Monday, April 29, 2013

Deafness is Difficult
(for Everyone)
April 29,2012

All my life, I have been an "I can do it myself" person.  I don't like to ask other people to do things for me that I think I should be able to do for myself.  Now, I often have to ask Ron (my husband) to do things for me.  The most frequent request has to do with telephone calls. 

Without the personal amplifier that I use, I hear...NOTHING.  I don't hear the TV turned all the way up.  I don't hear a car honk.  I don't hear the garbage disposal running or water running.  I don't hear the amplified telephone ring, the special doorbell play loud chimes, or my grandchildren scream or cry.  NOTHING.  With my hearing amplifier, I can tell the TV is on, but have no clue as to what they are saying.  At the dining table, I can tell that people are talking, but can only tell what the person next to me is saying if they speak toward my amplifier. 

One of my grandchildren, Rachel (the one who prays for Grandma's hearing) has learned that I carry the amplifier in my pocket much of the time, so she will run up and talk to my pocket.  Others try speaking to my left ear - the ear that used to work.  Unless a person is within 18 - 24 inches of the microphone on the amplifier, there is little chance I can figure out what they are saying. 

Telephone use is very difficult.  With effort, I do manage talking to some family members (as mentioned in an earlier blog entry).  Making a call just doesn't work.  Today there was a list of calls that needed to be made.  Ron has been so good to handle calls to the doctors and medical facilities.  He has made calls to set appointments at the earliest opportunity and by doing so has moved this process along quickly.

Before the surgery, I need to pre-register at the hospital in Houston and have lab work done there.  Our son in Dallas has been wanting us to come for a visit, so we have been trying to combine those two trips.  Today my husband called the hospital to see if we could make an appointment for the Tuesday after Memorial Day.  They said that would work out for them.  We will spend the holiday weekend with our son and then travel to Houston to get the pre-operative things done before coming home.  That was one phone call.

Next we needed an appointment with the surgeon for a follow up after the surgery. As soon as we had a surgery date Ron called the Houston Ear Research Foundation to set up an appointment for the activation of the device.  (The device is not turned on until the patient is healed from the surgery.)  There will be two appointments on consecutive days the first time.  Those are scheduled for July 2 and July 3.  Each appointment will be 2 1/2 hours as they program and adjust the device to meet my needs.  Since we have to travel about 5-6 hours to go to these appointments we try to do as much on each trip as possible.  So today he called the surgeon's office to see if we could do the follow up during the time we will be there for the activation of the implant.  Those appointments are in the mornings and the surgeon will be able to see us the first afternoon of those two days, so that will mean we don't have to make another trip back up there the following week.

Then I needed Ron to be sure the surgeon was aware of one medical need I have.  I thought we discussed it on our first visit, but I found no record of it so he asked about that.  The answer: A nurse will call you back.  Then I was concerned that we had not gotten all the things at the hospital set up, so he had to call them back.  They said it was all set. 

I had another question for the surgeon's office so he was able to talk to them about that when the nurse called back.  They also wanted the dates of all the other appointments we had set up, to be sure all the things were being covered. 

Those were just the phone calls that I needed him to make today for me on medical needs.  That doesn't count the business calls I had to ask him to make that normally I would have been able to make: calls to people who said they would be right over with the check last Wednesday, the customers who need to be told their items are ready for pickup, the merchandise that needs to be ordered from suppliers that I would normally place.  Then over the weekend I needed him to call my hair dresser to make an appointment for me.  There were calls to our son about arranging to meet him, and on and on.  It is easy for a person who can't hear to withdraw more and more as time goes on when you hate to ask others to do things for you. 

Those phone calls are just one aspect of the whole picture.  I can't just pull up to the drive-up window at the fast-food restaurant and place my order.  I can't pick up my prescriptions at the drive-up window.  I can't hear their questions. 

My daughter -in-law has been out of town for a few days and today my mom was helping with the seven children.  I took lunch to them and stayed a while, but couldn't hear my youngest granddaughter's cry.  The other children could tell me that she needed me.  I returned to the office for a while and then picked up supper and took it to their house.  As we ate, I could move my microphone from one side to the other to hear my mom on one side and a young grandson on the other side, but could not hear the others around the table. 

Don't get me wrong.  There are a lot of things I continue to enjoy, but these things are the reality of "profound hearing loss".  These are some of the daily challenges.  I still could enjoy our youngest granddaughter making faces at Ron and pointing to the food items she wanted him to feed her.  I could enjoy looking at our oldest grandson in his Boy Scout uniform as he hurried through supper to leave for a scout meeting.  I could enjoy the hugs and kisses from all the grandchildren.

