Billy 2.0 – One Week After the Operation

The inside of William Mager's head

A week after my operation I went back to the hospital. They took the dressings off, did an X-ray and told me I was allowed to wash all the matted blood and dried gunk out of my hair at last. They’ve given me a list of dates from now until March when I’ll have to go into hospital for various switch ons, tune ups and therapy sessions.

Now I’m sitting here looking at an X-ray of my cochlear implant inside my head.

It looks a bit like the USS Enterprise from Star Trek orbiting an M-Class planet doesn’t it? Not that I’m a Trekkie or anything.

At the top right, you can see the small magnet which will hold the external microphone and processor part to the side of my head. I haven’t tested the magnet yet.

Below the magnet, you can see a larger bacteria-like cluster – that’s the computer part which processes sound from the external microphone and feeds it into my ear.

How does the sound get fed into my ear? Look a bit further down and you can see a Z-shaped squiggle – that’s the electrode, going all the way into my cochlear. They achieved full insertion with the op so hopefully when I’m activated in December, they’ll be able to use all of the electrode to the fullest.

How do I feel now?

I stopped taking the codeine and paracetamol when they ran out four days after the operation and switched to wine instead. The bandage is off, the scar is healing nicely and I feel fine. I feel almost the same as I did before the operation, with a couple of small differences:

First of all, if I put my hand to my head just behind my left ear, I can feel a lump there. It’s about 2 inches long, an inch wide, and around half a centimetre thick. That’s the implant itself. It doesn’t hurt to touch, but when I’m holding my son and he jerks his head back, hitting the left side of my head with the back of his head… that hurts.

Secondly, try this. Look in the mirror and try to raise your eyebrows or wiggle your ears. You should be able to feel the muscles in your neck, scalp and ears working fairly uniformly. When I wiggle my ears or raise my eyebrows, I feel a weird tugging sensation behind my left ear. There’s something stopping it from working on that side in the same way that it does on my right. Probably the three inch scar behind my ear, or the silicone and circuit board gubbins inside my head.

Thirdly, I can turn my head from side to side again – but when I’m shocked or surprised, like when a giant billy goat jumped out at me at the local city farm last week (don’t judge me, you weren’t there) and you jerk back instinctively, it hurts like hell for a few minutes.

Fourthly, my ear doesn’t feel quite part of me any more. It’s slightly numb to the touch on the earlobe, and around the scar itself. I don’t know if sensation will return in time, but I can live with it.

I’m still wearing my hearing aid – in fact they put my right hearing aid in when I was coming round from the operation! – so I haven’t had to adjust to any differences in hearing before and after the operation.

Generally I feel more or less myself now. I still feel a bit tired from time to time (I’m writing this having woken up from a one hour power nap on the sofa) but nothing major. I’m a little surprised that I’ve recovered so quickly, to be honest.

A few weeks before I went into hospital, a chap called Tony asked me on Twitter whether I was looking forward to the operation. I replied that I was just looking forward to spending two weeks with my wife and son. I was right, too.

That’s been the best thing about two weeks off work – realising just how lucky I am to have such an amazing family of my own. Even better – I enjoy spending my days with them.

Whatever happens when they switch me on a few weeks from now, I’ve still got that.

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