Now, most people who know me, know I love cats. I was intrigued when I came across this photo on the web, which I didn’t really believe was true. Until my audiologist told me that apparently it IS true! This is how scientist have been studying the effects of cochlear implants on deafness!

How cool is this! Implanted cat 5 months after surgery. The cat wears the device 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.   These cats are born deaf and offer an excellent model for studying congenital deafness. With the implant, cats will come when called and demonstrate behaviorally that they can hear.

Cat: "One more photo of me in this state, and you die, man." Just kidding! How cool is this! I have to admit, it's my new dream pet! Implanted cat 5 months after surgery. The cat wears the device 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. These cats are born deaf and offer an excellent model for studying congenital deafness. With the implant, cats will come when called and demonstrate behaviorally that they can hear.

After 3 months of using the cochlear implant, the synapses of auditory nerve fibers in these implanted cats were compared to those of normal hearing cats and congenitally deaf cats of the same age.   They discovered that cochlear implants “rescued” the synapses of the deaf cats.

Check out the website for more details on this:  Endbulbs, Activity, and Cochlear Implants

I am sure many people would call this cruel; but hey, I’ve got an implant, and I love it! So, I find it fascinating – but geez, that poor cat doesn’t look too happy in the photo, huh?

But it has inspired me!

I am not alone!

There are cats out there that are like me too! haha!

I almost feel like getting a deaf kitten from the RSPCA, taking it to Professor Da Cruz, and pleading: “Work your magic, Melville!! My cat wants to hear again!”

And then, post surgery,  the kitten and I will prance off into the sunset, happily talking to each other in robotic meows, and comparing battery shelf-life.

Yep, that’s what it’s come to now – I am day dreaming about having a ‘matching’ pet  (like people who get haircuts to match their pets!). Instead of B1 and B2, it will be Cochlear Kate, and Cochlear Cat. I’ll get it a leash too, so I can walk it! Awesome. We can share processors. So many possibilities!

Today Ben and I drove out to Westmead Hospital to see Professor Da Cruz to get the final layer of bandages off, and to check that everything has healed up.

I was pretty excited about this, because it was also the day when I could get the go-ahead to wash my hair – which has been untouched (well, gingerly brushed) for a record 13 days now.

This is what I looked like after the operation with gauze strips behind my ear for 13 days.

This is what I looked like after the operation with gauze strips behind my ear for 13 days.

I am surprised there were not more things growing out of my head, but it appears not washing you hair doesn’t kill you. It wasn’t even that itchy or too oily – maybe could have passed for a hippy that’s all. Luckily I have been able to work from home, so not too worried about appearance. Poor Ben.

So, anyway, Professor Da Cruz peeled off the remaining gauze strips that were covering it, while Ben took a photo.

I was mildly freaking out because he literally just pulled it off with tweezers, and it felt OH SO WRONG! Because I have not touched that spot for 13 whole days.

I was mildly freaking out because he literally just pulled it off with tweezers, and it felt OH SO WRONG! Because I have not touched that spot for 13 whole days.

I asked to have a look, because the cut apparently went right behind the ear – I was sure that there would be a massive scar… so I was eagerly asking Ben “is it really cool? really big? a bad scar? tell me! tell me!”, and he showed me.

Man, it looks gross, but really, there is NOTHING under those strips. No scar - nothing!

I couldn't believe it. There was barely a mark on me. Just a faint line running down the inside of my ear.

There was NOTHING THERE.

Well, barely anything – just a verrrry faint line right in the corner of my ear.

I have to say Professor Da Cruz is totally the coolest and most awesome surgeon ever. But deep down I do feel like a scar would have been cool. Oh well.

I have to say Professor Da Cruz is totally the coolest and most awesome surgeon ever. But deep down I do feel like a scar would have been cool. Oh well.

I feel CHEATED!!! I wanted a massive scar so that people would ooh and aah, and I would be able to tailor the story accompanying the scar to suit my needs. If it’s someone I want to scare, tell them it’s where I was stabbed in the ghettos of Neutral Bay. If it’s someone I want to impress, tell them I have a computer in my head.

