My First Cochlear Implant Surgery: The Untold Story
by Trish Hubschman
Long island, October 21, 2002. The day was finally here. I was going to have cochlear implant surgery. I’d overcome so many hurdles to get to this point. I was very excited and physically and mentally drained. Over the past six months or so, my surgeon, Dr. Everett Greenberg, had sent me for a battery of tests to determine the degree of my hearing loss and the damage to the nerves. He felt I was a good candidate for the cochlear implant (CI). On my own, I had done Internet research into the CI and the different companies that made it. I’d also spoken to medical people and recipients of it and heard their stories. Some did well with the CI. For some, it didn’t work at all. Nobody could predetermine how I would do with it.
We had to be at the hospital at seven a.m. for a ten o’clock surgery to check-in. That wasn’t a problem. We didn’t live that far away. After doing this, Mom, Kevin, and I sat in a curtained-off cubicle to wait for my surgeon. Medical people kept coming into the enclosure and asked the same questions. Finally, my doctor arrived and Kevin and I walked into the operating room. They wanted him in there in case they had any questions. Before the oxygen mask went over my face, the doctor told me to count backwards from one hundred.
I don’t know how much later this was, but I heard a bell going off, then a blood pressure cuff tightening on my arm, then another bell rang and the cuff loosened. My head felt like a brick was holding it down and I couldn’t turn it. I opened my eyes. Kevin stood on one side of me. The expression on his face was grim. “What’s going on?” I asked. My mouth was very dry and felt like it was glued shut, so I can’t be sure any words came out. “You don’t have a cochlear implant,” he replied. “The doctor said he couldn’t’ get it in there.” Mom was talking too and they were both confusing me. I wanted to ask them to explain things to me, but two orderlies appeared and I was whisked out of Recovery at top speed, down some halls and into a regular room. I was worried that Kevin and mom wouldn’t find me.
I spent the night at the hospital. It was rough. I had to keep getting out of bed to go to the bathroom. I was discharged the next morning and returned home. Kevin went off to fill a prescription. Mom stayed with me and read the cards people sent congratulating me on my cochlear implant surgery. People were proud of me, but the surgery was a failure. I felt I’d let people down. I just wanted to crawl deep under my covers and stay there forever.
I had been in surgery six hours. My blood pressure dropped drastically. The doctor had sliced down the back of my ear to look for something that he didn’t find, then tightly stitched it up. My ear hurt. I couldn’t feel the left side of my face. I couldn’t taste food and I was having terrible dizzy spells. To top it off, the hearing in my left ear was completely gone.
I stayed home for two weeks, then the doctor took out the stitches. None of the disorders caused by the surgery vanished, nonetheless I wanted to return to work. My figuring was that if I got dizzy and fell, there’d be people around to help me. Mom called my boss. My office knew. I kept to myself and did my work. I was depressed and didn’t want to answer questions.
A friend suggested we sue the doctor and gave us the name of a good lawsuit attorney. We sat with the lawyer and told him everything. We gave him the surgery report. I read it. It was short and didn’t say much. A few days later, he called and told Kevin he wasn’t taking the case. He said that since I was already handicapped, what was the big deal if I was a little more so now? I was devastated. I think I ran into the bathroom and threw up. My life was over and nobody cared.
An angel of mercy did appear though. I received a letter from the head of the speech and hearing center at the hospital where I had the surgery. A colleague of hers at New York University Hospital was willing to take me as a special CI case. Dr. Timothy Reynolds was one of the top cochlear implant surgeons in the country. I had to do it. On September 8, 2004, I was wheeled into surgery at noon and was in Recovery an hour and half later. It was a success. I had a cochlear implant in my head. Three weeks later, I was fitted with the external device and was on the road to hearing.
About the Author
Trish Hubschman has published three books with America Star Books: a short story collection of time travel and romance stories called Through Time and the first two books in the Tracy Gayle/Danny Tide series: The Fire and Unlucky Break. Trish attended college at Long Island University’s Southampton campus, earning a BA degree in English with an emphasis in writing. She lives on Long Island with her husband and two dogs. Her website is https://www.dldbooks.com/hubschman/.