Yesterday — or was it the day before? — we got our super flu shots. These are hyped up uber-potent shots they give to us older folks because we are more likely to get sick than younger people. Also, we are more likely to die from the flu because we have other issues — asthma, blood pressure, and heart problems. Sinus problems. Stomach problems. Fibromyalgia. MS. Cancer.
In fact, I don’t know why we don’t just die and give the world a break. Sheesh.
Discovering that in addition to the usual distributors of disease — other people, especially very young people — we can now worry about everything we touch including the ATM machine.
Really? As if the handles on the shopping cart and whatever my granddaughter has on her clothing isn’t bad enough, now I have to stress over ATM machines? Not that I actually use the ATM machine. I won’t make a deposit without going to an actual person in the bank. I want a paper receipt.
Call me crazy, but once, a long time ago in a bank since absorbed by some larger bank — probably by now it’s all Bank of America — they lost a deposit I put through in an envelope that included an official deposit slip.
It got straightened out but left me with a firm belief for any deposit made by check or cash I want a written, signed piece of paper from a person.
We are doomed. No matter how hard we try, something will get us.
We don’t go out much. When we do, we usually get sick. It’s like the slow cars that pull out in front of us while we are driving. I’m sure these cars are told when to appear by drones from the super-slow drivers’ department. Meanwhile, somewhere in the air, there’s a germ-laden drone.
“Look! It’s the Armstrongs! Prepare to disperse germs!”
Mostly, Garry and I have been exhausted. All the time. For me, this typically means fibromyalgia. Garry had surgery in July and I have a feeling that this might have triggered the same thing for him. Women are more typically fibromyalgia victims, but men are not excluded.
Then again, maybe we aren’t sick at all. Maybe we just aren’t getting enough sleep. The weather has been like hot soup with interludes of rain. Duke is shedding like a small furry hurricane. Our sinuses and eyes don’t like the ragweed and Garry is getting used to carrying around a lot of electronics inside his head.
So maybe it’s all allergies and getting even older.
When we went for our flu shots, they always ask if you think you might be sick. At our age, that’s not an easy question to answer. Maybe we are fine or as fine as we ever are. But, maybe we aren’t fine.
Am I exhausted from all the running around to doctors and hospitals or because I’m coming down with something? Am I recovering from the major house cleaning last week? Or am I worn out because our dogs are faster, friskier, and more impassioned about balls that squeak than I could ever be?
Don’t you wish you could get that enthusiastic about a big green tennis ball that squeaks? Don’t you wish you could bite something hard enough to make it squeak?
After 76 years, 4 months and 18 days of hearing impairment, aka deafness, I can HEAR in both ears. Sing Hallelujah. But hold the applause. We’re not home yet.
I’m writing the morning after the cochlear implant parts were activated in my head. During activation, I felt a little like “the creature” in “Young Frankenstein”. We had a prelude where the audiologist carefully explained how to assemble the cochlear “accessories,” how to place them on my head and in my ears. Marilyn was watching closely. Good thing because I was quietly panicking. I’ve never been good doing the simplest of assemblies. I’m very clumsy.
I was as anxious as a Red Sox mid-inning reliever.
After the tutorial, several dry runs, and increasing anxiety, all the parts were in place and activated. All this came after lengthy audio tests to determine how loud my new ears should be.
I braced myself with everything in place.
The cochlear parts are for my right ear, the “bad ear” which gives me very little audio. I have a new hearing aid in my left ear, the “good ear” which is supposed to enhance the cochlear parts.
I’ll give you in my rookie wearer understanding. The devices you see entwined around my right ear collect audio signals and send them to a “transmitter” which, with magnets, sits on the side of my head. The transmitter sends those signals into my head, to the “implant” which was inserted via surgery. Okay so far? Oh, and there are magnets in my head so the headpiece will stay in place. Magnets. In my head.
So far, so good.
I breathed loudly as everything was activated. The voices of Marilyn and the audio technician were very tinny. I could hear Marilyn’s voice more clearly. She had more “body” in her words than the technician, who I could also hear clearly, but she has a thin, rather reedy voice. I tried to relax my body and let myself really hear what was being said.
Relaxation is key. All my life, I’ve physically strained to hear. Leaned forward to catch what people were saying. It’s difficult and physically exhausting.
