Author Archives: Chris

My third day after surgery…

Sunday was no walk in the park… probably because I stayed home all day… Most of the time was spent in the Den with an occasional outing up to the bedroom for short naps. So what was I feeling today? Tired, sore, and now that I wasn’t partaking in the scheduled pain-killer-tablet-taking ritual, I was in pain. Not “intolerable” pain but one where the side of my head felt really thick, Quasimodoish (except the hump was on my head), with ear throbbing and an “uncomfortableness” migrating away from the incision area that gradually increased over time. It was at those times that I took pain killers. the good news is that I’ve tapered off from taking 6 pills over a 24-hour period to taking only 3 pills. Other than that, I felt groggy, a little light headed but otherwise content!

Roxanne has been really great about making sure I’ve been doing OK; telling me to relax, asking if I needed anything, etc. It got to a point where I would intentionally get up and offer to help just to see her frown with lips pursed and hands on her hips, then pointing me in the direction of the den. I could “see” her firm, commanding, yet loving, words coming from her mouth, only there was no sound… all quite funny (at least to me). Around mid afternoon Roxanne left for her first riding lessons in quite some time. She’s been talking about riding horses for awhile and decided she wasn’t going to wait any longer (she rode dressage back in college). That’s what I love about her; she doesn’t talk about what she wants to do, she makes things happen.

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Getting Ready to ride and telling Luna to take care of me…

Regarding my family and other animals, I mentioned in a previous blog that we got a 9-week old puppy two days before my surgery. Why? Good question. This sudden acquisition is not without precedent. Four years ago Roxanne and I got married and decided to do a lot of things at once. She and Ethan moved from Charleston, SC, we bought a house, moved in, blended families (four kids in four schools), and then one day, during a brief lull in painting, we were sitting down in the den and Roxanne said, “let’s get a puppy!” and this was the first month…

Fast forward to last week: Roxanne searches Craig’s List, sees a posting with a puppy picture and I knew then-and-there it was all a forgone conclusion. We drove up to Macon, Missouri (known to consistently top the list of the nation’s worst puppy mills) thinking we would go to the owner’s house. But no, they called our cell phone while en route and asked us to meet them at a “Casey’s” gas station for the hand-off. I thought it was all very shaky and I told Roxanne as much. Not that it did any good…

The couple arrived 45 minutes late and handed us the puppy – a flea-ridden puppy – and drove off. I’m not going to go into describing the whole bizarre exchange with language that may unfairly stereotype people or setting; suffice to say, we drove back to Columbia in silence. Once home, Roxanne took the puppy immediately upstairs where she and the kids proceeded to spend the next couple of hours bathing and defleaing as best they could (thank God). The following morning we took the puppy to the vet and all went well – all fleas dead, no worms, and vaccinations administered. The puppy’s name is “Luna” because of her now visible white coat and Blue Heeler merle pattern that could be likened to moon craters. she appears to be a smart dog too!

This morning Roxanne and I took our first outing since my surgery by walking the dogs in a nearby park. Another beautiful day! We didn’t spend too much time outside because, believe-it-or-not, that little walk really wore me out!

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Me, Sadie and Luna posing at park

I’ve written about the surgery, how I felt so far with the recovery, but I haven’t really written about not being able to hear anything any more. Perhaps its because I haven’t been in a situation where I’ve really needed to hear a lot. Perhaps its because our family communicates via telepathy. One thing to note about going deaf is that it isn’t all quiet and peaceful inside my head! Aside from the ringing caused by tinnitus, I hear “phantom” sounds that often accompany actions such as turning on the water faucet. I “hear” water coming out of the faucet – even after the faucet is turned off! Likewise I “hear” wind when I see the trees sway and leaves rustle and “hear” a lawnmower when seeing someone mowing the lawn down the street. I’ve read that this isn’t uncommon!

“Hearing” is a very complex activity. So much of what we hear we get from non verbal cues: lip reading (speech reading), body language, context, etc. What we actually “hear” is only a portion of what our minds piece together in any given situation. I find I can read lips quite well and it has served me well in many a situation. If someone you know is hard of hearing or deaf consider doing the following (excerpt from Wikipedia):

Tips for Lip Reading

Lip reading, also known as speechreading, is difficult because only 30% of the speech can be seen, the other 70% is inferred by context clues. Thus, there are little things that can be done to make the process a little easier. Learning to lip read is like learning to read a book. A novice lip reader will concentrate on each sound, and may miss the meaning. Lip reading will be more effective if you receive the message as a whole rather than each individual sound.

