Sunday, June 29, 2008

The lecture circuit! ;)

Tuesday morning found us up and at 'em again...Gloria met us down in the lobby at *ack* 7:30. She came bearing coffee, though, so that helped ease the transition into my day. We took the rental car since we were checking out and wouldn't be back the rest of the day, and Evelyn and Norm followed us in their car.
Advanced Bionics has a very special "lecture circuit" called the Connect to Patients Series. Cochlear implant recipients are invited to come in and share their stories with the employees. This gives the employees a chance to see what valuable work they're doing. From my perspective it was tremendously exciting because it gave me a chance to say THANK YOU. What these people are building goes far beyond being just a product. I have many important products in my home...running the gamut from microwave to laptop to television to washing machine...but this one, the product in my head, is irreplaceable. It has not only given me back hearing but it has restored confidence and given me a new outlook on my life. This isn't just a product, and the work these people do is hardly is life-changing. What the speaker series does is gives us a chance to show HOW important the work is that these people are doing...hopefully this sends them back to their jobs inspired and encouraged. We were asked to speak at 9 and 10:15 at the production facility in Sylmar, and at 2 at the office buildings in Valencia.
Here we are in front of the gorgeous hibiscus plants at the production facility in
Sylmar: Evelyn, Gloria, and Jen :)
As we walked through the production facility, we ended up in an office for some reason (I can't even remember why) and a flash of pink caught my eye. MELODY!!!!!! We were some of the lucky first people to see Miss Melody in any version other than cartoon. She and Buddy were miniaturized and just adorable!! Evelyn and I modeled with the two little ones. Melody made her first public debut at the AG Bell Conference in Milwaukee last weekend.
Evelyn, Buddy, Jen, and Melody
Our speeches went very well. Evelyn and I are two very different people, and that was reflected in our speeches. Evelyn is crisp, graceful, and polished, and I'm a bit of a cutup...a plain old laid-back country girl who doesn't do formal speeches...I do better if I just get up there and talk to my audience. We made a good team...complemented each other well. We had very attentive audiences...they were great listeners and several came up afterwards to talk for a few minutes. They really made us feel welcome and quite comfortable...I got into my groove about three minutes into the first speech and really enjoyed myself after that. It was so easy to tell how grateful I am and how much my implant has changed my life...I tell people about that all the time...that's second nature. We were asked to touch on our experiences with and share some of the friendships we'd made there...and that, again, was easy...the people that we've met there have become family, and we just wished they could have all been there with us!
After we did the two morning talks, we drove to Valencia to the offices at Mann Biomedical Park. Our escort, Jennifer, was waiting there for us with lunch. We sat and visited with her for a few minutes before heading down to our last speech. After the last one was over the photographer asked if we'd do an impromptu photo shoot outside, and so we did was so much fun!
Gloria, Jen, and Evelyn...before the last speech in Valencia :)
It was hard cutting the apron strings in Valencia...I said goodbye to Beth Anne and Evelyn and Norm there at AB, and then drove Gloria back to her hotel before saying goodbye to her. I felt like I had known these people for a very long time, and were so comfortable and at ease with them that it was really hard to leave. Factor in that I was leaving my comfortable world of being with other deaf and hard of hearing people for a week and heading back into the hearing was a little hard to make the transition. It was the hardest leaving sweet Evelyn because we live so far away that it will be hard for me to see her on anything even resembling a regular basis. She is in California and I'm in Tennessee...what a stretch! Thankfully...we are only ever an e-mail away...and she's going to try to make it to Nashville next year for the HLAA convention, so I have that to look forward to!
When I left there, I drove Oxnard, California, where I met my friend Debbie for dinner at the Olive Garden. I have known Debbie for...oh...five or six years, maybe. I met her on a web forum years ago and we have kept up with each other here and there over the years. She lives in Santa Barbara, and I really didn't have time to drive that far up north, so we met in the middle. She got on my good side immediately by bringing a box of See's favorites, butterscotch squares! Those are a rare treat...See's is only available on the west coast, and shipping's pretty expensive, so I rarely get enough to hurt me. Debbie and I hit it off right away, despite the fact that I made her wait over half an hour...I took a wrong turn (!?!???!!!) and got on the entirely wrong freeway and it took me much longer to get there than it should have (I'm prone to that, and have seen many a "scenic route" that way). We sat and ate and visited for about two hours and then we said our goodbyes and I headed for my hotel.