It’s been my norm for 76 years. Now, I had to try and change that life-long habit. I sat with my back to Marilyn and the technician to test how well I could hear without seeing the people talking and read their lips as I usually do.
Usually, I can’t hear Marilyn if I am not directly facing her. It’s produced years of frustration for both of us. I could hear, my back turned away, both Marilyn and the audiologist. (Insert applause here.)
Still, the voices were tinny and they echoed. As I responded to questions, my voice sounded clear, full of that crispness and authority that’s familiar to TV News viewers. (Insert laughter here). That my own voice sounded perfectly normal is a good sign. It means that my brain is recognizing my voice and turning it into “normal” sounds. Probably Marilyn’s voice will be next. Familiar voices become “normal” much faster than the rest of the world and some may never sound entirely normal.
I allowed myself a brief smile of satisfaction. It was very brief because I was also hearing bells and whistles, like a train was approaching the station. It was bizarre. The audiologist nodded as I explained what I was hearing.
She said it was normal. That I probably would hear those noises for “some time” as I wore the cochlear parts in various situations. Reporter Garry wanted a time frame. How long? No easy answer, but she said — in round figures — about three months.
We went over how I should adjust to using my new ears and the various parts, inside and outside of my head. My brain was swirling but, fortunately, Marilyn was absorbing the information. We made an appointment for an evaluation. I thought a week might be too quick but now I’m glad because I have lots of questions.
During the drive home yesterday, I was able to talk to Marilyn with minimal “what’s?” Call it an early triumph.
We were greeted by the boisterous barking of our three dogs. Yes, they were very loud. Their yaps and growls were “enhanced” with echoes.
As we crashed, relaxed, and wolfed down late lunch sandwiches, I flipped on the television to baseball. The announcers sounded tinny with accompanying echoes. Their commentary was hard to understand. They were blasted by the crowd cheers.
I lowered the TV volume and things improved. But I still heard echoes, bells, and whistles and the occasional chime mixed in with everything else. Marilyn talking. Dogs barking.
I tried to mentally adjust. Slow down my intake of what Marilyn was saying.
That helped. I’m so used to responding without really hearing. It’s a whole new ball game. As late afternoon turned into evening, I became more comfortable but I could not get rid of the echoes, bells and whistles. Sometimes it also sounded like church bells tolling. For whom were they tolling?
There was one constant amid all the extra sounds. I could hear Marilyn’s words — not just muffled sounds. Yes, there were a few “what did you say” moments, but a small number compared to life before the cochlear implant activation.
Marilyn took care of unloading my new backpack, filled with all the cochlear accessories, manuals, batteries. She setup the battery charges and patiently walked me through everything. Frankly, I had lost patience after the “first day”. The echoes, bells and whistles had worn me down. I had an Excedrin Plus headache. Marilyn seemed more pleased than me. I was excited about the events but physically drained — as was Marilyn who had to make sure we handled the cochlear parts correctly.
We’re into day two. Against my objection, I’m wearing the cochlear parts. I complained, like a whiny kid, but Marilyn was firm that I not shy away from using my new ears even if I’m not comfortable. I wanted to wait until I shaved and showered but that would’ve been just delaying what must be done. The audiologist was really pushy that I really had to wear them — all the time I was awake.
So, there you have it. Yes, it’s a different world for me now. It’s a better world.
Garry and I are off to UMass. Today he gets (tada!) his new electronic, high-tech hearing apparatus. We have NO idea what to expect. Hopes are high, nerves are taut, and it’s going to be a long day.
We shall write tomorrow, hopefully, but in the meantime, we’ll be gone most of the day.
Also, WordPress is acting weird. Again. I can’t use the “like” button and I have to sign in for every comment. But that’s okay because Chrome is behaving weirdly also. I’m ready to hide under the sofa.
You know how you feel when your muscles have seized up and you simply can’t walk any further? That is how my brain feels. As if it has walked too many miles and it has had quite enough.
Too much thinking.
Too much planning.
Too much organizing.
Too many bizarre questions to answer.
Too many strange problems to solve.
Too many “on hold” phone calls with no return calls, disconnects, no doctor or practitioner to talk to.
Too many issues to deal with.
Too few answers to too many questions.
Today, I’m crabby, out of answers, and tired of being told to call some other (non-answering) number that will connect me with yet another person who thinks I should speak to the doctor but won’t connect me to him or a colleague.