But no. Nothing! Unbelievable.

I said to Professor Da Cruz that it kind of felt like maybe they had tricked me – knocked me out with anaesthetic, laid me on the table, maybe played Celine Dion at high levels through headphones, and then bandaged me up. Literally. It might not have happened. There is no proof! No scar, and no pain. Weeeeeird. Well, my head was a bit red and itchy, but Celine Dion does that.

With Professor Da Cruz, after he checked my head. No scar at all just 13 days after cochlear implant surgery - I am just amazed. I am one happy customer.

With Professor Da Cruz, after he checked my head. No scar at all just 13 days after cochlear implant surgery - I am just amazed. I am one happy customer.

So, everything is on track for the switch-on of the implant, when I get all plugged in to become “Cyborg Kate” in just 9 days.

Professor Da Cruz also checked that the X-ray showed that the Cochlear Implant was in the right spot. If it wasn't we would have had to take it out and do it all again. Gah!

Professor Da Cruz also checked that the X-ray showed that the Cochlear Implant was in the right spot. If it wasn't we would have had to take it out and do it all again. Gah!

So, now it’s only nine days to go until activation. Wish me luck!

I decided to post some more photos of Ben and me pre and post surgery.

Getting ready for me to go into surgery. A bit nerve-wracking.

Getting ready for me to go into surgery. A bit nerve-wracking.

My actual sugery apparently only took 1 hour, though I was ‘inside’ for four hours. I don’t remember waiting around that long.

If you look closely, you can see the sticky post it note that accompanied my file: "Patient is deaf". I still find it weird to be described like that.

If you look closely, you can see the sticky post it note that accompanied my file: "Patient is deaf". I still find it weird to be described like that.

And here is Ben’s last view of me as I am taken in. I was definitely feeling scared as they wheeled me out, but tried to think positive thoughts – e.g: “Anaesthetist promised I wouldn’t die!” Stuff like that.

Being wheeled out of the pre-op ward, and into surgery

Being wheeled out of the pre-op ward, and into surgery

After I got out, and had recovered (to read more about the surgery, click here) – the next morning, Dr Da Cruz came and told me it was time to take off the bandage. I was like “What the …? Now? Don’t I keep it on for like a week or something?” He explained that I didn’t need the bandage, I could keep it off, and just have the gauze covering the wound. So, you can see I am mildly freaking out as he takes it off below:

The bandage comes off in the morning, and I don't really feel comfortable without it!

The bandage comes off in the morning, and I don't really feel comfortable without it!

So, what did I do? When I got home, I asked Ben to wrap another bandage around my head! HAHA!

At home after I made Ben bandage me back up. Thanks Ben

At home after I made Ben bandage me back up. Thanks Ben

I just couldn’t bring myself to lie down on our couch at home, and let my ear/head touch the pillow. I kept imagining germs and bacteria getting in there. Gah! Yuk!

I mean, deep down, I knew that he was right, the wound was sealed enough with the gauze, but I decided to placate the worry-wart in me, and give myself a bandage for the day – just to make myself feel better.

So, I haven’t been able to wash my hair, and I haven’t been sleeping on my head on that side – but it doesn’t really hurt. It”s more that fear you have of hurting yourself!

And then flowers arrived from my girlfriends – thanks guys!

First day back at home, and the door bell rang, and I got a delivery of flowers from my girlfriends.

First day back at home, and the door bell rang, and I got a delivery of flowers from my girlfriends.

So, it’s day 5 after the surgery, and I’ve been up since 4am this morning, as I couldn’t sleep. My neck is hurting a bit, and I can really feel the computer chip thing sitting on my skull now – that is kind of freaky. I didn’t think I’d be so aware of it. Well actually, that’s not entirely true – I can feel it, but I can’t actually tell where it’s sitting.

Ben keeps telling me we should test it by dangling some metal over my head, and seeing if it sticks to my head.

Not funny.

I told him no way, I don’t even want to touch it until I see Dr Da Cruz in a week.