Debbie and Jennifer, Olive Garden, Oxnard, CA
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I had told several people that this was a big trip for me...a trip of many firsts. It was the first time flying with a CI, the first time flying alone, the first time renting a car. I have traveled alone before, but Los Angeles was probably the biggest city that I've driven in alone. I found my hotel, returned my car, and navigated my way through LAX...alone. I know people do it every day, but this was all new to me...and what a great confidence builder when I navigated my way through downtown LA and found the Gateway Sheraton myself! My aunt Sonia had treated me to a night's stay was a huge treat to be right there at the airport in such a gorgeous hotel on the last night of my trip. I got to bed fairly early and totally crashed. I honestly don't remember anything between hitting the sheets and waking up the next morning...I was out like a light!
In the last treat before heading home. I had posted on Facebook that I was in California and Kauan Tyler's mommy Iz asked if she could meet me for coffee before my flight home. I accepted excitedly, and she, Kauan, and Mel met me in the lobby of the Sheraton at around 10 Wednesday morning. I was surprised and honored and grateful that her husband Carlos had taken the morning off work to come along and be our escort so that he could help her with the kids. I really wanted to meet them...I have followed their stories on Iz' blog...this way Iz, Mel, adorable baby Olivia and I forged a fast frienship over coffee and tiramisu at the Urth Caffe in Santa Monica while Carlos took Kauan for a walk. They are a delightful family...and they are moving east, so I'm hopeful that I'll get to see them again sooner rather than later!!
I was tickled that Kauan let me hold him. He is all boy....VERY active...and I had to enjoy my cuddles quick because he was ready to be off and running again.
Kauan, Jen, Iz, and Mel
Kauan and his mommy
Jen and Iz...she stood on the curb for this picture...and she is taller than I am here!
We had to rush through our goodbyes in the parking lot of the Sheraton because I had them drop me off at the valet pickup area so I could get my car and the valet told them to keep moving :(. I was just so glad that I got the chance to meet them...what a precious family!
I returned the rental car with no incident (a very tiny scenic detour, but what else is new?) then took the shuttle to the airport. I was a little nervous about navigating LAX but quite frankly the Southwest hub of it was really easy to get through. I did set off the security alarm at the airport...because I forgot to take my BlackBerry out of my back pocket....and I left my medical alert bracelet in the security scanner and the guy behind me in line had to catch me and send me back to pick it up. I found my gate with no problem, grabbed some lunch, sat down and worked some word finds and texted Abbie, Valerie, and Laurie while I waited. I actually knew someone who was on my flight back home...a doctor that I took a trip to Michigan with for an Amway convention several years ago (I've sold Amway...actually, I think I've sold everything, ha!). I ended up sitting next to the sweetest young couple who was on their way back from a missions trip in New Zealand, I think it was. They had never heard of cochlear implants and you know me...I was all too happy to educate them, and they told me a bit about their trip :). They made the flight back relaxing and about as much fun as it could be for as loooooooong as it was!
My flight got in at 9:30 that night...and after driving to Sonic to grab something to eat (I was starving) I got home around 11:00. Most of the kids were asleep, but I got kisses from the ones that were awake and then I stayed awake until around 1 telling my husband about the trip until he couldn't stay awake anymore.
It was an amazing trip in so many ways...I got to meet so many people, share so many experiences, and make so many memories...a trip to remember always!
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Friday, June 27, 2008


Several months ago, when we started getting serious about our plans to go to Reno, I mentioned to my friend Gloria Garner, who is a Web education specialist at Advanced Bionics, that while I was out west, I would love to travel just a little FURTHER west and visit the Advanced Bionics production facility in Sylmar, California. I knew that the plant did tours and basically just wanted to know what days of the week, what hours, etc. that they did these tours, and I would just mosey my little self over there and check the place out after the convention was over, or perhaps before, just whenever.
However, Gloria dreams big...and before I knew it, she had turned my little road trip into a full-fledged plant tour. First the Bionic Ear Associates were invited, then the invitation was issued on several Yahoogroups lists and on In my opinion, that was even better...not only would I get a tour, but I'd have folks to hang out with! A few weeks before this tour, I got an invitation from Advanced Bionics: would I be interested in being Advanced Bionics' guest and speaking at this tour? to the tour group? and the CEO of the company?
WHOA! This was big!! sounded like a tremendous opportunity, and I did what I usually do...jump straight in and worry about the logistics later. YES, I said...I would LOVE to do that!
My enthusiasm was literally doubled, perhaps tripled, when I found out that my friend Evelyn was going to be there...and she was to be another speaker at this luncheon!
So that is how Evelyn and I came to be standing in front of this sign at around 10 AM on Monday, June 16th, at Sylmar Biomedical Park in Sylmar, CA. (click any picture to bigify)
We went inside and were properly greeted, hugged, and name-tagged. Then we met the rest of the tour group and were divided up into two groups. The tour itself was incredible. We got to see every part of it from production to packaging. The same exacting care was shown at every stage of production.