This weekend was very nice.  We are in the midst of the Spring migration of birds from South and Central America to their summer homes in the northern United States and Canada.  The birds were hit with a cold front about the time they got to our area along the southern border of the U.S.  They stopped over for refueling.  Friday, my yard was filled with orioles of several varieties and numerous other beautiful birds.  My husband encouraged me to spend extra hours at the house doing one of my favorite activities: bird photography.  In the last few days I have taken around 1,500 photos of these awesome, God-created, little beauties. 

Saturday I spent much of the day taking photos of the birds in our backyard.  Mid-afternoon Ron went with me to South Padre Island where thousands of migrating birds are being fed and photographed by bird lovers.  What fun to watch them hop through the trees and see that they were watching us as much as we were watching them.  It would have been nice to hear them, but what a blessing to see them.  Then we went to dinner at Pirate's Landing, a great place with a view of the bay and delicious food.  It was a relaxing evening.  Their grilled fajitas alone are worth the drive.

Sunday we spent the morning in the Bible Study class Ron teaches and in the worship service at our church.  Then two of our grandchildren came home with us for the afternoon.  We picked up lunch and went to Ron's mom's house to share lunch with her.  A downpour had started while we were getting lunch and we enjoyed watching the wind and rain bring relief to our drought stricken area.  The grandchildren were spellbound watching the orioles in the yard.  They were spotting and counting.

All of those things could be enjoyed with my very limited hearing.  Our oldest grandson had spent the day at our office Friday and at one point he, Ron, and I were chatting.  He said something he hadn't intended to say.  The look of horror on his face was priceless.  What he let slip was something I had told him ages ago and he thought it would upset his grandpa, but it didn't.  In fact I got to laughing so hard about the look on his face that I couldn't talk.  Ron later said he was so delighted to hear me laugh more than I had laughed in months, that it wouldn't have mattered what our grandson said, my laughter, to him outweighed it.  That reminded me, I am not the only one suffering during this time.  It is hard on everyone around me.  They all want me to be able to hear and it isn't just about the extra workload for them.  It is wanting to laugh at life, share experiences, and discuss things.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Some Things Stay The Same,  Some Don't
April, 20, 2013

When a person can't hear, some things stay the same, but some don't.  While sleeping, the only problems with not hearing are a phone call in the middle of the night, a call from a family member from a bedroom down the hall, and not hearing an alarm clock to announce time to get up.  Today was another Saturday morning when I had to get up early since Ron wasn't going to be at the house and my housekeeper was coming.  (She won't be here next Saturday, so maybe I can sleep late, or go birding.) 

My morning was spent mostly working in the yard, pulling weeds, transplanting some grass that was growing very well in the flower bed, cleaning the bird baths, and digging in the flower beds.  It was a beautiful day here.  As a friend posted this evening that Brownsville hit a high of 96 earlier this week and then a couple of days later we tied a 129 year record low by hitting  48 degrees early in the morning.  The weather the last couple of days has been outstanding.  All day yesterday at the office I wished I was home working in the yard, so I did it today.  Yard work done alone does not require hearing.  In fact it was a very peaceful, relaxing morning.

Early this afternoon Ron went with me to the grocery store.  I have done it alone and do pretty well.  Grocery shopping requires very little conversation.  When you get to the checkout the clerk usually asks if you found everything you needed and in Brownsville, they ask if you brought your own bags.  They give you a total on your bill, but normally you can see the screen and know how much to pay.  In fact, grocery shopping in Brownsville and not hearing is not too bad.  There are no screaming kids, no parents saying, "No, you can't have that!"  But it is helpful to have Ron with me in case I can't find something.  He can ask and hear the answer.  It helps if we run into someone we know, as we did this afternoon.  At least this lady knew of my hearing loss; some don't and it is hard to explain because they immediately start to ask questions.

We came home and put away the groceries, and that requires no hearing.  We ran another errand and then came back to have lunch.  Later after reading for a while, I went back outside and mowed the back yard.  Not hearing is fine for that chore.  The ducks kept flying into the yard, and then flying away as I would turn the mower back their direction.  I couldn't hear them "fuss" at me.

I worked on a quilt for while.  This is one that I worked on several years ago and set aside.  Now I am putting the rows together.  Sewing is a silent activity for me, so that was fine.

This evening about the time we started to eat supper, our youngest son called.  That is when the hearing loss matters - A LOT!  I have an amplified phone provided by the state of Texas for the hearing impaired.  I had gotten this one just before my additional hearing loss in January.  With it turned all the way up, I can struggle to hear some people.  The pitch of a person's voice determines if I can hear them enough to carry on a conversation.  On my cell phone, I have no idea if a call I placed went through, or if the person answered at all; I only hear silence.  But on the amplified phone, I can tell someone is there, I just can't always tell what they are saying.  At this time (it has changed over the weeks) I can hear our oldest son fairly well.  I only have to have him repeat about every 3rd or 4th sentence.  When I talk to his wife, I struggle more, having to have her slow down and speak as low as possible and I still miss a lot.  Prior to this loss, she and I would chat for about an hour almost every evening.  I miss those chats A LOT!  But with our youngest son, he and I have basically given up trying.  I was having to have him repeat so much that both of us were getting frustrated.  So now he talks to his dad.  He is moving to a different apartment this week, he is preparing for finals, he has a sermon to deliver, a presentation to give, and a couple of papers to finish.  I would love to talk to him about all of those things, (and about the lovely young lady who is so special to him) but at this time, it just doesn't work.  That makes me very sad.  Our other two sons are very difficult for me to hear also.

