Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My Evil Streak - Part II

A few weeks after the weekend away fishing, Paul and I decided to play a practical joke on Steve. I had been friends with Paul for many years, as had Steve, in fact, it was Paul that had introduced me to Steve in the first place.

Paul had fallen in love with a South African and had been having a mad passionate love affair with Erin, long distance, over the phone. This was in the days pre-internet. Telecom made a HUGE profit that year, I can only surmise that it was Paul and Erin that generated this profit. Why Telecom didn’t give them free lifetime accounts after that, I don’t know. Corporate greed I guess!!

After many many phone calls for many months, Erin finally came out to New Zealand to be with Paul. We didn’t tell Steve. Instead Paul organized a few drinks at Steve’s house after work one Friday, and I agreed to pick Erin up and bring her over, telling Steve she was a friend from work.

I picked Erin up and we were laughing like old friends within 10 minutes of meeting. There was never any awkward pauses, we became firm friends instantly. Friendships like these don’t happen often, and even though Erin now lives far away on the other side of the world, I still love her dearly and miss her to bits.

However, I’m getting away with myself. We drove out to Steve’s, and sat at Steve’s kitchen table. Steve opposite me, and Paul opposite Erin. Steve had absolutely no idea that Erin was actually with Paul. We talked for about an hour about all sorts of things, then got onto the subject of ‘Do you believe in love at first sight’. We debated this for a little while, then Erin got up and said.

‘Yes, yes – absolutely, I do” and walked over to Paul, and placed her mouth over his and kissed him passionately.

Steve’s face was classic. Wide open mouth, chin at his knees. It was hilarious. I had tears in my eyes, and I gasping for breath. Drat – no camera!

Steve did see the funny side but was livid that he had been tricked. ‘I should have seen it coming’ because he sensed that something was in the air that night. So he was determined to pay both Paul and I back, and schemed and plotted and finally came up with two jokes, one for Paul and Erin, and one for me!

Paul was first. Steve got an old waterproof watch, and set the alarm to go off at 3am every morning. Drove over to Paul’s when he knew he was out, let himself in (he had a key), and popped the watch through the opening where you fill the waterbed up with water. Mission accomplished.

Fortunately because it was in water it wasn’t toooo loud, but Paul spent days looking to where the alarm was coming from. I don’t think he was ever able to get it out, and he eventually sold the bed, with the alarm still going. I hope the battery eventually went flat!

For me – because I was deaf he couldn’t do that to me, so Steve came up with one especially for me. He made two tiny round cakes (remember he owned a cake making business), laid them side by side, put a toothpaste pump pack in a certain position to make it look rude. Decorated the cake with black icing (I will let your imagination go wild, and you would be right!), He put words on it to the effect ‘now you can have your very own pump pack and eat it too’. Then he delivered it to me at work. But first he rang my work and told reception that I would be receiving a parcel, and make sure that everyone was there when I opened it, as I was sure to be embarrassed.

When the cake arrived, I was actually at the dentist, so my department guarded it carefully, and when I came back, an announcement was made over the intercom that I was back. I sat down at my desk and started working, then ‘felt’ a commotion behind me. Looked behind to find all my fellow workers there holding a box, telling me it had just arrived. I said thanks, put it on my desk, and started working again, knowing it was from Steve, and knowing that it’d be embarrassing (I just sensed this!!)

My workers weren’t going to allow me to get away with this so easily so started opening the box for me. When it was opened there were roars of laughter all around both at the cake and my red cheeks! My friend at work said to me – ‘you’re finally met your match!’ The cake didn’t last – it was gobbled up very quickly. The toothpaste lasted a few months though :)

Steve is now happily married with two children to Alison, another very good friend of mine, also deaf. Paul is now living up in Whangarei and also has a long term partner. Erin is back in South Africa and has just recently got married to a lovely guy who is 15 years younger (lucky thing!) I still remain single with plenty of time on my hands to dream up practical jokes to play on people !

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My Evil Streak

There is a practical joker inside me. As I was explaining a few of the jokes I’ve played on people to a friend today, he laughed and said he didn’t know I had an evil streak inside me. Well I have, but rest assured it’s rare. I only think up good ones about every two years or so.

The first one I played was on Peter, a friend of mine who chartered the Kiwi Cruiser boat up in the Bay of Islands, a 50 foot Kauri Launch. At the time, I was going out with a guy called Steve, who owned a cake making company. Eight of us deaf girls decided on an all girl fishing/diving weekend on Peter’s boat for the fun of it. I really wanted to play a joke on Peter, so asked Steve if he would professionally ice a square piece of sponge rubber, to which he so kindly obliged. It looked fantastic, and had the words ‘For Peter – You Can’t Have Your Cake AND Eat It Too’. (it was a big piece of sponge rubber!)

