My bilateral implant

10 November 2005

After receiving my first implant in 1998, I have now taken the first steps toward my second journey.

It all started when my friend, Ronel, received the bilateral implant (second implant in the other ear). She was so pleased with the results of the second implant, that she bubbled with enthusiasm. She said, that she could not believe what difference it made to her hearing. She could now determine from which directions sounds came and that music now sounded wonderful.

I was very happy for her, but did not really consider having the second implant myself. It was very, very expensive and our medical aid would certainly not pay for it.

Then, in June 2005, a few friends who all have CI's had a social gathering in Somerset West. I saw Ronel again and she was bubbling and full of life. Once again she told us what a wonderful improvement the second implant was. Then my audiologist told us that, if one already has an implant, the second one could be purchased at half price. Suddenly, it did not seem quite so impossible to get a second one myself. Instead of R180000, the second one would cost R79000.

But....R79000 was still a lot of money and together with the hospital and doctor's fees, it would mount up to R130000. I felt guilty even to suggest to Peet that I would like to have the implant. It was so much money and I knew we did not really have it. We talked about it and thought about ways to gather the funds, but I was not very optimistic and still felt guilty inside for wanting something that would be so expensive.

Then in June, we got an offer for our share in a holiday house in Port Alfred. It was a sad decision to make, because it was the place where our family spent many happy holidays for many years. After discussing the situation and coming up with quite a few reasons why it would be better to sell, we decided to let the place go. This was the point where I first felt that it was the right way to go. God knows what we need and He was providing.

Then things started happening. I made an appointment with my audiologist, Lida, and she did all the neccessary hearing tests. I had a CT scan done to see if the left ear was suitable for the implant. After this followed a visit to the surgeon, Dr. Derek Wagenfeld who said everything looked good and he could not see any reason not to operate.

Yeh! I was very happy and started to get very excited about the prospect of 'going stereo'!

The date for the surgery has been determined for the 21st of November and the operation will be done at the medical clinic, Somerset West.


Some precautions had to be taken before this second operation, though. Firstly I had to be innoculated against meningitis and secondly I had to have a caloric test done to determine if my balance was not effected negatively by the first operation.

I had the meningitis jab on Monday the 7th. Easy as a pie, I thought. But not so. On Tuesday and Wednesday I felt so tired, my arms and legs felt like lead. On Thursday I had a hell of a headache and my eyes felt if they would explode. By the evening my neck and shoulders started aching. On Friday and Saturday I had the most awful pains in my legs and body and my head still throbbed. Luckily two common little Disprins brought relief. By MondayI was slowly returning to my old self.

Next was the caloric test (electronystagmogram) at an audiologist. It is a test which uses differences in temperature to diagnose ear nerve damage as a cause of dizziness or balance problems. Damage to the vestibular portion of the acoustic nerve (the nerve of the inner ear) is one of the more common causes of problems with balance.

Each ear is tested separately using a computerized caloric stimulation machine. Nystagmus (quick movement of both eyes in response to certain stimuli which is necessary for normal vision and balance) is measured using electrodes around the eye and recorded for analysis by the computer. Cold air(30 degrees C) is blown in the ear canal and causes nystagmus. This test is then repeated using warm air (44 degrees C). The nystagmus should occur in the opposite direction (towards the warm air then slowly away, rather than away from the air and slowly back). This test is analyzed by the computer for both cold and warm air response for each ear and differences between ears as well as between cold and warm air responses are calculated.

Other tests with lights and sudden movements are also done. The air in my ears was a bit uncomfortable, but the rest was alright. The tests showed that there is no balance problems, so now I am all ready for the op on the 21st!

And boy, now I am starting to get excited!


13 NOVEMBER 2006…Six days to go
Yesterday was payday as the the speech processor/implant has arrived and could not be collected before it was paid for. A whole R89 000. Quite a lot of smackers for such a small gadget! 

So, now we are all ready for the op with only six more days to go.

Funny thing is, where I have always concentrated on the things I could hear and made sure that I knew what the sounds were, I am now thinking more and more about the things I can not hear! I can hear music, but not really appreciate it. When watching TV, I cannot really follow everything that is said. When part of a social group, I do not really get everything people are talking about.

So yes...I have high expectations on how the second implant will improve my hearing and I am very positive about this new journey. 
And... I'm sooo excited!

20 NOVEMBER 2006…Tomorrow is D-day!
Tomorrow is D-day and I'm feeling very excited. And, I must admit, a little bit nervous as well.

I shall book in at hospital at 12:00 and the operation will be done at 4pm by Dr. Derek Wagenfeld, the CI surgeon. I shall be the 3rd adult in the Cape to get the bilateral implant.

If everything goes well, I shall be back at home on Tuesday.

21 NOVEMBER 2006
So this Monday was D-Day. I had to book in at the Somerset West Medi-Clinic at 12:00. Since that moment, my life was organised by a long list of people. 

The person at the reception desk told us to wait until one of the admission personnel was available to fill in the admission forms. After thousands of questions were asked and many forms were completed, we had to wait for a porter to take me and my small bag to my room. 

