! I also had to take my hearing aids off several times. I cannot see or hear without my "eyes" or "ears"! But, she was good about it and was very understanding and clear with her instructions. The purpose of the electrodes around my face was to track my eye movements. Apparently, our eye movements are related to the balance mechanism in our inner ears. Everything that my eyes did were tracked on a computer. I had to follow and/or watch a red dot on the wall that moved in different directions and patterns, close my eyes at certain intervals and count in twos, threes, fours, backwards, forwards, etc. I kept messing up but it was important to be concentrating on something during the tests while my eye movements were being tracked. (Steve says I need to work on my math skills. Ha!) Another time the audiologist told me to relax, close my eyes, and let her do the work. She "threw" me down on one side, told me to count, picked me back up and repeated to the other side. Strange exercises but they mean something!

Then, I had to lie down on the table for at least thirty minutes. This last part of the test involved having cold and warm air injected in my ears. I experienced some very strange sensations. I felt like the room was spinning at one time and another time I felt like I was rising off the table and floating in the air! What a trip! I didn't have too much trouble with dizziness afterwards but had a MASSIVE headache. It took a long time for it to go away even after I took Tylenol when I got home.

When I finished the ENG test, Dr. Merwin's nurse came in and told me that the CT scan technician that was supposed to do my CT scan had called in sick. She said that they were trying to set up a CT scan for me at Baptist West Hospital and asked if I knew where it was. I did but I didn't have a vehicle because they gave me specific instructions not to drive! Luckily, Dawn had a God moment that morning and called the Dr.'s office to find out when I would be done with my tests. They told her to be there at 10 a.m. She walked in just as the nurse was telling me all this! The receptionist came in the room and told us that Dawn was here! So, we quickly made arrangements for me to get my CT scan at the hospital. Since we had a change in plans, I had Dawn call Tina (my Bible Study friend who was planning to meet me for lunch and take me home) to tell her what was going on. We agreed to meet for lunch another time and Dawn said that she would bring me home. So, we spent another 1 1/2 hours at the hospital for the CT scan and then wenet to lunch at McAllister's. I was so hungry! I had a baked potato, 1/2 chicken salad croissant and a fruit cup. I had Dawn take me over to Starbucks so that I could get my Chai Tea Latte that I was craving. Then we went back to the Dr.'s office for my 1:00 p.m. meeting with Dr. Merwin.

Dr. Merwin says that everything looks normal and that we are ready to proceed with the cochlear implant. The Dr. says that I can choose which ear to do since both of them are the same. I'm still struggling with which ear to do. I keep going back and forth from my left and right ear since I wear aids in both. I prefer to wear my aid in my right ear and would like to save it as a back up. I won't miss the residual hearing in my left. I'm right handed but it doesn't bother me to use either hand to adjust controls, etc. on my aids. The Dr. says it doesn't matter which ear to do because the brain is cross-wired and takes care of everything. I find that incredible and hard to believe. Maybe this decision is hard for me to make because I've never had real hearing and cannot comprehend like a normal hearing person how the ear and brain work together.

Dawn took me home after I finished my appointment and we had a short visit before she needed to head back to Knoxville. What a dear and precious friend she is. We originally met in Ohio fifteen years ago, lived in the same neighborhood, went to the same church, and our kids grew up together. She and Bill moved to Tennessee several years after we did and it is so nice to reconnect with them again. God has truly blessed me with the friends that I have and I thank Him every day for them.

I stayed quiet after I got home and knitted and watched TV. I took Riga and Twen-Jah (the dog that Brad is dogsitting for) for a 10 minute walk around the circle. I didn't feel like doing anything else and my headache didn't go away until after I went to bed. I knew all I needed was a good night's sleep. I felt better when I woke up this a.m. Took the day off work today so that we could go to Jason's graduation. He is graduating from Auburn University this weekend with his Master's degree in Applied Math. We are so proud of him! Must run and get some things ready. But, I wanted to let everyone know what happened yesterday. Thank you for all your love, prayers, and friendship. You are a blessing to me!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Marissa's Concert