Technology helps.  There is email.  There is texting.  There are amplified phones.  There are letters.  But none of them are the same as a regular phone call.  I have been told that with the Cochlear implant, I may not be able to use the phone.  Some people can, some can't.  The lady we met with at the Houston Ear Research Foundation a couple of weeks ago said she doubted that I could ever take back the responsibility of answering the phone at our office.  She said that familiar voices (like family) and people who are willing to talk slowly, and distinctly, may work, but unfamiliar voices like at the office would be very hard.  I have heard from some people who have the implants that they can manage on the phone.  That would be great, but I at least want to be able to talk to my family members on the phone.

For many years I have watched TV with the Closed Caption option turned on.  I would look to it when I didn't understand something.  Now if I have the TV on, I must give it my full attention to read the captioning.  These last few days with the news of the Bombings in Boston and the eventual resolution of that situation, and with the explosion in West, Texas, it has been very hard to follow all the news on those stories.  Often they don't caption those live interviews or "on the spot" reports.  I have always been a "news junkie" and it is hard to not be able to keep up with what is going on in the world. 

I can't hear my husband whisper sweet things in my ear.  He may forget about my hearing and about half way through his loving remarks as I have a totally blank expression on my face, we will both start laughing as it dawns on him I don't have a clue as to what he said.  He often will use a dry marker board, but it is just not the same. 