The weekend started brilliantly – good weather – a little on the cold side being midwinter. Peter had us up bright and early every morning catching live bait, then onto the fishing. We caught lots of fish and several of the ‘team’ also dived and got us crayfish. Of course we brought lots of food onto the boat thinking we might not catch anything so in the evenings we had sumptuous feasts of lasagne, casseroles, and fresh fish. I swear the boat was sitting 6 inches deeper I the water at the end of the trip with us all on board!! My catch of the weekend was a Grand Daddy Hapuka.

We had lots of fun, talked, sat in the winter sun, fished and relaxed. Some even braved the cold water for a morning swim. I was much more sensible than that! Day two saw us out at the Hole in the Rock, a world famous icon for New Zealand. The fish were really jumping. Peter decided to take us down the coast a bit in the hope we could swim with dolphins. As we were going down the coast, we hit a rock. It was a flat rock, which beached the boat completely, surf went down and boat was high and dry on top of this rock, rocking from side to side. I honestly thought we were going to go over, but miraculously we didn’t. Surf came back up and washed us off the rock. One of our ‘team’ thought we were going to sink so dived overboard. I had my cochlear implant and there was no way I was going to dive overboard until the very last minute, and only if I had to! Peter got into his dive gear and checked the boat for damage, and apart from a tiny bit of wood that was ‘planed’ off at the front, there was no damage, and no holes. So after everyone calmed down we carried on down the coast.

‘Dolphins’ Peter called out so we all donned bathing suits and those that had them, wetsuits. We waited until the boat slowed, and we all about to go in when Peter called a halt. They weren’t dolphins but Orcas – three of them, one a baby. We watched them swim away, but we still dived overboard and went swimming anyway. We swam over to a cliff that had a channel going through the other side and body surfed through that for half an hour. I had no wetsuit so I swam back to the boat first as it was freezing. It was midwinter – and only about 10C! The water was warmer than the outside temperature, but it was still cold.

We were all warming up with coffee after this swim, and heading back to Paihia so I brought out the ‘cake’. Peter was like a kid – so excited that someone had made this cake for him. He said no one had ever done this before. I felt soooo guilty. The funny thing was that he used his fishing knife which is extremely sharp, so sharp that in fact it cut through the sponge rubber just like a piece of cake, so until he picked up a piece of cake, he thought it was real! We ate icing with our coffee and had a good laugh, but next time I play this kind of joke, I will make sure I have a real cake as a backup!!

Back on land we divvied up the fish, and I was eating fresh crayfish for breakfast every morning for a week, and beautiful fresh fish fillets for dinner!

A few months later us girls were once again on Peter’s boat on a Deaf Club outing, and in advance made up white t-shirts with ‘Peter’s Hole in the Boat Cruise’ all over them (instead of hole in the rock).

Poor Peter, I don’t think he’s ever recovered from those trips. I saw him 2 years ago for the first time in ages. I was on the wharf waiting to be picked up for his 24 hour Rock the Boat cruise. He didn’t know I was part of the group. When he finally caught sight of me he said ‘oohhh nooooooo!’ I think I’ll surprise him again soon! I’m in need of lots of good laughs!

I'll be posting up several practical jokes I've played over the next few days, as I have one planned to play on my doctor after my Cochlear Implant operation. I'll let you know the details later!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Countdown Has Begun - 23 Days to go!

23 Days until Reimplantation.

And yes I’m nervous . Horribly so. I’ll be going out my daily chores, and minding my own business, and all of a sudden I remember that I’ll soon be having my re-implantation. I get a rush of nervousness where I want to run around the house naked and screaming. Well – okay – just screaming, but I put the naked bit in there because it sounds more exciting!!

I can’t remember feeling this emotional 15 years ago with my first Cochlear Implant operation, but the circumstances back then were so different to my present situation.

15 years ago, I was in hospital with intractable vertigo. It would just not let up. Day after day we would hope that the vertigo would pass, but no. The doctors finally decided to do an 8th cranial nerve section on the left side to get rid of the vertigo. However, this was my only hearing ear, and there was a high chance that when they cut the balance nerve, that I would lose all my hearing in that ear as well.

At this stage, although I wore a hearing aid on my left ear, I was still able to hear on the phone with it, and so wasn’t really quite eligible for a Cochlear Implant for that reason. However with a high chance of losing it all during the operation, it was decided to implant me first, get it up and running and make sure I can hear, then do the nerve section operation on the other side.

The Cochlear Implant operation itself was uneventful. I felt like I had been run over by a bus for 24 hours, but it didn’t make me any more dizzy than I already was. Back then they shaved off half my head, and the incision was a huge C shape, from the temple, right down to underneath the ear. All stapled up, I looked like Johnny Rotten the punk rocker. Didn’t even need to wear make–up, my white face was enough!!

Switch on was incredible. Having had to lip-read all my life, within minutes of being switched on, I distinctly heard the words ‘That’s Incredible’ spoken by the audiologist, without lip-reading. That was the indication that my Cochlear Implant would be a success. Over the next few years, I went on to gain understanding of speech without lip-reading at the 98/100% level in quiet situations without background noise, although I did have to work at it and practice to get there. I’ll address that in future blogs, as I compare the new implant with the old.

