Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Prayer Request for Lydia. . .

I have a special prayer request for my friend, Lydia. You can read about her here and see her picture. (She's wearing the lime green sweater.) She was a hearing person and lost her hearing overnight around 15 years ago with no explanation. She received her cochlear implant four months later. She was also one of the first persons in Knoxville to receive a cochlear implant when they first came out. We bonded quickly when we met last year and feel like we have been friends forever. Lydia has been struggling with her hearing since last spring. She is going to Memphis, TN to be evaluated on April 18th to see about having her CI re-implanted or go bilateral. Doctors don't typically remove a working CI but she may have something wrong with it. She is experiencing a range of emotions and is scared, nervous, and apprehensive. The first time was very traumatic for her and she is remembering that even though technology and the surgery has changed so much since then. Her processor has to be mapped frequently and she struggles to understand what is going on around her. My heart goes out to her and I'm encouraging her as much as I can. So, say a prayer for her. I'd love for you to comment so she can read your responses. Thank you.

In other news, I'm going for another tune-up tomorrow on my processors. I can tell that I need another adjustment. I did go to the eye doctor today for my annual eye exam and did not have to look at him once around the equipment to read his lips. Understood every single word he said. :-D

Also, I took another BIG step at work on Monday. . .I had my voice mail activated for my work phone. I've been receiving internal calls from my coworkers but still struggle at times. I received a call from "Griffin" last week and was so confused because he has never called me before. And "Griffin" is not a common name to understand. Also received a call from "Eva", who is a new employee and I had no idea who she was. But, I told both of them to call me again and not to give up. I need all the practice I can get. Voice mail gives me another option to listen to callers voices and messages more than once until I *get it.* I use binaural headphones which allows me to use both ears on the phone. I am so "phone-illiterate" and have to have someone show me how to use the different settings and all.

Hearing in *stereo* is really wonderful. I find myself turning in circles because sound comes from every direction. I am truly "Dancing With Sound!" It's fun to locate the birds in the trees as they sing their songs. My aunt Nelda is coming on Saturday from Nashville for a quick visit. Hopefully the weather will be nice enough so we can go for a hike in the Smokies. She knows birds very well and we'll have fun hearing the sounds of nature together. I'm hoping she can teach me what the different bird calls are.

Will write again after my *tune-up* tomorrow.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

God's Bowls in Heaven

I had a *God Moment* recently and thought I would share it. God ALWAYS answers our prayers, even when we think He forgot or didn't think it was possible or important. God's Word tells of His many promises to His people. In the Book of Revelation there is a wonderful description of the prayers of saints which are placed in *bowls* in heaven. These prayers are gathered up in bowls (Rev. 5:8) where the angels add to them before mixing them up with fire from the heavenly altar. These prayers are then returned (hurled) to earth where they have a powerful effect on all creation. (Rev. 8:2-5) In the prayer room at our church, there is a prayer bowl that is filled with prayer requests. I just realized how significant this is. . .

About forty years ago I prayed a prayer as a child asking God to give me perfect hearing like everyone else. Life was hard, I had few friends, and people made fun of me because I talked *funny.* I felt singled out because I was a deaf person in a hearing world and never really *fit* anywhere. I didn't belong in the deaf world, either, because sign language was not a part of my life and was taught to speak orally. (This was very unconventional at the time because my parents were advised by doctors and other healthcare professionals to put me in an institution for the deaf. They were told that I would never be able to have a *normal* life and would face many difficulties.)

Later, as I grew older and wiser as an adult, I put that first prayer on the back burner. I didn't think it was even possible for it to be answered and assumed that God forgot about it, too. Well, we all know that things on the back burner eventually come to the front burner, right? Yes, life was still difficult at times but I had a great support system with my family and friends. That first original prayer was then changed (so I thought) and I asked God to just let me keep what little hearing I had (which wasn't much at all, even with hearing aids). Well, that prayer wasn't being answered, either, in early 2005 when this *little bit of hearing* started to disappear.

Fast forward to today: I now hear almost normally with my bilateral cochlear implants (and probably better than some people my age!) It doesn't take much for the tears to well up in my eyes and and start flowing down my cheeks when I hear the joyous sounds of the spring birds and everything else WITH TWO EARS. I can even have a conversation with my husband on the phone who is halfway across the world in Latvia, which I did yesterday.

My supervisor asked me recently how I was doing and, as we conversed, I shared with her my original prayer request that I had prayed forty years ago. And how God always has a better idea when He answers prayer. I told her that I never dreamed it would be possible to hear this good in my lifetime. Nothing is impossible with God!

