The last time I checked in, which was in early May, my cochlear implant surgery at Mayo-Rochester was complete and I was in a two-week healing mode. (See my previous blog for surgery details.) It has been nearly four weeks since surgery. Just over a week ago the implant was turned on in what is called activation. And, I returned to Rochester for a scheduled adjustment the next day. The follow-up appointment with surgeon, Dr. Brian Neff, went very well. He was pleased with my progress and expects my hearing to continue to improve. Recovery has progressed as expected. Overall, my hearing is not like it will be in the future because it takes time - usually 6 months to a year - for the brain to become accustomed to the new device. It definitely is an adjustment. It takes commitment and effort. Currently, voices and other sounds I hear resemble the way we hear underwater. Like gurgling. Not only that, men’s voices sound lower than normal and they seem to be speaking slower than before surgery. Female voices sound like Mini Mouse, even when I’m listening to music. It’s comical and puts a smile on my face. So, I’m not complaining. Once fully recovered, I’ll actually be kind of sad Mini Mouse no longer will be singing my favorite tunes!! Not only can I hardly wait for life to get back to normal, but for it to be even better! However, patience is the key! And so I have learned…”Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.” Barbara Johnson Amen to that, sister. Amen to that!!!
Hear ye!!! Hear ye!!!
When was the last time you gave any thought to one of the most highly-technical senses within your system: i.e. your hearing? About 2005, I began having problems with tinnitus, which is ringing in the ears. If you have never experienced it, tinnitus can be enough to drive a person crazy… or worse. I have heard of people taking their lives due to this devastating condition. Tinnitus is almost always worse in the morning and evening. Early-morning hours was when it woke me up. Then, all I wanted to do was get up and get away from the quiet. Even though it was still dark outside, I needed to get away. I dressed hurriedly and went outside where there was traffic noise to drown out the noise in my head. For a while, it was my morning ritual. Then, The Outdoors Guy bought me a sound machine to use at night and early mornings. It did help, and gradually I began to adjust to the new normal. But then, along with the tinnitus came hearing loss. I later learned tinnitus is actually a form of hearing loss. In 2012, I began wearing hearing aids. Normally, they last about five years. I am fortunate mine have continued to perform well for eight years, in part, because I have taken very good care of them. My audiologist told me it is almost unheard of to go eight years and still have hearing aids function as well as mine. Recently though, after testing, I was told what I already knew. My 8-year-old hearing aids were no longer capable of providing the level I need to make up for my hearing loss, which has gone from bad to worse. After my last hearing test in September, my audiologist told me, “You’re not even good at guessing what the words are.” We both laughed. But, yikes!!! Sometimes the truth really does hurt! The chart showed my hearing, especially in my left ear, took a nose dive. I have what is called profound hearing loss. No need for an explanation. Despite the bad news, I put off ordering new hearing aids (I also wear one in my right ear), hating the idea of spending $10,000 for a new pair. And, in case you’re wondering, no insurance covers hearing aids. Finally, after Bob and I went for lunch with friends, Cathy and Doug, a while ago, I realized it was time. I couldn’t understand Cathy, even though I was sitting next to her. Plus, Bob, our boys, daughters-in-law and grandkids all agreed… it was time. So, off to the audiologist we went. But there was a surprising twist to our visit. Dr. Hugo Guerrero pulled up the results from my September visit. Rather than discussing new, stronger hearing aids, he asked me if I had considered a cochlear implant. Bob and I were very surprised! We didn’t think my hearing had deteriorated enough to warrant an implant. An even bigger surprise was to learn when a person has profound hearing loss, cochlear implant surgery is actually covered by Medicare. While we waited in his office, Dr. Guerrero, audiologist at Mayo Clinic-Onalaska, began the process of conferring with Mayo Clinic-Rochester’s Audiology and Otorhinolaryngology Departments. It wasn’t long before he returned with the promise Mayo-Rochester would contact me to inform me if I was indeed a possible candidate for cochlear implant surgery. Only days later, I received the call. My appointment was scheduled for mid-March. But, because of COVID-19, the appointment was pushed back to May 18, with no guarantee it would even happen then. But then, on April 22, the phone rang. The caller ID said Mayo Clinic-Rochester. Mayo was beginning to open the clinic to a few patients. And, wonder of wonders, I was one of those fortunate enough to be offered an appointment for