Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cochlear Implant Anniversary

I can’t believe a year ago I was sitting Indian style in a paper thin cotton gown surrounded by the ugliest drapes I ever set eyes on observing nurses in colorful scrubs decorated with the sweetest little creatures pushing metal carts from patient to patient.

I can’t believe just a year ago I was listening to a train like sound going around and around my head providing me with an undesirable melody that just wasn’t quitting.

I can’t believe that one year ago today, I underwent surgery to have a cochlear implant inserted just underneath the skin of my head.

Ever since that day, my life has changed in ways that I never thought. I feel so enriched by the people I have met, the sounds I have heard and the experience of discovering what I have been missing all of these years.

Happy implant anniversary to me!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hearing the Ocean for the First Time

Later that evening, Jen and I went to Point Pleasant Beach. I grew up with some strong nautical family ties to the ocean. I grew up with the beach at my doorstep. When I lost my hearing in February of 2007, I was still hoping that my hearing was going to come back any day. I realized that it wasn’t after I went on a vacation with a couple friends to Myrtle Beach a few weeks after my nose job. We were only about a block away from the ocean and all of us went down to go for a run on the beach. After spending twelve hours in the back seat of a car barely being unable to communicate with anyone in the front seat, I was looking forward to being on familiar grounds. After climbing a very large sand dune, I saw the great Atlantic Ocean and then I lost sensation in my knees. The warmth of sun was there, the sand diffused underneath my feet and the distinct smell of the salty air permeating my nose just like old times but there was something missing. The ocean ambiance was – dead. I couldn’t hear the waves crashing five feet way from me. The seagulls soared right over top of me and I couldn’t hear them utter a sound. The passersby on their morning stroll stopping to wish us well. I was living a silent movie. The wind kept blowing several strands of hair in my face and I thought with my hearing aids, all I would have heard is the wind whipping around. I just pulled my sunglasses over my eyes and cried while I was running. I decided the second I got back that I was going to make an appointment for a cochlear implant evaluation. I tried to make the best of my vacation by trying to find my hearing in the bottom of a bottle.

Jen and I were on a mission because neither one of us had heard the ocean since our cochlear implants have been activated. I thought it would be a great experience since she is a few hundred miles away from the seashore. I have been hesitant on going to the ocean because part of me thought I might have disappointed in the way it sounded. I couldn’t think of a better person then Jennifer to share this listening experience with. If it were anyone else, I would be willing to bet I would have heard nothing but nagging but this was our moment.

But there we stood, side by side with the full moon illuminating the night sky with the eastern seaboard 10 feet away from us. We tossed our sandals and let our toes sink into the wet sand and we listened. We listened to the seagulls cussing the ocean wind with their calls, the rising roar of the ascending tide and the crashing of the waves, the trickle of water being pulled back into the sea and the gentle drone of foghorns in the midst of the ocean. We stood there just listening to the ocean ambiance discovering how it sounds all over again. It used to sound so harsh with the wind swirling and waves crashing wearing hearing aids, but I realized that a majority of my infatuation with the sea were visual. After 28 years and one cochlear implant, I finally heard the rhythm of the ocean.

The next day, I wanted to take Jen by my job because when I go out on break, I walk passed these trees and I keep hearing this high-pitched sound that mask everything else out. It is driving me bonkers! I keep asking my hearing friend keeps telling me that it is bugs or tree frogs. Somehow, I am not satisfied with that answer. I wanted to see if Jen could pick the sound up with her cochlear implant. They weren't chatty this weekend. Jen even tried to coerce them to talk but wouldn’t you know the darn frogs were off for the weekend?

*UPDATE* They are Cicada Bugs!

After Jen shooting me some strange looks, I pouted because I want my audiologist to map out these friggen frogs. Anyway, I thought we would continue with the nautical theme. I decided to take Jen to the Barnegat Lighthouse whom my great uncle was the lighthouse keeper in 1915 to 1926.

I have been up and down this lighthouse several times, but I felt as they added more steps. I was tuckered out by the time I climbed back down. I had no idea how my great uncle climbed seven gallons of oil up and down those steps every single day. God bless that man.

Then we headed down towards the jetty rocks and admired the boats rocking in the water. We hit up a Sonic restaurant and I got this Route 44 Diet Cherry Limeade and that was very delish. We were so exhausted by the end of the day that coffee didn’t do a darn thing for us.

We just came back home and slapped our laptops on our thighs and typed away until we passed out.

The next morning, it was time for Jen to go back to Tennessee. I didn’t want her to go because we were having so much fun together. I purposely had thought of getting lost so she could miss her flight, but I opted for driving extra slow. I miss her already! But, I wouldn’t trade in the experience of being with her who is someone that can understand where I am coming from in all aspects is unbelievably refreshing. She is a special lady that always has a place in my heart.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My bionic belle comes to vist!

