Monday, April 15, 2013

The Bad News and the Good News


Anytime someone asks the question, “Do you want the good news or the bad news first?” I always wonder who would ever want the good news first?  I always choose the bad news first.  It’s not that I like the negative stuff.  I just want to get the bad news out of the way - fast - so that I can move onto, and hopefully appreciate, the good news.  Most of the time, I assume that the good news is intended to lessen the bad news, so it only makes sense to take things in that order. So, I’m starting with the bad news.

One of Sammie’s cochlear implants is broken.  And unfortunately, it’s not the external, easily repaired or replaced part of the device (the processor). It’s the internal part of the device.  It’s the part that requires surgery to replace it.  It’s the part that’s inside her cute little head.  We’re not exactly sure why it is no longer functioning properly, but several outstanding doctors have reviewed Samantha’s audiology reports, and they all agree that it is not.  There are no more trouble-shooting options or professional opinions to wait on.  It needs to be replaced.

When Samantha received her first cochlear implant at the age of one, I remember being told that the internal device was “intended to last a lifetime.”  We’ve always known, however, that “intended to last a lifetime” does not mean “guaranteed to last a lifetime.”  After all, how many electronic devices last a whole lifetime?  In fact, given that we hope Sammie lives a long, long, healthy life, we never thought it would last her lifetime.  We’ve been expecting this - just not quite so soon.  


1.  Sammie has the most amazing audiologist.  We’ve been with her since Sammie was a baby, and she basically walks us through these things.  She is a perfect balance of concerned and casual.  She’s very honest with us, but doesn’t overwhelm us with a bunch of scary what-ifs.  If I tell her I have a few quick questions, she’ll patiently answer the 72 questions that I actually end up asking.  In fact, we have our first surgical evaluation appointment tomorrow, and she’ll be joining us, not because I asked her to come, but because she offered to come.  I adore her.

2.  Sammie’s first implant, the one on her right side, continues to work beautifully.  This is the side that she learned to listen with and that she wears all of the time, even to bed.  The implant she needs to have replaced was her second implant, which she received at the age of eight.  In fact, she received the second implant partially in hopes that she would gain a more balanced sense of hearing, but more so because we wanted to have a backup in case the first quit working. The opposite ended up being the case (the backup needs to be replaced), but we are still very grateful that she she will continue to hear during this process.  Given that Samantha is profoundly deaf, if she only had one implant and it needed to be replaced, she would not be able to hear at all.  That would be an incredibly difficult time for her.  She has become a hearing person, and we feel responsible to do everything we can to keep her hearing.

3.  Dave and I have known since December that Samantha would need to have this surgery.  However, because December marks the beginning of Samantha’s gymnastics meet season, which she trains for 20 hours a week all year long, we decided to keep it to ourselves for a few months so she could finish her season without that worry.

I was very nervous about how she would respond to the news.  I spent a great deal of time wondering if she would be open to another surgery, how I would convince her to be if she wasn’t, and if I should convince her.  Unlike her first implant, she never learned to effectively use or appreciate her second implant.  In hindsight, we wonder if it ever did function properly.  Because it was a lot of work with few results, I knew she sometimes regretted having the second implant.  

When we finally sat down to talk to her two weeks ago, after her state meet, she handled the subject with incredible maturity.  She almost immediately agreed that we needed to have it fixed.  She was remarkably calm and composed.  In fact, she was mostly concerned about how long she would be out of gymnastics for.  She is brave and bold, and she amazes me.