This picture shows the machines where some of the metal components are laser-etched (my lack of technical knowledge and my pitiful recall will be sorely obvious from this point on). No touching of the components are allowed except through these huge long rubber arms, which, quite frankly, look just as funny hanging out of the machine as they do in the pictures.
Each implant is X-rayed through two layers of sterile packaging before it leaves the facility to make sure that it is just right. The white boxes contain brand new HiRes 90k internal components. That's one expensive pile.

Through this window you can watch the workers assembling the electrode array by hand. They work under microscopes and with tweezers.
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There is a TV screen in the hallway where you can watch one of the workers' work under her microscope. The tweezers are in the bottom corner. They are bringing up a tiny wire that will be spot welded by the welder (the pointy thing at the top).
The workers have to go through a gowning room before they can start work. Shoes, gowns, face masks, gloves, shower caps. No makeup is allowed in some areas. No dust allowed! This is precision work, folks!
This fella is putting a Platinum Series processor through its paces before it leaves the plant.
I frankly have no idea what this man is doing, but look at him: his shoes have coverings and his arms are chained to the least it looks that way. These are all anti-static measures...zapping processors is not a good thing.
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So, after the tour was over, we all went outside and there stood Mr. Jeff Griener, president and CEO of the Advanced Bionics Corporation. We all posed for a group shot with him and then went back inside to the luncheon. When we were going in, Evelyn's sharp eyes noticed something I didn't...there were POSTERS with OUR PICTURES on them! Photo op time!

A few minutes later the group fixed their plates and sat down to eat and Gloria informed Evelyn and me that it was showtime! Monday's talks were to be brief...about five minutes in length...and focus on the community. Evelyn and I are both moderators there, which means that we are some of the official greeters and cheerleaders and we read every post and keep an eye out for any issues that might come up. In doing that, we have been just blown away by the amazing people that we have met and been privileged to not only get to know, but become almost like family to these folks. We shared some of our interactions with some of these people with the group to help them understand the sense of community that the online forum provides.
Here, I'm speaking, the cameraman is recording *ack* and the girl in the black shirt is interpreting in ASL (that poor girl...this Southern girl packs a lot of words per minute, and I'm sure she was exhausted when I was done!)
My pictures of Evelyn speaking were blurry, and I am going to have to throw myself upon the mercy of her hubby Norm, who got some pictures of his own, and beg him to send me some. Mr. Griener also talked for a few minutes (my pictures of him were equally blurry) about the plans for the future and encouraged questions and comments afterwards. I was VERY impressed by him. If something was in the works, he shared it. If something wasn't feasible, he simply explained why. He was very articulate and open and honest almost to the point of bluntness. I like pretending, no grandstanding.
In this picture, after the talks were over, Evelyn and I got a chance to meet Mr. Griener himself and talk to him for a little while. I asked permission to deliver a hug from a dear friend and he allowed it...then he got one from me too, and I thanked him for everything he has done to give me the gift that I have today...the gift of being able to hear the world around me. I DO NOT TAKE THIS GIFT is an incredible, precious gift...and I am amazed
Sweet Evelyn and her darling hubby Norm! I got so many smiles being around those two!
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Here's a close-up of our posters. When I left, I asked if I could take one home, and not only did they give me one, but they offered to roll it up and mail it to me so I wouldn't smush it in the suitcase in the way home (which I would have done). They go the extra mile even in the teeniest things...I love those people!
I just love this girl!!! Denice is another of the moderators on HearingJourney. Her daughter Ali (the youngest of ELEVEN DAUGHTERS) is a bilateral bionic girl just like yours truly. Ali decided that we should be friends as soon as she met me and came over and started feeding me Fritos in the middle of Evelyn's speech. After a few seconds of that, she decided that we'd been formal long enough and climbed up in my lap and made herself comfortable. The bionic little ones always really touch my heart...and Ali and her smile and her sunshiny personality literally had me in tears. I miss that little girl!
