Sunday, September 30, 2007

Statues around Riga, Latvia

We have had beautiful fall weather in Riga during our stay. We expected to come to cold and rainy weather and brought our coats and umbrellas with us (quite a change from the 90's in Tennessee!) Anyway, as we walked around the city, we saw many different statues and artwork. I thought I would share some pictures.
Figurines on top of Opera House
Fountain in front Opera House
Closeup of Opera House FountainThree Atlantis' holding up Earth on top of building in Old Riga Face on building in Old Riga Statue of Dancers in ParkWoman in flowersHorse Statue in flower bed
Statue of Man SittingCouple in Park with dog
I continue to enjoy hearing the sounds of this wonderful city with two ears. When I first came to Latvia in 2004, I had two hearing aids. When I made my second trip in January of this ear, I only had one CI. And this time I'm here with two CI's and am amazed each time I hear something different. I can hear cars and trains coming behind me and they don't catch me by surprise like they have in the past. I hear the flutter of the wings of the birds when they fly from me as I approach them. I can hear the musicians in the streets playing their saxophones, guitars, accordians, and other instruments. And the "clink" of my coins as I pay for my goods in the stores. The language is difficult to understand and the Latvians seem to talk so fast. But, thankfully, they do understand English and I am able to communicate in a basic sort of way.

"Little House on the Prairie!"

(To Be Continued. . . )

Walking around Riga

Opera House

Flower in front of Opera House

Laurie in park

View of Riga Hotel from park

Freedom Monument (side view) from the park

French Embassy (the U.S. Embassy is a few doors down but is not as pretty!)

Latvijas Krajbanka Building

Gunpowder Tower

Mural on Restaurant in Old Riga

Side Street in Old Riga (they all look like this!)

Blackheads House in Square

Latvian Dancers getting ready to dance

Latvian Mittens and Gloves in Shop


The Latvians LOVE their flowers. Rain or shine, you can always find a vendor on the street selling flowers. Tradition is that you should always buy or give someone an odd number of flowers unless you are buying for a funeral!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Greetings from Riga, Latvia!

Labdien! (Good day! in Latvian) Steve and I are traveling for two weeks in Latvia and Austria for business (and some pleasure). We left the U.S. on Saturday, the 22nd and arrived in Latvia on the 23rd. But, our luggage did not arrive until today (four days later). I was so happy to see our bags when we went downstairs for breakfast this morning! Delta Airlines at the London airport was holding our luggage "hostage" and would not release them to the airline we flew on (Lufthansa), in spite of many urgent messages and phone calls. I had my cochlear implant equipment and batteries in there, along with other personal items. I did have enough for a few days but was down to the last "drop." Steve gives me a hard time about how much I pack but I'm doing better each time we make a trip. He says the last four days have shown that we can live on less but I digress. I am very uncomfortable wearing the same clothes two or three days in a row and going to business meetings in jeans! We had also brought a trunk full of Kristine's things and a duffle bag of books for Gita, our friend and Latvian pastor of Riga 1st United Methodist Church from our pastor in the U.S.

Our Latvian "daughter," Kristine, who spent four years going to college in Tennessee, met us at the airport with her brother, Ziggy, and our dear friend, Apolonija. They greeted us with flowers and took us to our hotel. Kristine moved back to her Latvia last month and was happy to see us again. We took her out to dinner at the Macaroni Grill that evening and got caught up on all her news. She is glad to be back in Latvia but misses her "home" and friends in the U.S.

Kristine at the Macaroni Grill

Traveling in a different country with a different language is interesting and challenging. The primary language spoken here is Latvian and Russian. Most people here do understand English. Otherwise it would be difficult to communicate at all. I carry my Latvian/English translation book with me everywhere. When we go out to eat, the menus are printed in several different languages.

Kristine has been my translator for me on several occasions, and was a great help at the baggage claim in the airport (even though we didn't find the bags). She asked me later if I was still reading lips even though I could hear now. I told her that I was and probably always will. She asked what her lips looked like when she was speaking Latvian. I had to think about that one for a minute but I will say that it looks like she is "kissing" alot because the Latvians pucker their lips when they talk!

