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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Calming the Storm

There is a silent storm moving inside of me. I know it is just a combination of nervousness, anxiety, and excitement. This morning my Bible verse told me in Mark 4:39 that Jesus will calm the storms of my life. How appropriate this is for me today. If Jesus can calm the storm for His disciples two thousand years ago, He certainly can do it for me and for you. Instead of tossing and turning and rushing around like I have been doing lately, I just need to look to His divine protection and remember the grace that has brought me this far. Jesus is the calmer of the storm on the Sea of Galilee and is the calmer of the storms in our lives today. I will give my feelings of fear to Jesus because I know that fear is the opposite of faith. Worrying about things is wasted energy. He will grant me His peace that passes all understanding. . .

Sunday, August 21, 2005

"Nesting Instinct"

"Nesting Instinct" is defined as an unusual burst of energy before a birth. This is an uncontrollable urge to clean one's house brought on by a desire to prepare a nest for the new "baby", to tie up loose ends of old projects and to organize your world. You might be reading this and asking yourselves "Why in the world is Laurie talking about this???" Steve made the comment tonight that he can tell that my "nesting instinct" has kicked in. That is his way of saying "You've been a little busy lately!" He should know after the birth of our four children. I hadn't realized it but he is right (and he doesn't know half the stuff that is going on in my head about what I need to get done this week)! There is still much to be done around here. This weekend I've been busy mowing the yard, trimming bushes, and getting the flower beds cleaned up around the house. I dug out the cannas and got that flower bed ready for the rose garden that I have planned for this fall. I also pulled weeds and used weed killer on the rest that I couldn't get to. Washed the front porch, cleaned all the chairs, and watered/fertilized the hanging plants. Gave Riga a bath, treated her for fleas, and gave her her monthly heartworm pill. Took time to have dinner and watch a movie with Steve on Saturday night after supper but I fell asleep. I had trouble understanding the dialogue, even with the close captioning. Brad also left today to return to Virginia Tech for another school year so I helped him get his things together. I miss him already. . .

Today after church and dinner, I cleaned and organized the pantry and the kitchen. Also balanced the checkbook and paid bills. Surgery day is only nine days away! I can't help but feel this way about getting things in order. I guess one might say that I'm preparing for the "birth" of sound, which is going to be a major life event for me and our family.

Steve and I had dinner tonight with Susan and Mark. Steve was really glad to meet someone with a cochlear implant and to share information with her and her husband. Susan gave me some videos to watch while I'm recuperating and we made plans to have lunch together the day before my surgery. Steve is leaving tomorrow morning for a business trip and won't be home until Friday evening. He'll be home for about 12 hours and then will leave again for San Diego, CA on Saturday. He'll come home late Monday evening, the night before my surgery! Susan said that it is probably a good idea that he will be gone so he won't have to deal with my stress level! Just pray that I will be calm and at peace as the day gets closer.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Day Three with T-Link

Today was a good day. I only tried to talk to a few people with my new T-Link. I'm still not doing as well as I would like to but I've gone from not using the phone at all to using it to call the people I'm most comfortable with. This morning I called my coworker, Kim, who is in the next cubicle to finalize our lunch plans. I could have easily gotten up from my desk to ask her but I wanted to try the phone first. I called the front desk to be connected to her extension and was expecting to hear "Alcoa Tenn Federal Credit Union. . .one moment please." But, I didn't hear that. Instead, I heard someone say, "Hi Laurie!" Now what? I was confused so I asked her who she was. I knew it wasn't June so I asked if it was Amber. She said no. She repeated her name again a few times and then I realized it was Sarah! Sarah is a hard word for me to understand because I don't hear the "S", "R", or "H" sound, which are "soft" sounds. It just all runs together. I talked with her for just a little bit and then she connected me to Kim. We were able to decide to go to lunch at 12:30 p.m. and Cindy (who is in the cubicle next to Kim) was laughing at us! But, I could hear every single word that Kim said. Talked to Steve and Brad again today, too.

This afternoon I thought I would try another experiment. I called my brother's friend, Jonathan. He wasn't home or answering his cell phone but he did return my call about two hours later. We talked for 22 minutes! I could only understand him about 50% of the time but I had him get on his computer while I was on mine and we set up the instant messaging feature. If I couldn't understand a certain word he was saying, he would type it to me. That was fun and a good experience. He kept asking me what I was cooking for supper and it took me a long time to figure that one out (it felt like five minutes). I was trying to figure out "what are you cooking for dinner?" And he would not give me the answer until I got it right! He is from Morocco and speaks several different languages and has a little bit of an accent. But, he will talk slowly for me and is a very patient person. He was also very excited and happy to hear from me!

