Friday, June 11, 2010

The Start of Bionic

Well, I survived!

Anyone who knows me knows that surgery (and hospitals, and doctors, and needles, and blood, and... etc.) is not high up on my list of favorite things. So I'm pleased to report that I am not only bionic now with the CI, but bionic and not feeling too unlike myself! Besides some nausea and general unpleasantness coming out of the anesthesia, the whole thing went smoothly. Three cheers, the scary part is over!

Granted, there are still some hurdles. I have a swaddle of gauze and a protective plastic cap over my left ear, which someone said makes me look like half of Princess Leia. It's to reduce swelling, and will stay on for three days. So far that swelling has been very, very minimal - the doctor said I might get a black eye, but so far I haven't. No other complications like they warned me about, either - no nerve damage, no alteration in taste or facial motility (I know, weird). The color has also returned to my face, and when I gaze in the mirror I look almost like my normal self. The good news is that my nausea is already gone and my appetite is back. It does hurt to chew, seeing as the muscles of the jaw are suspended along the side of the skull, so I'm on soft fare for the time being. Lots of ice cream! No complaints there!

By far the most annoying part is not being able to wash my hair for three days - lovely. Sleeping is awkward, since I can only lie on my back or my right side, and whenever I roll over or move I have to do it gingerly. I also have to be careful when I get up, since my balance and inner-ear equilibrium are out of whack. But I feel so, so much better than I thought I would. The skull itself doesn't have very many nerve endings, so the pain and swelling is minimal, especially with the pain meds I'm on. I'd say that, compared to this, the pain from getting wisdom teeth removed was far worse.

The CI is in there. And I know it. More specifically, I'm aware that something has changed in the structure of my inner ear. It's strange. When I burp or sneeze, the pressure inside is unbearable, and I can also feel a faint throb on the side of my skull where the device is (I imagine) sitting and biding its time. This afternoon I've also had some unpleasant ringing in my left ear, which I've read is normal, but still disconcerting. It's actually not like ringing at all - in that it's not a sound, exactly. It's more like a physical consciousness of the absence of sound, like my brain is desperately searching for auditory input but not finding it. As I sit here typing, I feel my skull pulse and echo with the silence. It consumes me. It's like a whirling kaleidoscope, or like falling into a black hole, a gaping emptiness that has a physical presence more concrete than sound itself. I've been wearing my right hearing aid, my left one lying useless on the dresser, and that probably makes the contrast worse. But I can't sit here with this silence: I have to hear something. I can only hope that this strange, dizzying emptiness will fade - but perhaps it won't, until I fill its gap with sound.

And, speaking of sound, I can't wait. The CI is in, the deed is done. Now I have no reservations - how could I? There's no going back, so I'm diving into this journey as far as it'll take me. Turn-on? Bring it on. Just over two weeks of post-surgical recovery before I actually hear.

Tonight I'm spending one more night in the hotel before heading home to Albuquerque with my family, given that I continue to feel this good. A more detailed recap to follow, once I'm back in my own room and my own bed with the swaddling gauze off my head!


  1. I'm so glad your surgery was successful, Rachel! Good luck in the next few days and weeks; I can't wait to read all about it!

  2. Rachel, I am so thankful you are well! I'm a dedicated reader to your blog and prayer-pray-er for your recovery! Many blessings, Brittany

  3. Rachel! Wow, I'm glad your surgery went well. Thanks for posting! Wishing you a quick and easy recovery.

    Especially fascinating to know about the "physical consciousness of the absence of sound." Akin to a 'ghost limb'??

    Take it easy and enjoy the ice cream ;-) Looking forward to the next post.

  4. Rachel,
    Uncle Chuck and I are so glad to hear your surgery went well, that you are feeling so good at this point and your are getting ready to go home. Nothing like recovery in familiar surroundings to make you heal faster! I was thinking about you nearly constantly on June 10.

    We both continue to be so impressed with your writing skills...thank you for sharing your journey!
    Love, Aunt Beth