Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hooray for Nana!

Today's post is brought to us by my first guest blogger: Auntie Karen, aka The Queen. Thanks, Auntie K.!!

For those of who are on Auntie Karen's lengthy e-mail list, I apologize for the duplicate news. But this news is just too happy not to spread around. (And it has pictures ... though not necessarily recent ones.)

(Because this is a guest blog, here's a little clarification "Mom" = "Nana." Just in case you all think this is about my mom.)

Mom's preparation for a cochlear implant started October 2009, surgery was January 6 and "hook-up" -- the day we have been working toward (when the outside processor is connected to the implanted device) happened January 26.

Gary, Jane, Mom and I drove and Donna took the train from CT to NYC. We were all there when the audiologist made the "connection." She programmed the unit and began to ask Mom questions in a normal conversational voice with her lips covered so Mom could not lip-read. Amazingly, Mom began to answer with a completely relaxed and normal affect. There was no leaning forward in total concentration to grasp what was being said.

She heard our voices, and it was an emotional moment for all of us (one of many to come). Jane, Donna, and I were choked up and reaching for the tissue box. Mom said we sounded like we were speaking in slow-motion, but she was hearing sounds.

For the first time in a LONG time, Mom heard Gary's voice. Driving home, Mom and Gary were able to carry on a conversation in the car -- the road noise did not override all other noises and Mom did not have to look at Gary's face to try to read his lips. She even noticed that she could hear the clicking of the directional signal.

Prior to the surgery, Mom could not hear anything, or little of what someone said, if they spoke quickly, if she couldn't see their lips, if they spoke without moving their lips or covered their mouth with their hand, if they spoke while looking away, if they spoke from behind her, if their voice was pitched high, or if they spoke quietly. If there was any background noise, such as music, other people speaking, or even a plane flying overhead, they would compete with or cancel out the sound of the person speaking to her.

With my voice pitched at an alto and having spent a lot of time with Mom (which meant she was used to my voice) and adhering to all the rules that help in hearing, I could communicate pretty well with Mom. But even with all that, in the past few months, I had to touch Mom's arm for her to know I was speaking. It was exhausting for Mom, discouraging for all of us, and had gotten to the point where Mom decided something had to be done and was willing to even undergo surgery to regain her ability to communicate. The isolation caused by her profound hearing loss had become too great.

Well, when we got back to my house after the hook-up, Mom said she heard the fireplace crackling, heard my wall clock ticking, heard the telephone ring. When we had dinner, she suddenly realized that she could be chewing food when someone spoke to her and yet she could hear what they were saying. Previously, if we spoke to her at dinner, she would have to stop chewing because she couldn't hear when she was eating.

The next day we went back into NYC for more adjustments, where she was programmed for an Auto-Telephone feature that is activated when the caller begins to speak. She does not have to make any adjustments; she just holds the phone near the "speakers" (which are the size of 2 pin heads). I spoke with her this morning and was able to change subjects, and she could follow the conversation. Previously, if we were talking about something and then tried to change to a different subject, Mom would not catch the words in the transition, and we would end up saying, "I will email you."
Gary just called to say that he was sitting with Mom talking and had a Nat King Cole CD playing, and Mom could hear both. Mom hasn't been able to enjoy music in years!! Gary was so pleased that he called Donna, Jane, Susan and me -- a call from Gary is infrequent -- and again, we were all choked up with emotion for this, new "miracle." Gary stayed for over an hour, and Mom got to spend precious time, enjoying music with her son.
Of course, there are still lots of appointments for more adjustments and speech therapy (teaching listening exercises) scheduled all the way into May. And each new voice takes time to get accustomed to. There are also many more features that Mom will have to experiment with, get used to, and decide whether they are helpful to her or not. But for only 2 days post- "hook-up" we are amazed at the difference. Mom's hearing is coming back so smoothly that it is a pleasant surprise each time one of us realizes a new improvement. This will certainly give Mom the ability to fully participate in life. In fact, Sunday will tell us if she can hear Father Marc's sermon (he says she may regret the operation, but I doubt it). I am also anxious to have her speak with her great-grandchildren and hear their voices for the first time [Ed Note: Me too!!!].

This is truly a happy time for us, and I know Dad and George are so proud of Mom and of all of us for supporting her in this life-changing decision.
I know this is not a recent photo, but I love it!

Mom thanks you all for the cards and emails wishing her well. She gets the best mail of anyone I know. All the messages are in a neat pile for each of us to read and enjoy; it is like Christmas everyday.

Update: I just got another call from Mom, and we were able to discuss her insurance bill and the fact that her “sonic boom alarm clock” was delivered. When the implant and hearing aid are out at night, Mom is totally deaf, so she has no way of being awakened for a morning appointment. Eric connected the sonic boom; it makes the telephone ring and the lamp light flash, and it has a huge alarm sound and rocks her bed. She said it almost throws her out, and she thinks it will wake Gary next door, so if she does sleep through it, he can come wake her up. Aren't we having fun? 


Anonymous said...

Tara - you may know that cochlear is an Australian invention, so we (the Aussie part of the family) are even more delighted to hear of the great positive impact the implant is having. :-) Greg

Jonathan and Valerie said...

Yay for Nana! My dad is also nearly deaf and it can be taxing for him and our entire family. It's the main reason he didn't attend our wedding--he wouldn't have been able to hear anything and he's shy enough as it is wihtout a hearing impediment.... It's so inspiring to read your Nana's story!