I couldn’t watch the YouTube video of a cochlear implant surgery. Just the description of it was bad enough when I Googled it. The description went something like this.
The surgeon will shave the hair around the incision area, and then cut an incision in a curve just above the ear and peel back the skin. They will then grind a hollow in the skull to make a home for the processor, and cut a hole in the cochlea to carefully thread the electrode array into the curve. After the array is inserted, they will check to make sure that each electrode works. After the procedure is done, they will stitch it up and bandage it tightly to make sure the processor and magnet will not move while the incision begins to heal.
I don’t know which I was more worried about--the big gaping skin-flap incision, or the fact that they would have to shave part of my head. At 17, I was rather aware of my appearance. If Skrillex existed in 2005, I would have been especially afraid of people assuming I’m a fan.
My mom and I received the post-operative instructions before the surgery, so we would be fully prepared for the aftermath.
- Keep the dressing on for a couple of days.
- Don’t wash your hair for a week.
- The stitches will dissolve eventually.
- You may experience dizziness, nausea, and vomiting for a period of time after the surgery.
I had four eye surgeries for lazy eye, and I knew what Mom’s C-sections were like, so none of the instructions were problems. The only one I was most afraid of was this one:
- Don’t blow your nose for 3 months.
I was getting my surgery during winter, the prime cold season, and the only thing I’d be able to do for a stuffed nose would be to smear boogers around.
I recovered fairly quickly from all the side effects. I was dizzy for a while, and then only a little unbalanced. I barely had pain because the person in charge of anesthesia shot the left side of my head up full of numbing agents after I went under general anesthesia. I kept chewing the left side of my tongue for a couple of weeks until the numbness receded, and it took over a year before I had full sensation of my scalp again.
And I managed to avoid blowing my nose for two weeks.
After two weeks, Dad became angry about something. I only vaguely remember it being about me being spoiled when I wasn’t feeling very good, but I can’t remember. He raged, yelling at me for half an hour. I stayed stoic, but tears leaked out. When he was done, I went to my bedroom to cry, let it all out. Why was he angry? I don’t understand. It’s not fair. Then, because I was expected to help out with the siblings, I dried my eyes, blew my nose, and composed myself before going back upstairs.
I cried myself to sleep later that night.
In the middle of the night, I woke up, feeling like I was rotating around in my bed. The dark room spun, so I held onto the walls and furniture as I stumbled upstairs to the bathroom. I needed to barf. I needed to poop. I equivocated about which end to put on the toilet.
How do you prioritize when it’s both an emergency?
I briefly considered pooping while vomiting into the full trash can next to the toilet, but I imagined Dad and Mom being angry at me for not emptying the trash can first before puking (to make it easier to clean), and I didn’t have time to do that.
Practically speaking, I was more likely to hold in poop than barf, so I knelt on the floor and learned that salad does not dissolve in the acid as easily as other foods, and instead comes up in the whole chewed chunks. I also pooped my pants at the exact same time.
I wanted a new change of clothes, but I couldn’t do it without spilling poop everywhere because I was dizzy. Plus I didn’t want to be naked in my room in case my brother was awake. I whimpered, crying as I wiped my mouth off. I wanted Mom to help me, but I was afraid Dad would be angry that I woke her up.
Thankfully Mom heard something. She had super-powered mom-ears that could detect a kid in distress, and helped me. She wasn’t happy about me pooping my pants, but got me a change of clothes and wet wipes. She asked what happened, and I told her I didn’t know.
I lied. I did know-- I blew my nose.
Later that day, the lie outed itself. Mom remembered Dad's outburst yesterday, and asked me directly if I blew my nose. I answered honestly. It's not like a lie of omission--lying to this meant hell and confession.
She told Dad, who then came and yelled at me as I lay on the couch, still dizzier than a drunk, telling me I was a spoiled brat undermining all the work they’ve done for me, making things inconvenient for everyone else in the house, what the hell did I think I was doing when I blew my nose? After all the efforts they and the doctors and the nurses and my siblings did for me, and I seriously inconvenienced the library where I volunteered because I was too sick to do my shift…
I cried, angry that he didn’t understand that it was his anger that made me cry yesterday.
And I didn’t blow my nose this time.
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