We left the plant around 3ish and made our way back to the hotel. I got on the computer for a while and got some jeans on and then met Norm and Evelyn down in the lobby for a ride to Valencia. We managed to turn what should have been a ten minute drive into a half hour one because I gave Norm the wrong address for his Magellan *sigh* but we had left early enough that we got there just in time. We met Gloria, Beth Anne McDonald, who is the Consumer Outreach Supervisor at AB, and Jerry Schloffman, who is the Director of Marketing at AB, for dinner at the Vine restaurant in Valencia. We were there for a couple of hours and just had a great time talking and getting better acquainted. I have a funny habit of taking pictures of my food if I go to a fancy restaurant, and I was frankly squirming a bit wondering how this quirky Tennessee girl was gonna get pictures of my food in this fancy-schmancy restaurant in front of these folks. Don't know what I was worried about...when the salad came out, I oohed and aaahed over it until Gloria turned to me and said, "Aren't you going to take a picture of it?" Well, that settled it...didn't have to ask me twice. I had to explain the whole picture thing to Norm and Evelyn, who weren't yet aware that I had this particular quirk, and when the main course came out, Norm was ready...he offered to take my picture with my seafood risotto!

The dinner was delicious...but the company was the best part...everyone was friendly, warm, and really felt like sitting down with people you'd known a long time. I never met anyone at AB the whole time I was there that wasn't that way...if I lived in California, I would be begging them to hire me to work there! Just incredible people all around.
After dessert and coffee, we loaded up and headed back to the hotel, where I got back to the speech down...three more to go :)!
What an incredible day!
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Hellllooooo California!

So....I got checked out of the hotel, which was an ordeal, because I had packed one of my bags incorrectly and couldn't carry it but was running behind and couldn't redo it. Finally straggled out to the curb and had missed the shuttle by five minutes, and the next one wasn't due for another 20 m9inutes. Rather than wait with all my bags I decided to just pay for a taxi and get it over with and GET THERE. I was so relieved when he dropped me off right in front of Reno's little Southwest skycap kiosk and they promptly took those bags off my hands *whew*. I was able to find where I was supposed to be with no problems at all and walked through security with no issues. I got to the desk and asked if they would let me preboard because I was deaf and they gave me the pass, no problem. I asked if the plane would be stopping or if it was a direct flight and they told me it would stop in Oakland first. Aha...stay on the plane! While I was sitting in the preboard area another fella with a preboard pass came up and sat next to me. I noticed the hearing aid so I asked if he had been at the convention. Turns out that he was one of the California HLAA state leaders so had so we had plenty to talk about. He was also a very frequent flyer and turned out to be a very knowledgeable tour guide about our flight route...he showed me all the scenery and told me what I was looking! The Dean Martin impersonator was on our flight...just a shame he didn't sing for us!
Got to Burbank with no trouble at all, and my new friend informed me that the Burbank airport was kinda quaint...that they wheeled steps up to the door of the plane and you just walk down them, onto the tarmac, and into the airport. That was the first time I'd done that and that was kinda cute. I kept thinking about all the videos of the presidents walking down those steps and waving at the crowds. Found the baggage claim with no problem and met my aunt Sonia there. I had seen her last at Grandmas' 90th birthday party back in was great to see her again! She helped me wrangle bags onto a trolley and we got my car rented with no problem. Then we drove to Universal CityWalk in Hollywood and had lunch at the Daily Grill. Sonia ordered us an ahi tuna appetizer...I canNOT get enough of that stuff!! (may have to go out for sushi one day soon) and I ordered a Southwestern chicken wrap. It was all delicious!! Sonia offered me dessert but I had seen a Ben & Jerry's down the way and I was holding out for that :). We walked around and looked at several of the shops and then we hit up Ben & Jerry's for my Bananas on the Rum ice cream (I only get it about once every six months or so and it's AWESOME) and The Crepe Cafe for a banana Nutella crepe for her (WOW!). After a little more shopping I drove Sonia to the airport to pick up her car and we said our goodbyes there and I headed up Freeway 5 to Santa Clarita.
It was kinda funny that I left the same time Deb McClendon, boyfriend Brian, and Judy Wagner did...I got in the taxi in Reno about the same time they got in their car...and when I pulled up in the parking lot of the Hampton Inn in Santa Clarita several hours later, they were walking through the parking lot into the front door! Talk about great timing! We all got checked in and then decided to go next door to the Outback for dinner. I was quite full from eating ALL afternoon, so I just got a coke and sat and enjoyed the company. While we were eating I mentioned that I wondered if perhaps Evelyn Gardner was at the hotel yet. Apparently, news that she was staying at our hotel hadn't yet reached the ears of the rest of the group, so that lit a fire under all of us weary travelers and we stampeded out the door over to the hotel. We have known Evelyn for a long time...I met her online two years ago when I was considering my first implant. She had just gotten her first one and she was a huge encouragement to me. When I was considering my second one I found her on, and she had just had her second one, so she held my hand through that one too! I had been so excited about finally meeting her face to face...and just couldn't wait :).