Even though I was able to undersstand two words without lip-reading on the first day, it was extremely tiring learning all these new sounds, and they didn’t sound that good. A bit ‘slow’, ‘deep’, and ‘donald duckish’ are words I think I used in describing it way back then. All this new hearing made me exhausted, so I took the implant off, and was asleep by 7pm!!

I was still in hospital, and the next morning I woke just before the doctors rounds. I looked on the bedside cabinet. There was my trusty hearing aid, and next to it the cochlear implant. I went to put on the hearing aid, as that what I knew and was easy. But guilt got the better of me. The government had just paid $40,000 to have this implant, so I better wear it. So on it went and the hearing aid stayed where it was.

I was really surprised. All the Donald duckish sounds had completely disappeared overnight. Nothing was deep or slow, instead, everything sounded just like I had always heard. Doctors came round, and their voices were the same. I suddenly heard a bell, and asked them what it was. It was the drug bell, when a nurse needed the key to the drug cabinet she’d ring the bell and whoever had the key would pass it on. This had been ringing 50x a day for the last month while in hospital, and I had never heard it. Then I heard a telephone. Now that was quite a way from my room and that too I had never heard.

I was really hearing much much more than I had ever heard with my hearing aid. I did try wearing both, but the Cochlear Implant gave me so much more that in the end the hearing aid was banished to the deep dark recesses of a drawer, never to be seen again. I never did find it again!!

A week after switch on, I was transferred to Neurosurgery and had the 8th cranial nerve section operation on the left side. Although there was a high chance of losing my hearing with that operation, the surgeon was so good, that I lost nothing. It did stop the vertigo too, for six years. Six years I was vertigo free. Then it came back – but that’s another story for another rainy day.

My original implant operation was done on 26th March, 1993, and I was switched on, on the 27th April 1993, one month later.

My re-implantation is tentatively booked on the 17th March, 2008.

23 more days to go.

My present situation is so different. Sometime in the last few years, my left ear has totally given out. It’s now completely dead, and I will never be able to have a cochlear implant on that side. So this time round, there’s no ‘backup ear’. This time round, there could be scar tissue build up around the existing implant, which means reinsertion may be difficult.

I’m going to focus o the positives though – that this time round it’ll be easier because I’ve done it all before. That the technology is newer and hopefully better.

Countdown has begun… 23 days!!

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Bird Whisperer & Photographer

I haven’t blogged about my photography for a while, so thought I’d do one on one of my favourite topics – Birds, and in particular, Sparrows and Birds in Flight.

Taking photographs of Birds in Flight is one of the hardest things to do. For one, most birds fly pretty fast, they rarely hover or wait for you to click the shutter. They are also totally unpredictable. They are able to change direction at the speed of light, and all you are left with are empty skies or empty branch images, or maybe a blur of wings in one corner. I’ve thrown out plenty of such images, and constantly praise the digital technology so I don’t have to print all the duds.

Canon EOS20D, Shutter Speed 1/500s, F7.1 210mm, ISO 100

Having said all this, after months of practice, I’m only just starting to see results. My first two successes were a few weeks ago while on a camera club outing in Devonport. It was made easy because two older ladies were eating fish and chips on a park bench by the seawall, so they were surrounded in gulls of all sorts.

Canon 20D, 1/320s, F4.0, 130mm, ISO 100

And then on a visit to the Domain on the morning of my ear operation, I took some bread down to feed the birds. Because I was going to the hospital straight afterwards, I didn’t take my camera, and I was kicking myself – as the birds were really tame, confidently taking bread straight out of your hands all while flying.

So on Tuesday this week, I returned to the scene with my camera, with the sole intention of getting images of sparrows taking bread out of someone’s hand while in flight. I took my daughter with me to hold the bread up in the air. I sat on a chair side on to her, very close, so I used my 100mm 2.8 macro lens, which doubles up as a medium telephoto.

Canon EOS 20D 1/200s, F2.8, 100mm ISO 400

We were surrounded in ducks, geese, pigeons, seagulls, and Indian Mynahs. Yet the only birds we were interested in were the sparrows. The pigeons were also very tame wanting to land on your arms/wrists also to feed, but we shooed them away. No easy task as there were so many of them. The other problem we had is holding your hand up for long lengths of time was difficult, so we had to have plenty of breaks.

Even being so close to the subject, didn’t make it any easier. Sparrows are incredibly fast. They were only at the bread for less than a second before flying away again, just grabbing a few crumbs then leaving. That’s why out of the 100 photographs I took, only two turned out properly.

Canon EOS 20D 1/200s, F2.8, 100mm ISO 400

I’ll be going back to try again next week.

I’ve always like sparrows. Not many people do, as they think they’re ‘common’, but they’re very pretty and intelligent birds. The males have much darker markings on than the females.