April 23. Bob and I met with Dr. Weston Adkins in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology. After more testing, he confirmed the hearing loss in my left ear was deemed profound. Yes, I was indeed a candidate for cochlear implant surgery in my left ear and met the strict Medicare guidelines. I must continue to wear a hearing aid in my right ear because my hearing has not dropped off to the profound loss-level like my left ear did. That afternoon, we met with surgeon Brian Neff, who discussed the pros of cochlear implants. He stressed the main benefit over hearing aids is clarity. Hearing aids only increase volume. However, with greater volume, background sounds become noisier, too. It was easy for me to get his point. I had been living it just as Dr. Neff had been, too. He has a cochlear implant in one ear and uses a hearing aid in the other ear. He said he has greatly benefited from the device. Thirteen days later, May 6, after more appointments and additional tests, the day for surgery finally arrived. Arrival time in Rochester was scheduled for 5:45 a.m. We were up at 3 a.m., and out the door at 4:30. Within 15 minutes, oldest son, Jon, phoned and told us he was on his way to meet us from Cloquet. “Oh, no!” We said. “It’s too far for you to come!” “I left home at 3,” he said. We talked for awhile and discussed whether or not Jon would be allowed into St Mary’s Hospital, even though our info sheets told us three visitors were allowed. Jon decided to keep driving and as soon as we reached Rochester, he would stop and wait until we called him with the information. Unfortunately, after arriving at St. Mary’s Hospital, we learned the 3-person policy was in place before COVID-19 entered our world. Not only could Jon not be with us, no one was allowed to stay once patients were checked in and called from the admissions lobby area. So, Jon turned around and went back to work in Duluth. Bob returned to La Crosse where he received updated text messages throughout my surgery. Once he received the text that I went into recovery, he set out for his return trip to Rochester. I am pleased to report Dr. Neff said surgery went very well. He phoned Bob when he finished with my surgery and told him, “Once the incision was made, the implant slid in very easy!” But, then Bob asked him THE BIG QUESTION: “How much hair did you have to cut?” Dr. Neff responded with, "Oh, the hair!! They are always worried about their hair! I didn’t take off much at all, but I’m sure it is still too much!!!” When Bob told me what Dr. Neff had said, it was a big LOL moment!! Recovery has gone well so far. I only experienced some dizziness, which was gone after I napped for a couple of hours after returning home. It was 24 hours before the bandage could be removed. Meanwhile, I looked like a space cadet!! The next two weeks I am in a holding pattern while waiting for the surgery site to heal. Then, we will make two return visits to Rochester for post-operative visits plus implant stimulation when the cochlear implant will be turned on. Dr. Neff explained it could take 3-6 months for everything to heal and for me to reach full hearing clarity. I will be happy to update you once this takes place because I know there are many people who struggle with hearing loss. If I can help one person it will be well worth it!!! Stay tuned.
Change is in the air
The coronavirus has changed us all to a certain extent. At this shocking time in our country’s history, we can’t live our lives the way we normally would or the way we wish we could. The little things in life we never gave a second thought to, such as coming and going and doing as we please, are now mostly off limits. But, the crisis has also brought out the good in people. And, creativity as well. Last week, one of the neighbors in our condo association, Lisa, emailed members that her significant other would be turning 50 on the 26th. Because of COVID-19, the plans they had to celebrate Paul’s birthday were rearranged. So, Lisa hatched a plan to invite everyone in the association to gather in the road or driveway in front of their condo, using the 6-foot social distancing rule of course! Her request was simple: Sing Happy Birthday to Paul at 6:30. Lisa said she would manage to keep him away from the window until that time since she wanted it to be a surprise. Lisa also stated she would tie a few balloons on nearby mailboxes, plus have some chalk art on the road and driveway when he returned home about 6 p.m. As the clock inched toward 6:30, I crossed the road to meet neighbor, Leslie, and her husband, Jim. Others also began to flock toward Paul and Lisa’s condo. At the appointed time, we all joined in and raised our voices (and some their drinks) with the Happy Birthday lyrics as Paul and Lisa stepped outside. The look on Paul’s face was one of surprise (she really did pull it off), and joy!!! Afterward, we visited in celebratory fashion while following the rule to keep our distance. It was a moment in time we will all remember… one small gesture to help make our neighbor’s 50th a birthday he isn’t likely to forget!!!