Minutes after I made myself at home on the bed and Peet settled down on a chair, in came a nurse with some more forms to be filled in. After she asked more questions, in came another nurse to measure my bloodsugar, temperature and blood-pressure. The narcocist came to ask me if I was okay and to explain the procedure. Then came the doctor...dear man. So nice and friendly and reassuring. He told me that I was to be operated at 17:00 instead of 16:00 because of an emergency case he had to attend to. Then another nurse arrived to take an ECG. After all these people came and went, I had to exchange my clothes for a horrible hospital outfit which I jokingly call the icu (I see you) outfit. :)

Since early that morning I could feel that I was slowly getting more and more stressed, so I was given two pills to calm me down and let me sleep. At that stage Peet left and I floated away on a soft little cloud to nowhere. The next thing I was vaguely aware of, was when they pushed me on a trolley to the theatre and a drip was attached to my hand. From that moment I was asleep and only awaked early the next morning with this huge bandage around my head!

The operation went well and took about two and a half hours. I, of course, luckily(!) knew nothing about anything that went on around me.

22 NOVEMBER 2006
After I awoke, I had no pain at all and was only dizzy and sleepy and a little nauseous, but it all got better in time. Then my dear doctor peeped in to tell me that everything went very well and that they tested the electrodes, all of them were working and he was very pleased with the outcome. I was so relieved and happy to hear the good news. To God all the glory!

After I got dressed, another porter came to fetch me with a wheelchair to take me to the radiology department for x-rays. It felt quite strange to be pushed around with this huge bandage around my head and people staring at us, but I don't think I would have made it if I had to walk all the way myself.

Back in my room, they brought me breakfast, but it was difficult to eat as my mouth was very dry because of the narcotics and my left temple hurt when I tried to open my mouth or when I tried to chew. This was because the doctor had to cut through a muscle in that region when he operated. Oh well, perhaps it is a good thing that it is not easy to eat! :-)

After receiving all the prescribed medication, we were ready to go home and I was once more transported to the car by means of a wheelchair. 

At home I got straight back to bed, as by this time I was tired and dizzy again. Overall, however, I felt quite well. 

The most wonderful of the whole operation, was definitely all the good wishes I received from all over the world. Friends, family and acquaintices sent sms's, emails and letters. Others phoned and came to visit. It really meant so much to me. Thank you! I really love you all!

24 NOVEMBER 2006
After my operation, my doctor warned me that I would develope a black eye after the surgery. Nothing happened directly after the surgery, but yesterday, two days later, lo and behold. The left side of my face started swelling and I developed a black patch beneath my eye! 

Today I looked a tad worse than yesterday with my cheek being swollen as well, but was feeling quite okay. Luckily today was the day for the follow up appointment with my doctor and he assured me that everything was fine and I had nothing to worry about. He took off the bandage, looked at the spot where he operated and confirmed that everything looked 100%! 

Of course, the first thing I did when I arrived home, was to wash my hair which was all sticky and stood in all directions. The spot where my hair was shorn for the operation, is so small, that after I washed my hair, no-one can even see the operation scar. He really did a great job on every aspect! 

My hookup date has also been confirmed by my audie for the 6th of December. Twelve days to go before turning stereo. Isn't it exciting? Woo hoo!!

28 NOVEMBER 2006
I cannot believe that a week has already passed since my implant operation.
My doctor told us that there was no need for me to see him again, and that we could remove the tapes from the wound ourselves today. After thoroughly soaking it in water, Peet easily and painlessly removed the tapes with a tweezer. I was quite surprised to see, instead of a large operation wound with stitches, a thin hairline scar that has already healed. No visual stitches as the stitches are underneath the skin and will be absorbed by the body in 90 days.

The only after effect that bothers me, is the fact that the top of my ear is totally numb. It is probably a nerve that's been damaged, but I really do hope that it will return to normal as it feels quite akward to have this numb thing on the side of my head!

We will be going away for a few days...from Thursday to Monday, so hopefully the time will pass quickly until hookup day on the 6th of December. I'm all set and ready for the big event and very excited!

At last hookup day arrived. I woke up after a sleepless night, I was tense and nervous...quite different from the first hookup 8 years ago. Was I expecting too much from this second CI? Would the hookup be a good experience? Would the second time round be as good as the first?

Well, everything went quite well.Lida fitted the new Nucleus Freedom and did the very first map. It was quite exciting to hear the peeping sounds in the left ear after all these years, but when she switched on the sound àfter the map was done, the sound quality was quite disappointing. I heard a lot of shrill noises and our voices sounded faraway as if under water.

But yes....I knew that it will take time to get used to all the new sounds and that I must just be patient. 

In the two days since hookup, there has been some improvement. I now find that, if I remove the new processor, I feel uncomfortable to listen with only one ear: My brain can already tell there is something missing!!

Music already sounds better! I know this is going to be a very interesting and exciting journey and that every day will bring improvements and new surprises.

Tomorrow I will be going for my first follow-up map and that will certainly make a big difference. Sounds can just get better.

This second implant is just the most amazing thing. My hearing approved day after day and very soon I was wondering how on earth I could have heard before with only one implant. Being stereo just gave me the balance I’ve always lacked even if I had not realized it. Music has become great and all sounds are so clear and distinct. 

Previously it was hard to understand the english spoken by people from other countries, but when my friends Marilyn and Mieke came to visit from the USA, I found their American English very easy to understand.
A bilateral implant makes such a big difference that I can only tell other implantees: Go for the second one! You will never regret it!