A couple of years ago, I was at the Auckland International Airport cafeteria, having a coffee with someone before they flew out overseas. I noticed that a sparrow was inside, picking the leftovers at all the table. It just goes to show that diet is really important to staying healthy, as I’ve never seen a sparrow in such bad condition. It was overweight, feathers were falling out. I watched it as it picked the crumbs of cakes, (too high in sugar), I saw it drink orange juice left over, and the I watched it on the rim of a coffee cup drinking the leftover of a flat white. (I didn’t have my camera!!). It was in such bad condition, I half expected it to jump on an ashtray, and pick up a cigarette butt and smoke the rest. I was half expecting it to cough too. I’m waiting for an excuse to head out to the same cafĂ© to take some photos of this bird! I’m sure it will still be there – as why go outside when a constant supply of food is available inside?

Another experience with a sparrow happened about a year ago. As I left the bank in Takapuna, something caught my attention out the corner of my eye, so I looked down – there was a sparrow that I had almost stepped on. I stood still, with my heels of my feet together, and toes pointing outwards, and it walked in and sat there wanting protection. When I tried to pick it up, it flew a few metres away. So I thought it was okay, so carried on walking. Within minutes, it had flown back to me, and landed on my jeans on the side of my legs by my knee. This is not normal sparrow behavior. It looked in my eyes and pleaded with me.

Someone from the bank who had been watching this, came out and asked me if I would like a box. I said yes. By this time I had an audience. Next minute the sparrow flew onto the road. I walked out, held up the traffic with my hand as the bird was going to get run over, and herded it back to the footpath. By this time the girl from the bank was there with a box, so I popped the box down next to the bird, and the bird just hopped into it. I couldn’t believe it. I just closed the lid, and took it back to my car.

I sat in the car and wondered what to do with it. It was obviously not well, as it’s behavior was most unusual. I couldn’t take it home, or my cats would think I had a tasty treat for them. Fortunately my vet was on the way home, so I took it in there. They popped it in a cage overnight and gave it food and fluids, and apparently it was well enough to be let go the next day. They wondered if it had been stunned by a car, or flown into a window.

I really believe that the sparrow knew that I would help it, and it chose me to be its guardian angel. It’s not the first time it’s happened, but I will blog about that another time. I do have a nickname amongst some friends as ‘The Bird Whisperer’!!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I Have to Register my Dog by 4pm Today

The only problem is... I don't have a dog!

I got up this morning to find this notice stuck to my front door.

Click on image to enlarge and read

Now I know that owning Burmese cats have been likened to owning puppy dogs because of their playfulness and intelligence, but last time I looked, they were still cats, and didn’t have to be registered.

I txt'd the cellphone number to say I didn’t own a dog. He txt me back with ‘Thanks’. But the more I thought about it, the more annoyed I was about the notice.

Firstly, it was an order – I must get my dog registered by 4pm today. Not complying by that time would end up with being fined. No research was done by the council to find out if there really was a dog on this property or not – it was just assumed there was, and I must comply.

When I pointed this out – there was no apology. I was told that this was the standard letter and they weren’t going to change it. They said they had 2500 dogs on the North Shore that were now unregistered and they had to go around and check each address. Well – since when has this become my problem?

Secondly, they left a cellphone number to call. Cellphone calls cost money. Okay – I txt'd back, but it still cost me time and money to sort it out – more time for me as I can’t hear on the phone and had to txt, but I also fronted up in person at the council offices to make sure it was sorted and that they wouldn’t send me an infringement notice, simply because it would take too long to text all this.

Lastly, they said that the dog in question that was registered at this property was a Chihuahua, which was indoors, so it wouldn’t be obvious if I had a dog on this property to them. But did they cross reference a name as to whom owned/lived in t his property, against the name who owned the dog? No. Wouldn’t you expect this to be done before one was threatened with a fine? Yes!

I feel like I was made to feel guilty of a crime I didn’t commit. I’m a law obiding citizen. Where has ‘innocent until proven guilty’ gone?

My complaint in the way they handled this went unheeded. They simply didn’t care!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Are People Stupid?

What is the matter with a lot of people? Do they really not understand the word deaf? Since my implant stopped working properly, I can no longer hear on the phone. That’s fine, and most of my friends understand totally, and contact me via SMS txt, or email, or they just call into see me.

But I’m still getting phone calls. Most of the time I just let the phone ring, not answer it. At first this was a strange thing to do. A telephone ringing is one of the most insistent sounds ever. The ring goes ‘answer me’ ‘answer me’ ‘answer me’., and it gets really annoying when people leave the phone ringing for a good 3 or 4 minutes. I’m sure most people would answer the phone within the first four rings, so why do they have to leave it ringing another 15? I’m not kidding!

Occasionally, if my student from Hong Kong is home, she will answer it for me. She tells them clearly that yes, I am home, but I cannot hear on the phone because I am deaf. They still insist on talking with me. She tells them again – I cannot hear on the phone but it usually takes several goes for it to sink in. Deaf. Cannot Hear.