As I mentioned in a testimony at church on Easter Sunday, "I may have lost my hearing, but God never loses His.  He promises to hear me each time I call out to Him."  In the first half of the Bible verse in Jeremiah 33:3, God says, "Call unto me, and I will answer..."  God always hears me!  That stays the same!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hearing Loss Timeline
Hearing Loss occurred on January 18, 2013
It would have been great if I had started this blog when I first lost my hearing, but...  Well, we all have the things we wish we had done or should have done.  But this entry will cover the basics of the last three months and let you know how we got to the point of preparing for a Cochlear Implant to allow me to hear again.  So much has happened over this time, and some of it didn't directly relate to the hearing loss, but is a part of what we have been going through since the first of the year, so some of that will be included just to let you know some of the challenges I have faced during this time.
January 2013
For the most part, my husband Ron and I have been blessed with good health.  He had not seen a doctor in years and finally agreed to a physical on January 8.  While at the doctor's office, he probably caught a flu bug and became ill with it on January 10.  Ron rarely misses work, but was out of the office for over a week and on January 15, he was so ill, he gave up and went to a different doctor - a new one for us.  That doctor called an ambulance and had Ron taken to the Emergency Room because his oxygen level was very low.  The ER only kept him a few hours until they got his oxygen level up. 
It had been a challenging week for me as I ran the office alone.  On Friday afternoon, January 18, my grandson was helping me for the day, and I noticed that it was getting harder for me to understand the customers and I could not understand phone calls.  I had my grandson take phone messages and decided that my 8 year old hearing aid was dying of old age.  I'd had almost no hearing in my right ear for 10 years, and about 75% in my left ear (with the hearing aid).  When I got in the car to drive home, I turned the key to start the car and decided it hadn't started, but then realized it was moving and I just couldn't hear it running.  It dawned on me that it wasn't the hearing aid, it was me!
The hearing aid no longer gave me any sound and I spent a very quiet weekend, unable to hear at all, and having a husband still very sick with the flu.  He had a follow-up visit with the new doctor on Monday, January 21, and took me along to see if the doctor would examine me also.  The doctor quickly decided I was suffering from Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss and referred me to an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) specialist.
On January 23, I saw the specialist, but apparently did not communicate to him what was going on.  My husband was with me but very weak and not really able to help out in the situation.  The specialist didn't detect the Sudden Hearing Loss and thought I had gradual additional loss due to my age (66 at the time).  As we were being ushered out the door with appointments for a hearing test two weeks away and allergy testing 1 week away, I bolted back through the maze of offices, found the doctor and asked what he was going to do about the sudden loss.  He finally prescribed low dose steroids and an antibiotic.  His concern was my allergies.  He did not understand that I could hear at lunch Friday and could not hear at supper.
Frustrated, I returned to the office and continued research on line and found that at the rate he was going I would miss the short 2 week window of opportunity in which heavy doses of steroids might save the hearing.  I could hear slightly at this time, there had been minor improvement that day.  I called the specialist's office and cancelled those two appointments, the receptionist asked why and I told her I was going to find a doctor who was willing to fight to save my hearing.  Within the hour the doctor called back to ask what the problem was.  I started telling him, but couldn't hear him well enough and Ron finished the call.  Shortly I had an appointment for a hearing test the next morning.
The hearing test was on January 24 and after reviewing the results, the doctor called on January 25 and said to double the steroids and to come in on Monday January 28 for a steroid shot in the ear.  He finally realized I was right!  By Saturday, January 26, all gains in hearing from earlier in the week were gone.  I could hear nothing. 
On January 28 I got the steroid shot in the ear and was sent for blood work and an MRI was scheduled to eliminate any possible other causes for the hearing loss.  The blood work was done that day and the MRI on January 30
During this time, Ron had received results from that physical done January 8 and was referred to a specialist for a high PSA reading on some of his blood work.  He went to that specialist on January 29, and she decided to re-run the test since maybe it was off since he was coming down with the flu.
January 31, I began to notice that I could hear music in my head  and assorted other noises (like ringing in your ears, but mine were more rushing water type sounds or eventually, thunder storms).  The music became a great comfort as it was mostly old hymns which I love.  They started as mostly male quartets but eventually full choirs and some orchestra, harp, and banjo once in a while.  They are almost always there, even when the noise is there.  If you are interested you might "google" Musical Ear Syndrome.  During all this time, and since then I continued to work my regular hours at our office and would wait on customers as best I could.
February 2013
February 4, Ron and I both saw the G.P. in the morning.  That afternoon, I saw the ENT specialist again and he did another hearing test, another steroid shot in the ear, told me the results of the MRI were fine, but that he believed the hearing loss was permanent and that I should consider a Cochlear implant. 
February 7, I had been having severe chest pains for a couple of nights, so Ron took me to the G.P.'s office for an EKG.  It was fine and the doctor said it was gas caused by the heavy doses of steroids.  Since we had given up on the hearing returning, I decided to drop the steroids and the antibiotics, due to nose bleeds, bleeding gums, and the chest pains, so Ron called to let the specialist know.  The G.P. ordered a chest x-ray to be sure there weren't other problems, but it was fine.  While we were at the doctor's office, he said that the chest x-ray done on Ron in the hospital ER  when he had the flu showed a problem and he was referring Ron for a chest CT scan for the next day. 
Ron had the CT chest scan on February 8.  Starting on that afternoon almost all of my family was gathering for a weekend family reunion & 90th birthday celebration for my mother.  We all stayed at a local hotel and had a fun-filled weekend with about 39 people in attendance for all the events.
The next step in the road to a Cochlear implant was to try a powerful hearing aid so part of February 11 (my birthday), was spent at the hearing aid office for another hearing test and an order placed for a new, stronger hearing aid.  They supplied a loaner for the week of waiting.  I went to the G.P. that afternoon for a urinary tract infection.  The doctor decided to see if it would clear up without medication since I had been on such heavy meds for several weeks.
On February 12, my mom came down with a bad stomach bug that ended up putting her in the hospital for 5 days.  That was when the hearing loss hit me the hardest.  I couldn't help.  I couldn't hear her needs, couldn't call her doctors, couldn't even talk to her on the phone, etc.  It was a very rough time for her physically,and for me emotionally.
On February 18, I picked up the new hearing aid and it was better than nothing, but not much better.  Spent 2 hours trying to get satisfactory programing.  Went to ENT specialist in the afternoon and was given a referral to an ENT specialist/surgeon in Houston, Dr. Chang; the appointment with him was set for March 14.  On February 20, another two hours was spent trying to adjust the hearing aid and on February 25 another 1 1/2 hours.  Then that afternoon I had a follow up on my UTI (urinary tract infection) with my G.P.  Infection was not gone, check again in a month.