Every hour of this past weekend felt happy hour because my wonderful friend, CI mentor, fellow blogger and mother of five adorable kiddies Jennifer flew in from Tennessee and stayed the weekend with me! When we met in Reno for the first time, it didn’t feel like it was the first time we met. We clicked, we really clicked. The fun does not falter between us. The thought of waiting one whole year for the next hearing loss convention to see each other again did not appeal to the likes of us. Quite frankly, neither one of us are that patient so we moved it up a bit :)

Friday night, I slipped behind the wheel of my new white Toyota Prius that I have nicknamed the Incredible Eco-Egg, to trek across the Garden State into the city of brotherly love to pick up the fair southern bionic belle. I still get a surge of excitement every time I get behind the wheel because the feeling of being green has a cheaper price tag attached since I am now getting fifty miles to the gallon. That’s right, fifty, 5-0, five dash zero, 50 miles to the gallon :) But, I was ten times more excited that I was going to pick her up and submerge her in the New Jersey finger flippin’ culture for the weekend.

We had timed the flight perfectly because as soon as she got her luggage, I pulled up and we started flapping our jaws. I felt as we picked up right where we left off in Reno - minus the interesting fan club. We had some time to kill before we met up with Wayne Roorda, who is another AB user and his very lovely wife Lili for dinner. Since I am the native, I felt it was my duty to give her a little scenic tour. I picked a part of South Philly that was just a little too urban for our countrified doll. I was watching her facial expression change as our surroundings went from social suburbia where all the houses were decorated with shiny new siding and plantation blinds with to poorly painted row houses with the cheapest bed sheets hanging in the windows littered with cigarette burns haphazardly filtering the afternoon sunlight. I forged ahead down the one way street past the barren school yard. I drove through the underpass where a rusted shopping cart was missing a wheel supported the cardboard structure. When a gloomy site passes by your eyes, it goes in slow motion because it is sad when you realize that is going to be someone’s home tonight. I come to a stop sign, glanced over to the left, and notice a thick young girl covered in tattoos that look as if she were going mullet hunting. All Jennifer kept saying was, “We don’t have things like this back in Nashville.” I bet she didn’t. My gas gauge started emitting a beep and flashing. It was letting me know that I needed to get gas now. I took it as a sign and got the heck out of the ghetto. Women's intuition and all that jazz...

Shortly afterwards, we met up with Wayne and his teeny tiny wife of 30 years at a Mandarin Restaurant in Cherry Hill. I hadn’t seen Wayne since Reno and it was such a pleasure to see him again. This was my first time meeting his wife who just a doll. Jennifer had an itching to try something new and it included tentacles. She decided to try an itty bitty octopus with doctored up with habanero peppers. She cautiously placed the octopus in her mouth; eight limbs and all and then proceeded to chew.

And chew.

And chewed some more.

I went to get my second helping.

Came back and she was still chewing…

Once her incisors managed to macerate the poor thing, she offered to share her second one with me. I toyed with the idea of going on a chewing marathon to burn some extra calories but after pushing it around on the plate...

I politely declined. We ate enough to feed a small army and began to wobble our way out of the door but not before I plowed through four different fortune cookies until I found a one that I was satisfied with :)

After finding the perfect fortune, we took some pictures as you can see here! Wayne and Lili, thank you for dinner, I had a very lovely time and we must do it again!

After dinner, I loaded the Incredible Eco-Egg with Jen and myself and we began the trek back home. I made Jen count how many diners there were along the way. I think she lost count. We managed to get home at a decent time and we just chatted with my mom. I introduced her to the flying fur ball otherwise known as Bella. She took a liking to the southern belle. :) Surprisingly, we closed our eyes at a decent hour…

The next morning, I presented to Jen a cup of coffee big enough to go fishing in. I think my mother’s special blend got her motor running in no time at all. We put our batteries in and got a move on to face the day. I introduced her to one of our shiny aluminum sided diners where everything is cooked from scratch and served on 20” plates. We ordered some French toast, which was more like half a loaf of bread sliced three times. We wobbled out of the diner, quite literally.