Talked with Steve tonight. I asked him where he was and he said that he was sitting in the Crown Room at the Cincinnati airport waiting catch a plane to come home. We had a good conversation but kept it short. That is all I can handle for now. But, I like hearing his voice. I miss him when he is gone. Now I can feel a little more connected to him when he travels.

I needed to call Invisible Fencing today to order a new battery for Riga's collar because she is getting out of the yard again. I ended up using the relay service because I'm just not ready to call someone I don't know very well. One of these days I should be able to.

Doug read my blog today. It didn't take him long to email me and ask what the brand name and model number of the T-Link so he could get one for his hearing aid, too. Even though his hearing loss is about the same as mine, he developed better language skills than I did and always did well on the phone. He lost that ability about 11 years ago after a jet flew over his head and caused him to have a bad case of tinnitus (which is a constant ringing in the ear). His hearing took a dramatic drop right after that and he hasn't been able to hear very well, use the phone or hear the piano since then.

I tried to use the T-Link with our cordless phone in the house yesterday but could not hear very well with it. The cell phone sounds a lot better. Steve says that our land line is "dirty" and that he hears better with his cell phone, too. The land line has too much static in it.

I need to learn how to use my cell phone. I had not been able to figure out how to make a call by dialing the number. I've been putting the person's name and number that I'm calling in my "phone book" first and then I make the call. When I told Kathy, my sister, was I was doing, she said "You silly! Just key in the number you want to call and press talk!" I'm so phone illiterate! I got my manual out tonight and will read it to learn how to use the other functions of my cell phone. I've had my cell phone for over two years and have only used it for text messaging.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

My New TOY!

I have just had the most incredible two days! And I don't even have my implant yet! If you have been reading this journal for a while, you will know about my frustration with the telephone. Well, that is starting to change, thanks to my friend, Susan, and her new discovery! Two days ago, I had lunch with her at the spur of the moment. She is the one who got me started on this cochlear implant journey and is truly my angel here on earth. God put her in my path for a reason and she has been a great source of help, strength, and support. Susan, too, has difficulty using the phone, even with her implant. The weight of the headset that came with her implant causes her CI hook to hurt her ear. Also, when she uses the speakerphone everyone around her can hear her conversations because she needs have the volume turned up loud. So, her audiologist introduced her to a new telecoil/microphone cord for her cell phone. It is called a T-Link and is a revolutionary accessory that allows hearing aid users to use a mobile phone (cellphone) in complete clarity without buzzing or interference. It is made by a company in the United Kingdom. It looks like one of those ear buds that people use for their cell phones but instead of the ear bud part, there is a wire that sits on the ear right next to the hearing aid. The wire transmits and "talks" to the hearing aid device, sending the voice right into the ear. It works with the cochlear implant processor, as well. (Steve says it is a magnetic inductive coil - I know nothing about those things!) While Susan and I were having lunch, she had me try it on. She plugged it into my cell phone and showed me how to hook it on my ear and called me from her cell phone across the room. I almost fell out of my chair and could hear every word she said, even with the background noise at Atlanta Bread! I lost my ability to use the phone about 26 years ago and now I feel like I have it back. It still isn't perfect but is much better than using a speakerphone or amplifier. "Louder" is not always better. When I told Steve about it that evening, he asked me "when are you going to get one?" That was all the prompting I needed and I went straight to the Speech and Hearing Center (where Susan also goes) and got the LAST one they had. (I was going to wait until after my implant to get it because I don't know what all will come in my "kit." But, I did some research and found out that this T-link is not included.) It is the best $55 dollars I have ever spent! Wow. Susan said the same thing. (Doug, you HAVE to get one of these!)

So, within 5 minutes of getting my new toy, I just had to call someone. I didn't call just one person. I called several! I called "Time and Temperature" first just to test the T-Link with my hearing aid. When I was younger, I thought it was neat to be able to dial a number and get the time and temperature by phone. I already had it programmed in my phone but rarely used it. It was a "safe" number for me to call in case I wasn't hearing right because I didn't have to talk to anyone and could just listen for the voice and knew the current time would be at the end. Then, I called Bradley and could hear almost every word he said. After that, I called Steve, Marissa, Kathy (my sister), Jason, Chris, my dad, and last of all my dear sister in law, Allison. I'm hearing about 75% percent of what they are saying. I had more trouble with Jason, Chris, and my dad. Daddy just kept talking and wouldn't slow down and everything he said was all jumbled together. I had to keep telling him that I could only understand short and simple sentences. But, it was neat to hear his voice. He is wearing a hearing aid now, too, and may be having trouble himself. I also called Susan but I think I confused her. She did not seem to know who was calling her and I had trouble understanding her. Later I found out that she wasn't wearing her T-link and was using the speakerphone on her cell phone. This morning when I got to work I called my supervisor (Robin), several of my coworkers (Candice, Kim, & Linda), and the president (David) of the credit union. I had trouble with Robin and Candice. I think it is because their voices have a higher pitch in the range that I cannot hear well at. But, I understood Kim and Linda perfectly! They both have alto voices and sound so clear and perfect. Just before I hung up with Linda after I said "bye", I heard her say "I'm talking to Laurie." When I called David he didn't answer the first time so I called him again. I could understand him a little bit and heard his laugh. He came to my desk later and just smiled and shook his head and was happy for me. He asked me if I could use the T-link on the regular phone and I told him that I would need a different adapter for that. He said the credit union would get whatever I needed for the phone when I was ready. It is just so wonderful to work with supportive and caring people and it makes my job worth going to every day.