March 2013
On March 4 I had a mammogram appointment. On March 6, I had an appointment with my dermatologist.  Ron was not working for a few days following a prostate biopsy he had done March 5 after the second blood test showed a higher reading than the first, so I was back to running the office without him for several days.
On March 11 I spent another hour with the lady at the hearing aid office trying to get the aid adjusted.  As I said, it was better than nothing but not much better.  I had too little hearing to work with.
Ron and I went to Harlingen March 13 for results of his prostate biopsy and were delighted to get some good news for a change.  It was clear! 
We left early the next morning, March 14 to go to Houston to see Dr. Chang for our first visit with the surgeon.  They did hearing tests and then we met Dr. Chang.  He said I was a good candidate for a Cochlear implant, but the next step was to get an appointment with the Houston Ear Research Foundation.  They would need to confirm that the loss was bad enough for Medicare to pay for the implant.  We went to their office and filled out paperwork and got an appointment for April 8, and then drove home that evening.
March 18 I had an appointment at the hearing aid store to either return the trial hearing aid or buy it.  The lady who called and given me the appointment, was not available to meet with me, so I turned the hearing aid in, basically returning to being deaf.  I had bought an amplification device years ago that I started using at this time to have some hearing until the surgery. Ron had an appointment that afternoon with the lung specialist who was not overly concerned with the results of the CT scan and ordered a variety of blood work but no biopsy.  
March 25 I returned to the G.P. for another follow up on the UTI and things weren't better so he started me on an antibiotic and referred me to a specialist - the same one Ron went to for the prostate problems.  On March 30 I had an ultrasound at the G.P.'s office of the kidneys and bladder.
April 2013
On April 2, I saw the Urology specialist in Harlingen and she was not too concerned but didn't have the results of the ultrasound yet.  She scheduled me for a bladder scope on April 25.
April 7 we headed to Houston for our appointment on April 8 at the Houston Ear Research Foundation.  The appointment lasted about 2 1/2 hours and during that time there were more extensive hearing tests and then a conference with the audiology specialist, Ron and me to go over the results.  For Medicare to pay for the Cochlear implant you must have less than 40% hearing in the best ear with a hearing aid.  I have 10% in my best and 0% in my bad ear.  So I qualified.  Then she went over a lot of information about the implant and showed us two different units that I could select from for my implant.  I could select brand, color, accessories, and add ons.  She filled out the order form and we headed home.
On April 11 I was back at the G.P. for another follow up on the UTI and was told the ultrasound showed no problems.  After I got home Dr. Chang's office called to say I could go ahead and get my physical for the surgery and to be sure to get the Pneumovax 23 shot which is required before Cochlear implant surgery.  Of course I had just left the doctor's office a couple of hours earlier.
April 12 I went back to the G.P. for the physical for the surgery.  He did an EKG, blood work and ordered a chest x-ray.
The blog was started the next day, so I think this about sums up 2013 for us.  It has been a challenging experience as we have had to both be away from the office so often - separately and together.  God is good and continues to provide for our needs!  God is good , all the time!  All the time, God is good!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Surgery Is Scheduled
April 17, 2013
Ron and I left home at 5:00 this morning for our trip to Houston and arrived back home at 8:30 this evening.  He did all the driving and it included a few challenges.  There was a detour that took us through Goliad (hadn't been through there in a long time), mist, high winds coming home, and more highway patrol and police cars out than I ever remember seeing (and almost all had someone stopped).  Our travels were fine and we managed to hit Bill Miller Bar-B-Q for a breakfast taco and for supper for a poor boy brisket sandwich.  Works for us!  We do miss Cotton's Bar-B-Q!
My appointment with the surgeon was at 1:45 and we were called in a few minutes early!  A nurse checked my vitals and made notes before she took us to a room to see the doctor.  He came in shortly, had a few questions, discussed which ear we would do the surgery on, checked the ears, showed me where his incision would be, talked about how long until I could wash my hair after surgery (2 days), and asked if I was ready.  I told him the sooner the better.  He answered a few questions from us and then we moved to another room with another nurse.
The second nurse had all the surgery forms to go over with us.  There were pages and pages to sign listing all the risks and all the things to do before surgery - not many - don't eat after midnight, etc.  Then she checked her computer to set a date.  Dr. Chang only does surgery on Mondays and he will be out 2 Mondays in May (I guess he either is speaking at conferences or taking a vacation) and Memorial Day is on a Monday and they don't schedule surgery then, so June 10 was the first opening on his schedule.  I was very disappointed because I am eager to get this done and to start hearing again.  She had said there was a slight chance of May 6 but she would have to check on it and call us later.  She called about 5:30 as we were heading home to say that June 10 was going to be the date.
They have promised to call if a surgery slot opens up sooner, but because of timing of things to be done, it may not work to fill a slot like that.  I have to pre-register at the hospital and meet with the anesthesiologist not more than 30 days before the surgery.  So for a June 10 date, I would have to do those things after May 11 and he will not be doing surgery any other Monday in May except on the 6th, so unless we had about a week's notice of a cancellation, I would not have time to go back to Houston and get those things done prior to surgery.  Looks like we are stuck with June 10.
Before we went to the appointment I prayed and told God that I was trusting His timing on the surgery date.  I am not thrilled with it, but I am trusting that He has a reason for that date.  One reason I was discouraged with that timing is that tomorrow it will be 3 months since I lost the hearing.  With the June surgery date it means I won't hear for almost another 3 months.  (It is almost 2 months till the surgery and one month after surgery before they activate the external parts of the system so that I can hear - thus 3 months more.)  I told Ron that means I am only half way through the deafness and I am tired of it!  Also we have a former foreign exchange student who lived with us in the mid-1980s who is bringing his family to visit for a few days around July 11.  I wanted to be hearing by then and have time to adjust to the equipment before they arrived, but it doesn't look like that will happen.  We will manage and they can write notes like everyone else.
When I arrived home, I was a little down and after the car was unloaded, I headed to the computer.  I had 2 private Facebook messages.  One was of a friend who hopes to come to Brownsville in July on a mission trip and wanted prayer about her participation in that group trip and one was from a friend who grew up with me in the church, but who I haven't seen in over 45 year.  We have re-connected on Facebook.  Her message was just what I needed tonight.  She had been reading my blog and shared some very kind words that God knew I really needed tonight. 
There is no doubt that God has been with me every step of the way down this path He has set me on and I will continue to trust His plan and His timing.  That doesn't mean I will always be delighted with it, but in Jeremiah 29:11 God says, "For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. "  So I am trusting God's plan for my life, because His plans are far better than mine.  He sees the whole picture.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My Kindle is Loaded and Ready to Go!
April 16, 2013