  • Make sure you can see the speaker’s face clearly.
  • Hold the conversation in a quiet environment, with good lighting, and not a lot of visual distractions.
  • Make sure that light is behind you, not the person you are trying to lip read.
  • Gently remind people that you need to see their face when they forget and look down or away from you.
  • Ask for the topic of the conversation, if you are not sure.
  • If the speaker over–exaggerates, or talks too loudly, gently request that they speak normally.
  • Remind speakers to move their hands or other objects away from their face.
  • If you still don’t understand after a repeat, ask the speaker to rephrase.

Lipreading is a skill that is easier to develop in those who have experience with spoken language. In one study by Tonya R.Bergeson adults who progressively became deaf, are able to read lips much better than those who suddenly became deaf.

Last night we continued to watch Lord of the Rings and only got as far as Rivendell where the “Fellowship of the Ring” was formed. Sheeesh, fitful nights coupled with wearing days make for poor movie watching!

My second day after surgery…

The surgery was two days ago, Friday. To date I’ve relayed how things went on the day of my surgery, including coming home. Well, it’s Sunday morning so I thought I’d fill you in on how I’ve been feeling since surgery. Again, the operative word is feeling.

The first night I didn’t sleep that well which isn’t surprising. I must say though, I haven’t been in very much pain. From time-to-time I feel a dull throbbing sensation on the side of my head (you know, the area of the scalp directly behind my right ear that was shaved and cleaned; where an incision was made in the skin behind my ear and where the Doctor drilled into the mastoid bone, creating a pocket for the receiver/stimulator, and then into the inner ear where the electrode array was inserted into the cochlea – yeah, that area).

Perhaps the reason I’m not feeling a lot of pain is because I’ve stayed on top of it with pain medication and have taken it as prescribed. Since people tend to get addicted to pain medication (not me of course) Roxanne suggested that I begin tapering off and only take it when it becomes “intolerable.” Which brings us to an interesting subject called “pain threshold.” You see, Roxanne and I have very different opinions about my pain threshold. I say I have a rather high pain threshold while she says I have a very low pain threshold. She reminds me from-time-to-time about an incident several years ago where I thought I broke several bones in my ankle only to find out when going to the emergency room that, I in fact, “almost had a Level-1 sprain.” Roxanne will never let that one down. I ignore her mental jabs.

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Hanging out with Roxanne

I spent most of yesterday (Saturday) at the house hanging out in the Den reading (as best a groggy mind could), visiting with the kids, and watching the puppy chew whatever came in close proximity to her mouth. I went outside a couple of times to take in the fresh air; a beautiful fall day here in Mid Missouri. Toward the end of the day I went with Roxanne in the Mini Van to pick up our son at the mall where he was at a children’s theatre practice. Yes, I still had that big Princess Leia bun on the side of my head so I stayed in the van. I didn’t want to scare the kids at the mall even if it is close to Halloween.

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Marie and Abby keeping me company

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Emily making sure Papa is doing OK

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Roxanne showing Ethan her new riding hat

I haven’t experienced any dizziness, nausea or other major side effects that might occur after surgery. I’ve read that some people lose their sense of taste, experience ear numbness and other things I don’t remember right now. I am experiencing ringing in the ear (tinnitus) which I understand might happen after surgery and should go away over time. I am now used to this ringing / roaring sound because over the past couple of years it has been rather pervasive and, at times, quite loud and very distracting. I’ll spare you the history of my hearing loss progression and ringing / tinnitus and save it for another post.

Last night Roxanne removed the head dressing. I figured all of my hair under the bun would have been shaved away for the surgery but lo-and-behold only a small area was actually shaved. Note: all blogs about cochlear implant surgeries have before-and-after pictures; therefore, I felt compelled to follow suit and provide an obligatory photo of my head with mere flesh wound. If you see closely you can discern the gray hair which miraculously appeared after surgery (I was blonde-headed before surgery). 🙂

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Nice job Doc!

We ended the day by watching the beginning of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. As majestic a movie without sound as with… I fell asleep before Frodo even left the shire…

I’m here typing away early Sunday afternoon. Another fitful night’s sleep behind me and another beautiful day ahead here in Columbia. I think we’ll take the puppy to the park so it can chew up some trees. I haven’t taken any pain medication since 5 AM and am feeling just… wait… maybe I need to take one pill now before going to the park. Although my pain threshold is very high, who knows how long we’ll be gone…?

Surgery is a Success!

Surgery Day: Roxanne and I get to the hospital yesterday (Friday) morning and staff efficiently process me through admissions, to changing into a trendy hospital gown, to asking questions (aided by Roxanne since I can somehow partially read her mind, along with lip reading), to signing forms that clearly state that I understand the unlikely dangers that I may encounter as a result of this surgery.

