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Sequential cochlear implant surgery

Posted Jul 18 2011 5:09pm

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I had a second cochlear implant put into my head last week. It’s been quite a different experience, which tells me this is going to be quite a different journey from the first one. I just can’t imagine what it will be like to be able to hear in both ears.

l dreamed a strange dream last night Tina. You emerged from behind a pillar on the stage, a big grin on your face. You crossed the stage to a male actor and ruffled his long black hair. Most bizarre. But it came to me a few minutes ago what the dream meant. The stage is the theatre you’re going into Thurs, the pillar is the operation you emerge from and the shaggy-haired guy is Smudge! lt augers well m’dear, all will be fine! M

I walked into the hospital ward early in the morning with my hearing dog,  was  given a private room and completed the required paperwork. A year ago, I’d found it difficult to communicate with the nursing staff, as they weren’t deaf aware and communicating appropriately, and this really stressed me out at the time. I had written a letter of complaint to the matron about access for cochlear implant recipients, on a capital city’s cochlear implant ward For Gawd’s Sakes! and it seemed to have had a magical effect. This time, all the staff communicated using a write/wipe toy (brilliant idea), pen and paper, they showed me their name badges, they spoke clearly without mumbling, and looked at me when speaking. I was given a printed dinner menu to read from. It really made a huge difference to how I felt and it took my stress levels right down.

I was quite nervous when I had to sign the patient consent form. The attending surgeon’s explanation of the risks brought it home to me that this is actually major surgery. On the form where it states ‘Serious or frequently occuring risks’ the surgeon has written : Bleeding, infection, tinnitus, dizziness, taste change, facial nerve damage, scarring, there are a couple of unreadable words, and something that looks like ‘dance problems’ …. lol.

I laughed my way through most of my stay. I giggled with the attending surgeon, danced with the nurses, and laughed out loud all morning with my bedside buddy Michael (who just happens to be a trained nurse with the obligatory sense of humour). I’m sure the nursing staff thought I was nuts, as I giggled more than I talked.  By the time I walked up to the operating theatre, I was very merry and we were laughing over the nurse assuming Michael was my father (LOL). I had no nerves at all! At lunch time, Michael shot off home with my hearing dog, and I hopped up onto the operating table and joked around with the anaesthetist – the nurse asked me if I thought he spoke funny, was his mouth lopsided, could I lip read him? The surgeons must have wondered what was going on, we had quite a party going.

I had a different anaesthetic this time; one horrible shot made me very dizzy but not sleepy. The anaethetist was running to and from the monitor, looking worried, and I asked him to make sure it works ok and to be sure to wake me up afterwards. I then had a second shot which, thankfully, put me out for the count. The operation lasted 4 hours and I woke feeling on top of the world.  It was the best sleep ever! I was put on morphine and enjoyed this thoroughly :) I didn’t see the surgeon, I guess he went to bed without seeing me … I guess no news is good news.

Do red fingers make me Star Trek material?

I spent the rest of the evening chatting to Rashed, sitting up for 6 hours …. this resulted in a bleed under my skin from the surgery site down to the mouth, not uncommon in facial surgery, and I look as if I’ve been punched in the face.  Not pretty … but I’m past caring. Tip: Lie down after surgery and don’t sit up chatting to nice men!

The next morning the bandage came off and it was such a relief, I could put on my other cochlear implant and communicate more easily. I was sent to a day ward upstairs and it was a shock – they all mumbled then scowled when I couldn’t understand them, and the nurse asked Michael to leave when he came in with my hearing dog. He kept talking to Michael, and Michael had to keep telling him to talk to ME and not to him! Talk about being ignorant. It transpired that Michael had also been arguing with reception for 30 minutes as they wouldn’t allow a hearing dog in … into a national cochlear implant / hearing aid centre / ear hospital?! Then I discovered one of the nurses had mocked Michael’s Irish accent by mimicking him – to his face…. !!

My surgeon's superb work

I left the hospital feeling absolutely great. It had been a much easier and better experience than my first cochlear implant – very little pain, no awful wall of tinnitus like last time, no dizziness or weakness. I’d had so much happy juice that I didn’t crash until I got home after a 4 hour commute and sat down with a cup of tea, then the tinnitus hit me quite badly. If that level of tinnitus was permanent, I would have been suicidal. The tinnitus went away after a day then came back, but quieter. I woke up this morning to silence, then it snuck back quietly as I started to move around. Faithful friend.

My ear had been leaking a little but this has stopped. My neck has swollen up and feels as if they drove a truck over it, and reversed. And reversed again. I’m quite happily dizzy. I’m trying not to scratch at my scar – which is tiny and just creeps around my ear. Such beautiful work.

It’s great that Advanced Bionics is back in business and I’m the first bilateral adult recipient in the UK to be implanted since the recall. My surgeon and I have every confidence in the Advanced Bionics cochlear implant and we’re really looking forward to my activation.

Boot up: September.

lm sure everything will go swimingly well Tina – l had a vision remember? But just in case, can l have your flatscreen tv? (haha) M


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