Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Big Day: Cochlear Implant Evaluations

(First of all, here is my most recent audiogram (done April 3rd). I don't have a copy of the audiogram from the evaluations, sorry. Instructions on reading an audiogram can be found here:
Remember: X is for the left ear; O is for the right. For reasons I don't understand, even though my audiogram shows hearing in my left ear, there is none. Instead, at those frequencies, I do not hear sounds, rather, I feel a buzz in my head. That is called "vibrotactile hearing loss". In my right ear, I have a really strong hearing aid, which helps tremendously, though not as much since my last loss March 30th. )

We got up around 7:00 and got ready to head out. Our appointment was at 8:30, and Mapquest assured us that we only had about a twenty-minute drive. We left the hotel at 8, and promptly missed the on-ramp to get back on the interstate. I helpfully told my husband that the interstate looked busy anyway, and surely we could find it on our own. So we drove around for around twenty minutes before we finally stopped and asked the owner of a rather scary-looking local establishment if he could tell us where Vanderbilt Hospital was. His "Whooee, you're a long way from Vanderbilt!" was not reassuring. Anyhow, he did give great instructions, and we found it with very little trouble. However, the building that I thought we were supposed to be going to was no longer there, so we had to consult our paperwork and keep looking. We finally pulled up next to some nurses on the sidewalk at Vanderbilt and asked them where ____ was. They pointed way afar off and so we headed that direction, only to see nothing that looked even remotely similar to what we were looking for. We finally stopped and asked a parking garage attendant where to find what we were looking for, and he told us precisely where to park and what elevator to take. Parking garage attendant: 1, nurses, 0. So, we straggled in some twenty minutes late :( Argh :(
In a few minutes, my new audiologist, Susan Amberg, came out. She asked Dicky to stay behind in the waiting room while she did some hearing tests. She said that they would take a couple of hours and she would come get him when she was finished. I left him the laptop and went with Susan. She led me to the familiar soundproof vault and did some tests that I wasn't familiar with (I should have asked what they were. I'm pretty sure one was a standard tympanogram, and the other was similar, but lasted longer, about ten minutes per ear. I got a strange ticklish sensation in my ear while she was doing this one. Anyone want to tell us what this test was?) Then, off came the hearing aid, and on went the headphones, and the testing began. After the first test, with the standard beeps and whistles, she came in and told me that she was going to take my hearing aid and test it. I expressed concern at this point and said that I was afraid that I might not be a candidate for the implant. She said, "Are you kidding? Your audiogram is terrible!" which was actually reassuring. I did tell her that I was concerned about inner ear malformations being an issue, but she assured me that very few people had such severe malformation that they couldn't have the surgery. I asked her to point me in the direction of a Coke machine and a bathroom while she worked on my hearing aid, and I got Dicky and we took a ten minute break :)
When we came back, I suggested that Dicky plug the laptop up and play cards for a while, since there weren't any magazines in the waiting room. I headed back to the room and Susan came back a couple of minutes later. She handed me my hearing aid and put another one in my left ear. It felt so strange since I've never worn anything in that ear before! Then the next hearing test began. We did several tests....lip reading without hearing aids, lip reading with hearing aids, listening to sentences and repeating what I heard, listening to her say a word and repeating it back to her. When I was finished, she reported that I had done well on the comprehension part....almost a little too well. Apparently, any score over 50% is an automatic disqualifier for the surgery....and I had scored FORTY-NINE-PERCENT, which was unbelieveable for me, since I didn't think I did all that hot at all. Oy! All of these tests had been done with only the right hearing aid. I didn't realize that the left one wasn't even on, but when Susan turned it on, I knew instantly that it was on....every time anyone spoke, I felt a massive blast inside my head...the vibrations were so strong that the hearing aid was literally unbearable. And I heard nothing :)
Susan called Dicky in at that point, and we discussed what the implant could and couldn't do, the differences between brands, and then she showed me the actual implants (she showed me both the Nucleus Freedom and the Advanced Bionics HiRes Bionic Ear system ...if their center worked with the Med-El brand, she didn't mention it). I told her that I had already done plenty of research, had met others with implants, and was on several Yahoogroups and had heard plenty of stories about implantation surgery, hookups, issues with CIs, recalls, etc., and that I already knew that I wanted the AB HiRes implant.'s been ordered :) Yahoo! I am holding out hope that before my actual hookup date, the new 120 channel processer will come out, but if it doesn't, we will upgrade to the new processer at a later date (our center, unlike some, doesn't offer a second processer to trade in).