Beat COVID-19 with “Curbside Chats”
Before many of us were born, President Franklin D. Roosevelt held evening radio fireside chats from 1933-1944. During Roosevelt’s presidency, he addressed issues of the day to suppress rumors, explain his strategy and calm the population during World War II. At this time in our country’s history, we are fighting a different kind of enemy against the dreaded COVID-19. During this time, citizens must practice social distancing. But, our family has come up with our own way to cope with this rule. The Outdoors Guy and I have adopted what we call "Curbside Chats." Who says family can’t get together during COVID-19? I’d like to see anyone try to stop us!!! Our youngest son, Evan, and daughter-in-law, Annie, live across town from us. When the virus hit, we were texting and checking in with phone calls, but it wasn’t the same as seeing their smiling faces and enjoying their company in person. Our first “Curbside Chat” was spur of the moment. One day, I had suggested to The Outdoors Guy that we take a drive to get out of the house. We planned to check out the rising flood waters in several favorite spots. As we drove, I said, “Let’s call Evan, see if he and Annie are home, and if they want to come outside for a Curbside Chat. We’ll stand by the Jeep and they can stay in their front yard.” "Sounds good to me,” he said. Yay! The kids were home and ready for a visit!!! It was so good to see their smiling faces despite the invisible line drawn between us. They sat on their lawn and we stayed on the boulevard near our Jeep. They also brought their adorable beagle, Bibi, outside with them. She wanted to get to us so badly, but the kids wouldn’t let her. Because we are considered in the high-risk category, Evan and Annie wanted to play it safe. They both work among the public. And, although they are extremely cautious, they were concerned if Bibi had been petted by them or someone else who was unknowingly carrying the virus, it could be transferred to us. According to Dr. Jay Butler, CDC deputy director for infectious diseases, who was quoted during a CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response page on Facebook live March 18, “It’s possible that the novel coronavirus can survive on surfaces for minutes, or even hours.” Evan and Annie were taking no chances! Other than not getting to pet our favorite beagle, the Curbside Chat lifted our spirits!! In fact, we determined it would not be our last. The next one is coming up soon and we can’t wait!! Now, if we could only figure out a way to have Curbside Chats with our oldest son, Jon, daughter-in-law, Sara, along with grandsons, Jackson and Bryson, and their darling Yorkie, Guinness, it would be a bonus. Unfortunately, it’s a long drive from La Crosse to Cloquet, MN. We’ve had to settle for phone calls with them. At a time when we especially want to keep our loves ones close, but government rules and regulations forbid it if we don’t live in the same household, this has been a great compromise for us. If you are missing loved ones who live close by, try our Curbside Chats. You can go to them or they can come to you. Curbside Chats help curb the blues until once again we can hug our loved ones even tighter than we ever have before!!!
(NOTE: Roosevelt is the only president in history to hold office for more than eight years, thereafter the Twenty-Second Amendment was passed by congress in 1947 and ratified by the states on Feb. 27, 1951 that states a person can only be elected to the presidency two times for a total of eight years.)
'Bully Boy' is back!!!
Our snowbird has returned from a balmy winter. Last fall was the second year he left La Crosse for points south. Depending upon the weather, It takes him anywhere from a few days to several weeks to head south, and again for his return trip. Why does the weather cause such a variance in his travel time? Because our snowbird happens to be a robin. We have lived in the same country setting for six years. Last spring was the first time “the bully” showed up to dine on the ripened fruit from our crab apple tree. The apples give the birds energy, especially if they are continuing on their flight to points north. The previous four years robins came in flocks and munched in peace until the tree was picked bare. Not anymore!!! Bully Boy has already staked his claim. The second another bird drops in for, what is in his mind an uninvited meal, Whoosh!!! Bully Boy swoops in to chase it away and save the day! Our tree is loaded with crab apples, so there are plenty to go around. But ol’ Bully Boy has taken the tree captive for yet another spring. There is no way to stop The Intimidator. In fact, he tries to stop US!! If we go outside for any reason, look out!! Here. He. Comes!! He takes a beak-dive straight at us to get just close enough with a less-than-gentle reminder to steer clear of “his” territory! As other robins pass through our area headed for their summer destination, the tree comes alive with so many robins it resembles a magnified busy bees’ nest. Yet, Bully Boy doesn’t let his guard down. He does his best to ward them off. Last spring, at the height of it all, our yard resembled a war zone with The Intimidator continually diving and chasing others in the air and on the ground! It was then when the Outdoors Guy and I actually started feeling sorry for the poor thing. He was so overworked chasing others away, we wondered how he had time to eat any apples himself!!! Yet, as each new day dawned, there he was… and is today, the lone robin perching in the crab apple tree, the neighbor’s tree, on a rock below the tree, or on our rooftop… ready… waiting… It looks like it will be another interesting spring at “the tree.” In the meantime, I’m wondering… did his mom not teach him to share… OR… can bird brains have mental illness???!!!