If it was a one off, I could understand, but it’s not. Yesterday it happened three times. My friend was here for one of these calls and she answered for me and had to explain twice. She even offered to relay what they wanted to me, and that took a while to sink in too. Deaf. Cannot Hear.

I’m wondering if I should take the phone from my student or friend and say ‘hello’. Then hold the phone for 2 minutes and then go ‘hello? Hello? Are you there? I can’t hear you? Speak up? Louder? …. Then hang up while muttering – there’s no one there! When they ring back, I can do the same again. I wonder who would give up first?

What part of deaf do they not understand? Maybe they should tell them I’m dead instead. Although these people would probably insist on talking to me then too!

It really does make me wonder about some people’s intelligence!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentines Day and Internet Relationships.

Being deaf, I find chatting to people over the internet a lovely way to communicate. About 12 years ago I even had an internet relationship with someone from America. It didn't work at all - and he blamed it on my deafness. I'll let you be the judge of that though and let you read what actually happened. I wrote it up shortly after he left while it was still fresh in my memory. Nothing has been exaggerated - it's all as it happened.

I thought it would be a good reminder about the Pitfalls that can happen with internet relationships, particularly on Valentines day. I haven't bothered trying to date on the internet since - and I'm not likely ever to again LOL!

Read on....

I met him at the airport early Saturday morning. He had flown in from America. He was huge. He hadn't looked like that in the photos he had sent over the net. I mean - this was the guy who had only told me that he couldn't see himself romantically involved with a woman who was more than 50lb's overweight. I had calculated my weight - and although I wasn't this overweight, decided that it was near enough and had started dieting. He had chubby cheeks, a real beer gut and he couldn't walk with his feet together cos his legs were so fat. He was definitely no Brad Pitt! Oh well - looks aren't everything. With the help of a shoe horn, I loaded him up in my Honda City and took him home. I now know what the term ‘packed in like a can of sardines’ truly means. I’m surprised the police didn’t pull me over and issue me a ‘dangerous load’ ticket.

Once home, the first thing he asked was for a microwave dinner - he was hungry! I made him a toasted sandwich instead as my freezer didn't do microwave dinners. He would stuff his chubby cheeks then eat with his mouth open - it sounded and looked like a squirrel – except squirrels are cute and this was definitely not!. The second thing he did was get onto my computer to check it all out. I sat on my two seater couch and after about an hour he joined me. He swung his legs over mine. He moved his bum - I thought he was just getting comfortable - but no, he forced out a fart. ON MY LEG!!! I gave him a filthy look which he ignored. He did it again. I can still feel the vibration of this, and it makes me shudder every time!

That night we had Christmas Dinner at my mother's house as my brother, wife and family were going off to Tauranga for Christmas. I grabbed a few beers out my well stocked fridge and a bottle of champagne and off we went. The American offered nothing but his windy presence. The American showed more rudeness by reading before dinner. He obviously didn't want to talk with us! He sat in the same room and read books. He would fart then look at my mother to see what kind of reaction she would make. She didn't bat an eyelid.

Dinner was bedlam as usual - made more so by the American constantly getting up and walking outside to look at the view. Along with eating with his mouth open he had no table manners either - but by now I wasn't surprised - only super embarrassed! He would start before the host was at the table - just dug in and helped himself. He would talk with his mouth full, wander outside, wander back in. We were all very perplexed! Are Americans really like this? Dessert was served. Mother had made Meringues especially for the American. Kiwi Dessert! Yum.

"Oh - What's it' made of" he asked
"Egg white and sugar" Mum replied
"I'll try it but I don't like sweet things very much" he said while I raised my eyebrows cos I had watch him devour cake etc.. earlier and he had gone back for more!

Again - before we were all seated - he started his dessert. He took a bite of his meringue.

"Bleeugh" he said spitting the meringue out on his plate. Little white bits of meringue went flying everywhere. I can't look at a meringue now without thinking of this scenario.

"Ewwwwwwwww that's horrible" he said.

We were all so shocked we said nothing and carried on as if nothing had happened. Clearing up after dessert my sister in law asked him

"Have you finished with your plate?"
"Take it away" and motioned with his hand for it to disappear as if she was just the hired help.

He stood up again then turned to my mother "Are you serving coffee in this place?" he said really rudely.

Mum dutifully went off to make the coffee. On hindsight we should have kicked him out then and there. But I believe we were all in a state of shock not having had to deal with this sort of behaviour before in our lives. I took him home fairly early cos he was tired - jet lagged! My family put his behaviour down to jet lag. It must be. No one would behave like this in real life! I knew differently! My heart was at my knees.

I had been talking with the American over the internet for the last 6 months. Over the computer he was witty, caring, funny, intelligent and interesting. In real life he was none of these things. You certainly can't see table manners or hear the breaking of wind over the net. Computer dating will not be successful until real time videos and sound cards are on every PC!!