Earlier this week I needed to go shopping for some clothes and personal items to wear because we did not have our luggage. I love riding the tram around town and do fine as long as I have my maps with me and know which tram to take and which direction to go in. The only thing that I don't like about moving about the city alone is that I don't have any means of communication with Steve or our Latvian friends in case of emergency. I miss having the security of my cell phone in my pocket! It's amazing how much we depend on our electronic equipment.

We are staying at the Hotel Forums in Old Riga and are right in the center of the city. I can hear people talking outside, music playing, sirens screaming every now and then, the trams and busses off in the distance, and people walking fast on the cobblestone street/sidewalk below us. The first morning we were here I heard an unusual sound outside our window. I asked Steve if that was a bird and he said that it was the street sweepers cleaning the sidewalk with their brooms. Sure enough, I looked out the window and could see them. They come by every morning and clean the streets and sidewalks. It is very clean here and the litter is cleaned up on a daily basis.

Our hotel is right across the street from another building that houses different venues. It is easy to see what is going on in the rooms across the streets if the windows are open. Right across from our room is a music and dance school. Tonight as Steve and I walked home after dinner, we observed a class of young teenaged students dancing past the windows. We watched them for awhile from our room and it looked like they were practicing traditional Latvian dance steps. It was beautiful and interesting to see! In another room we could see several students taking voice lessons. I could see the piano in the room and the teacher waving her hand to the music.

I love seeing the sights and hearing the sound of new places! I'll write another update soon with more pictures. Until then, "Labvakar!" (Good Night!)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Two Year CI Anniversary

Today is the two year anniversary of my first CI activation. My audiogram has gone from this to this to THIS! (see below and click on picture to enlarge)

I know I've said this before and will say it again - I never ever dreamed that I would hear this well in my lifetime - EVER. I've gone from a severe/profound hearing loss to a mild hearing loss with one CI, to almost normal hearing with both CI's. I have truly experienced a miracle because of medical technology and only God could make this happen. Nothing is impossible with God - NOTHING! So, when you think that God doesn't care or hear your prayers, just remember that He is always moving forward ahead of you and making plans for something better, even if it takes 40+ years. And for that, I am forever grateful! Alleluia, Amen!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Dogs Leave Pawprints On Our Hearts

I finally have a chance to give you an update after my last post. . . .

You, my readers, know how upset Chris was about losing his puppy. For the last two weeks, Chris had been grieving the loss of Brutus and my heart was broken because I missed him too. I wanted to "fix" it and even bought another puppy last week for Chris. But we ended up taking it back. Chris appreciated the fact that I wanted to make him feel better but he just wasn't ready for another dog. So, he decided to wait until next year to get another puppy from Riga when we bred her again . . . (and we had been trying to breed her for 4 years just so Chris could have a dog from her.)

Anyway, on Thursday night Steve came into the kitchen with a shocked look on his face. He always scares me when he has "that look." I thought it was more bad news but that wasn't the case. Steve said that he had just gotten off the phone with a lady who had bought one of our puppies two months ago. She has been ill and had been in and out of the hospital and couldn't take care of her new dog. He was too big for her to handle and was disrupting her household. Apparently, he was carrying her small dogs and cats around in his mouth! So, she called us to see if we would help her find a new home for him . . .

Steve asked me what I thought. After I had a chance to process what he had just told me, I told him that God was answering prayer! And that it would be up to Chris to decided if he wanted to help this lady out. . .

AND GUESS WHO WENT AND GOT HIM??? CHRIS! He drove out to the lady's house on Friday night after he got off work. When he got out of the car, this puppy ran up to him and jumped on him and licked his face. The lady said that he had never done that with anyone before. The puppy was really happy to see Chris and seemed to remember him. The lady was sad to see him go but when Chris told her about Brutus, she just hugged him and said that she was glad that she could help.