I did talk to Brad, Marissa, Steve, and Kathy again today several times. I had them call me to see if I could hear the phone ringing. I heard Brad say "I'm going to the car lot to get the title for my car" and I heard Kathy say "I'm just pulling in and will be right there in a minute." I asked Marissa how her shopping was going (she was looking for new shoes) and she said that she had not left yet. That is progress! This is going to take lots of practice, therapy, and some getting used to. I'm hearing more than half of what I used to be able to do on the phone now with the T-link but I still get all hot, sweaty, and nervous when I cannot understand what is being said on the other end. I have to take a deep breath and fight the urge to hang up the phone when I get frustrated because that is what I've always done all these years when I couldn't hear the the message that the other person was trying to say to me. I'm going to call my sister in law, Deb, in Texas tonight. I've never tried to talk with her on the phone and am waiting for Steve to get home to sit beside me in case I need a backup person. Allison sent me an email today thanking me for the call last night. I could picture her smiling between the lines as she wrote it. She asked me if I thought I would be able to have long sister-to-sister talks on the phone someday. I cannot answer that but I will try. I don't know if I will be able to talk for hours on end but we will just start from the beginning and take "baby steps." I've had a complex about the phone for so long and it will take lots of training and practice before I can embrace it totally. But, I should be able to have "little" and "personal" conversations with my family and friends. All these years I've wanted to reach out and talk to someone when I was happy, sad, lonely, or just wanted to talk and never could. If you have news to share or just want to tell me or ask me something, I should be able to have those special little conversations with you. But, be patient with me. I still have a long way to go and can only understand small little conversations at the moment. This morning I woke up with a massive headache but I think it was because I was using parts of my brain that haven't been used before and was concentrating so hard. Or maybe it's because my auditory nerve was being stimulated like it hasn't before. This will be one of my side effects when I do get hooked up. I have another headache now but I don't care! I know this is only a "glimpse" of what the implant will do for me. . . yes, I'm scared and happy and nervous at the same time. . .your love, prayers, patience, and support means more to me than you'll ever know.

Kathy asked me why I didn't know about this telecoil before. I do know that this particular one has only been in my audiologist's office for less than a month and only five were ordered. I bought the last one that they had. There are other versions out there but I think the reason I haven't heard about it is partly due to lack of knowledge and partly due to stubborness. (Yes, I'll admit that I'm stubborn!) It could also be that because I've been hearing impaired all of my life that everyone just assumed that I knew what was available to the deaf community. I've been so independent all my life that I haven't wanted to have anything to do with any listening device, flashing lights or doorbells, flashing fire alarms, shaking beds, or anything like that. Those special things are also expensive. Plus, everyone in my family has normal hearing so I've depended on them to be my "ears." I've been able to find other ways to compensate for what I was missing. I had pretty much given up on amplifiers and speakers on the phones because nothing sounded right or clear enough. The background noise is also distracting and there is no privacy. Now I hear NO background noise with the T-link, just my voice and the other person's! It really makes a difference. What would we do without the advances of technology?

While I was typing this, Brandie sent me a text message on my phone so I called her back. (She is Jason's fiance). I had some trouble with her at first but could carry on part of a conversation. But, I asked most of the questions. I heard her tell me that she missed me. I told her that I missed her and loved her, too. She has started her second year of veterinary school at Auburn and said that she isn't off to a good start. I told her I was sorry.

This whole experience is so new and overwhelming. The best way I can describe it is that I feel like I'm having an "out of body" experience. If this is how I feel now, what will it be like after I get "turned on" on activation day???!!!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Dishwasher Repairman

