“The true life experience of a CI recipient”


Thoughts of having CI surgery had been on my mind for several years and those thoughts grew stronger and more serious in tandem with the increasing deterioration of my ability to hear in my right ear.  My loss of hearing started in the military years ago and in recent years went from a moderately severe loss to a severe loss and final to a total loss in my right ear after an ear infection.  In spite of being deaf in my right ear and having a substantial loss in my left ear I was still somewhat wary of having CI surgery because I had occasionally read about failed implants that had left patients with unwanted results.   But I reasoned that in order to get an objective view of this situations it would be necessary to meet people that had had CI surgery and then draw my own conclusions from their experiences.  I found that most of the people that had cochlear implants were satisfied with the results while there were a few who were not.  But I also realized that making contact with people who had successful implants would be easier than finding those with opposite experiences and this was due to the fact that those with successful implants are organized and have regular meetings where they express their views.  After weighing the pros and cons over several months and often vacillating between the decision to go ahead with the surgery or not I finally decided to take the first step and began the pre-surgery testing to determine whether or not I was a candidate to have it done.  After many required tests were completed over a period of several months I was informed that I was a candidate for a CI and with my consent the surgery was scheduled for March 15, 2018 to be done at the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  On the morning of March 15th I arrived very early as was scheduled, changed into a green gown, and lay down in a supine position as directed by a nurse.  Then an IV was inserted into my left arm.  The staff surgeon who would perform the surgery then came and gave me a warm greeting that helped me relax and lifted my spirit.  A nurse then began wheeling the mobile bed down a hallway toward the room where the surgery was to soon take place.  As I was being wheeled past a window with a view to the outside I noticed the sky was just beginning to brighten bringing in the new day.  That was the last image in my mind before the anesthesia took effect and my conscious state ceased as I ‘went under’ as they call the transition from a conscious to an unconscious state.  The next conscious moment that I remember was being wheeled from the surgery room and again I noticed the outside sky through a window but instead of seeing a bright daylight sky as I had expected what I observed was a darkening evening sky.  That was the first indication that something was not right.  It took my groggy mind a few minutes to connect the inconsistencies of what I had just observed as I was well aware that the normal time for CI surgery was about 2 to 4 hours and it is usually considered an outpatient procedure.  But if what I had just observed was correct I had been under anesthesia and in surgery for what must have been 12 hours.  Knowing that even major open heart surgery takes no ore than 3 to 6 hours I naturally questioned why the surgery had taken as long as it did.  An assistant to the staff surgeon would soon come by my bed and inform me that the surgery had indeed taken 12 hours and that was due to complications of some sort.  Without going into more details the assistant simply stated that the surgery had failed and then left the room.  As I tried to absorb this new reality of the failed surgery the let down from the optimism that I had felt pre-surgery left me with empty and depressed feelings.  I would later learn that only a number of electrodes were able to be secured in my cochlea leaving a number of electrodes outside my cochlea and therefore useless.  At this point I naturally questioned in my mind why all the pre-surgery testing didn’t reveal any indication as to why there might be complications.





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