This puppy was the one with the "blue" collar and it was the other puppy Chris was considering when he was trying to choose his dog. He told me that this was the closest thing to having Brutus back. His name is Gus and he has bonded well with Chris. He knows he belongs to Chris and follows him everywhere, sleeps with him, and lays by his feet.

Even I couldn't "fix" the situation for Chris. Only God could and would do this. "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. " (Romans 8:28)

"Blue" (Gus) at 2 weeks

So, meet Gus!

Isn't he beautiful? He looks just like his mother, only he has a white spot on his chest. He is so sweet and good natured. He is a little rambuctious but with love, attention, & discipline he'll be fine. We love him already and are glad to have him back in our family again. Isn't that the best news?!!!

P.S. He's already chewed up this carpet in the picture. . .*sigh*

Thursday, September 06, 2007

When I Close My Eyes. . .

. . . I hear better.

I'm using the phone more and more all the time and am getting more comfortable. I find that when I close my eyes and concentrate, I can focus better on the conversation and understand the message. I'm not afraid to ask the caller or person on the other end to slow down if they are talking too fast. No, I don't talk on the phone while I'm driving so you don't have to worry about me closing my eyes on the road!

My Bible Study group met together on Tuesday night after a summer hiatus. Afterwards we all held hands and prayed like we always do. For the first time, I could hear the prayers of my "sisters" with my eyes closed. Without having to look and speech read. I always felt like I was invading someone's privacy watching them pray. Several times during the silence when no one was praying, I could hear the clock ticking on the wall. Listening without speech reading is hard work and exhausting and I still have to "look" sometimes, especially when the speaker is soft-spoken. But, I've reached a new level of intimacy in prayer. . . Tina, my leader, asked me afterwards if I heard everything and I told her I did. She admitted that she even looked at me to see if I was reading lips and was pleasantly surprised.

Tomorrow I'm headed to the Beth Moore Conference "Deeper Still" in Nashville. Am going with my good friends, Shelley and Dawn. Two years ago, I went to Knoxville to hear Beth Moore speak shortly after my first CI was activated. Beth Moore has her own blog and is an awesome Bible teacher. There will be other speakers there and some great music. I need this retreat more now than ever. I'm sure I'm not the only one. I've talked to so many women lately who are just tired and spiritually drained.

I've also got the best news. . .but you'll have to wait until my next update. . .it is proof that God is always working behind the scenes. . .so that we can give Him all the glory. Because when I close my eyes, I "hear" God.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Bilateral CI Hearing Test Results

Last week, August 30th, was my two year CI anniversary. Things were too crazy last week for me to do an "anniversary post" so I'll do one today. It's hard to believe that two years ago, the remnants of Hurricane Katrina blew through Knoxville during my surgery. Two years ago I could not hear birds singing, clocks ticking on the wall, hear the voice of a child, or even have a conversation on the phone. Today all of those things are possible with my CI's. Making the decision to go through surgery (twice) to hear better has been one of the best decisions I ever made and ranks right up there with the decision to marry my husband and have our four children.

On August 13th, I had my hearing tested with both CI's and recieved the audiological evaluation from Susie, my audiologist. Here are the results:

Laurie P. was seen for an evaluation on the above date. Medical history includes congenital genetic severe to profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss.

She wears two Cochlear New Freedom cochlear implants (CI). Mrs. P. received her first cochlear implant at the left ear in August 2005 and her second implant at the right ear in January 2007. She received aural rehabilitation training from October 2005 until September 2006. Sessions were scheduled one to two per week for 45 minutes each.

In July 2007 Mrs. P. was seen for consultation regarding aural rehabilitation therapy using the bilateral CI's. She reported much improved speech discrimination and spatial awareness with the second implant. Mrs. P. stated that background noise sounded like it was in the background now, not in her ear as it had previously with one implant only.

