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Countdown to becoming just another cyborg

Posted Nov 21 2008 3:02pm
While I may not be getting a bunch of cybernetic implants, but I'm one step above humankind by implanting a marvelous piece of technology called cochlear implant.

Wikipedia says: "Additionally cochlear implants and magnetic implants which provide people with a sense that they would not otherwise have had can additionally be thought of as creating cyborgs"

Here, it's my chance to rant and rave about pre-op consultations and post-op progress. I forget things sometimes, so this is a great chance for me to see how much I've progressed. Plus, it keeps me from repeating myself over and over to a bunch of friends and family with curiosity of meeting a cyborg for the first time. :-)
Thursday, 1/10/08 (US dating system), is when I am getting surgery.

The Beginning...

I've been thinking about CI for quite a while after seeing a few of my friends had it/getting it. However, I dismissed the fact that I qualify for it simply because I felt that I can hear too well, and I will lose my residual hearing. How little did I know. It wasn't until a year ago that I started to notice that I had problems listening to my favorite music, favorite singer (Reba of course), and hearing the TV. I would neglect to put in my left hearing aids in because I felt that I couldn't hear at all.

Then, things started to get serious in October. I decided just to try for the hell of it and go see the audiologist and see what she says about the possibility of getting a CI. I went in the office. Waited for about half hour...I was getting a bit antsy because there's no one there, no patients. Finally saw the audiologist (audie for short). She asked me my experiences with hearing aids, which I was happily yapping about. Then she said, "You qualify for CI. No problem." At first, I was like, Hooray! Took my hearing tests. In 1997, my dB lost in my left was 94, in 2007 it's 105. My right, 1997 - 88, now 96.
Needless to say, I was progressively losing my residual hearing that I had. Even though I've met some deaf people that literally live in a world without sound, and they're doing great. However, for me, it's like being an artist, then suddenly becoming blind. I could not bear living without any ability to hear sounds. I don't want to be "hearing". Its the one thing that I've learned to accept since was very little that I will never ever be hearing. I've tried going without hearing aids for a day, and I felt so lost in my little world of silence.
Anyways, going back to the audie. My sentence discrimination was so poor, and even I was very surprised. 0% in my left, 12% in my right. Although, I told her that she has an accent, and I've asked her to turn up the volume a little bit. I didn't know that she has to have it set on a specific volume. "Don't worry about it", she says. After a little discussion, she says, "Okay, all you have to do is set up with the surgeon and you're good to go." She did not explain to me exactly what the surgery is, did not show me what the implant look like, did not explain any insurance issues, or anything that made me feel at ease. It wasn't until later that I realized this. She only spent about 30 to 40 minutes total with me.
Driving home, I felt pretty good that I do qualify, but as I was getting closer to home, I realized that I have more questions to ask, and I was clueless what exactly is cochlear implant. While a bunch of my friends have them, they all have different ways of explaining what it is. It was just a little confusing. Advanced Bionics, Freedom, Nucleus Contour, coil, Med-El, were all foreign to me. I was more disappointed.

My Next Journey

I spoke to an interpreter and complained a little about my first audie. She suggested that I go see another one that she interprets for. She says, "This lady does not sugar coat about receiving a CI." That is exactly what I'm looking for. I set up an appointment. It was a team of two people, which I think is great because they bounce ideas and experiences off of each other. Prior to the appointment, I received a package from Cochlear America (which is the company I'm going for anyways), and I read all the information, checked out the DVDs, and I learned a lot of new things this time around. At the appointment, the two ladies spent 3 hours talking about CI, about what to expect, how it works, etc. They showed me the actual implant, which was a bonus. I asked to do the sentence discrimination again because I felt that I "failed" it the first time. My left - 6%, my right - 26%. Okay, so it's a little bit better than the first, but at least I know. One of the audie was my audie when I was really young to teenager, and that was cool, I haven't seen her in 15 years!
Anyways, I felt really good about those two. What's even more, they helped me tremendously with how to deal with insurance stuff. Medicare only pays 80%, which means I would have to come up with $20k. So...I went home with a handful of information, and I felt much better in my decision of getting the CI. They explicitly explained to me that it will take work to fully benefit from having the CI. You don't pop on the coil and expect to become hearing again. That's not how it works.
For the month of October I've been making calls to various insurance companies and see if they had Medigap, or Medicare Advantage that will pay the remaining 20%. One of them, I had a big laugh. AARP - I called them, and explained everything. They said, no problem we'll pay for your implants 100%. Boy, was I thrilled! I went through the application process. They asked me my age after asking me a bunch of questions. I told them that I was 29. There was a pause, "Oh I'm sorry. You do not qualify." I was so upset because I've contacted 10 different companies prior to this call, either the people on the phone were so rude, or it's not under my surgeon's plan, or for whatever reason. I asked her, "Why?" "Because you're not old enough." I was appalled, "What do you mean I'm not old enough?" "AARP is for people who are 55 or older." I was just laughing my pants off.

Finally, I found a company that is under my surgeon's plan and will pay for the implant 100%. Best part, I do not have to pay any premiums, as this plan is under Medicare, and I pay Medicare premiums.
However, I had to wait until January 1st to start the process. Two whole months?!

January Comes Along...

On January 2nd, I saw my physician, and just simply asked, "I just need a referral to see my surgeon for insurance purposes." Waited in that office for 40 minutes and saw him for 2 minutes. Whatever.
January 4th was the day I truly started my journey. I was impressed with the surgeon's candor. She's sweet, yet firm. She asked me, "How soon do you want your surgery?" I said, "As soon as possible. I have school on 21st." I knew that if I miss school days, I'll get some hell from Roy. :-) "How's next week?" She says. Next week?! That's a little fast, but if you think about it, it doesn't give me enough time to really dwell on the surgery. Frankly, I ain't afraid of going under, I'm excited.

I left NYC, and went home and started working on making phone calls for MRI/Cat Scans/blood and all that stuff. Everything was set for Monday, Jan 7th.

Monday comes....
Blood work - check
MRI - check
Cat Scan - check
Bringing films home - check (and it looks so strange seeing MYSELF with my muscles, fat, bones, and even my eyeballs!)
Kicking receptionists asses to fax over stuff or I'm in trouble - check
Suspending my gym membership - check
Keeping my worried mother at bay - check
Keeping my worried boyfriend, Roy at bay - check
Remaining very calm - double check!

All of that, today. Pretty awesome eh?

I've said too much, but heck, this is a post for cumulative of 3 months.
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