I had made tentative plans with Sam Spritzer a few weeks ago to meet and through some trials and tribulations, we managed to meet up on Saturday afternoon at a nearby mall! My first impression was that someone drank his milk when he was younger because I was prepared for his vibrant personality but I was not prepared for his height. I think I got a crick in my neck straining to look up at Jen and Sam :) Since Sam has bilateral cochlear implants, we decided for acoustic purposes to stick him in the middle. I stood on the right side so I could my implant on my left ear would catch whatever Jen and Sam said. Jen stood on the left side so her implant on her right ear would catch Sam and I would have said. It is so much simpler when I am around other cochlear implant users because they are aware of how to maximize the listening experience. If I were to frantically shuffle around anyone else, I get a questionable look. With everyone properly positioned, we walked around the mall and chatting about anything and everything. Not that I am short, I am more fun size then anything but I had to keep looking up at their lips and I couldn’t very well watch where I was going. I kept walking into tables and the like. I thought for my own personal safety that they should sit down. :)

I had such a great time with the two of them just shooting the breeze with Jen and Sam. I am looking forward to seeing him at the Nashville HLAA convention next June!

Part 2 up next :)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Kim, Robyn, Tina and Clifford the Big Red Dog...

A couple weeks ago, I ran over to the Say What convention that was being held in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love to meet Kim from Living With Questions, Robyn from The Ambling Rambler and Tina Childress, an audiologist with Advanced Bionics and a bilateral cochlear implant recipient. Kim and I were texting the day before we were going to meet and the last text before I fell asleep was that she wanted to go get another apple dumping. As I shuffled my feet towards the bedroom, I was staring at the screen of my blackberry, wondering the hell was an apple dumping. I made an executive decision to sleep on it.

The next morning, I was still just as puzzled about the apple dumping. I decided to ask my mom who is popular in the family for being a sponge of useless knowledge. I figure if anyone would know it would be she. Much to my surprise, she had no idea. With very limited knowledge of apple dumping, I forged ahead to Philadelphia.

Once I arrived at the hotel, I sent a text to Kim to let her know that I was standing guard at the door. :) A few moments later, Kim came out with open arms and a beautiful smile. We gave each other a big bone crushing hug. Her personality and cherubic giggle endeared her to me. We chatted back and forth until Robyn materialized next to us. The fair skinned Robyn came all the way from New Zealand for a month long vacation or holiday as she calls it. Since she came from abroad, she came with an accent, one that I never encountered before. I wasn't too worried, but I was surprised at how soft spoken she was but what really threw me for a loop was the lack of the enunciation of the R's. Apparently, New Zealanders does not pronounce their R's as we do here. Here is a sample conversation that we had.

Robyn: "....I'll meet you at the bah."
Kim : "The what?"
I thought she said back?
Robyn: "The baaah."
Kim and I focused on her lips.
Robyn: "The baaaaahr."

Ah hah, we figured it out. She said bar. :) Amazing how the subtle nuances of a language can present a wee bit of a challenge. :)

And off to the bar we went, which was more like a casual dining establishment. You didn't really think that we were going to throw a few back at eleven in the morning, did ya? We sat and chit chatted for a bit. Robyn joined us with moments to spare since she had brought tickets to go on a tour in the Museum of Art that was leaving shortly. I wasn't going to let her get away without posing for a couple pictures that was shot beautifully by Kim's friend, Lorne. Before she left, we made plans to meet up later on in the evening to spend a little more time together.

Shortly after Robyn left, Tina had arrived at once! We decided that lunch was a matter of utter importance. That is when Kim brought up the infamous apple dumping. This was my opening to make an inquiry to clarify the apple dumping. Kim enunciated her lips as she said, apple DUMPLING. I started to laugh as I told Tina and Kim that this entire time, I read her text as apple dumping. Tina started cracking up and made the most fitting comment, "Not only are you hearing impaired, you are visually impaired (brief pause) cognitively impaired." I was inclined to agree with everything she said! I whipped my blackberry out of my pocket and hunted down the text that Kim left to reread it and sure enough, it said apple dumpling.

However, I was right back to where I started, clueless. I asked Kim what was an apple dumpling. With signs of exuberance in her eyes, she told me that it was an apple baked in a pastry crust, drizzled with a cinnamon sugar sauce and it was served with ice cream or cream. After I gained five pounds just listening to her, I decided that we better get a move on to find the purple trolley otherwise known as the Phlash to go over to Reading Terminal Market. Armed with my handheld GPS (I have an innate fear of getting lost.)

We had no problem getting on the Phlash trolley. By the time, we got off the trolley I had visions of a cheesesteaks from Rick's Philly Steak, dancing in my head. I manage to get the cheesesteaks dancing in Tina's head. We had a bit of trouble finding Reading Terminal Market but my GPS got us there. Unbeknownst to us, it was the Ice Cream Festival that weekend there. It was a shame but my GPS couldn't find Rick's because we were nearly to slip into a diabetic coma if we didn't get a cheesesteak stat. We sacrificed by running to the first cheesesteak booth we saw. We managed to find a nice table in the back, away from most of the noise, which was very helpful for the lot of us.