Then, in my devotional reading the next day, I read Deuteronomy 2:7. I've read this verse many times but this time it JUMPED right off the page. Here is what it says: "The LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast desert. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything."

God sent one of His angels to reach into one of His many bowls filled with the prayers of the saints and pulled out my prayer from forty years ago. . .the one I forgot about. . .the one that was wwwwwaaaaayyyyyyy down on the bottom. . . and answered it. . . and has blessed me more than I deserve in everything that I've done. . . and, He has walked right by my side all this time on this journey called "Life." I have never lacked for anything . . .ever . . .even when I couldn't hear. . .

So, my dear friends, even when you think God doesn't hear your prayers or answer them, just wait. When He decides that the time is right for a *miracle,* He will send an angel to draw one of your prayers out of the prayer bowls in heaven. His timing is perfect and He will amaze you and blow your socks off! Forty years is not too long to wait for answered prayer. . . :-)

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

(Please note: This is my interpretation of these verses in the Bible. I truly believe God speaks to us in many different ways and this was one of them.)

I'm Still Here. . .

Just a short post to let my readers know that all is well and I'm still here. My *ears* continue to get better and better each day, vertigo is gone, and I'm enjoying every minute of it. I've been busy working, getting our taxes ready for our accountant (ugh!), going to appointments, exercising, and just enjoying the spring weather we are having. Am also preparing myself for an *event* that happens next Sunday. . .stay tuned!

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Blogging Meme

I normally don't do *meme's* (don't even know what it stands for) but thought I would do this one. This one came from my new friend, Jules.

What made you start blogging? I started as a way for my family and friends to check in on my updates when I first started my cochlear implant journey. It was going to be too time consuming to write emails every time I had something to say. I also wanted to be able to keep track of my progress. It has evolved to other tidbits of life, which includes a separate blog for my *book,* knitting, and favorite recipes.

How many different hosts have you tried? Just one - Blogger. I'd like to try SquareSpace because I've heard that it is a great way to organize all my blogs.

How long did it take you to figure out how to install items in your sidebar? A few months. I started visiting other blogs and saw their *stuff* so I began to experiment. But, I'm not brave enough to make HUGE changes.

Do you blog on a desktop or a laptop? Usually with my laptop.

PC or Mac? Always on a PC.

What’s your biggest blogging “don’t”? I don't blog from work. Always do it from home or when I travel. Not to violate my own rules when commenting on other people's posts. To treat others like I would like to be treated. And I try to be positive, not negative.

What’s your favorite blogging topic? I really like to share my faith and how it is related to my hearing journey. But, I know that there are readers out there who have their own belief system. I have a great respect for the space and freedom of other people. But, I am not perfect. My faith journey is like a really good piece of candy and I just have to share it!

What’s your biggest blogging frustration? Not having enough time to post my thoughts and they are gone or not as good when I do sit down to write. Also, I'd like to have more comments but am afraid to ask for them. . .I don't know who is reading my posts or what they think.

What’s been your biggest blessing from blogging? The friendships and connection to others with hearing disabilities. We share the same trials and frustrations of trying to survive in the hearing world. It warms my heart when someone writes to me and tells me that I've inspired them or made a difference in their lives. Also, meeting friends in person that I've met online!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Time Is Not Right. . .

Ugh. This is that time of the year when we perform the annual ritual of setting our clocks forward an hour. Only this year it happens three weeks earlier than usual. Daylight Savings Time really does me in. I'm lucky if I can drag myself out of bed at my usual time. Maybe I will be acclimated to the change before it happens again in the fall. . . I don't handle change very well and it takes me a while to make the transition. *sigh* This week I've had to go in to work earlier than usual because my supervisor is on vacation for spring break. Which meant I had to be at work before 7:30 a.m. to run the *start of the day* programs before my coworkers showed up. But, my body still thinks it is 6:30 a.m. which means I am getting up at 4:30 a.m. at the old time (or 5:30 a.m. DST) to get ready for work! Steve gives me a hard time because he changes time zones on a weekly basis when he travels and says it's only ONE hour. But one hour makes a difference to me!

I still like to call *Time of Day* in the mornings to hear the recording and practice my auditory skills. (You can find it under TIME in the white pages of the phone book.) On Monday I noticed that time on the recording was an hour off but figured it would get fixed since this is the first year we've changed the clocks earlier in March. This morning I checked it again and it said "The current time is 7:30 a.m." instead of 8:30 a.m. I thought my mind was playing tricks on me so I asked my coworker to call and listen to the recording. He said the time was still off an hour so I was hearing it correctly.