So competition with my old zing? It isn’t working today. I lack any kind of zing and frankly, going into a long siege of competition to get hold of the doctor or ANY doctor, is more than I can handle.
I am going to make some coffee. Drink some coffee, and brood on why I hate this hospital, even though they are the nicest people in the world. Hard to be both, isn’t it?
We are home. Garry’s surgery went very well. All the pieces are in place. Owen and I got to see the x-rays and you see the tiny coil that will send sound to his brain and the magnets that will keep the apparatus on his head.
He has a BIG cup of coffee, which he needed, took a bunch of ibuprofen for a headache. I fed him yogurt and fresh fruit and he’s watching a baseball game.
He is tired. I am tired. Owen is tired. But it happened. Two weeks to finish healing, then another couple of weeks for the healing to really finish healing, at which point all the technology gets put in place.
Thank you to everyone for caring. This really IS magic.
What would you name the autobiography of your life?
Which do you prefer sweet, salty or buttery?
All of the above, in varying combinations. I do not, however, like “sweet-salty” combinations such as chocolate covered salty pretzels. I do like sweet-bitter combinations like bitter orange, lemon … to a point. I’m not an extremist. I don’t like intensely bitter orange or super-soured lemon. I sort of appreciate subtlety in foods.
As for buttery? Not so much these days. When I was younger and didn’t mind fatty foods, I was more butter-inclined. Fonder of “slathered in butter.” Not much these days. I’m more temperate. I like a little bit of this, that, and the other thing. Too much of any single thing is … well … too much of a good thing.
What’s the finest education?
For what? Law? Medicine? Software Engineering? Physics? High Mathematics? History? Economics?
Even amongst the top schools for each subject, you could argue which was which THE school. Do you like MIT or Cal Tech? Harvard or Yale? Cambridge or the Sorbonne? Julliard? Oberlin?
I think the best education for me or you would be the best we could get out of what happens to be available. I’ve met some really ignorant PhDers and some incredibly smart people without any formal education.
Still, that being said, a really excellent education at a top school for whatever you are studying can’t possibly hurt, right? So if you can get into the right school, definitely go. And I don’t mean online. I mean GO. Because there’s more to college than classes.
What made you smile this past week?
When we got home from the hospital — it was a long day — I found a package. It was the fancy Red Sox 2018 shirt I ordered for Garry. A bit more than I would normally spend on a shirt, but I thought he needed something to perk up his world. He has been so worried about this surgery, he needed an “upper” and I thought this would be it.
I got a note today telling me that our appointment with the pre-op people on July 9 didn’t appear to exist. UMass has communication problems. No one seems to talk to anyone else around there.
For an entire year, I tried to get an appointment with a medical oncologist for a checkup on my (at that point) relatively recent bout with two different forms of cancer. It never happened.
Every time I got close to the appointment, the doctor’s office called to tell me he had a meeting and I had to reschedule. It happened six times, after which I changed medical plans and went back to a facility that always took care of me.
I never saw the neurologist either. When I got there, they told me I didn’t have an appointment. When I got home, they called me to ask me how come I missed my appointment.
I managed to survive those two experiences, but this is a pre-op for Garry’s cochlear implant. I have no more patience to deal with this nonsense. I don’t know what their issue is, but they need to fix it.
I called everyone and got disconnected. Finally, I called the hospital’s general directory and got someone who connected me to the actual doctor’s office and she said she was sure we had an appointment and connected me with the secretary in the office and she said she was also sure we had an appointment. Which means that there’s nothing more I can do.
I have no doubt about the skill of the surgeons or the medical abilities of the team, but I am deeply dubious about the hospital’s ability to manage simple communications with each other.
So kudos to me for spending my entire morning calling a hospital, getting disconnected, and continuing to try until I finally got answers which I hope turn out to be the RIGHT answers.
Grant me a small indulgence as I struggle to get what’s left of my temper back under control because this drives me nuts. I figure when you make an appointment and you show up for that appointment, the next thing to follow will be seeing the doctor (or whoever you are supposed to be seeing). Eventually, someone will tell you what — if anything — they have found.
This has not been the case with UMass Memorial and I don’t understand it. I’m still breathing heavily.
Up in the air, Junior Birdmen. Up in the air, upside-down.
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