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Monday, November 2, 2009

Two Ears!

We've been working on getting a second cochlear implant for Emma since the spring. Well, really since her first implant last November. Emma had her right ear implanted with the Cochlear Nucleus Freedom implant on Nov. 21, 2008 and it was activated Dec. 10, 2008. After quite a bit of research and consulting with our doctors on the pros and cons of two implants we determined that we definitely wanted Emma to have bilateral (both ears) implants. Emma's cerebral palsy makes it extremely difficult for her to use sign language (ASL) and with all her challenges we believe she will benefit tremendously from having two ears to hear instead of only one. Our goal at the time was to implant her left ear within a year of the right ear, but had really hoped to have the left ear done in the spring '09.


Insurance is a funny thing when it comes to hearing. Depending on your plan, CIs might not be covered at all or they might cover only one ear or could cover both ears. The insurance offered at Chris' work does not cover CIs at all. The insurance that was offered at my work covered bilateral (both ears) CIs. Since we were covered with my insurance, we didn't foresee any issues with implanting the left ear and moved forward full speed ahead.

We started the qualification process at our CI center in the spring. Emma was approved for the second side since they would be able to demonstrate her ability to use the right side CI to the insurance company. By the summer we were on our way to have her implanted. Insurance approved the request. A surgery date was set of August 3. Then something happened. I had a bad feeling about the August 3rd date. A weird, let's not get it done this date feeling. I believe in listening to those feelings but, to be honest, it's feels strange to tell the surgical team that this is one reason why you need a new date! The other reason was that my entire family was out of the country on vacation in August and I just didn't know what I would do if anything happened. So, taken together, we decided to postpone the surgery date to October. At that time I did not know for sure that I would be laid off in July and have only a few more months for my insurance to pay for the surgery.

While we were working on postponing the surgery, we heard rumblings that Cochlear was about to launch a new version of the implant. We've heard that they are always working on new devices and new ones are usually available about every 5 years. This upgrade would be for the internal device implanted in the head and the external device that is worn on the ear and it was waiting on FDA approval. We decided to go ahead with the October date and would use the new implant if FDA approved, but we wouldn't delay the surgery date any further if the new implant was not available because we needed it covered by my insurance.

While working on renewing the insurance approvals for the new October date, we hit a snag. They wanted more information from the hospital. Then we found out the doctor couldn't do the surgery on the set date and wanted to reschedule it. We had to submit insurance approval again for the new surgery date. Each time you submit for approval you can be denied. And each time we requested the approvals there seemed to be a bit more hoops to jump through. Needless to say, I was a bundle of nerves through this whole process. The surgery is EXPENSIVE and we couldn't cover it out of our pockets and needed to have it done while I had my insurance. Finally, all the ducks lined up and we had a surgery date with insurance approvals for November 2! We just had to keep Emma out of the H1N1 swine flu way so she could get the surgery. Of course I also worried about that, but in the end it all came together.

Today, Emma had her left ear implanted with the *new* Nucleus 5 cochlear implant! She did great for the surgery, was quite irritable afterwards, and is finally enjoying a bit of rest. Our center provides two external implant sets/ear so that we always have a full set of spare parts and Emma won't have any *down time* from hearing should any piece need to go out for repair. We will get two sets of the Nucleus 5 external devices and they are compatible with the Nucleus Freedom Emma has implanted in her right ear. So, that means we can use Emma's Freedoms as the back-ups and use a Nucleus 5 device on each ear and Emma will have access to the latest technology in both ears! This is just wonderful!

Her activation date is set a bit later than normal so that representatives from Cochlear can be there for Emma's activation since Emma is the first Nucleus 5 recipient at our center. Activation is set for Dec. 7 and Emma will be hearing in stereo by Christmas. What a wonderful Christmas present for all of us!

(note: I'll update this post with photos later this week)

6 Comments from readers:

Kim said...

How exciting! I am so grateful for all the technology we have. Congratulations!

Jenny- Sienna's mom said...

You listened to your inner voice and voila... everything works out for the better with the new Nucleus 5 CI. My thoughts and prayers are with you for a speedy recovery! Welcome to the bilateral CI world! Congrats!

PrayforNathan.org said...

How wonderful! I am so excited for Emma that she will have normal hearing! How amazing what mommy intuition can accomplish! Good for you Kristina!

I am Trish Marie said...

YAY!!! I am so excited to hear that she has her second ear. You are going to be floored by the difference it makes.

Ellen said...

I can't wait to sing to her on Christmas Eve. Only children enjoy my singing voice.

Katy said...

Can't wait to hear how it goes! I have lots of happy/good associations with Dec. 7th, even though that is Pearl Harbor day.

Now I'm off to google so I can see what this thing looks like!