After a wonderful lunch with the gals, we headed over to this little Amish booth to test drive an apple dumpling.. It was oh-so-delish. After the dumpling went down the hatch, Kim and I decided to head towards the loo for some bladder relief. Tina decided to gather some sweet stuff from the candy store. Right before I walked into the bathroom, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glance of this fuzzy red dog as big as a house playing with some kids.

I couldn't remember the name of the dog, I thought it was Spot but I was wrong. I thought how cool would it be if we all got a picture with the big red dog. Sooooo, while I was standing in line waiting for the next available stall, I sent a text to Tina, obviously not even thinking on how peculiar it must have sounded to her.

At the most, four minutes have elapsed since I saw the six-foot fuzzy red dog. Once we finished doing our lady things, we started walking out and I'm talking about this big red dog and Tina and Kim are looking at me as if my magnet were on too tight. Tina asked me whether I read her reply to my text, which I didn't. I'm trying to dig my blackberry from the deep depths of the rabbit hole otherwise known as my purse while I was leading the pack out of the bathroom in search of the big red dog, but there was no big red dog in sight.

I glanced over my shoulder at Tina and Kim and their face said it all, I was obviously elected as the queen of the monkey people. Mind you, I am dead serious about seeing this six-foot fuzzy red dog. Without missing a beat, I stop some woman walking by and ask her point blank, "Have you seen a big red dog in here?" As Tina started laughing out loud, the woman clutched her purse to her side, took a couple steps back and exhibited some signs of uncomfortableness as she said, "No." I could clearly see that I weirded her out. I thanked her for her time and went to the spot where I last saw the dog, hoping to see some red fuzz from the costume to prove that there was a six-foot fuzzy red dog standing there. Much to my dismay, there was no red fuzz anywhere. I had the nerve to stand there and think to myself how strange that was because dogs always shed. :)

I finally pulled my blackberry out of my purse but I just clutched it in my hands because I had important matters to attend to, like track down a six-foot fuzzy red dog. Tina asked me whether I saw any pink elephants flying around too. Now I am just finding this whole situation just plain funny because this is such a classic situation that I get myself into, I see something that no one else does and as usual, I end up looking like the leader of the village idiots. However, it became a matter of principle that I had to find this six-foot fuzzy red dog. I decided to ask a man this time. I scouted the area for a man that looked as though he was hanging around in the area for the past five minutes and I found one, right by the loo with his arms crossed. It looked to me that he might be waiting for his wife. So, I walked right up to him and asked if he saw the big red dog anywhere and he said nope. Things were not looking good if I had to go to court and prove that I was sane.

I finally open up Tina's reply to my text and it said, "Wtf?" My thoughts exactly, wtf is this dog!? I thought the reply was appropriate and I'm glad I didn't open it up earlier because it wouldn't have packed quite the same punch. The gals appeased my insane curiosity by looking up and down the aisles for this dog but no avail, there was no six-foot fuzzy red dog anywhere. Did it run away to the nearest fire hydrant or something? The six-foot fuzzy red dog didn't have a name until Tina mentioned the name Clifford the big red dog. She's a mom; it’s her job to know the name of popular children books. :) What do I know? I'm pushing 30 here, the last time I was a kid was... and lets not get into that.

Anyhoo, I didn't know what else to do, pass out flyers for a missing six-foot fuzzy red dog or walking around shouting CLIFFORD hoping he would come when he was called. We started walking towards the exit of the market when I had to ask one more person. It was just a matter of principle. I asked a woman that was a spitting image of Aunt Jemima if SHE had seen the six-foot fuzzy red dog. She said that she has in fact seen Clifford the big red dog and pointed towards the back, right where I spotted the damn dog in the first place! I lunged with such excitement at the girls and let out a "Ah hah! Did you hear that?! Aunt Jemima over there said Clifford the big red dog was here! Ah hah, told you!" However, I gathered that neither one of them felt that Aunt Jemima was a credible witness.

It wasn't until a week later when I got a comment on Facebook from Tina, with a link to a news article about the ice cream festival at Reading Terminal Market featuring...

Clifford the Big Red Dog. :)

I was telling them I'm not nuts :) but I am good for entertainment.

After the whole red dog ordeal, we did a little retail therapy and headed back to the convention by the way of the Phlash which took a little longer than we anticipated. Kim and Tina went to their rooms to get ready for their dinner and I jumped at the chance to spend some more time with Robyn. I'm so glad that I got a chance to spend some more time with her because she is just simply a delight to be around. When the dinner was about to start, it was time for me to bid adieu. It was sad to have to say goodbye since being around all of them was like a breath of fresh air.