Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cochlear Updates

Hello Folks-

This will be the LAST update for now until the day of my surgery, which is now scheduled for OCTOBER 23RD, 2009, A Friday Morning.

I met with the surgeon Thursday, August 27th. I got to see my CT Scans, which showed everything was normal, and all the holes that were supposed to be there, were in fact there!

We went over my decision on which ear, I remain to stay with the left side so far, and which company I chose-AB Harmony. Surgically, he had some concerns or rather cautions about operating in my left ear with an AB Harmony magnet. It seems surgically for my surgeon at least it is just a tad bit more difficult to operate and insert the internal piece, the magnet, from AB Harmony than it is with Nuclear Freedom.

However, that did not defer me and I still stood by AB Harmony and after double-checking my options with my Audiologist I confirmed AB Harmony was what I wanted to go with.

So with that we went to the secretary’s office, and got word and confirmation that October 23rd would be the date of surgery. I am very very excited to finally have a date to look forward to. It has been almost a year of checking things out, going through insurance process, getting appointments set up. Quite a whirlwind. Meeting with family and friends to make sure they were in the know, and getting their support, advice and suggestions. I take all of your thoughts and suggestions to heart, and in the end I chose with what was the most comfortable for me and what would further improve my lifestyle as well.

Keep in mind; I am NOT GOING TO BEGIN HEARING IMMEDIATELY OUT OF SURGERY. The surgery is simply the insertion of the magnet, internal piece of the cochlear implant. It will be up to 3 weeks possibly AFTER the surgery before I can put the external implant on, also known as the speech processor, and then be “turned on”. Even then, when they turn my speech processor on, I am not going to start suddenly hearing and understanding everything at once. This is a VERY long process and will take a lot of support and importantly PATIENCE as I work with my family and friends in going through therapy and sessions and meetings and whatnot.

I believe I have to meet twice a week for a month after the surgery then it is a gradual process depending how well I advance and whatnot. So I do NOT want to disappoint you all and you wonder why I am not hearing/understanding anything right after have my surgery. This is not an instant surgery unfortunately. We all would love that to be the case, but alas it is not.

Also, I have been asked by STL if I would be interested in participating in a research program, I would be paid by the hour and reimbursed for mileage and parking expenses. It is an entire year, meeting every 3 months. It should not be conflicting with my work and classes but I think I will try it out and see how it goes. If I see it is conflicting then I will drop out, but certainly something worth checking out for sure!

So I ask for your patience and support as I go through with it, there are going to be times I will be very frustrated, times I may think, I am not going anywhere, it is up to you folks to keep me going too, and remind me it is worth it in the end!

This is pretty much it, and all I will do is wait until day of surgery. If you have any questions or comments please leave them here, you may contact me through face book, text however you have my information. I want you all to be as educated as I am with the process, so you all have an understanding also of what I am going through too.

Thanks everyone!


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cochlear Update Round Two!

Hello Folks-

As promised I would keep you guys updated. I had my second round of appt today in STL back at Barnes-Jewish. Cherise was kind enough to come with me to the appointment, and true to our relationship as friends, we of course got lost at the hospital! It was a long two hour drive, but thankfully one of my other good friends, Joe T, texted me to try and be there with me in spirit so thanks for that Joe! Appreciate the support from everyone who texted or left a message.

We got to the hospital about an hour early, but of course, Lucy (myself) and Ethel (Cherise) got lost right as we walked in. Apparantly my room was on the other side of the hospital, so after calling my father a million times, stopping to ask different hospital personals literally 5 times we finally found the room we had to go, 40 minutes later :)

Luckily, I arrived into the office JUST in time to fill out some paperwork, and do all that. They for some reason assigned me an ASL interp, which I specifically told them I didn't need, the poor guy sat in the room making conversation with Cherise barely moving his fingers to sign.

I went into the testing room, and I had a series of test this time WITH my hearing aids on. I of course failed as usual which is what we want! I was really surprised how bad I did. The first sequence of the test was to click a button anytime I heard a sound, I did that.

