6:45 AM – Time To Get Up!

Ohio State University Medical Center building

Finally, the day has come to get my cochlear implant after waiting months to get an appointment and years to get up the nerve to go through with it. YAY! Those who know me know that I am NOT a morning person but this morning I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!

I first noticed my hearing loss about 19 years ago. Initially, it wasn’t that noticeable and I was able to carry on most of my jobs without any problem from being a lifeguard and swim instructor to working as a physical therapy assistant and substitute elementary teacher. A few times people would complain that I ignored them when they called me from behind and I’ve been wrongly accused of being “stuck up.” And once, while training as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), I had trouble taking someone’s blood pressure out in the field due to all of the background noise and had to hand off to another tech. But for the past 13 or so years, I’ve held computer positions and did a pretty good job of just getting by even without hearing aids (I never had much success with those when it came to comprehending during conversations). In fact, most people never knew that I was hard-of-hearing because I learned to read lips so well.

I believe the driving force behind the decision to get a cochlear implant after trying the latest technology available in hearing aids (and failing) was two-fold. One, I have 3-1/2 grandchildren (one is still “cooking in the oven” as I type) and it is near impossible to understand anything they are saying to me because they have such high-pitched voices. Two, because I have been in the midst of changing careers from my 9-5 computer job to one that takes me back to my first love, science. Although as a young girl my dream was to become a medical doctor, I have since gotten hooked on bugs (thanks to my entomologist boyfriend) and experienced a renewed awakening of that which has been lying dormant inside for so many years. As a result, I found myself enrolling in graduate entomology classes to learn more about bugs, signing up for a graduate environmental education class to learn more about how to teach people about nature and conservation (this included a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to study the rainforests of Costa Rica) and even volunteering at the Ohio Wildlife Center (OWC) to educate others about animals native to Ohio. But, I’ve also found that my hearing makes it more of a challenge when it comes to conducting education programs for the public, especially women and children.

8:15 AM – Checking In Outpatient Surgery Center

 

outpatient surgery number
I got a number – patient 7246!

Check-in time at outpatient surgery is 8:00 AM. After signing in and showing ID and insurance card (thank God for health insurance – this surgery is gonna be expensive), I was called back, weighed, asked about height and told to provide a urine sample. Now the fun begins… slipping on the buttless hospital gown and those slipless hospital footies (sorry no photos lol!).

hospital bed
My bed all laid out with hospital swag!

9:30 AM – Surgery Schedule Gets Behind

Vitals taken, leg pressure bands secured, IV hooked up and my mom at my bedside as I impatiently wait to be hauled away to the operating room. I’m not sure what to think – or maybe not quite awake. Maybe a little anxious and maybe a little nervous but definitely not afraid. Any fright is overshadowed by the excitement of possibly being able to understand what the heck most people are saying! It’s all a bit surreal. And, as if to add insult to injury, the doctor is tied up in the OR and my 9:30 AM surgery has been delayed.

In the past, I’ve given birth to three children and even had surgery to correct detached retinas in both eyes but never do I remember having so many people working on me. Other than the main nurse, my ENT that I’ve been seeing for years and the anesthesiologist, who was foreign and very hard to understand, if I had to pick the others out in a police lineup and tell who did the IV and who put the mask over my face, etc. they’d get away scot-free.

11:30 AM – Surgery In Progress

From the time a nurse said she was going to shoot something up into my IV to make me “relax”, everything was either a blur or nonexistent. My mom said I was awake as she gave me a kiss as I was being wheeled to the OR. But the only thing I remember is a nurse, maybe the same one, telling me she’s going to place a mask on my face for me to breathe into. After about the second breath, everything went black. I faintly remember being lifted from one hospital bed to another by sheets but don’t know if that was before or after the surgery.

12:50 PM – Out of Recovery

My mom sat out in the waiting room where she was given a card with a patient number that matched an electronic screen where they would post the status of each patient. 10:15 am surgery prep… 11:30 am surgery in progress… 12:15 pm surgery complete… 12:30 pm doc gave my mom an update on surgery… 12:50 pm out of recovery.

patient status information card
This card explained the status that would be posted on the board throughout my surgery.

I remember waking up twice. The first time I was wakened up by the nurse and I kinda laughed to myself because I remember having a couple of dreams and waking up thinking, “Oh yeah, I forgot I was in surgery to get my implant.” I couldn’t remember the dreams but I was still very sleepy and just wanted to go back to sleep. I remember drifting in and out of sleep and was awaken again and given ice chips. My mouth was so dry. No matter how much ice I left to melt in my mouth, it just went right back to feeling like cotton.

It wasn’t too long before I was asked if I felt up to trying to drink and eating a snack. I was offered Coke or Sprite and applesauce or pudding, which I could remember. I chose Sprite and applesauce. Then the nurse went back to the waiting room to get my mom who could sit with me while in the room recovering. I needed to stay put for an hour at the minimum then I was free to leave or could stay as long as I needed. Once my time was up, I was ready to go home where I could get more comfortable.

2:50 PM – Headed Home

pic of Michelle with bandaged head
Me waiting by the patient pick-up door ready to go home!