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Saying farewell to my hearing aid

One key thing to post for posterity is the information relayed by the nurse when Roxanne and I were waiting in the pre-op room.  And I quote, “you are not allowed to do any chores, housework or dishes for four months… and that is four 31-day months.” Well, being the stickler I am for following orders (when they suit me) I looked at Roxanne and said, “did you hear that?” She gave me one of those “ha ha ha” smiles knowing that the nurse must have been kidding. Then comes in the anesthesiologist and asks questions, etc. and finishes off by saying quite clearly and closely that, “you are not allowed to do any chores, housework or dishes for four months… and that is four 31-day months.” I smiled at Roxanne and she smiled back in a less than convincing way.

Finally the Doctor comes in and explains what will happen and also asks me important questions such as, “now which ear do you want the cochlear implant in?” I tell him and he proceeds to mark my right ear. I know it is protocol but I still thought it was amusing. the Doctor finishes off by asking if I had any other questions and I told him no. He looked at me and said, “are you ready?” I replied, “yes. Are you ready?” 🙂 As he walks out the door he turns around and says, “you are not allowed to do any chores, housework or dishes for four months… and that is four 31-day months.” I laugh and say to Roxanne, “see, final confirmation!” We understood that the nurse, anesthesiologist and Doctor were just trying to break the tension before surgery but what they don’t know that Roxanne and I do know is that I will be milking that quote for the next four weeks…

Off to operating room. No pictures thank you. If you want to see gory cochlear implant operations just Google them – there are more than enough images and YouTube videos out there showing the operation in gritty detail.

Well, the surgery… heck, I don’t know how the surgery went! They gave me general anesthetic and before I knew it I was waking up in the post-op room and feeling quite good! The nurse wheeled me back to the recovery room where Roxanne was waiting for me.  She told me later that I was acting silly and kept talking… I’ll leave that for her to tell… At any rate the nurse asked if I needed anything. I told her I was VERY thirsty! Oh, by the way I was reading her lips since I am now completely deaf (I’ve been deaf in my left ear since age five and now with the operation I can no longer hear anything in my right ear – but that’s OK because I couldn’t hear hardly anything anyway). Back to present – the nurse brought me a cup of apple juice with crushed ice and I must say that it was without a doubt the best tasting apple juice – EVER.

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Best Apple Juice EVER

Yep, as you can see from the photo I have a “Princess Leah” bun on my right ear. What became of the other bun I don’t know but I suspect Jabba the Hutt had something to do with it… (I am still on pain killers as I write this blog and feel just fine…).

I don’t really remember the rest of the day too well. The operation was three hours long and we left the hospital around 4:00 PM in keeping with it being an outpatient procedure; which was OK by me since I was feeling just fine. Roxanne drove me home. My youngest daughter Emily was out in the front yard playing with our new puppy (yes, we got a new nine-week old puppy two days before my surgery in keeping with our insane household mentality that merits a post for another day…). I went right upstairs to the bedroom, hopped into bed and smiled at Roxanne – she is the best. After school, my middle daughter Abby came in followed by my son Ethan. My oldest daughter, Marie, is at college now but will be coming over to see me this weekend!

My first posts have been rather long. fear not, all my posts won’t be this wordy (I hope…). Over the next three weeks my head will be healing and then on November 12th the audiologist will “turn on” the cochlear implant. In the meantime I will regale you with stories that led up to getting this operation. One final picture below of me here in my Den this morning. Note: I am pointing to my glasses. Specifically, I am pointing to the part of my glasses where I removed the bow (or arm) because the “Princess Leah” bun is too big!

Sans bow

Sans bow

Finally, thanks for all the well-wishes and positive vibe messages sent my way. I am really blessed to have such wonderful family, relatives and friends!

So how am I feeling…?

So here’s my second post before going into surgery. My wonderful wife Roxanne commented that I didn’t share any of my feelings about the upcoming cochlear implant surgery in my initial post. She went on to say that people want to know how I feel about this-and-that. Well, she was right, I didn’t write about how I was feeling and I said to her in so many words that, “I was just setting the stage for what the blog will be about,” knowing all along that she knows me better than I know myself sometimes. And that is pretty damn scary. The truth is, it is harder to write about feelings than facts; not sure why, guess it has to do with it being a personal thing.

Here’s how I’m feeling about the surgery: a little nervous about all the extremely unlikely risks and disadvantages that websites feel compelled to publish. Here’s a couple of overview websites about cochlear implants if you’re interested in what cochlear implants are all about:

Cochlear implant – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cochlear Implants – National Institute on Deafness and Other 

Cochlear Implants – Food and Drug Administration

I’m also a little nervous about this surgery being an outpatient procedure. I figured if I’m going to have a receiver and stimulator secured in the bone beneath my skin and have a hole drilled into my head whereby 22 electrodes are inserted into my cochlea which then sends impulses to the brain… I figured I would be in the hospital one night!