Well, Mother's Day isn't over yet. Just came home from Marissa's High School Concert with the Maryville Singers and the Trebelettes. Wow. It was so awesome! Steve and I sat in the second row so I was able to hear the music and see the choreography. Marissa had said that it was going to be good but I didn't know it was going to be THAT good! It's a good thing I put new batteries in my hearing aids this morning! She even had a small solo and didn't even tell us! We are so proud of her. God has given her a real talent for music and we know that she will go far with it. I am so thankful that I have always been able to enjoy music. I just hope and pray that I will still be able to enjoy it and appreciate it after I get my cochlear implant. I love to hear Marissa sing and play the piano. I love to hear Steve sing with the Faithful Men. I love to listen and sing to my praise CD's in my car. God calls each of us to serve Him in the place that He has us. In His eyes, we all have a ministry. He wants us to use our gifts and talents and we bring glory to Him when we use them. I hope that Marissa will use her gift of music and share it with others so that God's light can shine through her. God knows Marissa's heart and He knows our heart's desire to serve Him. He wants to use US to make a difference, to share His love, and to touch other people's hearts. When we use our artistic talents in His service, we can share in the joy and blessings of God. He may give us a lot to work with or a little. In Jesus' parable of the talents, there was one man who was only given a single talent to invest. He was resentful because he was not given as much as the others. So, he hid his talent and missed out on the blessings that God had for him.

I learned at an early age that God had a special plan for my life. He did not call me to the music ministry in a big or miraculous way. Instead, he led me through my own circumstances and showed me that I could share my talents in a small way. I had thought to myself before, "I love music but I am hearing impaired. What can I give Him?" I wanted to give Him my heart but wasn't sure how. I knew that God was telling me to "Go! I will help you speak and show you what to say." I knew that He wanted me to share my gifts and talents and love of music with others. That is why I find great joy in being part of the handbell choir at church. I also sign to music occasionally and do liturgical dancing but have not done that for awhile. I enjoy singing to my heart's content ALONE in my car where no one can hear me! By signing, singing, dancing, playing the handbells or piano, I know I can share my Master's joy and be understood. It is a way for me to praise God and encourage others as well as myself spiritually and bring them closer to Him. When I ring the handbells, I can feel, as David did in Psalms, when he danced before the Lord. When I sign to music, I experience God speaking through my hands.

I have a poem that I'd like to share. Even though I don't sign with my hands, it does mean something to me. . .


Can you hear me?
Listen, not with your ears
But with your eyes.
To you they speak,
My silent hands.
Hear me tell my tale.
Hear me sing my song.
Learn my language
My beautiful native language.
Hear my hands,
Hear my music and stay.
Learn my language.
Speak to me with your hands.
Share my beautiful language.
Hear my silent hands.
We have a tale to tell,
A song to sing.
Open your eyes
And hear me speak.
(by Sandra L. Brooks)

Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day. It is a very special day for all women - a day to remember mothers. Even if you never gave birth to a child, it is in a woman's nature to nurture other people. And to appreciate those who have nurtured them. I am truly blessed. I have had many Godly women in my life who have loved me, encouraged me, and influenced me in many different ways. I could not begin to name them all but the most important one for me was my mother. So, I am thinking about her today and all the other women who are so important in my life.

I miss my mother very much but I see her gentleness and generosity of spirit in my sister and my niece (and my brothers and nephews, too). She taught us all so much about how to treat people and her desire to help others is with me every day. I would not be where I am today in my life if it was not for her strong faith, strength, confidence and determination. Several weeks ago when I was preparing for my first visit with Dr. Merwin, I was going through my file that Mom had saved for me with my audiograms, letters, documents, newspaper articles, notes, etc. I had tears in my eyes just reading her notes with her familiar handwriting. I miss her so much. She was my best friend, prayer partner, and confidant. She lost her battle with pancreatic cancer in 1992 at the age of 58.

I was almost two years old when I was diagnosed with my deafness. There was no explanation or family history of deafness. As God said to Moses in Exodus 4:11, ". . .who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." My being born was no accident or mistake. I know that my parents were deeply discouraged when they found out that I could not hear but they NEVER gave up on me. I had the privilege to grow up in a loving, Christian home. God gave me two wonderful parents who did everything within their power, no matter what the sacrifice was, to help me be a part of the hearing world. They were told by doctors and professionals in the speech and hearing field that I would never be able to have a normal life and that I would never be able to talk or amount to anything. Mom and Dad were determined to prove them wrong and continued with their plan to teach me to read lips and to talk. Sign language was not a part of that plan so I never learned it, except to sign to music later in my adult years.

The challenges of growing up in a hearing world was often very overwhelming for me and still is at times. I know firsthand the frustration of trying to understand what people are saying when I cannot read or see their lips. I also know what it is like to misunderstand others and be misunderstood. My first word was probably "what?!!" Despite these difficulties, Mom was always there for me. And she still is, in a way. I believe she is my guardian angel, watching over all of us.

I will close this message with a quote that I found a few weeks ago written by Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1855) who was an American writer. She wrote, "The woman who creates and sustains a home, and under whose hands children grow up to be strong and pure men and women, is a creator second only to God."

Thank you, Mom. I love you.