Thursday, May 18, 2006

Progress Report

(Note: I'm so behind in writing and have drafts set aside for a Mother's Day, Birthday, and Atlanta entry. I will post those when I get them written! Scroll down and you'll see some pictures that I added!)

There are days when I feel like I am not making much progress with my hearing and then everything seems to happen all at once. I continue to make "baby steps" and am getting more confident all the time with my CI. This week I've made several phone calls on my own instead of asking someone else to make them for me. I'm not as afraid of failing like I used to be. Whenever I have a successful phone call, it just makes me want to reach out and touch someone else! I try to call someone every day but most of the time I call people that I feel comfortable with. On Mother's Day, I wanted to honor some special women in my life by giving them a call. My first call was to Margie Johnson, who was our neighbor in Chillicothe, Ohio several years ago. I spent many hours sitting and talking with her over a cup of tea, especially during the times that I was scared and sad about losing my own mother to cancer. When I dialed Margie's number with my cell phone, I heard a message that said, "The number you have dialed is incorrect. Please check the number and dial again." So, I called it again and got the same message. I checked Margie's phone number online on the White Pages and it was the same number I had but I still could not get through. As I was sitting at the computer trying to figure out what to do next, I saw a link under her phone number that said "Find Neighbors". I clicked on it and got several phone numbers that had addresses similar to hers. The first one didn't answer but the second one did. A lady answered and I told her that I was looking for Margie Johnson and wondered if she knew her. There was a pause on the other end and the lady asked me who I was. I told her I was a former neighbor of hers and that I wanted to wish her a Happy Mother's Day. She paused again and in a soft voice told me that Margie passed away two months ago. I didn't know what to think or say so I thanked her and hung up. . . .my heart was heavy and now I wanted to get in touch with her family but didn't know where to start. Her son was killed in a car accident many years ago and her husband passed away after we moved away. I knew she had a grandson (who played with our boys when they were little) and a niece but I couldn't remember their names and had no idea where they lived. All week long my prayer was to find a way to get in touch with them. Yesterday (which was Thursday), I checked our voice mail with my CapTel phone and had a message from a Lisa in Ohio who used to clean our house for us. She also cleaned for Margie and said that she had some information about Margie Johnson and left her phone number. I just stared at the phone! How did she know that I was looking for Margie four days ago??? So, I picked up my cell phone (I did not use my CapTel because the line has too much static in it) and called her back. I was able to have a pretty decent conversation with her and she said that she had tried to call Margie on Mother's Day, too, and had the same result I did. So, she called the church in Margie's town and found out that she had passed away on March 2nd from Acute Leukemia. I haven't talked to Lisa in 12 or 13 years and certainly not on the phone because Margie would always relay messages between us. Lisa knew that I would want to know so she searched the Internet and got our home phone number and left that message for me. That certainly was a God Moment! God truly does answer prayers! I gave Lisa my email address and we have been exchanging emails ever since. And, I have the addresses for Margie's family to write to them. . .

I still have some trouble distinguishing between men and women's voices on the phone. I called another friend, Betty Johnson, in Wisconsin, who was next on my list of "new" people to call. When a voice answered the phone, I said, "Happy Mother's Day" thinking Betty had answered and heard someone laughing on the other end. When I asked if this was Betty, he laughed again and said, "No, this is BILL!" I told him who I was and was able to understand that Betty was not at home and that he would give her my phone number to call me back. Betty called me the next day while I was at work. Again, I was able to understand some of our conversation but had to get off the phone because I was working. It was good to talk with her but I had to ask her to keep her sentences short. She asked if she should speak louder and I said no. Just give me time to process short sentences instead of saying three or four at a time. I'm very slow!

Marissa's car had to go in the shop this week for a new starter and neutral safety switch. I called the repair shop myself instead of using the relay servcie several times and had no problems there. Today they called me and left a voice mail because I didn't answer the phone right away. I like voice mail because I can listen to it over and over and practice. But, I was able to understand the voice mail right away the first time. It said, "Laurie, this is (blank - blank) repair shop. We have the Jeep ready to be picked up and we will be here until six o'clock. Thank you." I didn't get the (blank-blank) part but I got the important stuff!

