I’m writing this post from my recliner, a few days after surgery! Yes, you read correctly, I’ve now had left-sided cochlear implant surgery!! Let me catch you up…
I spent the day in Nashville on February 11th to have all of the pre-surgery evaluations completed. Having flunked the audiological testing portion, it was determined that I was a candidate for CI surgery. I also met the surgeon, who medically cleared me pending results of the CT Scan and MRI.
On Monday, February 15th, Dr. Wanna’s office called to let me know that the CT Scan and MRI came back normal. They would be contacting my insurance to get the surgery authorization.
On Tuesday, February 16th, the surgery scheduler called me to let me know that authorization had been taken care of and I could schedule surgery anytime from the following Wednesday on. I selected the following Thursday at 10:20am. That was the moment reality set in!!
Before moving forward, I want everyone reading this to realize that the timing of my evaluation to scheduling surgery was extremely fast compared to many of the stories I have read from others. I did wait about 2 months to have my evaluation appointments, though, so on average my experience is probably somewhat similar in total wait time (for patients in the US).
Upon knowing the date of surgery, I started planning for being at home for a few weeks – handling work needs, stocking up on groceries, etc. On Monday, February 22nd I received a call confirming my surgery for Wednesday, February 24th…wait…my paperwork and prior phone call had confirmed surgery for Thursday, not Wednesday. I asked the surgery scheduling person to double check the date and she told me that Dr. Wanna only operates on Tuesday and Wednesday. I pulled my paperwork out again and it had my surgery listed as being on “Thursday, February 24th” – February 24th was Wednesday, not Thursday. Wonderful!!
I searched online for advice about what to expect before, during and after surgery. There is a lot written about the CI activation process a few weeks following surgery, but not as much about the surgical process, so I’ll go into some detail here.
While I was being prepped for surgery, the anesthesiologist suggested placing a patch behind my ear to help with dizziness and nausea. While I’m not prone to motion or car sickness, we did have a 2 and a half hour drive home and I didn’t want to take any chances. The medication in the patch lasts around 3 days, so this was a good decision.
The surgical gown I was given is part of the 3M Bair Paws system. It’s designed to both warm and calm patients prior to surgery. I had to turn the warm air down on the remote control unit because it was too warm, but I thought it was a nice touch.
I went to surgery with a pneumatic leg compression pump on my right leg to help circulate blood while I was laying still and prevent the risk of a blood clot. An automatic calf-length blood pressure cuff was placed on my left leg. This was the first time I had seen a leg calf blood pressure cuff. It is not very comfortable so it’s a good thing that I wasn’t awake long after they put it on me.
Prior to going into surgery, I was visited by the anesthesiologist, my surgeon, the surgical resident, and the OR nurse. Each discussed the procedure and asked routine questions about any allergies or other medical problems I had and if I had any questions. A blue marker was used to mark my left ear as the surgical site. The only thing I brought up with each of them was to confirm that I would be wearing my hearing aids into surgery and it would be the responsibility of the OR nurse to remove them, place them into their case before surgery and give them to the post-op nurse so they could communicate with me when trying to wake me up. While my family could have taken them, I opted to ask that they move with me to make it easier to put the right one back in as soon as necessary.
I’m told that surgery took around 2 hours. We got started late and I think my surgery may have started about an hour or so later than expected. I remember waking up around 3:30 or so with the recovery room nurse shaking my shoulder. I motioned to my ear and she retrieved my hearing aid so I could put it in. I had quite a lot of pain in and around my left ear and all along the left side of my head so I received some IV pain medication. I didn’t have any nausea or dizziness. I did feel a little “woozy-headed”, like things were moving a little in slow motion around me.
We used the hospital’s valet parking service, which was excellent! I was wheeled outside to our car with only a few minutes of wait time. I was definitely ready for the ride home. My left ear had been bandaged up and covered with a white plastic protective cup that attached around my head with velcro.
I remember being very thirsty when I woke up. They gave me some Sprite to drink and when we stopped for gas on the way home I got another drink. I was very tired and slept most of the way home. My parents did a great job of taking care of me during this leg of my journey! More about the my post-op experience next.