A little personal time · cochlear implant · Deafness

And then they drill a hole in my noggin

Folks, this blog is going to take a slight detouring from the quilty/crafty posts of usual. I’m embarking on a rather monumental journey in my life, and I’d like to share a bit of it with you. While many others have taken this journey themselves, it’s new for me! My journey began almost two years ago when I had my first consultation for a cochlear implant. After two years of dragging my feet and wavering in my decision, I have steeled my resolve and I’m jumping off the deep end. This Friday.

If you don’t know what a cochlear implant is, here’s a brief description: A cochlear implant is an electronic device implanted in the skull and cochlea that helps transmit sound to the brain. It consists of the internal implant and an external processor. For more information, read this great article.

Illustration of the cochlear implant and external processor placement.

I have no real reason for jumping in and getting this implant so quickly now, except that a whole calamity of events, from jobs to knee problems to insurance changes, have culminated in what seems to be perfect timing for this surgery. In addition to that, I requested a specific surgery date so as not to disrupt my day job any more than necessary, and the surgeon went out of his way to make that date work. Talk about fate, people. And surgeons that rock.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have also been undecided on which provider to use for the implant technology itself. There are three big company’s out there: MED-EL, Advanced Bionics, and Cochlear America.

I have not known very many people who have MED-EL implants. They’re out there, and the company is great, but it was never a real consideration for me. I was much more attracted to AB (Advanced Bionics) and Cochlear for reasons ranging from cutting-edge technology to cute looks to knowing people who have those specific processors. AB has been absolutely WONDERFUL about answering my questions and contacting me via email and sending me all kinds of information. To tell you the truth, I was pretty set on choosing AB. Then I had my pre-op consultation with my surgeon. He said that because of the spinal meningitis virus that I contacted when I was 2 years old, there is a possibility of bony growth and obstruction in the cochlea. The Cochlear N5 implant has a thinner filament than AB’s implant, and he felt very strongly that there was a better chance of getting the N5 filament around any obstruction he might run into. That pretty much settled the decision for me. I would prefer to have an implant that is placed completely and correctly. So, I am a Cochlear girl! (disclaimer: the surgeon also said they do not take sides in the patient’s choice of implant technology except in rare instances where it’s medically beneficial to choose one over the other.)

The other nail-biting decision I had to make was: Which ear to implant?? This is the trickiest question of all. I could choose the right ear, the ear I use all the time now, and have a really good chance of extraordinary results from implanting it. However, there is also always that slight risk that it wouldn’t work, or I wouldn’t like it, or something something something, and then I would be without sound at all. Period. In the end, I just couldn’t make myself do that. So I chose the left ear. That ear has not heard sound since I was 2-1/2 years old. It will make the results of the implant much harder to achieve, and I may not have the same level of success that I would have had if I chose the right ear. BUT – I will have 360 degree “surround sound” again! And I will have two working ears. That, in my view, is a win-win.

The surgery is scheduled for Friday morning. They will shave about an inch of hair around the left ear. And then they drill a hole in my noggin. (There it is! The “drill through the head” bit you’ve been waiting for!) Can you believe people actually voluntarily do surgeries like this?? I’m just speechless. And I’m doing it myself! Crazy.

After two hours of surgery, I’ll sit in a recovery room for 45 minutes or so while I wake up. Then my absolutely fantastic boyfriend will drive me home and it’ll all be over. And recovery begins. I hope I don’t have a sneezing fit. Apparently you can unseat an implant if it hasn’t healed enough and you sneeze too hard… note to nose: NO SNEEZING.

I’ll leave you there for now. I plan to blog off and on as this event comes to pass, so look for updates in the near future. I’ll also blog quilty/crafty stuff still, never fear! There is a skull quilt nearing completion….

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7 thoughts on “And then they drill a hole in my noggin

  1. I’ve been thinking about you since I heard your news, Sarah. I will have everything crossed for a successful surgery and even more successful set of days afterward. Go, Sarah, go! (and… go, surgeon, go!)

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  2. Oh man, Sarah, this is intense. How long is the recovery? I hope everything works out (and with a good surgeon like yours, it will!). I love that you’re making a skull quilt at the same time you’re having a hole put into yours. 🙂

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