How The Cochlear Works

It’s been five days since the surgery and I’m still feeling a little sore but it’s not too painful. I may have been misinformed and it turned out that I didn’t have a checkup yesterday. I only need to go in on Thursday for a checkup along with the stitches removal so no update from the doctor. I left the house last night for the first time since the surgery to get dinner with my brother. I had a hoodie on since my incision isn’t the most attractive feature to have in public. Though it felt good getting out out of the house for once! The incision is healing really well thanks to the helpful cleaning maintenence of my mother. I’ve also counted nineteen stitches across after taking a picture of it. Nineteen!

Since some of you have been asking exactly what happened in the surgery and how the implant works in my ear. I got some images and information from the Cochlear website and thought I’d explain it on here! The instrument below, called the Nucleus Implant, is what has been “implanted” into my head. The big circular figure is the magnet and the two long strings are electrodes that were inserted into my cochlea. The cool part is that the surgeon was able to calculate that the electrodes were placed in the right spots in my cochlea. With that done, it will be able to work properly for sure on activation day!

Implant

The next picture is the Nucleus Sound Processor, which will be what I put on my ear on the outside. The circular piece will obviously be attached to the magnet inside my head. The Sound Processor will transmit information from it’s microphone to the Implant. This equipment will function similar to how hearing aids work. Both have microphone and processes sound, but in different ways.

proc_carbon-coil_smoke

Finally, the figure below gives us the full story. Cool, right? Feel free to check out the Cochlear website for more info!

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First Signs of Recovering

Today is the second full day of recovery. I took the bandage off yesterday and saw my stitches for the first time. It feels very weird on my head now I can see what it looks like. The stitches are uncomfortable but it’s keeping me in one piece. I am avoiding any touching the right side of my head since I’m paranoid about messing it up, although it doesn’t hurt and I’m not in any pain.  My mom has been helping me take care of the wound with hydrogen peroxide and polysporin to prevent it from scabbing. It is also good so that the stitches can come out as painlessly as possible comes Thursday.

My Cochlear won’t be activated until March 18th. My ear will have to heal around the Cochlear for a month before anything can happen. So it will be a quiet month of wearing one hearing aid in my left ear. I’ve learned to not work too hard to hear everything going on. Otherwise, I would lose my mind! I’ve lost one ear so no need to lose the rest of my head. If someone were to try to talk to me from my right side I would just not respond until they walk over to my left ear. My brothers have learned how to do this the hard way 😋.

Sleeping has been an interesting process. I usually move around when I sleep. I sleep on my sides and switch side to side all night. Now I can only sleep on one side and it gets uncomfortable at times. The first night of sleeping was a little rough. My body was still getting used to having the Cochlear in it’s system. I had about 6 hours of sleep and woke up every now and then. The second night of sleep was better and I got around seven and half hours of sleep. Which is enough for now.

I’ve also been lucky enough to have visitors these past couple days! A few friends from Baltimore surprised me yesterday and stayed for lunch. A couple of my cousins came over and brought me homemade chocolate chip cookies (my favorite). Then finally my wonderful audiologist, Maegan, came over this morning and we got to catch up on everything. We had a good debriefing of the surgery and March 18th since Maegan will be the one to ultimately turn on the Cochlear. She also took away the big brief case of goodies from Cochlear that I was given after my surgery but wasn’t allowed to open until March 18th. It’s a good thing since I was naturally tempted to open everything in it.

  Me and Maegan this am!

 

Wrapped Up

I have to start with how overwhelmed I am with all of the support I am getting from everybody. Even hearing (hehe) from some of the people I’ve lost touch with means the absolute world to me. Again, I would not be where I am right now if it weren’t for the community of support I’ve received from ALL parts of my life. I truly feel blessed to have you all.

With that said, the surgery was a success! I started off in the preparation room and got hooked up with a couple IVs. This was done in order to prepare for the general anesthesia. I was a little nervous and queasy since I’m not the biggest fan of needles. I found it extremely helpful to talk with the nurses and doctors prepping me. My parents came in to wish me one last luck once I was all set. Then I was wheeled into the surgery room.  As I entered the surgery room, my heart begin to jump seeing the all the equipment and computer. Again, I engaged in a conversation with the residence doctor and that helped me focus. I moved over to the operating table and let me just say, it was SO comfortable and relaxing. I had a heated blanket on and the cushioning underneath me was warm.  I had things massaging around my leg to keep the blood flowing and the first stages of relaxer were plugged into my IVs. Before I could take note of what else was making me relax, I was out cold.