Deb asked at the front desk and they called up to Evelyn's room to let her know that she had company. She had just arrived...and when she stepped off the elevator a few minutes later the arms started flying as we all swarmed to hug her and her hubby Norm. Even though she had never met any of us personally she knew us...Deb and Judy from one of Advanced Bionics' promotional DVDs, and me from my picture on I got tickled though when she said that she thought originally that I was a little person, maybe around 5'2" or 5'3". If you ever meet me and you're thinking I'm going to be short, you're in for a surprise, since I'm six feet tall with my shoes on...not exactly tiny :). We all grabbed some complimentary cookies and coffee and sat down in the lobby and talked for a while. It never ceases to amaze me how neat it is to finally meet online friends in real life...I haven't met a stranger yet, and usually get quite comfortable with new friends almost immediately.
We didn't stay up too late...because the next day was going to be a busy one. I went upstairs, hooked up the computer, and worked for another hour or so on a speech...the first of four that I would give over the next 48 hours. For a girl that dropped out of public speaking twice in one year...I was to get a lot of real life speaking!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The journey continues!

This morning started out rough. I carefully printed out directions to the surgeon's office last night and left in plenty of time to get there on time this morning. When I got to the office, the parking garage there was just cavernous...I had a horrible time figuring out where to park, and then I had to look for the doc's office. My appointment was at 9:40, and I got upstairs at 9:35...right on time! Then I noticed that the door was just PLASTERED in notices, all to the effect that the surgeon had MOVED ACROSS TOWN. And this wasn't my little town, this was Nashville. Ya know, I knew they'd moved, but the card they sent me my appointment on had a new address on it and I assumed that was where they moved, ya know, so I thought I was doing it all right. Turns out that they had moved into the building that I'd been going to for two years *sigh*. He had divided his practice up between the two offices, apparently, and had just moved all of his stuff into the one office. So I had to find my car again and navigate my way back across the interstate to the other office. When I get there the parking lot that I usually park in has been designated "handicapped parking", and I don't go for the whole handicapped parking thing, so I kept driving until I found a parking garage marked "for doctor's visits". When I get inside I can find no trace of doc's office anywhere, so I asked somebody that looked like they worked there (wearing scrubs and pushing a wheelchair) and she said, "Honey, you're SO FAR from the doctor's offices! You should have parked way over there at the first right when you turned in". Of course, that was where I had originally planned to park. She did tell me how to get there..."walk allllllllllllllllllll the way down this hall, take a right, walk alllllllllllllll the way to the end of this hall, take an elevator... *sigh* I headed in that general direction. By the time I got to the doc's office it was 10:15. I surveyed the waiting room and was taken completely aback...Abbie asked me how many people were in there and I counted and there were 30 people in a room the size of my bedroom (some of them standing). I was afraid I'd have to wait and go after allllllllllllll those people but finally, my luck started to change, and they showed me in about 20 minutes after I got there.
We scheduled this appointment way back in December and it was originally supposed to be a six month post op check for my second implant. Well, the nurse takes one look at me and said "you're here to talk about your failed implant aren't you?" I told her no, that that wasn't the original reason for the visit, but that yes, while I was there, I hoped it would come up. She closed the door and about five minutes later Dr. Haynes came in. First thing he said after "How are you doing?" was, "Is that ear feeling any better?" Fact of the matter was that it wasn't...the mornings are when it bothers me the most after a night of sleeping on it, and it was pretty sore. He did a quick check of the new ear ("looks perfect, works perfect") and then moved on to the first ear. He checked it out externally as well as he could and then got a chair and sat down. He said that nothing showed on the CT as being out of the ordinary, and that all the internal testing had gone well, but based on the fact that I have pain in that ear and that I won't wear the processor because the sound is so uncomfortable, he had some options. They were: leave it in, take it out, replace it. Was I open to another surgery?
I asked him what his opinion was, and he said, "I think we should redo it. Even though we can't pinpoint an exact reason for it, sometimes just redoing the surgery fixes the problem." I wanted to kiss the man! I told him that that was what I was hoping he'd say...that that was what I had been wanting to do. The surgery is kinda rough...but honestly, what I've dealt with with this first ear will be well worth it...even if it doesn't give me better hearing, I won't have the ear and head pain anymore and will be able to sleep on that side again...ahhh!
I told him that it has given me trouble for a very long time but I didn't know it wasn't supposed to be that way until I got my second CI, which is nothing like its's perfect in every way. He said that the fact that I was doing so well with my second one and not even wearing the first one gave him an indication that there was a real problem.
