Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Awakening

There are some days that are much too good. Well, not really but we all need days like today. First my MD called to tell me that my liver function tests were back to normal. They have been really elevated since I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. I've been drinking my milk thistle tea and I guess it really works. All is good.

Secondly, today was the day that Larry "got turned on." Ok-that makes me snicker. He had his cochlear implant activated today. I was totally enthralled at the process. Troy, the audiologist-what a magnificent job he has- to help people hear for the first time.

Larry has been waiting for six weeks to hear. He's been completely deaf in his left ear all this time. Several months back, we were both in a bad place over his deteriorating hearing. I think it was more scary for Larry not being able to hear the kids at all. He was often worried that he would not be able to take care of them. But he amazes me with what he sets his mind to. Things get him down but he never wallows in self pity for long. He keeps me strong.

Months ago we both researched cochlear implants-the ins and outs and Larry decided since he would probably lose his hearing at some point anyway that he had nothing to lose...except maybe what residual hearing he had. What if it didn't work at all?

His surgery went flawlessly. He was so optimistic. I was a wreck. I'm a nurse-that never leaves you. I know too much medical stuff. I know what could go wrong. Thankfully, my friend Terri came to stay with my while Larry was in surgery.
I've worked with the Surgeon, Dr. Duff many times at the hospital, so knew that Larry was in good hands.
Today was d-day. The day they do what they call mapping of the implant. It was a long afternoon for me, I could only imagine what it was like for Larry. We have been marking the days off of the calendar for six long weeks. The anticipation over coffee this morning was overwhelming. Like little sparks of lightening.

Troy showed us the external processor-the part that sticks to Larry's head like a magnet. It was funny to see him fumble with it after being such an expert for 36 years with his hearing aids. It was sometimes hard to remember that all of this was new for him too. Literally, Troy connected him to a computer. One plug to Larry and one plug to Troy's laptop.

Troy started Larry with a series of beeps and told him to respond when he heard it. I sat next to him and held my breath trying to look encouraging. Underneath, I wanted to scream "Please work-please work-if there is a God in Heaven please work." Five minutes went by and still nothing. Patience. It will work...won't it? God-can you hear me know? I mean...can Larry hear you now?

Troy tells us to be patient-that Larry's acoustic nerve is awakening and needs time to process these new sounds.

Another set of beeps and Larry turns his head a bit. Another set.....he heard it!! Holy crap-this is totally awesome. I'm smiling. Yeah-I know-it's only beeps-not like it's real sound. Troy explains that first they have to get the pitch and volume right before the implant is "turned on". God what is taking so long?

Troy tells us that now he is going to try some speech and see how Larry does. This is it!

Troy covers his face so Larry won't lip read. Ooooooohhhhhhh, mmmmmmmm, aaaaaaaaa, ssssssss, shhhhhhhhhhhhh, eeeeeeeeeeeeee. What the hell is that? Ask him if he can hear your damn voice! Oh my god-this is killing me! Troy continues with the visceral sounds. I'm sitting there smirking and trying not to laugh. My excitement and emotions have gotten the best of me and all I can think of is a really bad sex scene with Troy making noises like that. There is no control when that hits you. I fumble thru my bag looking for mints knowing that if don't do something I'll burst out laughing and won't be able to stop.

Troy tries again. Larry only hears beeps. Beeps. What good will beeps do? Troy uncovers his face and repeats the sounds. OOOOOO, aaaaaaaa, mmmmmmmmm. Larry has never heard these high pitched tones before. His brain doesn't recognize them. Troy tells him to try again now that he knows what sound he's listening for. Larry's face lights up. He got it! He is unable to discern the difference between ssssss and shhhhhhhh. Understandable. Ok-I'm calmer. Troy does more tweaking. It's clearer for Larry. I think I need more mints.

Troy is playing with the volume. Larry turns to me and says, "What is that?" It is the fan in the next room that he is hearing....with the door shut. Totally cool. Troy puts in 4 separate programs for Larry to play with over the next few days. Some louder, some softer. Larry will return to Troy on Monday and again the following week for further mapping. I'll make sure I have plenty of mints.

I can't even contain my excitement. I pull out my calendar to put the appointment in. Larry tells me that I'm noisy and hears the pen click. I laugh. More Mints!!!

I drive home-Larry is stopping for champagne tonight. I'm in my car and start sobbing the whole way home. I'm so incredibly happy for him and so relieved and so amazed at modern medicine. The Bee Jees song, "Jive Talking" is playing on the radio. I start singing "Jive Listening" and crack myself up. I was one big ball of emotion and it all poured out the way home.

At home tonight, Larry is frustrated. He says all the voices sound the same-kind of like everyone inhaled helium and then tried to speak. His brain is exhausted and his head is pounding. I tell him to give it a couple hours rest and try again tomorrow. He hears the dog's tags jingling and he heard Tae outside talking. He didn't understand what he was saying but knew that he was talking. These are all things he never heard before. It's 9 pm and we have a field trip to finish tonight. I'll let you know if he can hear the tree frogs that are gloriously singing tonight.

What a totally amazing day.

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