The next day Sunday I took him out for the day. First stop Takapuna for breakfast. He insisted on the waffle place and proceeded to have a waffle with bacon and eggs. He scraped off the bacon and ate that separately then ordered two lots of maple syrup and doused his waffle completely. This is the guy who the night before said he didn't like sweet things. My daughter and I gagged on our bacon toasted sandwiches. He had a coffee before breakfast, another one during and another one afterwards. We then went to Auckland Zoo. The first thing he found was a loo, the second thing was a place where he could get another cup of coffee. We wandered around the zoo - every 5 minutes he would moan that he had to sit down. My daughter and I stuck together. He breathed a huge sigh of relief when we finally hit the cafe so he could have lunch. Daughter and I weren't very hungry having had breakfast only a few hours ago. We settled for a scone and cold drink while we watched the American devour sandwiches, and carrot cake! And yet more coffee!

On to the waterfront. As we passed McDonalds - "Pull over here - I'll get a coffee" he said

Never asked if my daughter or I wanted something. Just went in got a coffee and came back. This became a regular feature of our outings. Never any please or thank-you for this service. By this time we had learnt that New Zealand was 50 years behind America, that it lacked basic amenities such as fly screens on windows and doors, and air conditioning in houses. That our instant coffee was awwwwfull, and everything was 30-50% more expensive. He decided that to live in New Zealand you would have to earn a heck of a lot of money. He also threw in that I needed to lose weight!

"And you're Brad Pitt" I muttered
"What did you say?" he asked
"Nothing" I said!
My daughter giggled!

After going one more place - Kelly Tarltons Underwater World - we went home. Unfortunately I wasn't feeling well. I said that I wasn't going to cook dinner tonight. He ordered my 11 year old daughter to cook him something! I stepped in and said I would order a pizza. We ordered the special - Order a super large for $25.00 get a standard size free. Daughter and I had a couple of pieces each and he ate the rest!!! The super large is enough for 5 people!!

He was allergic to cats. I had two. His nose began to run. I got him a box of tissues.

"Where is the rubbish bin in your living room?" he asked
"I don't have one in my living room - it's in the kitchen 3 steps away" I replied
"I'm not going in there - you should have one in your living room" and he promptly started throwing the snotty tissues on my living room floor.

By the time I went to bed the floor was littered with snotty tissues. I said nothing and hoped he would pick them up by the time I got up the next morning. Pigs might fly!

The phone rang in the morning - a friend was popping round to pick something up of hers that she needed. I asked him to pick up his mess because I had a friend coming.

"House too messy for your friends?" he asked
"Yes - with your litter" I replied
"Could you pick that up" he asked my daughter pointing to his snotty tissues
"Pick them up yourself" she replied.

In actual fact she added a swear word in that sentence and for once I didn’t chastise her for swearing, as if it had been me, I would have too!!

They weren't picked up. I finally said in a very strong disapproving tone!
"Could you please pick up your tissues on the floor - I have a friend coming"He grumpily did it, but was pissed off with me for asking! Twice!

I took him to town that morning. It took 1.5 hours to get from Downtown to Vulcan Lane (I can walk it in 5 minutes) because he had to stop for food, toilet, coffee and had to sit down cos he was tired! He bought a sweatshirt.

"I have to have my hands free" he said and gave my daughter the bag to carry. Three hours later daughter and I were laden down with his shopping and he still had his hands free. We sat outside with the baggage while he was in a shop and I sorted out the purchases we had made. When he came out I presented him with three bags to carry. He refused so I left them on the seat and started walking away. He finally got the idea!

Back home I was cooking dinner.

"Are you pleased to have me here?" he asked
"I'll think about it" I said.

He got really upset and went and lay down. I carried on cooking dinner and ignored him. After dinner he went and lay down again. I got a fax from a friend asking us over for coffee. I accepted. At about 7.30pm I walked into his room and told him asking him if he wanted to come.

"I'm too depressed - I need to sleep" he replied
"Well - we're going - we'll be back later but we're also going to St Lukes Shopping Mall afterwards because it's open til midnight - are you sure you don't want to come?"
"We shouldn't be tooo late" I said looking at my watch and seeing it was 7.30pm

Yippee - a few hours without the slob! Wonderful. I got to my friends and got it all off my chest. My friend made me promise her that I would throw him out - and if I couldn't do that, to at least give him the hard word. I promised. It was such an enjoyable couple of hours in comparison to the tenseness of my last few days. We went on to St Lukes where my daughter and I partook in some retail therapy! We couldn't afford it of course - but gee it felt good!

We got home about 11.00pm. The slob was pacing the floor.

"Where have you been?" he ranted and raved
"Where I told you I was going" I said
"I thought you had been in an accident" he said "I was just about to ring your brother"
"This is my country - I do this all the time - I'm an independent woman - I told you St Lukes was open til Midnight" I said
"You could have phoned me" he said
"No I couldn't - there were no special phones" I said pointing at my hearing loss.

