Today was like the best Christmas ever.
Today was Lori’s activation day. After spending the last 19 days in total silence, the big day finally came and she got to see how the new implants worked.
We got to Stanford at 11:00 and Lori’s sister met us there a few minutes later. About 11:30 we finally met with Dr. Blevin, the wonderfully talented surgeon who implanted the two devices at her last visit. He took a look at both ears and said everything was healing as expected and cleared her for the next step, the audiologist.
We had time for lunch in between appointments so we headed to the cafeteria. Who said hospital food sucked? I had a great cardiac burger (bacon cheeseburger) with curly fries, but I figured with all the doctors in the house I’d be safe should the worst happen.
After lunch we went to meet the audiologist. She first showed us the four boxes of equipment that was Lori’s new ears. Two of these boxes looked like they could have held well packed laptops. I was thinking either the processors were a lot bigger than they let on, or Med-El seriously over packed the devices. Fortunately, it turned out to be the latter.
Inside each of the two big boxes was a kit for each ear. Everything in the kit was packed in a very slick looking aluminum briefcase that had us all thinking it looked very James Bondish. Inside the briefcase they packed two of everything you need, so that you have a backup for anything that fails. That’s very comforting as redundancy is a good thing to have for mission critical components in any system. As we found out in the last few weeks, hearing definitely is on the mission critical list.
Once Dr. Loy got everything unpacked she started on Lori’s left ear. First she programmed the 12 channels for the quietest sound Lori could hear, then the loudest that was comfortable for her. Then came the big moment, Dr. Loy loaded the map into her processor, and turned it on and spoke to Lori. Lori was surprised that she was instantly able to understand Dr. Loy. Paula was surprised too, which left me wondering why I was the only optimist of the group. After all, I’m an official member of the Grump & Gripe Club.
The process was repeated for the right ear, and just in that short time her hearing improved. It was quickly obvious that her hearing was already back to the level she was at before the surgery when she was relying on her hearing aids. It was very comforting to know that she wasn’t any worse off, and knowing that patients improve dramatically after even just a few days of using the implants we were very encouraged.
It is also obvious that for the next few weeks I will be explaining all these new sounds to Lori. While the implants have returned her hearing, it’s not the hearing that you and I experience, or even the hearing she had with her hearing aids.
When we got back to mom’s house, Paula sang to Lori, and she was able to enjoy it to the point it brought tears to her eyes. That’s the first time Lori has enjoyed music for awhile. She then asked me to sit down at the piano, and that brought tears to her eyes as well. (I wish I were really that good of a piano player.) That she’s enjoying any music this early in the process is amazing, and it’s a good sign that Lori is going to be one of the lucky ones that will get the most out of her implants.
It’s really hard to express just how we both feel right now. I knew this was going to be a momentous day for both of us, but to have the gift of communication restored to us is overwhelming. I thought I was coping ok during the last 19 days, but being able to talk to her again feels like a rebirth. Lori is completely in awe that they are working so well right off and that she’s once again enjoying things that had disappeared from her life.
I remember as a kid the excitement of opening boxes and boxes of presents on Christmas morning. But none of the presents I received as a kid compare to the present that came to us in all those Med-El boxes today. The gift of communication.