So, according to my body and the *Time of Day*, the time is not right!

I'm still hearing great with my two implants but am ready for my *tune-up* tomorrow. My new ear has gotten quieter these last few days, which tells me it is time for a new "map". The changes that I've experienced with my second implant have been subtle and very nice. Hearing out of two ears is awesome and two ears are doing the work instead of one. Tonight as I drove home in the rain, I could hear the raindrops on the car AND understand the music on the radio at the same time. Before, one processor would do the work and the loudest sound (the rain) would be dominant over what I was trying to hear (the radio), for example. Apparently when two ears are working and hearing at the same time, there is a *cancellation* process going on in the brain and the sounds are balanced out somehow.

Had dinner last night with Dawn at the Chop House in Knoxville. Background noise still aggravates me but not as badly as it did before with just one implant. We talked for over two hours!

Had lunch today with my A/V therapist, Susie. It was great to see her again. I'll be making an appointment soon to have my hearing tested and see if I need more A/V therapy with my new ear. Gave her my last two hearing aids and she said they will be used. We'll get a reciept for a tax deduction next year. I've given away five hearing aids in the last 12 months. . .but it feels good knowing that someone else will be able to use them.

My car is still in the shop. It has been there for almost four weeks now. They found a few extra things wrong with it when we called two weeks ago and said it would be another two weeks.

My vertigo is just about gone. I still have my *moments* but not as frequently or as badly as before. I've been going to exercise classes at the gym and struggled in the beginning with the floor exercises, especially when I had to move or look from my right side. But, it has gotten better and my balance is coming back. I just have to make sure I focus my eyes on something.

The puppy is still here and gets sweeter by the day. No one has called to claim her and she still doesn't have a name. But she will when our neighbors adopt her next week when they return from vacation.

Support Deaf Actors

My husband and I are huge fans of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. After much talk and anticipation, NBC has announced an episode featuring not one but many Deaf actors, including:

Deanne Bray
Alexandria Wailes
Garrett Suercher
Darren Frazier
Hillary Baack
Willy Conley
Raymond Luczak

In addition, NBC broke TV history by hiring the most Deaf extras (35 people) for a network TV episode. I think this is wonderful that they are supporting Deaf actors.

This exciting drama is called "The Silencer" and airs on the local NBC stations on April 3rd at 9 p.m. So, mark your calendars and set your TiVo's and DVR's to watch or record it! The more people that watch it (or have their TV's on to NBC), the Nielson ratings will go up, allowing more Deaf actors to be asked back to work!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Puppy Pictures

This is our little *guest* that I told you about in my previous post. She is an angel of a puppy and we are trying hard not to get attached to her. We've got signs up in several locations but so far no one has claimed her. We can't figure out what breed she is. Maybe a border collie mix or husky/lab mix? Her long white front paws remind me of the long gloves that actresses wear in movies. I'd call her Audrey (after Audrey Hepburn) or Gracie (Grace Kelly). She sleeps with Chris at night and is housebroken already. Goes to the door and whines when she wants to go out. She barks or whines when she wants to come back in. She is so good natured and doesn't jump on anyone. Just wants to play. She always wants to be with someone and does not go far, which is puzzling because Chris found her wandering in the street. We think she was dropped off in a neighborhoood (a golf course community) so someone would keep her and give her a good home. I have a home for her if no one claims her. :-D Our neighbors have been looking for a dog for some time and fell in love with her! But, they're getting ready to go on vacation for Spring Break so we'll keep her for a week until they return. That will give us time to find the original owner if there is one.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Bilateral Update

Things have been very busy here and promise to be even busier in the next few weeks. But, I'm loving my two *ears* and every day gets better and better. Two ears really do make a difference. I'm not sure how to describe it but everything I hear is fuller and more complete. Conversations on the TV and the radio are within *reach* but I'm still only catching words here and there. Sounds and words are sharper and clearer and like I said, background noise is better and more tolerable. I wear my new ear ALONE in the mornings so that I can get used to it faster. I'm also noticing that it is time for a new map, which I will get next week.

But, I cannot talk on the phone with one ear right now. I got used to grabbing the phone and putting it up to my left CI ear (the older one) and was able to understand the message that was being said. On Monday, the receptionist at work called me at my desk and when I picked up the phone, everything was muffled. I was confused and told her I'd be right out in the lobby. Now that I have two CI's, the ears are shifting and changing. My new ear is trying to take over but I cannot use the phone on that ear just yet. So, for now, I need headsets, silhouette coils, or a neckloop to talk on the phone with BOTH ears. I called my audiologist, Susie, the other morning and set up a lunch date with her for next week. I had a little trouble understanding her but she was patient with me and only had to repeat a sentence once when I asked her to. (I talked to her with two ears.)