I've also made several calls using my CapTel phone to 800 numbers which have a lot of pre-recorded messages. Those are a pain. I'd rather talk to a person. The speaker goes so fast and it is hard to understand them. When I do get to talk to a person, there is a delay in the spoken message and what I read on the CapTel phone. If I don't say something right away, they either hang up or say "are you there?" So, now my new trick is to say "pardon me" so that they will repeat what they said and it gives me time to read it the first time around. I had to call our bank today because I was locked out of the email system and could not balance our account. Every time she asked me a question, I said "pardon me", read the message while she said it again, and gave her the answer she needed. Works for me. :) When I am listening with the CapTel phone, I understand some of the words but people talk too fast for me to process everything. That will get better.

In therapy earlier this week, Susie tested my hearing in the booth. I'm still hearing with a mild hearing loss. She tested me with my CI alone and with my CI & hearing aid together and there was no difference. I still like to wear my hearing aid because I do hear something with it but it probably cannot be "measured" in the booth. (I probably also have an emotional attachment to my hearing aid since I've worn it all my life and it seems to round out the sounds of the CI). I tested 100% in closed set sentences, 12% in open set sentences, and 60% in between. That is progress! The closed set sentences are sentences that I've been practicing with for the last several months so I had an idea of what was coming. Some examples of the sentences are, "What are you hiding under your coat?" "What's new?" "I like sugar and cream in my coffee." "I like those big red apples we always get in the fall." But, the speaker was a male and spoke faster than Susie. Open set means I don't have a clue what is going to be said. I didn't do very well there. And when I had six pictures to choose from each time I heard a word, that is where I got 60%. I cannot stress how important A/V therapy is for me. I am being given the tools on how to focus on a sound or situation that might be giving me some difficulty. It is a process and takes time and effort on my part and Susie's. I couldn't do it without her. A person with a CI needs to be motivated and recognize that they cannot just have therapy for a short time and in six months never need to see the audiologist again. It’s a life long journey. Everyone learns at a different rate and apparently I'm slower than most. But, it takes lots of patience, practice, and perseverance. All my scores are up from 0% before my implant. So many people think that all one needs to do is get a CI and put it on and everything is perfect and normal. That is not the case. It would be like buying a college textbook, taking it home without reading it and expecting to master the class. By using a therapist, the brain can adjust fast to learning new sounds, especially with speech comprehension and understanding.

God really created a masterpiece when he created the brain. Wow. In Bible Study, we have been studying about Creation in Genesis. When God created the first man, Adam, He took a lump of clay, put it in His hands and shaped it. He meticulously molded him with utmost precision and care. God created us in his image so we would be like Him and have fellowship with Him, in body, mind and spirit. And if that wasn’t enough, where He meticulously put His hands upon our lives, He, "breathed the breath of life into man." So, when Susie is working with me, over and over again, I cannot help but be in awe of God's perfect planning and this special gift that I have been given with my implant. My hearing is not perfect but second best is great. The brain is a wonderful organ in that it does some of the work on its own. I know that mine is adjusting to sounds in a very new and organized manner as if I am learning a new language. The human brain learns best with lots of repetition. Practice, practice, practice, and more practice. (That is why little children love to hear things over and over again!) And when I think we've had enough practice, we do some more to help with my comprehension. Now we are working on understanding with background noise to improve my understanding in noisy situations. Susie is a great therapist and is teaching me to listen in a way that I haven't done before. I'm one of those excellent lipreaders with a lazy brain. I'm discovering that I get tired and drained after a long session. I'm also realizing that I can be a passive listener at times and can tune things out when I want to. And then when I want to hear someone speaking out of my visual range, I turn my brain "on" and try so hard to listen. I am thankful that our medical insurance covers most of the expenses for therapy. I know the benefits will outweigh the costs in the long run. (Insurance even pays for batteries, too!)

This is a long post and I'll stop now to give your eyes a rest. Give thanks to the God who created you and made you. He loves you and is crazy about you!


Jennifer said...

Laurie, THANK YOU for sharing your blog link with me (on the CI list)! I want to blogroll you, if you don't mind :) Your posts are so enocuraging!! I love reading about CI users' progress, and pray for patience to wait until it's my turn! :)
Jennifer :)

Chris said...

I'm so happy I can talk to you on the phone. I'm crying because it's so great to hear you!
Love, Chris

SooZ said...

sThank you for writing and sharing your telephone experiences. I am struggling to hear on the phone and feel understood when you share your struggles (i.e. the recorded messages - no human voice). I am in awe when you have success and I look forward to the day when I may hear my family on the phone. Your blog gives me hope.
Sooz in BC