Today was a relaxing day at the office.  Ron was out on jobs all morning and I got some paperwork done, bills paid, and things like that.  My hearing wasn't as bad as yesterday.  I didn't struggle as much.  I don't know why the days are different in the level of my hearing, but they are. 

We head out early tomorrow to go to Houston to see the surgeon and we hope that we come home with a surgery date in hand tomorrow evening.  It should be a quick trip up and back in one day.  Our appointment is in the early afternoon so it should work out. 

The prescription mix up has not been solved, but I had told the pharmacist not to expect me back until Thursday to pick it up.  I will worry about it then since I didn't really want to start a new med as I was going out of town.  That is not a good idea for someone with as many drug allergies as I have.

I had a delightful supper this evening with our daughter-in-law Barbara and their seven children.  Almost all the kids were playing outside most of the evening, riding bikes, tossing a tennis ball, playing with a hula hoop, and riding scooters. 

A Christian author who I enjoy following on Facebook, Vannetta Chapman, posted late this afternoon a link to an Amazon list of 25 Christian books that are currently free for download, so I selected several and have my Kindle loaded and ready for our trip to Houston.  I must say that a Kindle makes the time waiting in a doctor's office pass more quickly.  No problem if you finish your book, just touch the screen and start the next one.

I had better go get a few things done and get to sleep early tonight.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Good News Is...
The Bad News Is...
April 15, 2013

Today was a mixed bag of "stuff".  Most of you know that I hear music in my head since my hearing loss (more about that another day), but I also have assorted other noises that vary in volume and type.  This morning at the office I was working alone at my desk in a quiet setting.  Ron was out on jobs and I was working on a time line of the medical stuff in our lives in 2013.  All of a sudden a very loud noise started.  I could not figure out what it was or where it was coming from.  I explored the shop, and the noise was the same in every room, in the warehouse, and outside.  So I took off the ear buds to the amplifier that I use for hearing and it was still the same.  That meant it was in my head, not outside my head.  It was so loud that I really struggled to deal with customers over the sound of the noise going on.  When the noise gets that way, I also talk too loud because I am trying to talk over the noise.  I tried just sitting and relaxing, although I felt relaxed when it started, and that didn't help.  Once Ron came back to the office, I took a walk outside and that helped a little.  So I tried another walk and about 10 minutes after my second walk, the loud noise went away.

This is the hearing device I am using at this time since I turned in the trial high-powered hearing aid about 3 weeks ago.  I bought this around 6 years ago from Harris Communications.  They are on line and this device can work well for many hearing problems.  The white box is like a microphone and when I wear the ear bud, it picks up amplified sounds from the mic.  

Ron had called our G.P.'s office this morning and they said all the tests were back for the surgery release and I could come at 2:00 this afternoon for him to check them over with me before he signed the release.  Since the noise in my ears had been so bad this morning and for so long (an hour or more) I told Ron I hated to do it to him, but I wanted him to go with me to the doctor's office.  I also was struggling more today to hear than some other days and needed to hear what the doctor said.  So we closed the business and spent another afternoon in a doctor's office!  Thank you Ron, for my well stocked Kindle that lives in my purse for days like today.

As for the visit to the doctor, let me start by saying, I want to be physically fit for surgery.  But... (one of my sons says there is always a but..) I really am eager to be able to hear and it seems the only way that will happen is through this surgery, so "Let's get the show on the road!"

