Did I come out looking like Jabba the Hut? nup
Feeling sick? nup. Feeling dizzy? nup. Loss of taste? nup.
My surgeon is my hero! High five Professor Da Cruz! I really was prepared for the worst. And it was better than I had EVER thought it would be. Hell, I even enjoyed the anaesthetic!
So, we arrived at Westmead Private Hospital around 2.45pm, and got taken up to the pre-op ward. I thought I would have time to get taken to my room, and to settle in, and wait for a couple of hours before the surgery. Ben and I even brought our nintendo DS’s to play. But no. They told me that they had been waiting for me! And that I had to go in right at that moment. God, can’t tell you how scary that is.
So, I left my mum, and my mother-in-law and my friend Kate who was there from the ABC with her recording stuff. Gave them all a hug, managed to give Kate one final ‘sound bite’ (I think I said “I’m really fucking nervous!”) and I took Ben in with me.
They weighed me, took all my blood pressure, my heart rate, I had to sign all these forms, and then showed me to a bed behind a curtain where I got changed into the wonderful hospital fashions they have there.
Once I was sitting in the bed, in the hospital gown, ready to go, the realisation of what I was doing really hit me. Luckily the anaesthetist came in and introduced himself. I was like “Oh excellent! The anaesthetist! I have been wanting to meet you because I’m worried about dying under anaesthetic. I’m Kate, pleased to meet you!” He took the intro quite well I thought. Not often I guess people greet you saying they’re afraid you might kill them, LOL!
He was a really nice guy, and I felt reassured once I met him.
He explained what was going to happen, and then Ben and I were left in the curtained room by ourselves. I took it up0n myself to read my file, and was interested to see the sticky post-it note saying “Patient is deaf”. Duh. What did they think I was getting the implant for?
Suddenly, the curtains were whisked aside, and then I was being told to say goodbye to Ben. I gave him a big hug and a kiss, and it was then I started to feel like I was going to cry. But I didn’t – I really didn’t want to. However, the look on my face in these photos – well, I look like I am about to go in for cochlear implant surgery!
They wheeled me through the corridors – I enjoyed that, told the wardsman that this would probably be the highlight of my surgery - and then we got to the small room just before the theatre. I asked the nurses how long it would be, and they told me there was currently one other cochlear implant surgery going on behind the doors right in front of me, and that they’d probably be about 30 minutes.
Luckily, my anaesthetist came in, and put in the cannula (i started getting bossy, ridiculously! I actually told him he should tape up my cannula so it wouldn’t come out!! He was like “Patience! I’m about to do that!!”, and I was thinking, man I must be nervous, here I am telling the anaesthetist what to do). So, he told me “This stuff will calm you, and it will take literally 30 seconds to work.”
He injected it, and in even less than that, within a few seconds I was going “awwwwesome man, I can feel it already! this is great!” I spent ages staring at a particularly complicated looking lamp in the corner, marvelling over how they must use the swivel arm to move it around. Yep. Those drugs were good.
At some stage during the wait in that room, Dr Da Cruz popped in and I thought ‘this is it!’, but he said “I’m just popping out to do the interview with Triple J, I’ll be out in about 10 minutes – and unfortunately we can’t let them into the theatre to record the audio – the infection control issues are just too great.” I was staring at him and the lamp, going “great great, see you soon then”.
I did have a discussion with the anaesthetist about how the anaesthetic, whilst being the scariest thing for me, was also the most interesting. At this point, I was actually looking forward to it.
Finally….. the doors opened, and I was wheeled into the bright operating theatre. There were machines everywhere, about 6 people in there getting things ready. One guy was mopping something, and I thought for a second “blood! The last person died! Eeeeeeeeek!”
But then they were asking me to shift over to this other, impossibly narrow bed, and strapping me in. And then – I took my hearing aids for the last time. Put ‘H2″ in the bottom of a container – that was the one I will never use again, and as I took out the other one, I announced: “Right guys! Hearing aid is coming out I won’t be able to hear anything! Who can I entrust these too?” And everyone lurched to grab it! haha.
Then, it was time for the anaesthetic, and I asked them to show me what it looked like – it was a big horse syringe full of milk white liquid. It was loaded into my cannula, and all of a sudden I couldn’t contain myself. “I’m so excited!! I am getting an anaesthetic! Do I have to count backwards from ten? [they laughed and said no! and then as they injected it...] oh wow! I can feel it! It’s like pins and needles and its going up my body wow i can feel it oh my god before I forget please can you tell the surgeon not to shave off too much of my hair and …..!!!”