Audiological testing using narrow-band noise as the stimulus revealed aided thresholds within the normal range for the condition using both implants and using each implant individually. Speech discrimination testing using the Synthetic Sentence Identification test (SSI) was assessed in the following conditions:

  • Both CI's in a quiet condition at 60dB SPL: Outcome: 100% correct
  • Both CI's with competing background noise: Outcome: +10dB speech/noise condition - 100% correct; + 5dB speech/noise condition - 60% correct; 0dB speech/noise condition - 1st attempt 0%, 2nd attempt following testing at above stated S/N conditions 30% correct.
  • Right CI only with competing background noise:
    Outcome: +10dB speech/noise condition - 100% correct
    0dB speech/noise condition - 20% correct

These findings indicate that the second implant provides some improvement in speech discrimination in a noisy condition. These findings did not show a robust difference between the monaural and binaural conditions, as expected. Mrs. P. indicated, however, she perceived more difficulty in the monaural condition. The difference in the scores in the binaural condition at 0dB S/N of the first attempt and second attempt is most interesting. This finding suggests that additional aural rehabilitation with the binaural CI's may provide additional speech discrimination in noisy situations.

Reported by:
Susie R., M.A., CCC-A
In layman's terms, this evaluation says that my comprehension in noise is 100% when the noise level is lower (or quieter) than the spoken words. When the level increases, my word comprehension goes down a little bit. But, when the same test was repeated after I had gone through 20-30 minutes of testing, there was a noticeable difference in comprehension after just a few rounds of "practice." This indicates that some A/V therapy with background noise would be beneficial. I cannot stress how important therapy is. . . and I'm a very stubborn person who doesn't think she needs help or thinks she can do it on her own. It is worth it and makes all the difference in the world.
However, Susie is returning to school to work on her doctorate so I do not have a therapist at this time and am waiting for my hearing & speech center to hire one. I will miss Susie but this is a great opportunity for her.
We are excited about this evaluation. Two years ago my word comprehension in noise was 0%!!!
Also, while I was in the booth being tested, I could hear every "little" sound I made, whether it was moving in my chair, crossing my legs, swallowing, turning my head, or even breathing. The booth is so sound proof that I felt like I had to hold my breath to minimize "extra noise" in order to be tested. Even silence seems to make a sound. When I told Susie that, she said that was a common complaint for normal hearing persons being tested.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A Weekend With Brad

Hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day. Here are some pictures from our trip to Virginia Tech. . .

Caitlyn and Brad

Leon on the couch

Leon and Brad

Leon and Chris

Leon and Me :)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Quick Update

Greetings from Virginia Tech. I know some of you are wondering how Brad & Chris are doing. Chris and I are currently at Brad's apartment giving him some TLC that only a brother and mother can give. We stopped at the store on the way and I'm already cooking up a storm for the college crew here.

It is good to see Brad again, to hug him, and know that he is okay. He is still very sore with a black and red eye. His teeth hurt, too, so he still needs to eat soft foods. I made his favorite cookies (Snickerdoodles) and he can't even eat them because it is hard for him to chew. (And it is hard to keep his roommates from eating them, too!) He got his staples taken out of his head today while he was in the emergency room this morning with his girlfriend, who sprained her ankle. He asked her nurse to take them out for him. They are quite the couple with their injuries! Now it is Brad's turn to take care of her!

The doctor from the hospital called Brad the other day and told him he needed to see an eye doctor and an ENT doctor because he also has a broken eye socket that they missed in the ER. He also needs to see the dentist, too. The police were at his house on Thursday night with information (which is good news). I will have to keep details off this blog from now on because this assault on Brad & his friends will probably end up in court.

And Chris is hurting, too, over the loss of Brutus. I was so worried about him that I even bought a German Shepherd puppy for him on Thursday night. . .but ended up taking it back yesterday. He says he isn't ready for another dog and only wants one from Riga. . .I told him today that I was going to change his name to David. . .because he feels like David in Psalms. . . (David cried out in pain and sorrow to God in this book in the Bible.)

I just pray that Brad and Chris will find strength and peace in a God who loves them and that He will carry them through their difficult times.

I got a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes today just watching Chris and Leon (Brad's puppy) play on the floor when we got here. We will miss Brutus. But we are glad to have his brother.

Steve is tired but glad to be home from Poland. . . and our world is a little better again. . . God has been our refuge and strength this past week.