Last Friday I had been in the same office for blood work, EKG, and general questions.  An X-ray was ordered that was done Saturday.  This afternoon we were taken to a room after the mandatory weigh in, and blood pressure and temperature checks.  That was around 2:45 (for the 2:00 appointment).  About 3:15 the doctor came in and said that he was going to sign the release, but had a couple of little concerns.  He wants to be sure I make it through surgery.  I agree.  He again asked some heart questions that he had asked last Friday and questioned me about shortness of breath.  I do not suffer from that.  Workouts at the gym are painful, but not from lack of air.  From lack of exercise!  So after some discussion he decided to have the technician do a lung capacity test.  About 3:45 the tech did that. 

About 4:30 the doctor came back and said that he thinks I have asthma.  I don't have a "rattle", but he says that the chest x-ray showed some inflammation.  Well, I was an asthmatic as a child, having my last attack at 19 years old while in college.  I suffer from a lot of allergies and he and I have discussed that problem a couple of times and I have agreed to allergy testing AFTER the surgery.  In the end, he said he was signing the surgery release with the notation that he was treating me for the lung inflammation. 

We discussed medications and after my recent experience with steroids, I told him I would rather go another route.  After much discussion, we agreed on one antihistamine in the mornings and a different one at night, plus an inhaler, and another allergy medication.  It was 5:15 when we left his office from our 2:00 appointment.  There is NO DOUBT that I needed Ron with me during the visit.  There were many things I couldn't hear or I misunderstood.  He takes good notes.

We returned to the office, shut off computers, etc. and decided to, as one of my friends says, "Go to Aunt Luby's for supper (Luby's Cafeteria)".  We had a good, relaxing supper and headed home.  I remembered all the prescriptions I had to have filled so I headed to Walgreen's and he went looking for a new blade for my lawn mower (another story).  After killing 20 minutes waiting for my prescriptions, I went to get them and instead of the inhaler he told me he would prescribe, they had meds for a nebulizer (which he and I discussed I don't have).  So the pharmacist and I decided that she would keep the medication and call the doctor in the morning to either get a prescription for the inhaler or for the nebulizer machine. 

It was about 7:30 when I arrived home, tired, but with surgery release in the new folder I bought killing time at Walgreen's.  It is all a plot to make you wait for your prescriptions so you will go spend money in the rest of the store while waiting.  It worked.  They got $1.50 out of me. 

So the end result is:  The good news is that I have the surgery release forms.  The bad news is my childhood asthma is back (at least my doctor thinks so).

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Rachel's Prayers
April 14, 2013

Last night I had decided that today I would explain the reason for the web address of this blog -

We have been blessed with seven wonderful, caring grandchildren, each with unique personalities and talents.  Our granddaughter Rachel is the middle child in her family and she has a very loving, tender way about her.  Each of the grandchildren makes us feel very special.  Their eyes light up when they see us and they come running to give us a hug.  But Rachel lingers after that initial hug and just keeps hugging.  Here is one of her famous hugs being given to her Uncle Jim who was visiting from Idaho.

It has always bothered Rachel that I couldn't hear very well, and with her soft, high-pitched voice, I often had to have her repeat things several times.  Very tenderly, she has asked me many times, "Grandma, why can't you hear?"  Those are the times that break my heart.  I struggle through life with my limited hearing, but for someone to ache to want me to hear them, just really tugs at my heart.  For several years, Rachel has prayed, asking God to, "Please let Grandma hear."  She demonstrates her childlike faith and consistently asks our Heavenly Father to restore Grandma's hearing. 

When I first suffered Sudden Hearing Loss on January 18 of this year, I was hoping and praying that treatments with steroids would return the hearing that had just been lost.  Even on the second visit to the Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) specialist, the possibility of a Cochlear Implant was brought up by the doctor.  His statement was that if the steroids didn't work, we would need to consider a Cochlear Implant.  I began to realize that because my hearing was so bad before the recent loss, the implant had the potential of giving me better hearing than I had been living with for at least the last 10 years.

The Cochlear Implant will not restore natural hearing, but rather it will allow the patient to have a chance to hear sounds again through cutting-edge technology that has been constantly refined since it was first used in 1978.  The sounds will be different, but with time, training, and practice, the patient can learn to understand speech and regain safety and confidence, living in a noise-filled world.  After the Cochlear Implant, there is a good chance that I will be able to hear Rachel (and the 6 other grandchildren) better than I could before the hearing loss in January.  So this may be God's answer to Rachel's prayers over these last several years.

As I mentioned, I had decided last night, that the topic for today would be explaining "Rachel's Prayer" as my blog address.  Little did I know (but God knew) that this morning at the close of the sermon, Rachel would go forward during the invitation to tell the pastor that she had prayed to ask Jesus into her heart and that she wanted to be baptized.  (Insert Grandma-sized tears of joy.)

