The scheduled date of my cochlear implants, June 26, is rapidly bearing down on me. YAY! After months of waiting, it is starting to feel like it might actually become a reality. Will become a reality. In just four days… this time in four days, I will be in hospital, post-implant…!
A couple of weeks ago, I had a pre-implant appointment with an audiologist at the Ear Science Institute. One of the things we discussed was the choice of speech processors, and the differences between the two on offer. Gawd those Cochlear brand ones are big and ugly. How depressing. The MED-EL brand were still much bigger than a hearing aid, but far more slimline than the Cochlear brand — however they require a remote control for changing any of the settings, which I know from past experience with hearing aids is a darned nuisance. Still, it is a really difficult decision to make. The “man in the street” just doesn’t know enough to judge, in my opinion.
We talked about what to expect from the surgery, including the size of the scar behind the ear, and how much hair would be shaved off. (The shaved area, where the implant sits and where the magnet attaches, is apparently only about the size of a 50c piece. The surgeon mostly cuts immediately behind the ear where there is no hair anyway.)
I was given documents to sign, for me to acknowledge that I understood what was going to happen relating to the surgery, as well as afterwards. When I read the document about expectations of the outcome of the implants I smiled wryly at the audiologist and said, “It paints a grim picture, doesn’t it?” It included such encouragements as:
- The rhythm of speech will be easier to detect and you will be able to tell the difference between long and short syllables;
- You should be able to learn to control the level of your voice with practice;
- You will be able to hear the difference between some but not all voices;
- Music will not sound “normal” because the implant processor is designed to transmit speech; and
- You may be able to identify a simple song.
The thing is, they need to establish a worst-case scenario because everyone is different and some gain more from cochlear implants than others. That is fine by me.
Switch-on is scheduled for July 9, 2008, and after that I have a couple of months of weekly re-mapping and rehabilitation appointments, petering out over time.
When I saw the scheduled appointments, for the first time I felt that this thing is real. It is going to happen!
A couple of days later, I saw the surgeon, Dr Marcus Atlas. I had been really concerned about this, as I knew I had to choose the brand of implant at this meeting. He is just lovely, and acknowledged how hard it is for the patient to choose — but he is obliged to let the patient know that there is a choice. He said that the MED-EL brand is longer and fits deeper into the cochlea, therefore theoretically offers more frequencies (though in practice this is not always the case) and also rehabilitation seemed faster in patients with the MED-EL brand, and if I was unable or unwilling to choose, that would be his recommendation. Yay! Dilemma over.
Apparently I am to expect to not work or drive for a week due to balance and dizziness issues. Fortunately management at my workplace are being super-supportive.
As I left, I was given a folder with information about hospital pre-admission, blood tests I needed to obtain (HIV amongst other things!), and an appointment with the anaesthetist that I needed to arrange. I went to have the blood tests right away while I was at the hospital, and saw the anaesthetist the following week.
The anaesthetist has rooms at the hospital where the implant surgery will take place — St John of God Hospital, Subiaco — and the appointment took 5 minutes, if that. I was asked the standard questions about family health history and my own health. The anaesthetist gave me a prescription to bring to the hospital with me on the day, for an injection to be given to me an hour before surgery. He told me he’d give me further prescriptions before I left the hospital for painkillers.
“Painkillers?” I exclaimed. “No one said anything to me about pain!”
He looked at me as if I was quite mad, started to say something, and thought better of it. :-)
He warned me that I will have tubes and oxygen for 24 hours. My first ironic thought was that I was only in hospital for one night, so as soon as they perceived I was no longer at death’s door they’d chuck me out! My second, far more serious, thought was, “If I am wearing an oxygen mask, how will I eat?!!!!”
I shall let you know my devious ways and means, after the fact!
Now… to wait…