  Right before being wheeled to the surgery room. Don’t I look thrilled?

The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the recovery room. Everything was so blurry, so it took me a few moments to realize that the Cochlear was INSIDE my head! I survived the big game! The nurse went and grabbed my parents and they came in a minute after I woke up. Then my brothers came in shortly after them. I had a headache and felt groggy until the nurse put some more painkiller in the IV then I felt a lot better. The doctor came in and said the surgery went well. It took longer then usual because I had scar tissues in the way of cochlea from my bacterial meningitis when I was a baby. So it took the team three hours to complete the surgery and patch me up then I slept off the anesthesia for another hour. I was so happy to have a successful surgery after waiting so long for it.

On the way home, Mom stopped at Wawa and got me some of my favorite food. Thank God I didn’t have any dietary restriction for after the surgery because I was starving! I did take my time eating to let the anesthesia settle off. Then I rested and took it easy the rest of the day. The doctor gave me painkillers to take at home so I haven’t been in much pain at all. Just a little headache here and there. The hard part will be remembering to sneeze with an open mouth (is that possible??) and not blowing my nose for the next week. I also have a bandage wrapped around my head and right ear. I’ll be able to take the general bandage off tomorrow then the doctor will take off the special ear bandage on Monday during the first checkup.  I’ll have a second checkup one week from now to get the stitches removed from above my right ear. Can’t wait!

  “Wrapped up” in the bandage!

The Day Before

Tomorrow’s the big day! I am actually feeling more excited then nervous today. It feels like I have been ready for this day to come for a while. I’ve been talking to friends and family about it these past few days and I get so excited every time I think of the new sounds I will hear. I am also eager to get a little bit more out of life itself day in and day out. I’m a sappy believer in the small things mattering most in life. So hearing more and more small details will make a huge difference for sure.

UPenn called today and gave me the details of instruction and series of event. I will have to stop eating at 12am tonight. I also will stop drinking water at 4am (so much for the hydration plan). Then the surgery will start at 7:15am! It should be a three hour surgery, or at least I’ll be under for that long. Then I should be able to come back home later in the day. This is gonna be fun.

I’ll leave one of my favorite quotes from Game of Thrones that everyone should be reminded of every now and then:

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

– George R.R. Martin

The Beginning of An Adventure

So everything is set in stone. My Cochlear implant surgery is scheduled for February 19th at the UPenn medical center in Philadelphia. After almost 24 years of wearing hearing aids and discerning for almost a year, I have decided to go forward with getting the Cochlear implant in my right ear. A big part in making this decision is feeling like I have outgrown my hearing aids over the years. I feel like that I am waking up to an iPhone 3 of everyday. While it is a great phone, there are far more progressive technology available. That is what the Cochlear implant holds in store for me. I expect to hear sounds that I’ve never heard before and to have a significantly easier time communicating with others. From reading other blog posts from Cochlear patients, I’m sure I will be surprised with the number of little sounds that I’ve been missing out all this time! The big unknown going into the process is that the Cochlear implant result is different for everyone. No one can analyze ahead of time of how much my hearing will improve, but it is definitely bound to be better. So I’m not too nervous for surgery itself, but for the adjustment after. It’s kind of like learning a new language where everything will sound so different.

While I have worked hard to adjust with the mainstream environment since I was one year old, this crossover to the Cochlear won’t be a complete culture shock to me. This is because I already speak with others orally and rely almost entirely on my hearing. I do a little of lip-reading and have my peers use a Bluetooth microphone to enhance my hearing. I will be able to have a similar microphone system with the Cochlear. The changes I look forward to seeing is the small things. This include understanding the dialogue of movies in theater and hearing the lyrics in songs without looking them up. Also, another thing to keep in mind is that this procedure will not cure my disability, but it will enhance my hearing in ways that my power hearing aids haven’t been able to.

I will use this blog to keep everyone updated on my process. After the surgery, it will be loooong period of adjustment. From what other candidates have said, more and more improvement will add on slowly everyday over the course of a year. So, it won’t just happen overnight, even though I would like that to be the case. So I anticipate that it to be a little frustrating here and there but it will be worth it in the long run. The support of my family and friends will make a big difference in being patient (pun intended) in this process!

I’ll be sure to get another post up before the surgery!