I had to do this with both hearing aids, one off and the other on and vice versa. Same thing with one word speech, a word would be spoken and I had to speak it outloud what I thought was said. She said I got one more word right out of my right ear over my left ear.

Then the last was to repeat a sentence I thought I heard or interperated, and I know Cherise had so much fun with this. I came up with the most weird sentences, for example I had to say whatever I thought I heard regardless of how strange it was because they were also testing to see how well I could interprate it. One sentence I said was "The bear is fishing in the car" Which we know doesn't happen, but it is what i heard!!!

That was all done, took about one hour and a half. We met back in her office, and she once again reiterated what the surgeon said and that she felt strongly I am definetly eligible for the cochlear implant! So I am now 2 for 2!!! *thumbs up!* I should hope so if I thought I heard "the bear is fishing in the car" I mean honestly!

The audiologist said the next step now is to wait until we hear from the insurance company, once we are contacted regarding that, we can now begin the pre op surgery appointments which involve meeting a few "-ologist" doctors, radiology, and neurologist and whatnot. Each of them I have to meet with and as long as I continue to meet the satisfaction of the CI requirements, they will continue to approve it for me as I meet each doctor. This is simply how the process goes.

However long that takes, I would be scheduled for surgery, most realistically by end of summer, anything sooner would be fantastic but not likely. I do have concerns of it starting right around school time but I frankly have no choice. After the surgery, i will be given 2 weeks or so to heal before I go back to be "turned on". I have to then go back up for 6 weeks, 2 times a week to continue the mapping and such. This is going to be a pain and hard on me, for those who are unfamilair with my location it is a 4 hr round trip drive everytime I go to STL ahhhh, but hopefully if it all works out in the end it is worth it!

Anyhow, that is the updated for now, so to recap, the audiologist (after the surgeon also) has also approved my CI Surgery for go ahead to meet the next doctor, next step is now to wait to hear from the insurance which may take up to a month, who knows. Then after that is to schedule an appt to see radiologist regarding the cat scan I believe.

Thanks again for all the support, and leave a message if you have any questions!


Friday, April 3, 2009

Cochlear Implant Updates

Hello All-

After literally months of talking to people, and meeting with University, I was finally approved so that My Dad’s insurance had agreed to pay for the Cochlear Surgery. So with that good news, the next step was to contact a Doctor in St. Louis. Naturally I bothered Abbie so much about this I probably drove her Blackberry nuts.

The day had come for me to go meet the Doctor in St. Louis, April 2nd, 2009. Yes, the same day Abbie was to get “turned on”. This was not planned. So I couldn’t sleep the night before, and one of my good friends signed online to talk to me and relax me and it made me more jittery. I sent more texts to Abbie trying to get reassurance.

That morning, Thursday I rode up to St. Louis with My dad and Mom in tow. We got to the waiting room and I am just sitting as nervous as heck. Finally they called my name to come inside. I walked in the room. I hadn’t been to a hospital since I had my surgeries YEARS ago.

We wait and chat and the doctor came in. He asked if I did ASL I said no, I speak and use cued speech. He took the wax out of my ears so I felt super cleaned after that process! I love having my ears cleaned for some reason, it tickles me and feels so good! He reviewed my medical history and we told him what happened and when my hearing loss happened. He FINALLY figured out what happened to me that had caused my hearing loss! It was such a relief! I had what was called Lasic during Diuretics. It was a toxin that entered my body to help fluid control and that damaged my nerves.
My mother started crying thinking that she had caused it. Doctor said “nothing you could have done, he would have died if it wasn’t for that, you did fine”. So then he questioned my speech. He was amazed how well I spoke and so clearly, and asked where I learned about it. I mentioned learning cued speech and how well it has helped me to function in the Hearing World, and be able to talk and communicate well with hearing people too on top of lip reading and all. He described it as “spectacular” and was amazed and blown away.