In fact I had never thought to phone because he knew where we were, and I don’t need special phones to hear, but the phone vs hearing loss meant there was no more argument. I put my daughter to bed then told the slob I needed to talk to him - carrying out my promise to my friend earlier.

"We have to talk" I said and he sat down on the opposite couch. "I can't stand your slobbish behaviour. My friends have far more respect for me than you do. They don't come here to my place, fart, carry-on, throw snot rags all over my floor. I invited you here as a friend - I'm not your mother to pick up after you and clean up after you. Furthermore my daughter is not your lackey and you're not to order her around all the time. She is not here to carry your luggage. Perhaps you should leave? "

He burst into tears. Sheesh that's all I needed. I wanted a man not a wimp!

"You said you would put me up while I'm here" he said
"You said you would leave if things got uncomfortable" I reminded him but he chose to ignore that. I then added - "I'm not travelling around NZ with you. I'll buy you out of the rental car and give you the South Island itinary - but I can't spend my money or holiday with someone I don't particularly like"

He cried even harder. I got tougher. Tears were not going to sway me.
"The reason we don't get on is because you're deaf" he told me "I can't communicate with you"
"No-one else has that problem" I said.

Typical – such a human thing to put the blame of a failed relationship back on the other party to make them feel okay. And also to pick on something that could be painful.

Unfortunately for him - it didn't work - it was sooooooooo obvious that he was the one that had the problem - that I didn't even question his reason!

It took another 5 days for him to finally leave. I had no male friends I could call on to help me kick him out. He made numerous toll calls to USA without paying me for. He helped himself to all my food, drank my alcohol without replacing it, didn't reimburse me for petrol used on our sightseeing ventures. He never - not once the whole time while he was here - asked me if *I* wanted something. He would get himself a drink - but never find out if I wanted one. He even had the cheek to ask if he could borrow my camera while he went around the South Island. When I said no he replied..

"I thought that would be the answer - hmph" and he sulked sighed and grumped and ignored me for the next few hours.

When I bought him out of the rental car - I deducted two tanks of gas off the total figure. He was disgusted with that but I held my ground. I should have taken another $50 off for toll calls but I forgot at the time - I was just so glad to see the back of him.

His cheek was unbelievable. That someone could be so selfish, arrogant, inconsiderate, rude, and slobbish was a paradox to me. Obviously next time I date over the internet more questions need to be asked. I'm busy designing the questionnaire that will weed out the weak.

But two of the questions will be...
1). Do you fart on people's legs? and
2). What do you do with snotty tissues?!!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Political Bureaucracy and Cochlear Implants in New Zealand

Private Health Insurance companies in New Zealand do not cover Cochlear Implants. Ever. They will cover the surgical procedure, but not the device itself. But in New Zealand, even if you have private health insurance, it doesn’t pay to use them even for the surgical procedure when it comes to Cochlear Implants. It’s all because of political bureaucracy.

We in New Zealand have always had a pretty good free healthcare system. It’s not the best, but it works, particularly if you have a need for emergency care. It’s not so good if you need something like a hip replacement, then you might have to wait. We all know that waiting around in pain isn’t the most wonderful thing. That’s when it’s good to have health insurance. The government has this system that if you have been on the waiting list for longer than six months, then you get sent back to your GP. I’m not sure what happens then – do you end up having to referred all over again, and then go on the waiting list for another six months? I just don’t trust that part of the healthcare system.

This free public healthcare includes Cochlear Implants. However, there is a waiting list, and it’s a lot longer than six months. No use being sent back to your GP in this case as they can’t do anything! The number of Cochlear Implants operations are capped – the government will only fund so many per year. It’s never enough to cover everyone! It also means that on this system, no one will get bilateral implants, unless you pay for the second one yourself. A number of people have gone this way, but not a lot of people can afford them. The provider is the same, so they have one ear where everything is free – mappings, tests, upgrades etc.., but when the other ear is needing mapping – they have to pay. Crazy. We’re the only OECD country in the world where bilateral implants aren’t done as a matter of course.

Now that I’ve decided to be reimplanted, I’m now caught up right in the middle of this crazy bureaucracy, generated by our socialistic Labour Government. I’ve already been on the public system for 15 years with my current implant, which is now not working properly. 15 years I’ve not paid a thing, except for batteries, and the odd replacement wire. Repairs have been done under warranty, and I’ve also had free upgrades to new processors every five years. All under the public free healthcare system.

I now need a new implant to replace the one not working. Priority is given to existing patients, so once again funding isn’t really an issue – a new one will be funded under the public healthcare system. But – and there’s a big but, I have the opportunity to save the country $40,000. Yep - $40,000. First, I have full cover under my Southern Cross Healthcare Insurance. The CI operation amounts to somewhere in the vicinity of $10,000. Then, because I’ve been doing volunteer work in New Zealand for Cochlear Corp as part of the Cochlear Awareness Network, Cochlear have offered to replace my implant free of charge, even though it’s out of its warranty period. That’s $22,000 AUD – about $30,000 New Zealand dollars. Further, by doing this, I will not be taking an implant or operation away from someone else already on the waiting list.

