Activating My New-New Life

I was in a state of grief for about a week. I couldn’t stop thinking of all the pain of the last year, physical and emotional. I wasn’t going out much because of my cochlear implant surgery recovery and the smoky air from nearby wildfires, so I spent a lot of time just laying in bed and letting myself feel sad, angry, guilty. Just a lot of irrational things I’m not really going to get into.

I try to always make my first reaction to negative emotion to be prayer. But for whatever reason, it took me a week to have that reflex kick in. I prayed hard on Thursday night for quick relief from my negativity, which is something I did just hours before I got the lung transplant call exactly eight months before (to the day). But I was just praying for my emotions, not for something super concrete.

God probably thought I was being boring with my vague hoping.

I recorded notes throughout the next day, several minutes after each event — a habit I have from all my blogging (my memory sucks without notes). Here’s an edited version of what I wrote throughout the day.

Friday morning, exactly eight months post-transplant:

I walk in for my first post-surgery check-up. I think they will be checking the surgery site for infection then sending me on my way. I’m not supposed to be activated until September 29th. Next thing I know, my audiologist is sticking the processors on my head. She sends some “beeps” through the implants, which are interesting in themselves because it’s the most noise I’ve heard in over a year. Then she’s asking me if I’m ready… Ready? For what? I gesture at my dad to record with his phone. Mom will kill us if anything important happens and she doesn’t see. The audiologist clicks a key on her computer.

Ambient noise rises in my skull, vibrating my brain, like that THX sequence in the movie theaters. Absolute silence to being brain-smacked by an overwhelming invasion of noises.

DSC_5168I’m in a pinball machine. You know when you yank the knob to shoot the metallic ball and it strikes a flurry of beeps, boops, pweeps, whistles? Those were the sounds I heard, Super Mario-esque. I realize the loudest beeps are actually my nails clicking against each other and my pants’ material rubbing as I shook my legs in anxiety. My brain isn’t processing noises normally yet — it has to adjust to a new method of hearing (electronically).

Like a pinball is difficult to follow with the eye, it’s even more difficult to focus on a single sound while being assaulted by dozens at once for the first time in ages. I’m used to only having to filter through the singular “sound” of my thoughts.

Then a high-pitched voice pierced the air, Minnie Mouse-soundingmy audiologist’s. Counting: “1, 2, 3, 4 …” I’m trying to keep chill. I don’t know why. Everyone in the roomme, the audiologist, my dad know this is “something else.” Then days of the week: “Sunday, Monday, Tuesday …” And I’m shuddering and crying. Days of the month: “January, February, March …” I can’t stop shaking, it’s like I just slushed an entire gallon of nitro cold brew coffee down my throat. I’m hearing words.

Click here for video of my activation.

My nurse tells me this is the worst the implants will ever sound and that it will get better. But, man, this already sounds fantastic. It sounds wrong and confusing, but it’s sounds. Some other first words, as a test: “Hot dog, mushroom, baseball.” I never thought those, numbers, days of the week, and months would be my first words after 1.5 years of being deaf. I don’t know what I expected. Maybe, “By the power of science and God the majestic, I hereby dub ye no longer deaf!”

The audiologist asks what it sounds like, and I reply, “A trippy cartoon.” My voice is unbearably loud, it’s like having someone shouting in my ear while talking. So I’m tripping over words and losing train of thought as I speak. This, too, should get better with time.

Then my dad speaks. I tell him he sounds like he hasn’t hit puberty yet. It’s like Mickey Mouse speaking, with an ‘aftertaste’ of my dad’s voice. Not sure how to explain that. He laughs and, wow, his laugh is just as I remember it.

Dad and I leave, all smiles. We’re still stunned. We turn on Johnny Cash in the Jeep because his voice is the lowest, so I figure it should sound a bit better than most musicians. It sounds like Dolly Parton covering Johnny, but it’s recognizable! That’s enough for me. Nodding my head to a rhythm is… Am I crying again?

What better place to celebrate than Chick-fil-A? I order my own food and actually have a tear well up in my eye when the cashier asks what type of dipping sauce I want and I respond with ease. I don’t have to worry about embarrassing myself when I don’t understand what restaurant workers are saying. But I might instead embarrass myself by crying everytime I feel glee at how easy it is to answer them now. Don’t judge. While I’m eating, a kid screams. It sounds just like R2-D2 when a Jawa shot him. A lot more interesting than I remember screams typically sounding.


I get home, have my first conversation with my mom that doesn’t include text, then get a huge hug from her. Then, we go to my parents’ Bible study, which I guess I can now call my Bible study because I intend to begin going weekly again. I have a lot of socializing to catch up on.

I keep thinking the word, “Fantastic,” because this all seems like a fantasy. I’m going to sleep soon, and I fully expect to wake up and realize it was all a dream. I’ll go to my appointment, have them check my surgery site, then be sent on my way.

Or it’s real, and God answered my prayers.