Today I had my post-op check-up with my surgeon. "Not bad for my first time!" he chuckled. (He's done over 200 cochlear implants, silly man.) The nurse removed the staples and cleaned the incision area. Then the doctor gave it a final check and handed my chart to me. "Let's get an appointment to get you programmed," he said.
That's a strange way to say it, I think to myself. But it's true. I will be programmed. That's what you do to computers. You program them.
This little computer inside my head will be activated on December 30 at 9:00 am. The external processor will be attached to the internal component and turned on. Then my audiologist will hook me up to her computer and --- program me.
Sounds easy, yes? Certainly. Most people think that when the cochlear implant is turned on that my hearing will be miraculously restored and I will be able to hear again. Business as usual. "Can you hear me now?" (People have already been asking me if I can hear better since I had my surgery -- unbeknownst to them that the implant is in me, but it isn't on yet.)
In reality, however, activation day will begin a long process of learning to hear with the cochlear implant. I will certainly be able to "hear." It's the comprehension of those sounds that will take time to learn. For a while, the digital sounds delivered to my auditory nerve will be much like Charlie Brown's teacher's "Whaa-whaaa-whan." Slowly, over time, with many programming sessions and with much practice, I understand that my brain will learn to interpret those noisy digital impulses and turn them into comprehensible words and sounds. The brain is an amazing organ.
My post-op visit was cheerful and promising, and it gave me hope. Hope that with the healing of my surgical scar will come a healing of my spirit -- weary and worn from the past year's travails.
And to think -- I almost chickened-out on this surgery.