Post surgery and on my birthday two years ago. I’m looking forward to special chats with my grandson.
So here it is 11 days post cochlear implantation surgery in my left ear. My right ear was implanted in 2005 and has been my only source of intelligible sound for a few years now.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that when the device is off, the recipient defaults to a status of profoundly deaf. It’s really amazing to think that this tiny device implanted under the skull can reconnect someone to the world around them. I thought about that a lot the week before my surgery and found myself feeling a tremendous amount of gratitude and a little weepy. That my surgeon told me he thinks I will probably even benefit more from this surgery than the first one gives me the same goosebumps I felt when I received what Santa promised to deliver on Christmas morning as a child.
The days preceding surgery I spent time with my sister Stephanie in California visiting family. It was a special time with lunches at my nephew’s outdoor picnic table, lots of laughs with her grandson Antonio, a visit to Hollywood, time catching up with a cousin I haven’t seen since I was about five years old and taking some time to discover L.A. I also enjoyed sitting on the porch and watching the monarch butterflies, the hummingbirds and a California fall day at its best. But one of the most profound moments for me was walking down the street with my sister and her reaching for my hand, just like we did back in the days when we walked to Washington Elementary School. Sometimes the greatest messages take place in silence.
Before long, it was time for us to take our red-eye flight back east, and the following day I packed another bag to stay over my daughter Melissa’s house in NYC the night before surgery. An amazing professional chef, she asked me what I would like to eat the night before surgery. I told her something simple.
After Melissa, Lou and the baby greeted me at the door with smooches, I sat down at her dining room table, and we enjoyed a pasta dish, no kidding, — in the shape of tiny ears. It was a dish that contained shrimp and escarole, one of my favorite vegetables. My family’s presence was calming. Somehow even the dog seemed to sense something big was about to happen.
The next morning we took a cab uptown to NYU Medical Center Ambulatory Care. Traffic was horrendous. But once we got there, we met my daughter Valerie and all three of us waited for the nurse to call me in. My daughter Valerie reminded me if I had trouble communicating, just call them in.
So the nurse asked me if I was nervous. Nope. She asked me all those questions they repeat over and over to make sure they have the right person. She asked if it was my left ear they were operating on. She asked why I was here today. The correct answer was to have a cochlear implant, but I couldn’t help throwing in there that I was anxious to have a purpose for that ear besides hanging an earring.
The nurse asked me again if I was nervous. Nope. At that point I just told her give me the juice and send me to that happy place and wake me when it’s over. That surprised my kids because I don’t like to take medication. But they broke out in laughter.
The nurse walked me down the hall and instructed me to go into Room 4 with her. Ah, I get Suite 4 I joked. The celebration was about to take place. Everyone seemed in good spirits as I was told to take a deep breath and I said a silent prayer looking up at the lights, asking my deceased husband to ask God to watch over me.
Next thing I knew, I woke up with a thick gauze “headband” bandage across my head. I looked like I just completed a tennis match. At first I thought I was back in L.A., but soon realized the operation was over. My first thought was, “That’s all?” I felt very little pain. I had very little swelling. I didn’t have the vertigo I had the first time. Very little. I was shooting questions to my kids and the doctor. I asked my kids to take a picture of me to remember the day.
I went back to my daughter Melissa’s house and shared a meal again with family. Greek chicken soup and a lentil dish. Melissa insisted on spoon feeding me. What a reversed role from the past. But it was nice. I slept in a chair (for comfort) and Liffey, their dog, stayed at my feet the whole time. If I moved an inch, he moved an inch closer.
Valerie came home with me for 2 days and nurtured me and watched I didn’t try to do anything I wasn’t suppose to do. I snore like a locomotive, but she never complained. When she left, I found a card on the table expressing how proud she is of me, and letting me know we will always find a way to communicate.
My sister Stephanie came for a day and then Lucille. Friends called to ask if I need anything. I really can’t say I’ve had a hard time, and if this gives anyone courage to go through with this, that makes me happy.
My device will be turned on December 2, the same day the tree will be lit at Rockefeller Center. Can’t wait to play with all those toys Cochlear Corporation gives their recipients to help hear on the phone, in restaurants and other settings.
The tree has always had significance to me because when I was a child, my mother would put all 7 of her children on the train to see the tree. Then we would go to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and light a candle, sometimes go see the Rockettes at Radio City and get a sandwich at one of those Horn and Hardart automats. Each of us would get one of those little plastic souvenirs you shake and it appears to snow on a tiny village. That was the beginning of the season for us.
So on December 2 after my appointment I will stay in the City for a bit and enjoy all the sounds and sights of the season. I just may go to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and light a candle in remembrance of my mother and how she made the season magical, — and gratitude to my family and friends for always being there for me.