After a couple more minutes he said “Alex, you are 100% a prime candidate for the cochlear implant, in fact if this goes through I’d love to see you go bilateral!” *thud* I nearly fell off the chair. I immediately thought of Abbie who probably would have squealed with delight hearing that news, or though maybe at the moment she’d be hearing it in the form of chipmunks, I digress…
He said we have to do another hearing test which we did later in the afternoon. He said I would probably be able to hear the water falls, horns honking, the wind, birds chirping in the morning. My mom started tearing up, and it was hard not to get flustered to hear this possibly happening for me. He added that he wished he met me when I was a lot younger but he said I will benefit from it now because I am able to communicate orally, and lip read and I am well tuned with hearing aids I would be ok and adjusted.

So with that I went to go take the hearing test. I failed, miserably, but that’s to be expected :) . I was given 50 words on each ear, and got 5 out of 50 right on right side, and 3 out of words on the left side. I am as deaf as I possibly could be! Some more tests were done, and we met back with the doctor. He said up to this point, everything is leading to a promising event of my getting the cochlear implant. He feels very strongly I’d benefit from it so with that, we scheduled another appointment for April 22nd to meet with the Cochlear Implant team and possibly get a CAT Scan also to check out the Cochlear too.
I am very excited at the possibilities of this so far, as soon as I got out of the hospital I became a busy bee texting Abbie a million questions about it all. She has been very helpful in directing me to some websites and people and I already have gotten a package so far to check things out.
I am excited for this possible new journey and cannot wait to see and HEAR the outcome of this all! I hope I soon become a Bionic Man! 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Trip around the Country!

Hey All-

I flew around the country of the USA for 3 days, and wanted to share the trip here with you all!

Trip Report


Monday, January 19, 2009

Life as a CSA-Part 2

Hello All. I wanted to go into the next topic. COS or also known as Customer of Size. This simply refers to passengers who are to large to sit in an airline seat comfortably. However be aware this does not mean if you are fat, or obese you cannot sit in the seat. Southwest Airlines has a unique rule in that if you are too large to sit in your seat comfortably and you require too raise one of the arm rest to sit, you will be required to purchase a second seat at the lowest cost possible at the time of booking. Why do we impose this on our large Customers? We do this for the safety of you, and those passengers sitting around the obese passenger. No, I am sorry to say this is NOT discrimination at the least. Southwest has been sued many times for this and have never lost, because it is not discrimination at all.

What safety is we talking about one would probably ask? As much as you as an obese person claim you have the right to the seat, and should not have to pay for the second seat, that Customer who purchased his seat next to you does not have the right to have his seat taken up by the obese person next to them. This is why require them to purchase the second seat. We get many more complaints about passengers whose seat was taken up by an obese passenger than we do by the obese passenger complaining about having to purchase an extra seat. It is uncomfortable situation for the airline employee, for the obese passenger and especially for the passenger who has to sit by them.

Someone has asked “I saw a guy use a seatbelt extension and he didn’t have to buy a second seat” Once again; we are not concerned about how large you are in front of even by side or anywhere. Our guideline rule is “if you must raise the armrest to sit in a comfortable position you are required to purchase a second seat”.

“But, the flight isn’t full, why are you making us purchase a second seat?” We do this for CONSISTENCY. So if the flight is full on the next time you fly Southwest, you cannot say to the agent “well they didn’t make me book a second seat last time”. This is why we do this, we strive to maintain consistency.

The good news is, if one can find any good news in all of this. If there is even ONE seat open on board the aircraft, YOUR SECOND TICKET WILL BE REFUNDED, CASH BACK. You simply need to call the Customer Service folks and they will be happy to do that process for you.

Drunk People…Oh Lord are they everywhere. Drunk People cannot be blamed on us, no way no how not ever. YOU chose to drink that beverage, once you do so, you are at our discretion of whether you can fly or not. If you show signs of being drunk, you will not fly at all. I don’t care WHO served you the alcohol, no one forced you to drink it. If you continue to resist against us you will be arrested and escorted off the airport property.