Boom. I was out.
It wasn’t like how other people described it to me. It wasn’t just like a split second later I woke up. I woke up with a mask on, and someone talking to me – my hearing aid had been put back into my ear, and I was soooo tired, I just didn’t want to wake up – I felt like I had had the BEST sleep ever.
Soon after though, I started to have feelings of suffocation, and wanted to pull off the mask and sit up. I was feeling my face, mentally thinking “Yes! No Jabba! My facial nerve feels intact!”
Once I was upright, and feeling less suffocated, Dr Da Cruz popped his head in again (I think!) and told me everything had gone well. Ahhh! Relief!
It took a little while to come out of it, but once I got the nurses to sit me up, and asked for some water (they gave me ice – never have I ever enjoyed a cup of plain ice before so much) I started to feel …. great! And I mean, really fucking good! I have no idea why. Perhaps it was the fact that I had prepared myself for pain, and for all these potentially terrible things, and none of them happened. I wasn’t dizzy or nauseous. My head didnt even hurt.
In fact, as I was sitting up, there were two other people opposite me also in recovery after surgery. I could see both their heart monitors really clearly. One older man, he looked Chinese maybe, and he had a nice steady heart beat, and looked very chilled out. But the indian woman in the bed next to him – it looked like her monitor was flatlining! I sat up straight, and was thinking “Should I yell for the nurses????” But they were hovering, and coming in and out, and I knew that they had seen it, and they were checking on her every now and then, and didn’t seem worried.
But, yeah, it was so disquieting watching her very weak heartbeat, that I tried to check mine – but the monitor was so far behind me that I couldn’t swivel my head enough. So I actually called the nurses over saying “Nurse? Nurse! How’s my heartbeat? My blood pressure? Am I ok? I feel fine, but I can’t see my monitor!” They thought I was nuts. I thought I was nuts. I said to them, “I think somethings wrong. How could I feel so bloody great, and normal, after coming out of the surgery? It doesn’t even hurt?”
She said “You were given a local anaesthetic as well as a general.” and I thought, ahhh, there we go.. Anaesthetic is my new favouritist thing ever.
And so I was like “Can I leave now? I feel fine.” The nurses looked at each other, sighed, then checked my forms and things, and eventually said yup.
I was wheeled to a completely different ward this time – and when I got to my room, there was Ben, my mum, and Ben’s step mum Bev. That was great.
I started to tell them how great I felt, and how everything was fine, and it didn’t even feel like I had surgery, when suddenly I felt a distinct ‘pop’ in my inner ear. And suddenly, from all the talking, I realised I could actually feel the implant in my inner ear. I kid you not. I immediately stopped talking and thought ‘whoa not good’ and then every time I swallowed, I could feel it. And whenever I talked, I could feel this unpleasant feeling that it might get dislodged from the vibrations of my voice.
So I literally went from being bouncy and cheerful to whispering quietly ‘can’t talk, can feel it doing weird things in my ear’.
And finally, I managed to convince the nurses to let Ben stay the night – so he got a little fold out bed next to mine. It was so wonderful of him to stay with me – and he even said he would watch whatever DVD I wanted – since we’d brought a portable DVD player. The TV they offered didn’t have captions, and I need captions to understand what’s happening.
So, that was good. I forced him to sit through 3 hours of the movie ‘Sex and The City’ with me and I’m pretty sure he only grimaced three times.
So, how do I feel now? Sick of writing.
But seriously, I feel great, though a bit drowsy, considering I’ve had serious inner ear surgery, and they’ve drilled a hole in my skull.
I have been keeping up the painkillers though, so that could be part of the reason. As mum says, don’t be noble, stay on top of the pain. Good advice mum. I’m currently taking more drugs than The Beatles during their Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club phase.
And I can’t feel that weird thing in my inner ear anymore. Just a dull ache in my head.
I got an x-ray done – check it out – you can see everything! the magnet, the electrode, the cord. Weird.
Actually I pretty much know the entire surgery process now, because someone left the ”Instructions for the Surgeon” at the end of my bed when I was in recovery – it obviously came with the packet of cochlear electrode. So as I recovered, I flicked through it. It said stuff like: “Welcome to your first cochlear implant surgery, please follow the instructions below: Step 1. Open the implant packet…”
Well, just kidding, it wasn’t actually in those words – but similar! Obviously Professor Da Cruz is totally ace at what he does, and didn’t even need to follow those instructions. How can I ever thank him enough?
Thanks Melville. You iz da man.