Dr. Haynes sat down next to me and was so sincere and hero, people. I was worried that it would be awkward or stressful but he really made me feel very comfortable about it all. It was such a relief that he was listening and doing something about it that when I left his office I cried all the way to the car and sat there and just kinda collected myself for a few minutes afterwards. I am not counting on perfect results...I'm afraid to...but it will be better than it is now...and I'm so looking forward to that!!
I had to laugh when Dr. Justin Wittkopf, who is one of the fellowship docs in the Otolaryngology department, came in. He was at my second surgery and proudly takes credit for my having all my hair from that surgery...he was the man in charge of sterilizing the hair so that it wouldn't have to be shaved. Dr. Haynes asked him to pull up the CT scan on the computer there in the room and told him what we were up to, and Dr. Wittkopf turned around and looked at me, threw his hands up in the air, and said, "I didn't have ANYTHING TO DO WITH THAT ONE!!" I laughed at that...then while he was looking at the CT, he said, "Did he shave you with the first one?" I said that, yes, he had, and then he said, "See, when I did it, we didn't shave you!" and then Dr. Haynes said, "We didn't shave THAT MUCH!" I just got tickled watching them banter a bit and seeing how comfortable they are with the patients. It ended up being a stress-free appointment...and I have more respect for my surgeon than ever, because he took the time to really listen and to come up with a plan of action. I mentioned before that I feel intimidated sometimes by people of position...and doctors are right up there. Dr. Haynes has a list of qualifications to the moon and back...very skilled, intelligent, and well respected...and it was such a hard thing for me to do to question those qualifications in any way by asking him to re-do that ear. Today, though, his attitude was one that I didn't feel one bit intimidated...rather, I felt at ease and an equal partner in that decision...and I am so grateful to him for that.
You'd think when I ran out of ears, the CI surgeries would stop. I texted Laurie today and she answered right away, "Your journey continues"! And so it does! :)
I don't have a date yet, or insurance approval either. More on that soon :).
OK..tomorrow...California! :)


The California part of the trip is all going to be in one post. Then I'll post pictures of the entire thing (they're available in the web albums any time though) and probably do another post like I did last year, kind of reflecting on the whole thing.
Just wanted to throw this in, though:
Today's my doc appointment with Dr. Haynes. Technically, the appointment is for a six month post-op checkup for my second ear, which is perfect in every way. However, I intend to discuss the first implant with him. I'm not done with it yet. Keep me in your thoughts and prayers today as I meet with him...I'd love to see some resolution to this thing, and I'm a little nervous about it all.
Will let you know how it all goes! :)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Where to start?? was such a busy, crazy, exciting week...guess the best place to start is at the beginning. I dropped the girls off at my sister-in-law's house Wednesday morning and drove to Nashville to Kent's house. I was the last one to get there and they were all waiting for me. We loaded everyone's luggage into the 15-passenger van and Kent drove us to the airport. Check-in was easy...we had all printed our boarding passes and we just walked right through. I was really a nervous wreck about security. I know I'd heard people say over and over again that CIs don't set off the alarms but I just knew that I'd be the one to do it! Amazingly, I just walked on through and they never even looked at me. Karyn did have to show me how to pass my laptop through security BY ITSELF...I made the mistake the first time around of sending it through in a bag and they asked her to fix it for me (thank you dear!). Lesson learned! We had arrived WAAAAAAYYY early so we had plenty of time for lunch. Nashville's airport actually has a pretty nice food court so most of them grabbed something from there but I decided I was going to walk a bit farther down and get one of Whitt's Barbecue's huge baked potatoes. After lunch we secured a preboarding pass...since we were deaf they allowed us to board the plane first. We all sat together and that was nice...we had a couple of "hearies" in our group that were able to hear any announcements that I might miss. The plane ride was long and boring...and I was kinda cramped in and had a hard time not compromising any portion of adjacent seating (in other words, keeping my feet off Karyn). She and Shari worked on Sudoku puzzles on the way there...since that's too complicated for my hyper brain I did word finds. We had a stopover in was so nice to have the hearing people to tell us to STAY ON THE PLANE and NOT GET OFF. A few of our group had taken the same flight a couple of days previously, and had not heard that the plane stopped in Phoenix. Thinking they were in Reno, they disembarked there and missed getting back on in time. I can TOTALLY see that happening to me...especially since I thought my flight was a non-stop one! You better believe I asked before getting on another plane from then on! When I got to Phoenix I turned my phone on and got a seething text from Abbie reporting that she was having some very bad luck with her first flight, indeed (she tells it better than I do...check it out). Oy!
