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!