More to come! Questions or Comments leave them here!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Life as Customer Service Agent for a Major Airline

I know quite a few of you fly a lot, and some may have never stepped on board the aircraft! Kind of surprising but they are out there. I know a lot of you may have seen or heard about the show “Airline” which featured one of the major airlines to fly in the USA, Southwest Airlines. As many of my readers probably know and personal online friends I used to work for this airline back in 2007. It was a great time, and I absolutely LUV-ed every minute of it even the tough times. I wanted to type this up because I got so many questions that seemed to make the airlines and employees of the airline out to get you, and screw up your travels. I promise you, we are NOT out to do that. If we were to do that, not only does it make it hard on you guys, it makes it harder on us, because to the passenger it is about ONE person and that is all they care about. We as an airline not only have to care about you, but every single other passenger traveling at that moment too.

One of the most asked questions I have been asked was “Why do Airlines overbook?” While some policies differ from airline to airline, the basic reason is, we usually have a high rate of people NOT showing up for the flight. We overbook to compensate that and fill up seats that would have otherwise gone out as empty. It also is a way to raise revenue also. We get to keep your money if the passenger does not fly, however at Southwest if they contact the airline; they may be re issued a refund in the form of a travel voucher to future travel on Southwest. Most other airlines have this same policy but they also require a cancellation fee of upwards to 150 dollars. Kind of sucks. So what happens when everyone does show up? This is when we do deny boarding. Keep in mind it is AGAINST THE LAW to deny boarding on an airline WITHOUT asking for voluntarily passengers. We always seek them first to see if anyone does not mind taking another flight. Depending on the airline the reward for volunteering to be bumped could be an upgrade to first class, or a refund of the ticket you purchase in a voucher, or an extra 400-800 dollars in flight voucher. It’s pretty nice isn’t it?! On my shifts, I never had to deny anyone boarding, I always was able to find someone willing to accept a voucher. If you have questions regarding overbooking, and denied boarding please ask!

Two examples of flights being oversold, we had a Flight to Phoenix out of St. Louis, it was a Boeing 737-700, and it held 137 passengers. We were overbooked to 142 passengers and they all showed up. Oh no! My partner made announcements that we were in an oversell situation and that we were seeking volunteers to get off this plane. In return they would be issued a refund of their ONE WAY segment, and a 200 dollar voucher added on to it also because we would not be able to get them out of St. Louis within the four hour limit. I had to collect the passengers boarding passes for those who did want to volunteer. We were able to get 137 passengers OFF the plane, and find five passengers, who were willing to be bumped, issue the travel vouchers, and board another 137 passengers onto the plane, in 17 minutes! Yes, that is correct, 17 minutes; we actually were able to push the plane 3 minutes early! This friend is TEAMWORK. Another situation was we had a huge oversell, we had an aircraft that held 122 seats and it was overbooked to 140 people! This was clearly not going to work and we were not in the mood to deny 18 passengers. We called Chicago Midway Airport where Southwest bases one of the aircrafts and asked for a 137 seater, which is our biggest in the fleet. This way we would only oversell by 3 passengers. Chicago agreed and swapped the 122 seater for a 137 seater. When the plane had arrived into STL, it turned out three people did not show up, we had 137 passengers for a 137 seat plane! Wow, we got LUCKY! We were happy, and the Customers were happy too.

Finally one more event that people ask. Why do they delay our flight and the account of weather and storms, when I am looking out of the airport and it is sunny and not a cloud in sight! I was ALWAYS asked this in my shifts. Passengers seem to think the planes magically appear at the gate and take us to the destination we are booked to. Well folks, I have to say sorry this is not even true. You have to realize the planes are 100% likely coming from another destination that may have bad weather in that city. That is why, your St. Louis to Dallas flight in St. Louis which is sunny and cloudless is delayed for 1 hour due to snow, because the plane is stuck in say Chicago or Boston. Then they sometimes seem to understand but there are some that have to see it to believe it. Obviously we cannot show them the snow covered runway in Boston or Chicago but they just have to take our word for it. We want nothing more to get you on time and safely, but safety is every airlines NUMBER ONE PRIORITY. We will do everything we can to get you there on time, but Safety comes first. So we apologize that we delayed that flight or cancelled it not allowing you to get to Hawaii in time for your drink at the beach because we were concerned about your safety and may possibly have prevented a plane crash or something. We will never know, but please take that into consideration the next time your flight is delayed or cancelled, it is for a SAFETY reason and we probably have a very good reason for doing that.

