CI Surgery and Recovery
Today is 2 weeks and about 5 days after my cochlear implant surgery. I’m a little late starting this blog, well, actually writing on the blog, but better late than never! 🙂 I decided to start this blog to share about my experience with the cochlear implant, from the very beginning, when I decided to look into an implant, until well after the implant. This entry will cover the time from the surgery up until today.
My surgery was scheduled for Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 7:30 am at Vanderbilt in Nashville. I worked on Monday, trying to get everything set up and ready for my substitute and then left school at 3:30 pm to head to my parents’ house in Knoxville. We left from there at 7ish to drive to Nashville. The drive over was supposed to be about 3 hours but was much longer thanks to a horrendous downpour. I thought the worst of it was actually the other drivers on the road. The 18 wheelers would fly past you and spray your windshield with loads of rain and visibility was practically nothing. Thankfully, we made it to the hotel safe and sound!
I had to be at the hospital at 6:00 am for prep. Not fun. I definitely made sure I got a shower and washed my hair, knowing that it would be a few days until I could wash it again. Everyone there was pretty nice, though I wasn’t super nuts about the first nurse who took care of me. The second nurse I met who would actually be in the operating room with me was very nice and friendly and gave everyone hugs before the surgery. They asked me a million times what my name and birthday was, what kind of surgery I was there for and which ear they were going to implant. They put a sticker behind the ear that was not to be implanted and used marker to mark the ear that was to be implanted. Brought back memories of my knee surgery, when they wrote “this knee” on the surgical knee. It got a little old after a while, but better safe than sorry, I suppose! The bed I was on was not made for a tall person. My feet stuck out off the end and anyone taller than me (about 5’8”), would not have enjoyed it!
After all the surgery prep, they wheeled me back to the operating room pretty much right on time. I think it was in the prep room that they gave me something to help me relax, so by the time I got into the OR, things were getting a little fuzzy. I still remember them moving me to the table and putting the mask on my face before I passed out. Sometime later, I was waking up from the anesthesia. I struggled to wake up and was told later that I kept trying to roll over on my side. I was dreaming about something and remember not being able to wake up and being very confused about what was happening and where I was. It was not a fun feeling, but thankfully it was over pretty quickly. They gave me some meds for pain and to stop shaking (I guess just a side effect from the anesthesia or something) and very soon after that I was on my way. I think we were on the road home by 10:30 or so.
The post surgery feeling was very weird. I had a plastic cup and gauze over my ear, but that was it. There was a very full feeling in my ear and the side of my neck was VERY sore. I could only turn my head to the side very, very slightly. Thankfully I didn’t have any dizzy spells whatsoever throughout the whole recovery period. The worst I felt was lightheadedness, so that was a total blessing! We got home and I had some chicken noodle soup, which tasted very weird. I had been warned that my taste buds could be affected and this may or may not be permanent. My mouth was very dry for the first day or so and I had a metallic taste that didn’t really go away, whether I was eating and drinking or not.
I really didn’t have a whole lot of pain, either. I think I took a total of 3 pain pills, half a pill at a time and then stopped because I wanted to be able to drive and found that I didn’t really need them anymore. I had to sleep on my non-implanted side only for about 2 weeks and I had to use pillows (and still do) to keep my head elevated in order to help the swelling go down. I did get quite a bit of ringing in my ear, but since I’ve always had some tinnitus on and off, it was pretty manageable. I still enjoyed the moments of silence when they came, though!
As I said, I had the surgery on Tuesday and by that Saturday I was able to drive again. The rules for that had simply been to be off the pain pills and be able to turn my head without pain. This is not to say that there was no soreness when I turned my head, by that time it wasn’t painful. Shaving down the bone and drilling it some does cause soreness! I would say the soreness was pretty much completely gone after 2 weeks and I was able to start sleeping on that side again.
Looking back, I would say the hardest parts of the whole recovery were the hair washing and the glasses. I wasn’t able to wear regular glasses for a long time and I still am limited on how long I can wear them. The incision is about 2-3 inches behind my ear, so when I wear regular glasses, they put a lot of pressure on it. For a while I wore an old pair that I had taken the right earpiece off of, but they would get lopsided very easily and mess up my eyes, so after a while I would wear my contacts most of the day. As for the hair washing, I had to go 3 days before I could wash my hair (GAG) and even then I was not allowed to get the incision wet or get water in my ear canal. After about 7 days, I was able to get the incision wet, but I still can’t get water in my ear canal, so I have to be careful. Since I have to keep ointment on the incision, my hair can get kind of gross there when the ointment starts getting in my hair. Considering that they didn’t have to shave any hair, though, I will take it! Mostly I wash and blow dry my hair at night. I thought that it would be hard to go 2 weeks without blowing my nose, but that ended up being easier than I thought!
By now, my ear is not sore, except for the incision. The strange taste/sensation in my mouth is starting to go away. I’ve pretty much mastered the hair washing, though I do hope they tell me I can go back to normal showering and sleeping habits at my post op appointment, and physically, I feel completely back to normal. I don’t have any more meds I’m on and the tinnitus is not nearly as intense. I’m ready for the activation appointment so that I can get started on the rehabbing. I’ve been told that it will take some time and practice to hear things normally and I’m getting tired of only hearing out of one ear. I did a little experimenting the other day and found out that they were able to preserve my residual hearing, so it’s been hard not to wear a hearing aid (doctor’s orders said no) and with just one hearing aid in my left ear, things don’t sound right. They sound distorted or I find that I’m not able to tell what or where a sound came from. I’ve pretty much avoided all group activities and have only been around 2-3 people at the most, unless they sign.
Many people have asked if I hear better already, which is not how a cochlear implant works. I do plan on writing a blog about how the implant works, hopefully before Wednesday, and then I’ll post a blog about the activation appointment (maybe with a video. We’ll see how brave I am at the appointment!). Until then! 🙂