Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Turned on!

My implant was turned on today! Such an exciting day!

We made the trip down to Denver yesterday. Got up at about 7:30ish and got going. Made it over to the implant center and waiting for my 9 a.m. appointment with the audiologist Allison. She ran a bit late so we weren't take to her office until about 9:20 or so. That was fine. We got situated in her office, and Allison brought in 2 suitcase-type boxes, and both of Advanced Bionic's monkeys, Buddy and Melody! Oh I figured I'd see Buddy, but I certainly wasn't expecting to see Melody too! So that was pretty exciting. I got my video camera ready and handed it over to my stepdad so he could record the actual turn-on. Allison dug through the boxes, pulled out the Harmony pieces needed. Got a Powercell plugged into the charger so it could charge up while we were getting the Harmony processor tuned up and loaded. One magnet was definitely not enough to keep the headpiece on, so she had to get another magnet out of her own box (apparently the OR lost a magnet when they used my headpiece to test my internal implant during surgery...!).

My Harmony was connected to the computer, and Allison ran the NRI test. She said she would run the NRI test again after about 10 minutes, so we could see the difference in numbers of the electrodes' responses. One electrode had a high number (24), so she thought there was an air bubble or something. Then she ran through the volume/sensitivity levels, and I started feeling and hearing the beeping going on. Whoa, weird sensation. When we got to the higher frequencies, I was overwhelmed pretty quickly, so Allison kept the high frequency levels low enough for now. Got everything loaded, ran another NRI test so we could see the difference in the numbers (the electrode that had the 24 number dropped down to 6.4, which was much better!). Then she turned me on! Stepdad recorded my reaction and all. I was hearing beeps for every sound that was going on, and feeling a lot of pulsating going on in my head. My brain even felt like it was vibrating! Very weird stuff. Even felt like a heart beat going on in my head for a little while there too. Allison played with the volume some more, saved that set for Program 1, and increased the volume for Programs 2 and 3 so that I can work my way up over the next couple or so weeks.

She then unhooked me from the computer, and had me play with the dummy Harmony so I could get a feel for how to take it apart and putting it back together while she loaded the programs to my processor. Then I put it on myself, took me a few seconds to find the magnet in my head of course. I'm sure once I've gotten enough practice, I'll get the headpiece on in the exact right spot without hunting around much. Yahoo! I've been turned on! Put all of my random accessories/pieces back into their respective boxes, and handed them over to my stepdad to take out to his car.

Loaded up stepdad's car, then mom and I got out again so he could take off to get to the wholesale house to pick up some things for his flower shop. Mom and I walked down to the Copper Pot for lunch. Burgers and mac and cheese, and oh it was quite a tasty lunch. I randomly turned off my hearing aid here and there, just to "listen" with the implant. Still just beeps, which is to be expected. We then found a Walgreens, got a couple of items there, then headed back to the building the implant center is located at for my 1:30 post-op appointment. We hung out in the lobby, as we still had more than an hour to go before the appointment. Again I turned my hearing aid off and on here and there, and played with my ipod and blackberry. There was this guy with his little boy that sat in the lobby with us for a while, and they and my mom struck up a conversation. Eventually, they left, and we headed up to the 5th floor. Sat in the waiting room a bit longer. Finally I was called back to Dr. Kelsall's office, and waited a few minutes in there. While waiting, stepdad returned. Kelsall came in, we talked, then I sat in his special chair. He turned it around and leaned it back so he could remove the stitches. He also looked inside my ear as well. Said everything looked good. He did spot some blood under the ear drum, but he said that would clear up on its own. Set up another appointment for July 13 for a follow-up with Kelsall (will possibly get an appointment in with Allison for this day too as well), and then I was free to go!

Allison will drive up to Wyoming later this month for appointments with her Wyoming clients. I will see her again sometime on April 23 here in town, whenever we get a time set up. She gives her traveling Wyoming clients preference on time, and the locals will get whatever time she has left basically. Understandable! She said we may try adding Clearvoice then, but we'll see. I'm to try to use the implant as much as possible with the hearing aid off (even just 2 hours a day with hearing aid off will be good). My brain needs to be trained! I haven't heard out of the left ear for so long, so it will definitely take some time before my brain starts making sense of the sounds coming in through the implant. So in the mean time, I'll be hearing a lot of beeps/electronic type of sounds. None of it makes sense, and I do feel a lot of random sensations depending on what sound is going through the implant.

Most of the afternoon, it's been sounding like a busy signal, like when you call someone on the phone but it's busy on the other end. Similar to that. At one point, just before we got to Cheyenne, I heard/felt a truck driver's horn I think. Later on during the trip, I got the sensation someone was knocking on my head... Then I heard something similar to someone tapping on an empty aluminum or tin can. But for the most part, it's the busy signal I'm hearing.  And my brain is already confused with the new implant, that I'm having trouble making sense of speech with my hearing aid in the right ear. Too much going on for the brain very confusing stuff.  Also, after I had been turned on, Allison did a quick speech test with me. She covered up her mouth, and said "airplane," "ice cream cone," and "shoe." I was to tell her which one she was saying. The first few tries, I didn't get any of them. But then I got 5 in a row correctly. I didn't hear the actual words being said, but I felt the sensations in my head as she said them, so I was able to figure out which word matched the sensation I was experiencing. Very weird.  And it's kind of like a shock/blast to my head when the door closes and such, very strange stuff. Hopefully over time, my brain will start making sense of all this and sounds will sound more normal instead of just a bunch of beeps. Will just have to keep exposing the implant processor to different sounds and let my brain figure out everything.

As soon as I got home, I pretty much dove into the boxes, starting with the Harmony box. Got the Powercell charger plugged in and set up to go, read the info/instructions on how to work everything. Same with the Neptune box. I put the Neptune together and put the magnets in the Universal Head Piece (UHP) that came with the Neptune, so that I can use it tomorrow instead of the Harmony. My ear is still a bit sore/tender from the surgery, so I'll give it a bit more time to heal up before trying the Harmony again. Alison put the same 3 programs that are on the Harmony on the Neptune too. She did say if I should reach Program 3 and feel like I need more before I see her on the 23rd, to let her know and I will Fed-Ex a processor to her so she can up the volume some more. Hopefully I can hold out until the 23rd though. I am going to try to spend a few days on Program 1, then progress up to Program 2, then 3 after that. But let's see what my brain wants though.

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