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Our Journey

Cochlear Implant: Activation


March 9, 1999--It seemed like forever but Jake's big day finally came and we were very excited and nervous. First of all, Jake is a morning person and the appointment was at 11:00 in the morning, which would run into lunch. We packed snacks because if there is one thing he likes to do it is eat. We packed up the video camera and the 35mm camera and headed on our way. It seemed like it took forever to get to the center that day and even longer in the waiting room but it was actually a very short period of time. When they came to the door and called his name I thought I would have a heart attack right there I was so nervous.

The first thing they did was talk to us about the implant, show us the battery charger and show us how everything all went together. Next they put the headpiece on him and attached the processor to the computer to start the mapping process. Jake played a game and when he heard the series of tones through the implant he put in a gamepiece, much like doing conditioned response audiometry. He kept trying to turn to see the computer screen to see where the sounds were coming from and got very mad when he wasn't allowed to watch it. But if he watched he would be able to tell when the sound was coming to him. He was a little bit cranky at times on and off through the mapping process and had to be reprimanded for unruly behavior, but luckily a threat of "Do you want a trip to the bathroom?" usually got him back on track. The entire mapping process took a bit over an hour and there were three maps. Now, it was finally time to "turn him on" to sound.

I asked him if he was ready and he said he was. When the audiologist turned the implant, with the volume and sensitivity turned all the way to the zero position he got this very strange look on his face for a few seconds, slapped the headpiece off, screamed NO and started crying. He sounded so pitiful it broke my heart. It wasn't that dream activation that we had secretly hoped for. With the volume and sensitivity down it shouldn't have been too loud for him, but he didn't like something about it. I have heard adult CI users say that the turn on sound is very annoying to them each time they turn the device on. I thought maybe that was the problem, but hadn't a clue what the real problem was. He wouldn't talk to us and tell us. He would only say no when I asked if it hurt and no when I tried to put the headpiece back in place. I can't imagine what it must be like to get this new hearing sensation for the first time in your life.

I held him and got him to calm before we tried again. I just sat there rocking him and softly saying it's okay Momma's baby. He couldn't hear me, but it made me feel better. I had a tear trickle down my face and glanced to see that Dad had tears in his eyes. While I was talking softly to him, they turned the implant back on again. He reacted this time by crying and burying his head into my chest. He knocked the headpiece off a few times but I always put it right back on. I guess about five minutes passed with the volume and sensitivity still at the zero-one position when he lifted his head up and looked around in amazement. He almost smiled, but you could see he was confused by it. He was very interested in my talking to him softly and we began to slowly increase the settings. Over the next few minutes they increased the settings to where they thought he could tolerate them. We were given instructions to gradually work up to map number three over the next two weeks and again told about the settings, precautions, and care of the equipment. It was beginning to look like he would wear it without complaint. The only thing he really fussed about then was that he wanted his hearing aid back on the other ear but they wanted him to get used to the sound of the implant for a while. He was startled when there was an overhead page but he didn't cry. On the way out of the office he started making some vocal play and seemed to enjoy hearing himself so the day was looking better.

When we went out the front door of the center the wind was blowing pretty hard through the trees and you could hear the leaves crackling. He looked afraid for a minute and asked what that 'ssssshhhhh' sound was. I told him it was the wind and he looked at me in utter amazement and said "I HEAR WINDY?!?" I can't tell you how I felt at that moment, other than amazed and thankful. He left the headpiece on all day without complaints. When it was knocked off he immediately wanted help to get it back into place. The best part of my day came at bedtime that night. He had always given up his hearing aids willingly at bedtime, so when I told him it was bedtime and I was taking the implant processor, I didn't expect a fuss. Boy was I wrong! He in no uncertain terms told me "NO, MINE IMPLANT go night-night"! At that very moment in time, I knew that I had done the right thing for my precious baby. The tears of happiness flowed. It still makes me cry every time I try to talk about it. He was very determined that it was staying on for the night, so I let him wear it until he was sound asleep then I put it away. The next morning just reassured us both that we had made the right choice. As my husband went to wake him up for school, he took one step out of the bed and yelled "HEY" grabbed the left side of his head and started crying hysterically and trying to say something. It scared my husband because he didn't know what was wrong with him and I ran into the room. Just as I entered the door he was searching under the pillows and covers. I heard him saying, "Hey, were go mine implant? where at?" as he cried. My husband looked at me and said "that is so precious," and you guessed it, we both cried.

I ran downstairs, got the processor and made my Jake a happy little boy, until I turned it on again. We quickly learned to turn the processor on, then place the microphone/headpiece on his head and adjust the sensitivity and volume. If we did that everything was okay. There was just something about that turn on sound that he hated.

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