Before the service this morning, Rachel had arrived to sit with me before any of the rest of her family came into the auditorium for the worship service.  She showed me the paper she had done during Sunday School class this morning.  She had written out the ABCs of becoming a Christian: 
A - Admit that you are a sinner, B - Believe that Christ died for your sins, and C - Confess your sins and asked God to forgive your sins.  We chatted and I told her about using her name in my blog address.  After the service, and after she had talked to the pastor, I sat with her and we discussed her decision.  I reminded her that the prayer she prayed to invite Jesus into her heart, is the most important prayer she will ever pray in her life.  What a joyful morning I had today.

A couple of weeks after I had lost my hearing, I sent a private Facebook message to our pastor and his wife explaining what was going on and they quickly responded that they would be praying for me and would help in any way they could.  The sermons that the pastor was preaching at that time were on the book of Job.  I told him one day that I wished I could have heard what he said because it really seemed that it would help me.  Shortly after that he came up with a way to take care of that.  I must say that our church staff has done an outstanding job of meeting my needs to help me stay involved.

For the last five years at our church, I had been in charge of our annual Winter Texan Banquet, to honor the many retirees who come South and spend their winters worshiping and working with our church.  This year I just could not do it, and the staff decided to take up the project (and did an outstanding job!).  They gave me the opportunity to speak at the banquet and I explained why I had to step aside this year, but I explained to them that in the end, this whole journey down God's chosen path for me, may be His answer to Rachel's prayers, "Please let Grandma hear".

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Needles and X-rays
April 13, 2013

This morning because I can't hear, I had to wake up early.  That doesn't really seem fair.  Ron was going to be away from the house and so I had to get up before he left or I would probably have overslept since I can't hear the alarm clock, door bell, or phone.  I needed to be awake before the housekeeper came at 7:45 and I was also waiting for the mobile x-ray lab to come to do my chest x-rays.  I am not sure why they do the x-ray this way, but it really helps me.  The other choice was to go to the hospital for it, but in a waiting room I can't hear my name called, so I really appreciate this method of meeting the need.  The chest  x-ray is necessary for the pre-op physical that my G.P. must sign off on before surgery.

Ron was gone all morning but he called the x-ray provider to be sure they were coming, and they had not yet received the orders from the doctor, so he called the doctor's office and they faxed the request.  The lady at the doctor's office said they had done it late yesterday, but the lab had no record of it.  A very nice young man showed up to do the x-ray and it only took a few minutes.  He said the doctor's office would have the results this afternoon.

I spent much of the day working on my Quiet Quilt, which has been in progress for a couple of months.  There are blocks of fabric with pictures of lovely, quiet things that God created.

This afternoon I was able to finish the quilt top.  There are 50 scenes and they remind me that there are many beautiful things I can enjoy without having to "hear" anything.  The border around the edge of the quilt is small pieces of the same fabrics that are in the blocks.  I have talked to a friend who does outstanding hand quilting, and I have asked her to do the quilting for me.  I am hopeful that she can start on it in the next few days.  Patty Levsen is the quilter who has recently been doing my hand quilting.  Patty is a much better hand quilter than I can ever hope to be.  She is quick in her work, and is so creative in her designs of things to enhance the quilt with her beautiful, tiny stitches.  I have come to realize that I enjoy designing, cutting, and piecing the quilts, but can no longer do the tiny stitches for the hand quilting.  I have enough quilt tops to keep Patty busy for a long time.

The photo on the right is a close up of some of the blocks.  It was fun going through my fabrics and selecting the pieces I wanted in this quilt.  My plan is for it to be used on a pretty day-bed that I have.  It will always remind me of this time, when silence was a major part of my life.  It has been helpful for me to spend time working on this project.  For years I have collected fabrics and all of these either came from my collection, or were given to me for my birthday this year by Bob and Vickey, who knew I was working on this quilt.  It has been good to use some of my fabric "stash" in this way.
After I finished the quilt top, I read for a while and then Ron needed to pick up a prescription for his Mom so I went with him to Walgreen's.  I needed to get a particular shot before I have the Cochlear Implant surgery and Walgreen's had told Ron yesterday that they could provide that for me.  So while he got what he needed, I filled out paper work to get the Pneumovax 23 vaccination.  The pharmacist gave me the shot.  He is an older gentleman and I told him it seemed that their responsibilities had changed in recent years.  He laughed and said yes, they had.  He had to take classes to learn to give the shots.  In fact, he said he was currently taking a new class on the yellow fever shot for people going to places like China.  I asked if you had to have different classes for different types of vaccination and he said yes.  Interesting! By the way, he did a great job - no pain!
So, my "needles & x-rays"  made for a rather productive day.  One of the needles was in the sewing machine for the quilt top, and the other was for my vaccination.  With the vaccination checked off my list, and the chest x-ray checked off for the pre-op physical, a fair amount of progress was made today!  I feel like each of those check marks brings me one step closer, one step further along this path that I am traveling toward gaining some hearing.