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Under the Knife

January 25, 2015 | by Marnie Winston-Macauley

I’m deaf and going in for surgery for a cochlear implant. Send kosher Chinese – please!

I’m going in for surgery on Friday morning. I’m having a cochlear implant, which I suppose isn’t exactly brain surgery, but they do drill something in my hard head. (By all means send Kosher Chinese – for “after.”) For those of you who don’t know, I’m deaf. I was born with a congenital condition called otosclerosis. It was diagnosed when I was a kid on a day of infamy: the morning of November 22, 1963.

On Friday I’m going in for surgery. And I’m dying my hair for the occasion.

On that day, the doctor told my mother and me he would operate, but … after age 40 it would go into the nerves, and I’d get deafer. Did I hear that? OK, true, I couldn’t hear a lot, but when you’re a kid “40” is somewhere between death and colonizing Pluto. It’s especially hard to hear when the doctor looked like a movie star and you’re gaping.

Moving on, of course he was right. In increments, it finally happened. I was having a talk with a producer on “Geraldo” and he looked at me strangely when I said “I don’t eat pork” to his question, “When can you start work?”

Through the years I’ve gone through enough hearing aids to rival Comsat. It finally happened. I hear virtually nothing.

Of course I’d heard that a cochlear implant, which involves sticking a Bluetooth thingy in your head, that eventually stimulates the auditory nerve, could be done.

On Friday I’m doing it.

I’m also dying my hair for the occasion.

In prep, “they” also found a small brain tumor. The doctor sort of said we’d “watch it.” This means it’s no big deal, right? So said my postman, my neighbor, and the two cowboys who rescued my beater that conked out on the highway. My doctor said he couldn’t promise it wasn’t cancerous, but logic dictates that if it were, he’d be sawing away at my brain already, but God forbid, it is ... the worst case scenario is my insurance company would shred his degrees and take his Bentley.

Am I hysterical with fear, scared out of my mind, dripping with sweat? Frankly, I’d rather have a pastrami on rye. I’m not too thrilled being “out” for a few hours. What if something happens that needs my urgent attention, even though not much has needed my urgent attention during the last 30 years? But, say, for example, while I’m “out” there’s a terrorist strike on the Surgical Center? Or my son runs out of gas in the desert and God forbid gets bitten by a brown recluse? Or my wonderful editor calls me and says he needs an emergency humor piece on “New Uses for Hummus?” See what can happen?

Of course the good news is … in a month when they turn the implant on, I’ll hear out of one side. True, it will sound like Mentalo, but mechanical is better than Closed Captioning, which I have no doubt is translated by a person who only knows the Croatian alphabet. Watch: I see: “M Buck. Kenya inseign wool?” The person said: “I’m Mark. Can you sign your will?” All of which has made my family very nervous.

Then there’s the secret. Yes. The good news about being deaf. I’ll miss it a little. Trust me, so would you. Being deaf definitely has its advantages …

  • A boring person approaches me and reading his lips I’m ready to chalosh. It isn’t easy being boring-by- lip, they’re out there. All I had to say was: “Excuse me, but I’m deaf.” Night night.
  • When my darling husband was alive, he was a snorer. Did I hear it? Of course not. Did I care? Why should I if I couldn’t hear it?
  • Pity Perks. True, not many people are empathetic to the deaf. After all, you can’t see canes, walkers, and other medical devices. Ah, but on the phone? Aside from saying “Wha? Wha?” I was also obliged to say: “Listen darling. I know the electric bill is due, but I’m deaf, so can you not charge me the fee for paying by phone?” What deaf has to do with electric bills, who knows, but I’ve yet to pay for this convenience. (I never said I was perfect.)
  • Apologies: Oy, we all say things that would not go well on our permanent record card. When such a thing happens with me … “Omigod! I said that? I must’ve heard you wrong, as … I’m deaf.” (OK, more imperfection, but mostly it’s true. I misheard. Or interrupted before not hearing.)

So yes … deaf has its advantages.

But of course I’m eager to hear my family and friends again; birds chirping, music – even if they all sound like they’re talking from a tin can.

Meanwhile, life has been an adventure; a journey of such magnitude that I am deeply grateful for those I love, those I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and those who may have enjoyed my work now and then.

I just wanted to say so.

Before this gets too maudlin, I plan on starting a new article Sunday! Let’s only hope it’s not about “The Case Against Anesthesia.”

Much love,

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