My mom helped me dress as I wasn’t very steady on my feet. She then went to get her van and pull it up to the patient pickup area. The nurse came to get me once I was all dressed. I was looking around for a wheelchair but apparently, I didn’t need one. The nurse helped me walk from the surgical bed to the patient pickup door, which was only a few feet away. I sat in a chair by the window where I could look for mom’s van to pull up. As we walked towards the window my nurse mentioned snow. I couldn’t believe it. Here it is spring and we get enough snow to cover the grass and trees.

I motioned to the nurse that my mom was out front and she helped me get up out of the chair and walk to the van and get in. I was still very dizzy from the meds and/or anesthesia but feeling okay, considering I had just gotten out of having holes drilled in my head. I sent a text to my boyfriend Mark letting him know that I was on my way home. Pretty powerful drugs cause I accidentally sent the text to my mom instead. It’s a good thing I didn’t say anything inappropriate. How embarrassing that would have been.

Dropped a prescription for pain off at the pharmacy drive-thru and made a quick stop to my house cause I inadvertently gave my son the wrong car keys the night before surgery. Too much excitement I suppose. My car was blocking the other car in the driveway but luckily they were able to maneuver the other car out onto the grass. Then off to my moms for some R&R and mother’s TLC.

3:30 PM – Home Sweet Home

pic of snowy front yard at home
Finally at home (my second home at mom’s) ready for some R&R!

For some reason, I had no desire to go to sleep once I got to my parents’ house. I was actually hungry! My dad asked what I had a taste for and I said scrambled eggs. lol! So, he cooked me some breakfast – scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, apple sauce and orange juice. Yum! Unfortunately, I couldn’t eat it all. The bacon was hard to eat due to its crunchiness. When I bit and chewed, it made my scalp move to the point that I could feel the left side of my head that had just been cut open. It didn’t actually hurt, was just very uncomfortable. I decided I would save the bacon for another day. My toast was a little hard to eat too but not as much since at least it softened in my mouth, unlike the bacon.

I checked emails and texts on my iPhone and posted a status update on Facebook to let everyone know how I was doing – “Is it the pain meds or do I see that 4-letter word S-N-O-W?!? Headed home from surgery!!! All went well!” – yes, I’m one of the smartphone junkies! I wasn’t yet in the mood to get out my laptop though. I sat up and talked a little while with my parents at the kitchen table and then got tired and decided to take a nap around 4:30 PM.

6:45 PM – Up and At ‘Em

I napped until about 6:45. I had a little trouble sleeping at first due because it was hard to find a comfortable position due to head pain and also due to the noises in my ear coming from the electrodes or something – all sorts of tones were resonating and a little ringing on and off as well as some buzzing noise. After a while, I slept pretty good waking only a couple of times due to strange ear sounds but was able to go back to sleep fairly quickly.

I spent the rest of the evening chatting with my boyfriend on instant messenger on my laptop, talking to my parents and my youngest son. My mom asked what I felt like eating and I opted for something soft this time – chicken noodle soup and a grilled cheese sandwich that I could soak in the broth. I was also due to take some pain meds although I didn’t feel like they had worn off. But according to the directions, it was best to take the meds as scheduled rather than wait for the pain to get worse. Later, I ended up with a little heartburn, probably from the meds. The ENT on call gave me the thumbs up to take some Maalox.

I spent the remainder of the night typing notes for this blog ’til almost 1 am. Then I forced myself to go to bed although I didn’t feel tired. (Always been a night owl.) Once again, I found it a little difficult to get to sleep due to the bandages and a little pain but okay. Set alarm for 2:15 so I could take another pain pill then I was out like a light until a little after 10:00 the next morning. Didn’t hear the same tone-type noises in my ear this time. Just more of a “white noise” kind of sound.

Slept in my mom’s room since it was on the first floor of her house – other bedrooms are upstairs. My mom slept with me and my dad slept upstairs. When I got in the bed I told her it was like old times when I was a little girl and my dad would go out of town and I’d beg her to let me sleep in her room til he got back.

What would we do without our mommies and daddies? :-)

Speaking of moms, I emailed her a link to a really great YouTube video so she could see the entire process involved with cochlear implant surgery before I actually went through it. The video is a webcast of a filming of an actual cochlear implant surgery taking place.

Cochlear Implant Surgery YouTube Video – Part 1 (includes closed-captions)

Warning: the tape is graphic so if you have a queasy stomach, beware!  Also, the video is closed-captioned and is broken up into a number of parts (I think there are about 14 parts) – but it’s worth watching all of the videos as they talk about cochlear implants while performing the surgery and even answer frequently asked questions about them. Once you finish one video, you will see the next one in the series show up.

About Post Author

Michelle Harris

Michelle (aka "Chelle") is owner/founder of Shel-Shok, LLC (marketing agency) and Green Matter, Limited (environmental education). She started losing her hearing back in the '90s for no known reason. In 2011, she had surgery for a cochlear implant, which has dramatically changed her life. Since then, her aim has been to educate others and eliminate stigmas associated with hearing loss.
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