Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Getting My Cyborg Parts Programmed

I went to Portland yesterday to get my cochlear implant processor mapped.  Eugene doesn't have a Cochlear center, so it's an all-day trek now (2 hour drive, each way).  Thankfully, I love to drive my Beetle all by myself so I can play really loud 80's music and Johnny Cash and Broadway musicals without worrying about anyone saying "HOW CAN YOU PLAY THE MAN IN BLACK RIGHT AFTER DEBBIE GIBSON? YOU HERETIC!"

My tri club would hate me if they ever had me put together the playlists for the day.

So, mapping is the process by which a specially trained audiologist creates the programming for my processor.

Get it?  Essentially, for some (probably genetic) reason, the cochlei hair cells don't work in my head.  So I have a flat magnet encased in titanium under my head skin and on top of my skull, a hole drilled in my skull, and a tiny coil of electrodes snaked into my cochlea.  The electrodes connect (wirelessly, thanks to the magnet) to a processor, which is then programmed by the scientists to make the noises we hear every day into a series of teeny tiny electrical signals that shock my hearing nerve into stimulation.

I like to tell people that I'm shocked by everything I hear.

Of course, being an Episcopal priest, they think I'm shocked by everything I hear ANYway.  But I'm really, literally, shocked.

Anyway, I went to OHSU, and got there early enough that I got to ride the famous Portland tram that connects the two campuses.  The tram is cool, but I did have a few of my white-knuckle moments.  Specifically, I looked over the edge to see just how high.... yeah, we won't be doing that again.  And then the tram, when it first takes off, swings a bit.  Like a gondola.  When you are plenty-hundred feet up in the air.

Considering that hospitals treat people who are in danger of dying and stuff, I appreciate the irony of subjecting them (and the science people who fix them) to imagined death several times daily.

Hey, I'm not being melodramatic.  Being high up in a small room which is waving back and forth in a high Portland wind while passengers strategically position themselves around the open-air transport to balance its precarious weight and work together to survive is legitimately adventurous.

Except that there was no high wind, the gondola only rocked once or twice, and everyone stood around texting or taking pictures.  But that's exactly the same thing, right? 

Sadly, yesterday, we could not map.  We discovered that my processor has some very serious errors in it, and it is in dire need of repair for proper function.  Happily, I'm also due for an upgrade, so we are going to ask the nice people at the insurance company to buy me a $7,000-plus device.  And some of the accessories.  

That always works well, right?

At least this one is totally waterproof.  Not that I'll start swimming with it (at least, not in open water, though I may be tempted to try it in a pool environment and finally get some swim coaching!), but in Oregon, that's great news, right?

We also did a baseline hearing test- so the audiologist could see how well I function.  You can't really compare "normal" people to Cochlear implant people, mostly because normal people are so hard to find, and if you ever do find them, they wouldn't agree into a booth and take an audiological test just to satisfy my curiosity.  But at the end of the day, I test within the top 2% of Cochlear implantees.  I love getting A-pluses on tests.  And I notice the tests are changed.

They used to involve a long section where I repeat words like "Baseball, ice cream, snowman" as the audiologist reads them to me.  The sentences used to be things like "The penguins played on the beach with a ball".

Yesterday, I was repeating words like "shotgun, carnage, gin".  The sentences started out with the regular stuff like, "She started the engine of the car" and progressed to "She wondered if it was okay to open the door".  I guess the hearing testing scientists are preparing me for the zombie apocalypse.

So now we start the fun process of trying to get a new processor, which would come with a remote control, which I guess I could strap on my wrist.  If only they made it look like a watch!  And connected it to my heart rate monitor!  And added a GPS!

And a little laser aiming device for the shotgun I will acquire when I steal the car as the zombie apocalypse sets in.


Joan said...

Colin had to have a hearing test done a couple of months ago. They played a sound, and then the monkey was light up and it clapped and danced. Did you have that feature?? He loved it!

The Vagabond Priest said...

I have NEVER gotten the monkey or the duck. I was always scared of the clown, and my audiologist never turned on the fun toys for me. I was SUCH A DEPRIVED CHILD!!