But still he keeps jangling his keys suggestively at my head in the hope that I’ll give it a go, see if the keys stick to my head. Am not quite ready to ‘test’ my magnet yet, and am not even sure it would work – wouldn’t you need another magnet to make it stick? I have no idea, and am not going to experiment!

I may be Robo-Kate, but I am still a scaredy cat.

17 days to go until the switch-on.

Associate Professor Melville Da Cruz is my surgeon - lets hope he's had a good nights sleep, and isn't grumpy before my surgery!

Associate Professor Melville Da Cruz is my surgeon - lets hope he's had a good nights sleep, and isn't grumpy before my surgery!

Have you ever thought about what it must be like to be a surgeon? Do you ever compare it to what you do at work, and how you work? Call me weird, but I often do – even before I was booked in to get this implant, I often wondered how they do it.

I mean, think about it – how many times you get to work in the morning, and do things half-heartedly because you are just not in the mood? Or maybe your best friend is getting married so you celebrated “a la Hens Night”, and ended up waking up somewhere with beer bottle lids stuck to your forehead, and the knowledge you are going to be late for work?

I can’t exactly imagine a surgeon wiping the sleep and beer from their eyes, looking at their watch and saying “Oh shit!  Quadruple by-pass heart surgery in 30 minutes! God, I need a coffee. Will they be able to smell the Vodka Cruisers on my breath? Oh where’s the visine! My eyes!”

No. Well. You would hope not!

I have great faith in my surgeon. He seems like a good guy. He also plays a delicate instrument, the violin, which has gotta be a good thing if he’s performing cochlear implant surgery, huh? I can’t say I would feel the same way if he was a rugby player or sumo wrestler. That’s not to say Sumo Wrestlers wouldn’t make fantastic ENT surgeons. I know Rugby players wouldn’t.

And what about my audiologist?

Monica Bray, Senior Audiologist at the SCIC

Monica Bray, Senior Audiologist at the SCIC

Monica Bray is a Senior Audiologist at the Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre, and she is very reassuring because she has had so much experience with cochlear implants. She is my audiologist, and has been has been ‘mapping’ & fitting cochlear implants since 1989, and she was the one that suggested that I wait for a bit before I get my implant – and that was definitely a good move. You have to be so ‘mentally ready’ for an implant.

And finally, my cochlear implant hero – is Professor Jennie Brand-Miller. She is a bilateral cochlear implantee, which means she has TWO implants!

Professor Jennie Brand-Miller’s GI concept overturned our dietary ideas about carbohydrates, and she’s sold millions of books. So she is not just a pretty face, but a very clever woman.

She has a similar hearing loss to mine, and also had Monica as her audiologist – and now that she has had her implants, she can … (*gasp*)… talk on the phone!

Well, that would be awesome, but understandbly, they always say “don’t expect to be able to hear on the phone”, because many people are never able to hear on the phone after a cochlear implant.

But I know Jennie can, because I saw her!

I asked her once if I could come and talk to her about her implant, when I was thinking about getting one. I just really wanted to talk to someone, and see someone who had experienced this scary massive operation and rehabilitation, and had actually benefited.

Professor Jennie Brand-Miller

Professor Jennie Brand-Miller, bilateral cochlear implantee

So, I went to Sydney Uni to visit her in her office, and I arrived a bit early, and was standing outside the door to her office, and could see through her window. And there she was … SPEAKING ON THE PHONE. I couldn’t believe it. Like I said in an earlier post, I haven’t been able to hear on a phone for about 5 years.

So, to see that… I was taken aback, amazed, freaked out, happy, bewildered, hopeful. Couldnt wait to get in there and talk to her.

And so, Jennie would have to be my cochlear implant hero, because she started off with a very realistic, very intelligent view of the implants – that they would require work, and getting used to – but if she persevered and remained positive, she would ultimately benefit.

So – I salute you Jennie! And here’s hoping mine is as successful as yours. High five!

If you want to read about Jennie, check out her ABC Talking Heads interview about her career.