Thursday, October 18, 2007

Cochlear Implant Anniversary

It has been a year now since my cochlear implant. My surgeon was Dr. Ronald Leif Steenerson of the Atlanta Ear Clinic, located next door to Northside Hospital. Dr. Steenerson is about my age, maybe a few years older. I prefer that my doctors not be the age of my children. I don’t know what I am going to do when all my doctors themselves become eldercare patients. Dr. Steenerson has the public manner of a poker player with paper money on the table in denominations carrying portraits of people who were never President. And maybe an awareness that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of every citizen to bear firearms. I am comforted by this attitude in people who cut holes in my head to wire things up to my brain. My audiologist, Cindy Gary, is a tireless and sensitive professional. She makes the computer magic that tells my implant how to work in ways we select, based on testing, what I describe to her that I am hearing, and how I like it. She is active in the support group, the Georgia Peach Cochlear Implant Association. She says I can expect the quality of my hearing to improve for another year or so, even now that we have pretty much settled on the technical settings for my implant. The improvements will continue, because my brain will keep learning how to interpret the sounds it hears. My hearing has already improved in the past year. I am now beginning to hear music as something other than just noise, to actually recognizing tones. Sometimes I have a successful conversation on the telephone. This is so unpredictable, depending on the voice of the speaker, the telephone itself, and even the difficulty of the subject discussed. I would not dare try to conduct important business on the phone without using the Georgia Relay Operator, who types the other person’s end of the conversation to me, either on my computer or a portable device provided by the Georgia Council for the Hearing Impaired. My next big goal is to attend public meetings and lectures. I can do pretty well in a social setting, face-to-face, one-on-one, in a quiet environment. More people, more noise, the worse my ability to understand what is said.

Earlier this week, I took my sister Ouida lunch from the Piccadilly Cafeteria for her 73 rd birthday: turnip greens, black eyed peas, coleslaw, broccoli salad, macaroni and cheese, cornbread sticks, and of course the specialty of the house, carrot soufflĂ©. Ouida’s daughter Marcia was also visiting for her mother’s birthday. While we ate, we exchanged reports on our health. My sister is homebound and on 24x7 supplementary oxygen. Marcia is a cancer survivor. We never ran out of things to talk about. Marcia was telling me about visiting me in the hospital in March 2006 when I had meningitis and was on life support. My wife Annette was at my ICU bedside day and night, every minute the rules allowed and some not exactly covered by the rules. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” Marcia said. “I’ve never seen anybody with such dedication and love.”

For years before I got sick, I played Puccini tapes at thrilling volume as I drove down the road in my 1992 Honda station wagon filled with sheetrock, 2x4’s, and recycled five gallon paint buckets of tools and plumbing parts. At red lights, often I met other cars bouncing like pogo sticks to some different drummer, and they would give me the fish eye and roll up the windows. While I was in a coma for three weeks, Annette, brought to me CD recordings of Luciano Pavarotti, Montserrat Caballe, and Jessye Norman and played them to try to reach me, wherever I was.

Copyright 2007 by William C. Cotter

1 comment:

Abbie said...

Happy Anniversary Paw Paw Bill!! I just had surgery done on 8-27-07 and have been activated since 9-17-07. I am just a mere newbie at this implant but I can imagine that it gets better and better. Maybe I ask how you lost your hearing? I lost mine when I was younger and no one has any idea.


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