Surgery Day in the Cochlear Implant Journey

PB&J On Standby

The Friday before surgery, I received my pre-op instructions and my scheduled time of arrival. I was to stop eating and drinking at midnight the night before and was instructed to shower with antibacterial soap the night before and the morning of surgery. I was told not to wear jewelry and to have loose-fitting clothing.

There was a flurry of activity all weekend prepping the house, the office, and me! I spent the weekend preparing easy-to-eat foods and stocking the fridge with beverages in case I didn’t have an appetite. I cleaned the house top to bottom and did all the laundry. I knew if I didn’t do those things, it would bother me when I returned home.

Thinking I may lose some of my sense of taste for a while, I made a pretty diverse meal plan. I figured I’d have some of my favorite easy comfort foods — eggs and buttered toast, oatmeal with berries, PB&J. These foods seemed not only easy to make but also easy to eat.

In preparation for the surgery, I washed my hair the night before. I knew that I would not be able to wash it again for a while, so I wanted to give myself a clean start. I set out some books, magazines, and a collection of DVDs to watch and made sure my Netflix streaming subscription was active. I felt prepared come Monday.

Nothing Left To Chance

I’m not sure when the sense of peace and calm came over me, but I really felt ready for the surgery by the time my date arrived. I felt very confident in my surgeon and felt I was in the best hands.

It likely helps that he had already performed the same surgery on many of my patients. Having referred patients to the implant center for the last 14 years, I was already familiar with the positive outcomes and had heard many patients relay their success stories to me.

The day of surgery, I arrived at the ambulatory surgery center around 5:15am for a 5:30am check-in. After a bit of waiting, I was sent back to the initial prep area where I was told to gown up. Although I was ready for the surgery, I was nervous about one thing: communication.

I decided under no circumstances could I leave this up to chance. I spoke up to the nurse, letting her know she needed to face me and come closer to let me lip-read what she is saying. She was a champ, moving her entire computer system close to my bedside to do the intake.

Once I was gowned and my intake completed, and I had provided my consent, they let my husband, Phil, come back to see me before I rolled off to surgery. We had a short visit, and then I was rolled off to another floor for the surgery prep.

At this point, I still had my hearing aids and glasses on and was very protective of them; I needed both to hear and didn’t want them removed until the last possible moment. I also wanted them back when I was in recovery so I would be able to hear the team when they woke me up.

The team decided my surgeon would be in charge of my hearing aids, including putting them back on when surgery was done. My glasses were sent down to Phil since I could see well enough if people leaned in closer. It made sense, but at the time I was nervous to part with my glasses. After surgery, I better understood, given that the glasses wouldn’t fit on my head with the bandages anyway.

In surgery prep, I met the anesthesiologist and reviewed my history with him. The surgical nurse placed my IV, and the surgeon came in, marked the ear he was cutting, and reviewed the process with me again to make sure I didn’t have any questions.

I think there are few times in life when I have felt this ready. Maybe it had something to do with it being so early in the morning and that I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for a while, but my body and mind were very calm, and I didn’t feel nervous. I just felt ready.

An Emotional Moment

After the IV was placed, they rolled me across the hall, and shortly thereafter I was breathing deeply into a mask. I don’t remember anything from that point until I awoke in recovery. General anesthesia is so strange — one moment you’re fully aware, and then you wake up as if nothing happened.

In recovery, I woke up and didn’t feel bad but had some pain. The nurse decided to give me pain meds and said they might make me sleepy. Shortly after she injected meds into my IV, I was asleep again.

I can sleep long and soundly at home, so I suspect that with the sedating effects of the anesthesia and pain meds, I was very hard to wake. They told Phil I was taking a long time to wake up, so I stayed in recovery for a while.

I remember being moved back to the same prep area where I started but was pretty groggy for the ride there. The next thing I knew, Phil was walking toward me. I became overcome with emotion seeing him and started to cry.

To this day, I still do not understand those tears. Perhaps I was just happy to have survived a surgery. Perhaps it was the drugs. Perhaps I was relieved, and they were tears of joy.

I found one of my hearing aids was in my ear and one in a jar on my lap. I could not wear the left hearing aid, as this ear was under surgical bandages, but at least my right ear could help out.

Phil brought my glasses, and I put them on crooked due to the bandage. At least I could see and half hear what was going on. It was a relief to have some senses back but also a bit annoying to hear nothing from the left side.

I had a very tight bandage around my head with what I call an “ear cup” on my left ear. The bandage was so tight that I reported more pain from the bandage than from my ear. The nurse asked me to rate the pain on a 10-point scale. I said it was about a 4. She said she would prep pain medications I could take home and said the surgeon would come to look at the bandage before I was discharged.


A New Chapter

I had no concept of time while at the hospital. I knew we started the day at 5am and figured it was probably close to noon. Turns out it was closer to 3pm by the time the surgeon saw me and discharged me.

He was very reassuring, letting me know that the surgery went well and that my job was to just rest and heal and that he would see me in a week. He said I could adjust my bandage but that I needed to keep it on for at least 24 hours. The compression would help keep swelling at bay and aid in the healing process.

The nursed asked if I was up for walking out, and I said, “Yes.” I amazed myself that I just had surgery on my head and yet was walking the hospital corridors to the exit with the nurse and my husband without difficulties. I didn’t have any problems with my balance. I was beyond happy to know I would be able to walk and not be dizzy or off balance.

The nurse saw me off and wished me well, and Phil took me to the garage to our parked car. I was awake and in a great mood for the drive home and feeling as positive as could be. Phil took me home where he and I would spend a watchful 48 hours together, and I officially started my convalescence.

More milestones to come! Stay tuned here and on Facebook for future updates on Dr. Yoder’s cochlear implant journey, including recovery, activation, and rehabilitation.

Part 7: Convalescence

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