I will bring more stuff to my blogs upcoming, I will discuss in flight incidents, medical situations on board, death, drunk people, why the fees and changes and “nickel and diming” passengers and a big issue is obese people taking up two seats, which we call COS-Customer Of Size. This is probably another blog in itself. Hope you have a good weekend!


Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008 into 2009

Well, well, well. Two Thousand Eight. What. A. Year. So many things happened to me that I couldn’t believe possible to happen for me. I cannot even begin, but where to start?! I guess probably at the beginning of 2008!

I started off the year a bit distraught from my bad experience working at a major airline. I had to leave for unfortunate reasons, so I was left without a job and not in school. I had spent rest of 2007 sitting at home on the computer doing nothing. Life was wasting away and fast. I didn’t like it. I was a bit confused in my life right now. I was about to turn 21 in Feb and a lot of the goals I had set for myself personally hadn’t been accomplished yet.

I always knew I was bisexual at least, I never questioned that. I stumbled by happen chance to a website about a deaf man who was also gay. Hmmh, to my surprise there was someone else like me?! I know that was probably a stupid question but for a guy who lived entirely in the hearing world, and where being gay was still not the most open thing ever, I was shocked to see it. I logged on to his website started talking to him and grilled him 50 million questions. I couldn’t believe it, I met another gay man who was also deaf too!

I met so many more deaf people online. In 2008 I met more deaf people online or in person then any other year as far as I can remember all thanks to Seekgeo’s site, I of course had to go visit him and his boyfriend Jes to hang out and be around someone else who was deaf like me. As I had never had that.

I began to meet more gay people in the spring but not deaf just hearing. I soon found my comfort level and was amazed to meet and hang with people who were also Gay and bisexual like me. We had things in common and that was great to me. But alas, I was still alone and lonely. No girl or guy really gave me a chance to date me or try me out or anything.

Then one Sunday after work, the weight of being gay weighed on me and I broke down and cried. Not ashamed that I was gay, but the fact I was hiding it from my mom. I couldn’t stand lying anymore. The people I was seeing, where I was going. I wanted to be able to say I lived a life of truth. To quote a guy I know from a TV show I watched “I have been called names, had stuff thrown at me, and been humiliated but if there is one thing I can say above the rest, is that I never, ever had to live a lie” I agreed and wanted to be like him.

So come June 26th, 2008, ironically pride day in St. Louis, I came out to my mother and to any other friend who wanted to know or asked me. My mother then said, “well finally it’s about damn time, do I need to buy you condoms? When can we go to the gay bar?” I was so relieved, and was mad I hid it for this long. Of course she was ok with it, she already knew! She just wanted me to tell her on my own time.

The rest of the summer went ok, continued to hang with friends I went to a gay bar too which wasn’t to bad either! I traveled a bit more, meeting more people when possible.

Then in September I met a guy. I don’t know where we are right now but he is a great guy, cute I might add ha-ha, and we are enjoying the time together and that really is all I can ask.

I think 2008 turned out better for me then I expected. I learned SO much from that year from friends and families, met so many people in just 12 months, and finally met someone who is giving me a chance. Where will it go? I don’t know, I may have my heart broken by him or I may end up moving with him. I don’t know, just go with the flow is all I can say.

2009 may be harder for me, now that I am out, and seeing a guy, I stand to lose a lot for those who are against gay people. But to those who don’t want to get to know me because of that, it is entirely their loss and I don’t aim to waste my time with them. I do look forward to 2009 more now that I met a lot more of my goals and setting up new ones for myself.

So, thanks 2008 for teaching me a lot, and 2009 I welcome you with open arms and hope whatever happens in 2009, it was done in my best interest, and I will know in the end why the things that happened, happened.