Went to my monthly HLAA meeting on Thursday night and there was a speaker there who talked about CapTel phones. She was deaf, also, and originally had a one-electrode cochlear implant when she was 9 years old. She was reimplanted with the 22 channel Nucleus later when it became available and wears a CI one generation older than mine. She is trying to get approval for a second implant for her other ear but has been denied so far. The Let Them Hear Foundation is fighting for her. As more and more deaf and hard of hearing persons get implanted bilaterally it won't be long before it will become the norm to have two cochlear implants and not one. After all, we were created with two ears for a reason!

Anyway, I learned some more new information about CapTel phones and also about a special phone deal from Sprint. We already have a Sprint account and I use the Sprint PM-8200 for my cell phone. I can upgrade to a Sprint Blackberry 8703e for $99.00! These phones sell for more than that on eBay and normally retail for $500 at the Sprint store. I've always wanted a Blackberry or TREO phone and this one is Hearing Aid Compatible, has GPS tracking, and is supposed to be good for CI and Hearing Aid users. It has other great features, too. You have to be deaf or hard of hearing to take advantage of this offer and there is only one representative to contact by email.

Brad and Marissa were on spring break this past week so we've had people in and out of the house constantly and cars in the driveway. I took Chris and Brad out to eat at my favorite Chinese restaurant last night and it was nice. Steve was traveling and will be leaving soon again for Latvia for the next two weeks. I wish I could go with him!

We also have a new *temporary* member of the family. Chris found a small black puppy wandering around his best friend's neighborhood on Thursday night and almost hit it with the car. He picked her up and tried to find the owners by knocking on doors but had no luck. So, we have her. She is well taken care of, looks like a lab/husky mix and is sweet and good natured. She was wearing a pink collar so she belongs to someone. Probably some little child's puppy. . .She is so good and goes to the door when she wants to go potty. After being punished ONE TIME for peeing on the kitchen floor, she has gone to the door every time since then to go out. She has the cutest little whine and bark! We are in love with her but I'm trying real hard not to get attached to her. I'll post a picture later. We are trying to find the owner. I did call the vet yesterday morning to see if anyone had called about a lost puppy and they said they would send out a fax to all the vets in the area. I'd love to keep her BUT Riga is tolerating her and Maddie is jealous!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Day #3

Today is Day 3 with my new "ear" and second implant. The last few days have been very busy with a whirlwind of sound. I do love my new implant but am also completely and totally overwhelmed with the level of noise and sensitivity that I'm experiencing. I've actually turned both ears down a little because of the sensory overload. I have noticed a difference already and love the fuller, richer, and balanced sound that I am hearing with two ears. There IS a difference between one and two *ears* and don't like wearing just one CI anymore! The sounds in my new *ear* remind me of my first activation and is almost identical. I hear mostly "white" noise on that side but can make out sounds and words. The *white noise* sounds almost like the whine one hears in an airplane while waiting for takeoff. I am also "shocked" when I first put on my new CI in the morning and have to give it a few minutes to settle down. But, it has only been three days and my brain is still processing this new auditory information. Once I get used to it and train my new ear with A/V therapy, etc. the sky will be the limit and there will be no going back. I absolutely love it and the second CI is no comparison to the hearing aid. I don't even know why I wore the hearing aid as long as I did with my first implant.

My ear is still sore from the surgery so when I'm at home, I *hang* my new processor on my glasses to get it off my ear. Looks a little funny but it works. The vertigo and dizziness at night has also gotten worse but there is a lot going on in my head right now. I am going to call the Dr. this week.

The BIG thing that I've noticed is that background noise is in the BACKGROUND like it is supposed to be and is not as aggravating as it has been in the past. I noticed it right away in a restaurant on Friday night and in church today. Church was absolutely wonderful and the music, instruments, and voices actually blended better. At the beginning of the service we sang "I Am Free" by the Newsboys. Part of the lyrics go like this:

"Through you the blind will see,
Through you the mute will sing,
Through you the dead will rise,
Through you our hearts will praise,
Through you the darkness flees,
Through you my heart screams I am free. . .
I am free. . ."

I could not hold back the tears as Pastor Jeff asked the church to sing an extra verse:

"Through you the deaf will hear,
Through you the deaf will hear,
Through you the deaf will hear,
Through you our hearts will praise. . .
Through you the darkness flees. . .
Through you my heart screams, I am free. . .
I am free. . ."

Yes! I am free to hear, live, run, and dance!