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(http://www.speechbuddy.com/blog/hearing-loss/is-a-cochlear-implant-right-for-your-child/)

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http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/eyes/cochlear.html

What else am I feeling? I am excited about the prospect of hearing again (huge understatement!) but daunted by the potentially long “re-learning” process.  Every individual is different in terms of how long it will take for them to “hear” again. Here’s an excellent analogy by Professor Jennie Brand-Miller as she described the every day learning required to hear with an implant:

Think of your auditory pathways as like a gravel road at the moment … cars can’t go fast on them, electrical signals can’t whizz up them.

But everyday, the workmen are laying down the foundations of a super highway, smooth and capable of cars going 250 kms an hour.  It takes time to  do this … weeks, months and even a couple of years … but you’ll notice the difference … week by week, there’ll be a detectable difference.  You’ll enjoy the journey, no matter what the speed.

This excellent analogy, taken from a blog written by Kate in Australia back in 2010, has really helped set my expectations. Although I’ve read a number of blogs in recent weeks, Kate’s blog inspired me to start my own blog.

This whole “blogosphere” community is really interesting… Here I’ve been working in the technology world for most of my adult life and have somehow avoided being personally or directly involved in the very things that drive technologies in the first place – people, connecting, sharing stories, learning and building community. Hey wait a minute, I’m not taking time off of work after all… hhhhmmmmm. 🙂

My blogging journey begins: Cochlear Implant surgery October 25th

I am taking the plunge and diving into the “blogosphere” and have no idea where this blog will lead me – or you for that matter! In the short run I will share my struggles, twists of fate, and somewhat funny stories about going deaf and “hearing” again with a cochlear implant. Over the next several months I will share my journey starting with my cochlear implant surgery which is scheduled for tomorrow, Friday, October 25th here in Columbia, Missouri, USA.

In the long run, writing will likely be my main form of communication whether it be by email, text, this blog… or something else. Even though I am getting a cochlear implant it will not replace natural hearing. Yes, I will still function in the hearing world, but as my doctor and audiologist tell me, I will need to “re-learn” how to hear in a completely new way. Stay tuned for updates on that front.

So why blog now? I’ve been wanting to write for many years but made many excuses for not pursuing my passion (and fear). Over the past several weeks, in preparation for my cochlear implant surgery, I began to explore what other people have gone through with their cochlear implant surgeries and how they’ve adapted afterward. The blogs I read were wonderful, scary, and inspirational; they really helped shape my frame of mind going into the surgery tomorrow. this blog in the short run is my attempt to help other Late Deafened Adults (LDA) and their loved ones know that they are not alone; that there is a large community out there to help them on their journey.

Late-Deafened Adult” (LDA) describes deafness which occurred any time after the development of speech and language; often it means after the age of adolescence. Usually a late-deafened adult has identified with hearing society through schooling, social connections, etc. They are usually unable to understand speech without hearing technology and/or visual aids such as speech-reading, sign language and/or Communication Access Realtime Translation Services (CART).

This blog, in the long run, will not only be about my cochlear implant or Late Deafened Adult experiences because I feel strongly that we should not be defined by our abilities or disabilities alone. Our lives are far more than the sum of its parts. With this in mind, my blog may evolve to include short “Papa Stories” about growing up as a “Third Culture Kid” as well as stories about the here-and-now. We’ll see what happens.

Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure how to start this blog, what to include and what to exclude. I am erring on the side of inclusion that will make good use of “Categories” (see right sidebar of blog) for those folks who are only interested in reading about, for example, “Cochlear Implant” or “Late-Deafened Adult.” My family, relatives and friends may want to explore other categories that they relate to since they know many members of our family are larger than life and that we should have our own reality TV show – or so I’ve been told.

Please know that I am not very active on social media sites. I rarely use Facebook; only post basic information in my LinkedIn account and am not engaged in online discussions or forums (yet…). So this mode of communication is fairly new to me. That being said, I welcome comments and feedback and will reply when appropriate!

Several months ago (April 2013) I was fortunate to attend and present at a local TEDx event. The organizers asked that I tell my personal story, in this case about my passion for people, place and possibility. The Following video serves as an appropriate framing for the “About” section of this blog since I talk about connecting the dots and highlight how my experiences continue to shape my worldview:

So comes the end of my first blog post! This introductory post also serves as the “About” page on the site.

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Stay tuned for posts about my Cochlear Implant surgery…

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” – Helen Keller