Last Friday I was expecting the dishwasher repairman to come to the house between 1 - 5 p.m. to fix our dishwasher. A repairman had come the week before and needed to order parts because he did not have them on his truck. Every time we request an appliance repair or delivery at the house, we always ask for the repairmen not to call the house but for them to call my department at work instead. That way I have some an idea of when they are expected to be at the house. This allows me to use my lunch hour to run home before they get there. This arrangement is another source of frustration for me because repairmen don't always get the instructions or message to call me at work. The first guy was real good about doing that and it worked out perfectly once my coworkers told me he was on the way. Well, last Friday was different. We have two exchange students from Latvia that attend Maryville College and are part of our church family. Sometimes they stay with us when they are not housesitting or staying in someone else's home. They store most of their belongings in our basement and know that they can come whenever they need to. When I left work on Friday at my normal time, the repairman had not called me at work yet. I figured I had enough time to get home and would not miss him. When I walked in the door, there was a note on the kitchen counter from the Kristines (both of our Latvian students are named Kristine but we call them "Lemon" and "Bear"). I had no idea they were planning to be at the house that day but they needed to get some of their things. At the end of their sweet note it said "Oh, one more thing: Sears called and said something about parts. You need to call them as soon as possible." When I read that, I immediately ran upstairs to make a TTY/TDD call to Sears to see if I could catch the repairman before he was done for the day. I wasn't having much luck but while I was making my relay call on the computer, the phone rang. I could tell by the Caller Id that it was the repairman. I cringed because I knew I needed to answer the phone even though I would not be able to have a decent conversation. I heard a man's voice talking to me as soon as I pressed the speakerphone. When I heard a pause, I basically told the caller that I was "Mrs. Pullins and that I was expecting the dishwasher repairman to come and fix my dishwasher." I also told him that I was at the house waiting for him. He said something about "be there soon" and then hung up. I had no idea how soon but he did show up about 45 minutes later. He was real nice and apologized to me and said he did call me at work after he called the house. My coworkers did give him the message that I had already left the office but I had no way of knowing that. I was glad it all worked out even though he did not get directions to call me at work first. I look forward to the day when I will be able to handle my own telephone calls instead of being dependent on others to make or take my calls for me. It is hard to have conversations on the phone when one doesn't know what is being said on the other end!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Talking in the Dark

Communicating in the dark has always been difficult for me. Once the lights are off (or even dimmed) I'm basically non-functional. I've been blessed with a family that is considerate and thoughtful of my need to communicate when I can't see or hear to lip-read. For example, Steve and I are not like normal couples at night when we go to bed. We cannot talk in the dark and have those "little" conversations in bed like other couples. Nor can he whisper "sweet nothings" in my ear. But we have other ways. I take my "ears" (hearing aids) and "eyes" (glasses) off every night and cannot see or hear anything. One will always notice flashlights on our nightstands in our bedroom. Last night Steve needed to tell me that Brad was home (after we had already gone to sleep). He knows that I do not sleep well until all the kids are home and safe. All Steve had to do was "write" the letters B-R-A-D with his finger on my back. When he was finished, I said, "Is Brad home?" He tapped me on the back, which meant "Yes." Sometimes Steve will pick up my arm and "write" letters or words in palm of my hand. We usually communicate well in the dark that way. All of our children have been good about coming in our bedroom at night to give me a hug or kiss to let me know that they are home since I don't have the benefit of being able to hear cars, the key turning in the lock, the door open, the dog bark, etc. when they come in the house.

I have also been woken up in the middle of the night by Steve or one of the kids when the police needed to talk to me or Steve. Talk about a rude awakening. Three of our four children have snuck out of the house at night at one time or another after I've gone to bed and were brought back home by the police because they were out past curfew. (The fourth one has probably snuck out, too, but never got caught!) Police officers like to speak to a parent to make sure someone is home. I'm a little worried that I might "hear" things that I don't want to hear after my implant. But, the kids are older now and I will still sleep without my hearing devices at night. If I know I'm going to be alone in the house for the night, I'll sleep with my cell phone under my pillow. The vibration will wake me up if someone needs to get a hold of me. (I don't talk on the phone but my family knows that my phone will alert me if there is a text message. Also, if I see a phone number on the caller id, I can always call back using relay.) Sometimes I'll sleep with my hearing aid on in one ear but I do not sleep well because I'm not used to hearing all the sounds of the night. I feel pretty safe with Riga (our German Shepherd) by my side when I'm alone in the house. She is my "ears" for me and will let me know if there is something going on. She is very good about waking me up in the morning when my light comes on. Sometimes she wakes me up BEFORE it is time to get up!

Also, when I travel in the car, communication can be difficult riding in the dark. I try to position myself so I won't miss too much of the conversation. Usually, I have to sit in bored silence and watch the scenery because it is hard for me to lipread in the dark or from behind with a mirror. Turning on the lights and trying to turn around is stressful, even if I could understand what was being said. I always need to look at the person who is talking. To turn around is inconvenient and is usually not worth the trouble because I am not always able to lipread the person in the back seat because I've already missed half of the message. Some people think they have to look at me while they are driving and that is a little scary when they really should have their eyes on the road. I can understand the driver as long as I'm in the front seat. I also tell people that I can't "talk and drive" at the same time when I'm driving. I have to turn my eyes away from the road to read their lips and that isn't always a good idea!