Our plane arrived around 4:10 (a few minutes late, but after reading yet another scathing text from Abbie, I decided that in the grand scheme of things I was in great shape). When I came around the corner to baggage claim, there stood a beaming LAURIE! Let the hugging begin! I introduced her to the Nashville girls, although most of them had already met her, and we headed down to baggage claim. Found our luggage with no problem and headed out to wait for the shuttle. We had to wait about 20 minutes for the shuttle, and didn't arrive at the hotel until around 5. THEN the check in process seemed excessively long...I don't think we got up to our rooms until around 5:30. Several of the Nashville and Chattanooga folks had already arrived and they were down in the lobby waiting for us, so the wait was at least a fun one.
I had been invited to eat dinner with several of the Advanced Bionics folks so I had to rush upstairs, brush my hair and teeth, and head back downstairs. I saw Karyn on my mad dash through the lobby to the front door and slowed down long enough to say "see ya later" only to hear a resounding, "HEY!" from behind me. I turned around and there were two of my favorite people in the world...Wayne Roorda and Deb McClendon! I met Wayne at last year's convention and we have stayed in touch in the past year. I met Deb online two years ago....she was one of my biggest, most positive influences when I was researching implants. I had wanted to meet her for a very long time and it was awesome to give her a hug at last!
In the lobby, there were more familiar faces...Gloria Garner, Mike Royer, Gerry and Sheila Adams, Judy Wagner, Kim Brownen, and Nanci Linke-Ellis. I had met all of them previously either at the HLAA OKC convention or elsewhere. I also got to meet Tina Childress and Beth Anne McDonald for the first time. I had talked to Tina online a few times but had no idea what an absolutely adorable, precious person she was in real life...she has a new fan :). I had only met Beth Anne VERY briefly in a chat room one night and had gotten a couple of e-mails from her, and liked her right away. She has a warm, gentle, sweet personality...and tolerated my bouncing off the walls remarkably it was all good :). We all loaded up in taxis and went to Rapscallion's, a local seafood place with DELICIOUS food. I had originally thought that we'd only be there an hour and a half or so but it was 9:00 before we got back to the hotel!
All through dinner Laurie and Abbie and I were texting trying to figure out when Abbie was going to get to the hotel and where she was going to eat and on and on and on. I kid you not...I logged over 100 text messages that day!! When we got back to the hotel Laurie texted that they were in Starbucks, so we RAN to Starbucks to meet Abbie, and spent the next TEN MINUTES standing in front of the WRONG DOOR looking for them!!!! (the first of many DUH moments!) When we finally did locate them there was all sorts of whooping and hollering and hugging as the two bionic belles met for the first time!! I totally did not feel like I was meeting a stranger...Abbie's family :). It took us a little while to get settled down...and we all stood around Starbucks for a few minutes before someone got the great idea to actually SIT at a TABLE so we did that for another hour or so. I had the privilege of photographing Abbie signing her first autograph!
When the crowd dispersed (we were tired) Abbie and I did a brief walking tour of the hotel. The bowling alley was open and I had to go to the bathroom and it had one so we detoured. Our eyes almost popped out when we saw that it was painted in some 60s orange and blue...whew! Photo op time! We finally headed up to bed and I tiptoed into the room to avoid waking Laurie up, which caused uproarious laughter from Abbie, who remembered much faster than I did that Laurie, like the two of us, is completely deaf when she sleeps. Funny how ya forget the whole "we sleep in silence too" bit so quickly sometimes ;).
I had had lots of Pepsi and a cup of coffee, and Abbie, having just arrived, was not in the mood for sleep, so the two of us stayed up until *cough* 3 AM talking!!! Our personalities fit together nicely...we're both outgoing and social, love to laugh, love meeting new people...and we just hit it off remarkably well. I am always amazed at how natural it feels meeting online friends for the first time...especially those of us that have been through thick and thin I've said before...we are family!!
To be continued....I have GOT to get up and get some laundry going here!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I'm baaaaaaaaaack!

I got back from the HLAA conference in Reno and the Advanced Bionics tour late last night. I am WORN OUT! I slept until the girls woke me up this morning at 9:30 and then fell BACK asleep at noon for another two hours. At 2 I got a huge black pot of coffee and proceeded to plow my way through it. I started editing pictures around that time and posting them in my Picasa Web Albums (that's them, over there on the right). They will give you a very general overview of where I've been and what I've been up to. I want to supply every detail and I'm gonna but it's going to be a few days before I can get it all down. I came home after having very limited Internet for several days...and have 1200 blog posts in my Google Reader, about 30 e-mails that require answers (I can read them on the BlackBerry but only respond to the most urgent ones), and so many posts on HearingJourney that I wonder if I should attempt to catch up or just jump in where I am. I didn't attempt to cook today...we went out for pizza...and then I went to the HJ chat room, only to have internet problems and wind up booted for the night. It took me about half an hour to get back online!
