So as most of you are aware, I had surgery on the 4th December 2014 for a right sided Cochlear Implant. I just wanted to share my own experience with you all thus far and give those who may well be contemplating a CI a bit of insight into the surgery and recovery process.
I had my surgery at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital in Kings Cross, London and was booked in for the morning admission, which meant we had to be at the hospital for 7.30am! When we arrived we were shown to a waiting room before being ushered up to Ward B. The waiting room was full of people waiting for procedures such as gromits and ear syringing..
When we were ushered up to the ward, I was given my own little room complete with a shower and TV – quite fancy I thought! Although this joy was short lived when the ward sister informed us that another patient was to be assigned to this room and that I may have a wait of up to an hour and a half for a bed. Thankfully, after about 15 minutes of waiting in the main corridor, the ward sister approached us again and apologised for the confusion but that fancy little shower and TV was mine for the day.
Soon after settling into the room the anesthetist came around to carry out some pre surgery checks, asking questions about allergies and checking my blood pressure. He also went through the process of the surgery and all the risks that are involved and I was asked to sign a consent form to acknowledge I had been informed about the risks. The anesthetist then marked me up with an arrow to show where my surgery would be taking place, or to remind me which way is up…
There seemed to be lots more blood pressure checks, general health questions and then finally my surgeon came into the room. He was a lovely, jolly man with a good sense of humour; the first thing he said was “now, what am I meant to be doing today?”. It also turned out that my mother knew him! His children attended the school where she used to work so they had a little laugh over that whilst I was sitting there rolling my eyes thinking ‘trust mum’. The surgeon, Mr Khalil, explained exactly what he would be doing during surgery and how long the process would take. After he left, my mum said it had eased her mind to know who the surgeon was personally.
After the surgeon had left and we were quietly watching the TV to pass some time, a porter came in and measured my ankles, I was quite confused as to why he was doing this until he came back with a lovely pair of surgical stockings for me to wear – I tell you, this hospital outfit was pure couture!
Soon after, the deputy sister came into the room and handed me two gowns and a pair of disposable knickers – see, pure couture – and told me to get ready for surgery. It suddenly seemed all so real and I think this is when my mum got a bit wobbly seeing me all prepared to go into theatre.
I got into the lift with the nurse and was shown to a pre theatre room where I was met by two further nurses and the anesthetist I had met earlier. They were all very lovely and were great at putting me at ease. The only issue I had was when they were asking me to confirm all my details as per their records – the ward sister had taken my glasses off me so I couldn’t see them clearly to lip read and couldn’t quite hear what they were saying but we managed to get through the questions somehow.
Then it was time! The anesthetist told me I would feel a cold liquid through my intravenous drip and would slowly drift off to sleep – I dozily remember saying “this is good stuff” before conking out.
Apparently surgery was super quick, I was in theatre for about 2 hours and according to the surgeon I awoke quickly, although I wasn’t quite with it for a while. My first recollection upon waking was attempting to wipe my mouth and apologising for dribbling everywhere, what they must have thought about me I don’t know!
Before being wheeled back into my room, I was handed my two hearing aid cases that I had brought with me and I opened them up to find only one hearing aid in the box, cue me going into a (dozy, sleep induced) tizzy asking why I only had one hearing aid, only for the nurse to inform me that my left one had been put into my ear for me, Doh.
The next hour or so was spent in and out of sleep whilst the nurses kept checking on my blood pressure. When I was (properly) awake I felt fine, I had a massive bandage covering my ear and head which made me feel a bit like a rugby player but I wasn’t in any physical pain. I had a bit of a woozy moment when I got up to use the toilet and the nurse had to help me stay upright for a minute or two. Trying to use the toilet whilst still attached to an intravenous drip on a wheely thing posed some problems!
The nurse also made me do a variety of facial expressions, moving my eyebrows (which was quite a challenge with the full head bandage) and smiling etc so that they could ensure that my facial muscles were not affected, as you can tell from the picture below – I am still able to smile!
There seemed to be a lot of waiting around before I was actually discharged but the surgeon popped his head around to see how I was doing and to let me know that as far as the operation was concerned, it was a success and full insertion of the electrodes into the cochlea was achieved which was good news.
I was then given an outpatients appointment for the following week to check on how the wound is healing and to have an X Ray to ensure all the bits and bobs are in the right place. I was also given a bag full of painkillers and antibiotics to take over the next week along with instructions to remove the bandage the following day and to keep the wound area dry and clean. They also ensured that I had all their contact details in case I needed them and then I was discharged and free to go home.
On the journey home, every time the car went over a bump I was vaguely aware of something being in my head – I couldn’t place exactly where it was but it felt very odd. Over the next few days I was pleasantly surprised to note that I was not in any physical pain although I did notice that my taste on the right side had gone, food felt a little fuzzy and cardboard like but I knew that this was one of the potential side effects of surgery so wasn’t too concerned.
However, once day 4 came around, the pain kicked in. It felt like shooting pains in my ear and the top of my right ear was completely numb; the whole right side of my face felt very tender and I looked like a little chipmunk for a while. I was reluctant to take the painkillers prescribed so survived on paracetamol which helped a little. The pain seemed more prominent at nighttime so my sleep was disturbed, lucky for me I didn’t have my usual 7am alarms for work so was able to rest.
Again I noticed that I am very aware that there is something in my head, it feels weird to know there is a magnet hidden in my skull! It also feels like my ear is permanently plugged up with something – I thought I still had my hearing aid in one night and nearly tried to pull it out!
Yesterday marked a week since my operation and that meant I was finally allowed out of the house, even if it was only to go to the hospital. I had an X-Ray done to make sure that the implant is in the right place and nothing has moved and I also met with a consultant who removed my stitches and checked that everything was healing nicely, he also told me I can finally wash my hair – Yippeeee!
But the best news…I have a date for my big ‘switch on’ – 14th January 2015!! This is a special date as it marks 6 years since my fiancé and I first met so I’m taking this as a good sign. As my Nan always says “What is meant to be is meant to be”.
I can’t believe that 12 months on from my diagnosis I will have had several tuning sessions and be well on the road to learning to hear again with the help of my robot ear.
Thank you to all of my friends and family that have supported me thus far and sent well wishes this past week. I still have a long way to go in terms of rehabilitation and learning to hear through an electronic device, it will not be as simple as being able to hear everything once I am switched on, but with the right help, support and determination to improve, I will hopefully be on the right track!