"Christine", the audiologist at the Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Center, is a typical - no, a stereo
typical - Maritimes redhead. She is blunt and opinionated and funny and dry. She isn't impressed with doctors (they're "just the Joe Blow that sticks the thing in" - she's the magician that makes it speak to the brain) and lays her expectations of potential patients out in capital letters (literally). You know exactly where you stand with her and what you can do to make her life easier or more difficult.
I don't think you want to make Christine's life difficult.
We arrived right on time for the appointment and they took us in right away. First Christine re-tested my hearing and then we sat together in an office, Christine and I and Husband and a speech pathologist, and we started discussing risks associated with the surgery and how the waiting list works and the different models available to me and what vaccinations I should arrange with my family doctor before the surgery and at some point it dawned on me:
They're approving me.
They weren't talking "if". They were talking "when".
And I felt like I was having a bit of an out-of-body, this-is-surreal experience.
It's not a guarantee. Nothing in life is guaranteed (take it from me) and access to $65,000CAD worth of surgery, equipment and rehab certainly isn't guaranteed. And it's not guaranteed that the unit will work for me, or work well, even if it all unfolds as planned. But they're recommending me.
The next step is a meeting with the surgeons which will probably happen sometime after Christmas. After that the timeline gets fuzzier because there is a waiting list, and children get first priority, because if kids don't get implanted young they never develop language properly. So a child recommended for the implant can jump the queue, which is something I can certainly live with.
The risks associated with the surgery are more serious than I had read but not more serious than I had expected. Most of the websites seem to want to downplay the risks but I always suspected that working that close to the brain had to have some fairly large inherent risks they weren't getting into details about, and that turned out to be true. There's also the risk of facial paralysis or loss of taste on the implant side. There are risks I am willing to take.
They showed me the implants I am to choose from. Actually seeing one - the internal part, especially - was incredible. I mean, holding
one in your hand was mind-blowing. These are some high-tech units, little tiny Ferraris in the palm of your hand. The Center uses two manufacturers, each of whom produce two models; the differences are in type of battery, battery cost, life, etc. etc. Performance-wise, they say there is little to no difference between manufacturer or model. I was thrilled
to discover that each makes a model which is entirely worn at ear level - the processor and batteries are all built into the behind-the-ear unit, so no battery pack at the waist and no clumsy wire running from your waist to your head. I am nearly 100% certain that is the option I will go with. in fact, I am nearly 100% certain that this
is the model I will go with (on the right). Snazzy, huh? The funky colours you see in that picture are snap-over plastic covers which come in a bunch of colours and styles; the basic model comes in black, white, beige, chocolate, and silver. I'm thinking of basic black. Dreadfully mod
ren, don't you think?
We celebrated that night in one of Halifax's fabled pubs and then crashed, completely exhausted from the emotions of the day. Saturday when we got up it was snowing a bit; we did a few things and hit the road about 1 pm. The snow got worse and worse and the road got more and more slippery; and eventually we were in the middle of a chain of cars as far as the eye could see behind and in front, all creeping along at 40kph. Nobody could pass even if they wanted to because the passing lane hadn't been ploughed and was worse than the right lane; except, of course, for the transport trucks that roared past us about a paint-coat's thickness away and obscured our view to white-out and scared the living crap out of us. Poor Husband drove the whole way. By the time we got home, it was nearly 8 pm (that was a nearly 7-hour drive; it usually takes 4). The storm, as it turns out, was a damned doozy
that closed the airport, caused dozens of accidents and left 100,000 people without electricity.
But Husband got us through it, although the stress of everything took a physical toll on him, and we are home now, back at work, the whole crazy few days behind us, back to routine, back to normal. Except nothing looks the same to me anymore.
Because they have approved me for the implant.