I have so much to better believe I will tell alllll about it. I wish you'd all been there with me...and those of you that were along for the totally rock, and you have made my life better because you're in it!!!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Test results!

I got this in the mail a couple of days has just taken me a little while to get it scanned and up. You can compare it to my audiograms and test results at three months and at one month post-activation. Or you can go to the audiogram album here and see everything I've got so far :). I'm pleased...HINT sentences in quiet were 96%, sentences in noise were 88% (up from 74% at three months) and CNC words and phonemes were 68% and 82%, respectively, compared to 62% and 75% last time. HOORAY! :) I'm now just considered to have a "mild" hearing loss...can you believe it??!?! This is the best audiogram and the best test results, like, ever in my whole life, people!
I'm getting closer to being ready...two birthday celebrations taken care of, the house is somewhat closer to being clean, and two of the three talks I'm given are squared away. I will be READY to get away for a few days...believe me!! :)
Oh, and I have had several people request that I create an RSS feed for this blog, since Blogger is being a pain and only publishing an Atom feed. Sam has been telling me to use Feedburner for about six months now and I have been too slow to figure it out before now. I worked on it again tonight and FINALLY got it up and running. So you can subscribe now with the button over there --------------------> :) This blog has only been live since, what, October of last year? That took me long enough, didn't it?

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

As I've said:

I don't like stirring up trouble, and I won't encourage it here. However, it's been brought to my attention (it's ALL over the blogosphere, can't go a single blog without bumpin' into it) that Rachel Chaikhof's blog has been booted from DeafRead because they claim that: "Cochlear Implant Online violated...because Rachel didn’t reveal her affiliation with the Cochlear Awareness Network, whose purpose is to promote Cochlear Americas products". Me'll never get me to believe that. I think I've always known that Rachel was a Cochlear volunteer, and a good one, too. I honestly think that this is just another tactic to please the DeafRead readers. Several of them have been gracious and kind to us new kids on the block when we first parked our little CI magnets over there...I've made several new friends and my life has been brightened by their encouraging comments and e-mails. However, I've heard ominous rumblings from DeafRead from the beginning...the majority of the readers, it seems, want us out.
If you want me out, let me make it easy for you; I have nothing to hide:
I'm an Advanced Bionics Bionic Ear Association volunteer and mentor, and thrilled to be one. I haven't received one penny in pay but money can't buy the satisfaction I get from knowing that I'm making a difference in people's lives. I am a moderator on , which is an INCREDIBLE forum where people exchange ideas and offer support and encouragement. If you haven't been, I think you should check it out. I'm a member of the Nashville HLAA chapter but am a strong supporter of HLAA as a whole; I raised $1200.00 and traveled to Florida, on my own dollar, to participate in the Walk4Hearing in April. I haven't seen a penny from any of this...I don't even advertise on my blog. Nobody, whether it be Advanced Bionics, HLAA, Vanderbilt, or anyone else, tells me what I should or shouldn't write here...this is my blog. I LOVE my Advanced Bionics cochlear rescued me from my silent life and gave me the chance to once again hear my children's voices, the birds "tweeping", as Ellie says, my beloved music, my husband snoring (oy). I plan to promote my cochlear implant as long as I'm has given me my life back. HLAA offers tremendous support, advocacy, and education to the deaf and hard of hearing and I'm always privileged to have the opportunity to give back whenever I can.
I went for my six month tune up today at Vanderbilt and while my comprehension in quiet dropped a bit, to 96% (I was fidgeting and missed a sentence), my comprehension in noise went up to 84%, I believe, and while I don't remember the exact score of the phenomes and the other word test, they were markedly higher than they were at three months. My audiogram also went up nicely this time...hooray! I will copy and post the new audiogram/test results when Susan mails them to me. We programmed my first CI for my second ear today. Vanderbilt is a one-processor outfit, unlike some that offer two processors per ear, and I decided that if I wasn't going to wear Thing 1 in my first ear, at least not for now, I can use it for backup in case anything happens to the first one while I'm out of state. Susan and I discussed Thing 1 a bit and she was very supportive of my decision to talk to Dr. Haynes a bit more about the CT scan. We just want to get as close to the bottom of this as we can :).
One week til' we leave for the convention...and I think I am finally finished shopping...found the last pair of shoes today. Now to get caught up on what needs to be done here...I have a stamping party Thursday night, a birthday party Friday and Saturday nights, church Sunday. Monday is, so far, free...Tuesday is crazy. If I ain't crazy by the time I get on that ol' plane.... :)
Headed out for the y'all! :)