Last night the quiz question in the paper asked which epic trilogy ended with these words, so it seemed appropriate to start with them here.*
I was incredibly nervous on Thursday morning – after all, being on the waiting list for four years had built it up into a huge event in my mind, as well as having a first-time fear of surgery. Bear felt that there was a good chance that I would bolt at any moment – he was probably right – but he got me to the hospital in good time and chuckled internally to himself as I signed the consent form very reluctantly.
Things went on better from there though as he was allowed to remain with me until I went off on the trolley. The anaesthetist came to see me and I explained my nervousness at coming round during surgery – I tend to fixate on particular fears and that was my biggest fear. I was terrified that coming round, and being unable to communicate, and being unable to hear, even, would feel like a living death, as most people it happens to can at least hear what’s going on. She told me firmly that I would not be paralysed during surgery so if the worst came to the worst I’d be able to wiggle my fingers, but it wasn’t going to happen. That was an enormous relief, and after that I felt able to proceed with the surgery – the thought of anything else happening hadn’t even entered my mind. What a wonderfully kind anaesthetist.
The surgeon then came by to talk to me and was also very reassuring, so I remained much calmer after that. I was wheeled away to surgery, my hand being held by a very kind and very brisk nurse who kept me talking about all my family and friends until the time came to do the deed. I remember feeling the taste of anaesthesia in my mouth and telling the nurse and being wheeled towards the door, but not going through the door!
The next thing I knew I was dreaming, something about my book, I think, and thrashing around as I came to. I was opposite the clock, at 12.20pm, in theatre, so it took 3 hours as I was wheeled up about 9.15am. The nurses told me to lie still, which I did, and was promptly very sick: but I did find it reassuring that I was doing something I often do in the middle of the night as I come round from dream sleep. After that I spent about half an hour in recovery, and then back on to the ward with a big fat bandage around my head. The lady in the bed next to me told me afterwards that when she saw me return, she wondered ‘what they had done to that poor lady?’
I was very unwell and unable to keep down any food for the rest of the day, not that hospital food is appetising at the best of times, and even the mere thought of food was enough to trigger off the collywobbles. I rather suspect, that as not having enough to eat or drink the day before will often give me a migraine, the fact that both had happened did indeed trigger a migraine in the stomach, but thankfully not in the head as the ear and magnet site were very sore anyway! Bear thought that I looked as if I had a migraine, so that was, again, a perfectly normal reaction for me. Other than that, and the pain, I was OK.
I was relieved to not have any dizziness at all – perhaps not having any residual hearing to take away helped in that respect, I don’t know – indeed, I felt worse last summer with the well-known malady of the ‘post-cruise weeble-wobble’ trying to regain my land legs following a week in the fjords of Norway. Bear and I were both swaying gently for about four or five days, despite the North Sea being like a millpond (most unusually for the North Sea!)
I was also immensely relieved to have my fairly gentle and quiet tinnitus intact, which will probably sound strange to people who suffer from intrusive and loud tinnitus. My left ear, however, is completely dead, with not a peep, and an ossified cochlea. (I realise I’ve jumped into this blog without much of an explanation of my hearing history, but I’ll rectify this in a later post.) So I was rather dreading the worst case scenario of two dead ears just in case the CI, for any reason, just doesn’t work. The tinnitus is the one thing that saved my right ear from being dead!! It does actually sound as if it has been reset slightly, being sharper and clearer, but not particularly any more intrusive.
And of course, I can smile lovely big broad grins! Especially when I was discharged on Friday afternoon, just after being given my lunch. I could only eat small mouthfuls of the chicken salad meal but found the chocolate sponge pudding with custard very appetising and would happily have had another portion. Before I left I was x-rayed to ensure that everything was in its correct location, and didn’t even feel dizzy lying down flat to be x-rayed.
They don’t want to see me again until activation, a date for which will be sent in the post, probably around 5 weeks’ time. The stitches are dissolvable, so that’s brilliant. A friend recommended taking in pen and paper as she found it difficult to lipread the nursing staff. Fortunately I did not have this problem, but if I hadn’t taken them in I would probably have needed them! The levels of deaf awareness seemed higher and everyone, even the porters, made great efforts to ensure that I understood everything. It makes me angry, however, that specialist ENT hospitals and departments still aren’t as deaf-aware as they should be – and I know that at my hospital the outpatients’ waiting room is a navigational nightmare for a lone deaf person without a friend, relative, or communication support worker, though the ENT ward was entirely different and I can’t praise everyone highly enough, from the student nurses upwards to the consultant and anaesthetist.
I should say, though, that after my first few appointments, when I attended with my husband, on my long journey to CI, the hospital did book me a sign interpreter to go through all the tests with me, and also when I had physiotherapy for a back problem, an interpreter was also booked, which was a huge help. It saved the therapist having to have therapy herself by manipulating my back and then having to bend down to explain things to me, and the interpreter was a star, kneeling down and explaining what the therapist was saying. So it is a bit hit and miss throughout the NHS.
But no-one should have extra communication difficulties in their journey to better hearing, but it is something that comes up again and again, and again. When M and S use pager buzzers to alert you to collect your food, in their cafes, which both vibrate and flash, why can’t the NHS do that for its waiting systems?!
I’m off now for my first walk to enjoy the sunshine!
*The answer, if you hadn’t already guessed, is Lord of the Rings.