We left there around 11:30 and drove down the road a bit to our next stop...St. Thomas Hospital. We had an appointment there at 1 to have a head CT done to check for structural abnormalities. Since we had a little time to kill, we looked for lunch, but the only restaurants around were a Taco Bell and a Dairy Queen. We opted for the former and scarfed it down then headed to the imaging center for the CT. (Found out later that there was a Subway in the hospital on the imaging center floor....waaaaaaaah!) The CT went fine, with minimal waiting, then we headed upstairs to meet with our surgeon, Dr. David Haynes. I had never met him before, but really liked him. He was very professional but very friendly and warm as well. We got several surprises at that meeting. Firstly, my CT came back perfectly normal. There is no obvious reason why I don't hear. Everything is as it should be. I don't have LVAS; in fact, I don't even have Mondini syndrome (the doctors told my mom back in 1975 that it looked to them like I had Mondini syndrome. Apparently, imaging wasn't so hot back then). Secondly, he informed us that he wasn't big on risk-taking, and he didn't want to damage my good ear if my comprehension was at a near acceptable level, so he is opting to implant my "bad" ear....the ear that I haven't heard a sound out of in thirty years. He said that numerous studies had been done in sucess rates in good ear vs. bad ear and he felt like we had a chance at getting some hearing in the bad ear. I was flabbergasted. To be perfectly honest, it was one scenario that I was totally unprepared for. So now...there is a possiblity that I will be able to hear out of TWO ears. What a gift that would be!!
Thirdly, he doesn't shave hair off when he does the surgery. HALLELUJAH! I don't have enough hair to shave!!!
Fourthly, when Lucille, the surgery coordinator, came in, she told me that once they submitted their data to our insurance company, we had a ninety percent chance of being turned down. WHAT?!?! She went on to say that it's practically routine...that insurance companies just don't like paying up, even if it clearly states in their policies that they'll pay. In those cases, we just appeal, and appeal again, and again, if need be, until they pay. So now we wait to see if we're in the unlucky 90% or the more fortunate 10%. After we're approved, and who knows when that will be, we'll set the surgery date, and that date depends largely on how busy Dr. Haynes is. So all I know to tell you about when the surgery will be is that it will be in the future. Not this month. Hopefully by the end of the year. Who knows. Anyway, I left with a headful of new, exciting, interesting information....with my implant on order :) Yes, I am a candidate! Yes....if God wills it and Blue Cross cooperates, it will happen!! Wahoo!!
We left and went to eat at Carrabbas', but they weren't open yet, so we went to Davis-Kidd of Green Hills and browsed for a few minutes. I was drawn to the "Autographed Copy" section near the door, and found a copy of "Cheap. Fast. Good!" by Beverly Mills & Alicia Ross (autographed by Alicia Ross). I snatched it has been on my wish list for several weeks, and it was RIGHT THERE, and it was even better in my hand than it looked online :) I also drooled over the latest edition of Paula Deen's magazine, until my husband told me to buy it. I told him that I was to cheap to buy it, and he promptly responded that he was buying his own copy for himself, and I could read it. What a man! :) We went on to Carrabbas' and shared the antipasti platter and the Chicken Parmesan. We hadn't eaten there in months, and it was SO good!!!!!
Then we headed back home....we went to MIL's and picked up the kids, and talked to my SIL for a few minutes. She reported that the cousins from Michigan were on their way, and right about that time, they called and said that they were at the Tennessee border. So we loaded up the kids and went to my mom's to give her the report on the big day :) We stayed there a while, since we had a lot to tell, and both Mom and Daddy had been away (Mom in Texas and in Monterrey, Mexico, and Daddy in Nicaragua). We left with goodies from Texas, Monterrey, and Nicaragua (I'm proud of my "Italia" soccer shirt Daddy brought back....especially since Italy is still playing in the World Cup!) We then ran back across the highway just in time to see the Michigan cousins pull up at my mother-in-law's house. I had never met them before, but they were a pleasant bunch, and we stayed at my MIL's until nearly 11 chatting, then went home and COLLAPSED in the bed!!!! What a HUGE day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Posted by Picasa