Also went to a meeting this afternoon. Steve sings with a men's choir called the Faithful Men and I am their treasurer. I sat right in the middle of the room and when they sang "Beulah Land" it sounded beautiful, especially from the Tenor side! Wow. . .and this journey has only begun!

By the way, do you like the new look on my blog? Spring is here so come sit on the porch with me and share a cup of tea while we listen to the birds sing!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Activation Day Pictures

Getting hooked up to computer
Listening for beeps and tones

Listening. . .

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Activation Day for CI #2

Well, I know you all out there are waiting for an update on my activation today. . .I’m writing this in the car as Steve and I travel to Huntsville, Alabama for a business meeting and will post this when we get to our hotel. We are currently listening to Chris Botti, a jazz trumpeter, on the radio. Are two better than one???? Yes and no. Voices are sounding a little “funny” right now so I asked Steve to put some instrumental music on. I feel like I’ve taken two steps forward and one step backwards but it should get better as I get used to hearing with two ears. So far it sounds very mechanical and robotic, just like the first time I was activated but there is a difference when I'm only wearing one CI. With one CI there is a dramatic drop in the level of sound but I do like what I’m hearing with two. If I wear my new ear alone, it is all “white” noise and doesn’t make any sense. Is having two CI’s louder? No, just more sound but it is all mixed up.

Chris picked me up at work today and took me to my appointment (I had Steve take me to work this morning because it was raining and was not going to work for Chris to ride to ride his motorcycle to meet me.) He brought his friend, Kevin, with him so we had four people in a very small room for my appointment! Chris was fascinated with the whole process and took pictures, too. Remember, he is our Marine son and was stationed in California when I got my first CI in 2005. I flew out to San Diego three months later after my first activation to hear his voice and hear the ocean with him. Anyway, Bill went right to work and remapped my left ear first. I had to listen to a series of tones and beeps and there were a few changes from my last mapping session.

Then came the big “moment” and he got the “box” out with my new processor in it. This time the box is a little different than the first one I got . . . there is only one processor instead of two and I have rechargeable batteries. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get two processors but apparently cochlear implants are not money makers for hospitals anymore. I'm glad to have just one but I won't have a backup in case something happens. But, everything else is still the same. Bill had to help me get the processor set up on my head because I had trouble getting the magnet to stay on. I feel like I’m all “thumbs” with my new processor even though I am right handed. The magnet fell off once on the floor during the session. Bill hooked me up to the computer again to check the new internal implant and said that all the electrodes were firing. That was good news! This means I will now be hearing with 44 electrodes instead of 22. Then, we went through the beeps and tones just like we always do. The beeps and tones in my new ear sounded very different from the ones in my “older” ear. I “felt” them instead of hearing them and they were very faint and quiet most of the time. It was hard to count them. (I have to tell Bill if I hear two, three, or four beeps.) I can only “hear” so many beeps and tones for an hour and then it becomes hard to tell what is real and what isn’t. My ears start to ring with phantom noises and I begin to feel like I’m “failing the test.” But, Bill is patient and does what he needs to do. When he was ready, he switched on my new ear. (I had my other processor off.) Whoa! I had to tell him to turn it back off because it was too much. He made some more adjustments and then switched it back on again. We went back and forth a few more times until I was comfortable with the settings. Then, he had me put my “older” processor back on the other side. Next he, Chris, and Kevin started talking with me. They sounded very “funny.” All of a sudden I made the comment that Chris’ voice got quieter. Bill smiled and said that was because he turned off the new processor for a minute! When he was done finalizing the programs he told me to put them both back on. I had to turn down the sensitivity levels right away before we left the office because it was more than I could handle at the moment. Both ears have the same programs but the maps are different. Program 1 has Whisper, Programs 2 & 3 have ADRO with different telecoil settings, and Program 4 is BEAM, which is great for restaurants and loud places. I spend most of my time in ADRO. I have an appointment in two weeks for more adjustments.

So, yes, I can hear the difference between one and two ears. The best way I can explain it is that it’s like getting a stronger pair of glasses with a new prescription, only it is with ears, not eyes. And a new prescription takes some getting used to. Environmental sounds are good. Are sounds richer? I think so. I don’t even like just one ear anymore. And it’s only been a few hours. But, the “understanding” part has changed a little bit and seems a bit “out of focus.” More A/V therapy will help and I plan to start that up again for a little while. I will have to learn to hear with two ears now instead of one. But, I’m not complaining . . .

Pictures and updates to come this weekend. . .

2nd CI Activation Day!

Can you tell I'm ready for SPRING ??? :D