However, at present, under the current rules and regulations of our government, I cannot accept the replacement implant, nor can I use my health insurance to have the operation. The reason? Because if I do, then I am deemed to be a private patient, and have to pay for all audiological costs, including upgrades, myself for the next 100 years. My income is simply not high enough to be able to afford that. So – why would I?

Crazy, Insane, Madness, Stupid, and Idiotic are words that immediately spring to mind.

The government's reckoning is that if they allowed a mixture of private/public funding, then some people may skip the queue before others that don’t have private healthcare. I think that’s a very silly way of looking at it. If the government allowed a mixture of public/private funding, then there’ll be more public funding for Cochlear Implants to go around those on the waiting list. It shouldn’t stop at Cochlear Implants either – it should be looked at in every area of medicine.

I’m already at the top of the queue – no queue jumping at all – so in my case the Government is not making any sense.

I have an appointment this week with my MP for the National Party this week. He’s going to bring it up in parliament and try and get some action for me as quickly as posssible. In the great scheme of things when running a country, $40,000 is probably not a lot of money, but it’s a huge amount when it comes to one operation, and it can make such a difference to one person’s life.

Watch this space…...

Friday, February 8, 2008

Deafness Sucks - I'm being Reimplanted!!

Being profoundly deaf totally sucks in my opinion. I’m forever straining to hear what people are trying to say, which makes me really tired. I’m an excellent lipreader, but even then, I miss a lot. The importance of being able to hear was really brought home to me last week when I was in hospital too sick to open my eyes to even lipread. I personally wouldn’t wish deafness on anyone.

Yes – sign would be good – if the rest of the world signed with you, but let’s face it, only a small proportion of the hearing population bothers to learn sign, and I don’t think it’ll ever be made compulsory in schools for everyone to learn as a universal language. I want to be able to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime, without that confused wild look in my eye, without such intense concentration, and without having to curse those background noises threatening to drown out the last vestiges of sound I have.

I want to hear the birds again – not only hear them but recognise their calls like I could do just 8 months ago. The dinstinctive song of the Tui, the chatter of the fantails, and the peeps of the white-eyes. And the odd call of the Kingfisher.

I don’t want to sell my piano – something that is very near and dear to me.

I want to be able to listen to my ipod again while out running. Did you know running without music is really hard. With music I can run for miles without even thinking, without, I’m lucky to get 1km without having to give up, desperately trying to suck air into my lungs! (Please remind me why we have to exercise!!)

I want to hear the click of my camera when it takes the perfect image.

I want to hear when my car needs a gear change. My daughter reminded me the other day that I was still in 4th gear and I should be in 5th . Yeah yeah – not a biggie but I have caught myself in 3rd gear before when I should be in 4th – never heard the engine scream!

I want to hear my cats purr again. At the moment they are just vibrating machines without sound. And I can’t hear them talk either. Most people think that’s a blessing as my Burmese are very talkative – but to me they just open their mouths and shut them again. It’s really hard to lipread them!!

With all this in mind, I met my ENT surgeon yesterday and we discussed the pros and cons of reimplantation. The very very worst thing that can happen, is they take the old one out, and cannot get another one in. And then I’d be totally deaf again. Forever. Never to hear again. If that happens, someone can let me off at the top of the harbor bridge and give me a gentle shove!! However, that risk is low and unlikely to happen, I just to have to be aware that it ‘might’.

Auckland Harbour Bridge.

So if they do get the new one in, at worst, they will only be able to get 10-12 electrodes threaded. However, that will still give me more hearing than I have now, with 8 electrodes working, but not optimally. At best – they’ll be able to get the full set of electrodes in and I’ll be back to where I was before in no time. If that happens, I will never whinge again about anything, in my life, ever again. (Make sure my brother doesn’t read that as he has that personality type that will remind me I wrote this for the rest of my life!)

My choice was that I could muddle along as I have been doing for the last month, or go ahead with a reimplantation. With known risks – it’s a hard decision to make. One minute I’m wildly against even touching what I still have, and hating the thought of another operation. Then I miss out on something important, and with tears of frustration decide on the spur of the moment that I will go ahead. So – after discussing everything with my daughter, and writing heaps of notes of positives in column A and negatives in column B. There are 57 lines of text in Column A and just two in Column B. 57 to 2. Positive wins – and I emailed my specialist this morning to say – Yep – set everything in concrete I’m going ahead.

I haven’t had any second thoughts yet, and it’s now been 6 hours since I made the decision. That’s pretty good for me!

I will hear next week when the surgery will be. It’ll either be sometime in the next two months, or sometime this year, depending on the trust and funding. I will be getting Cochlear Corp's new Freedom implant.

Watch this space…

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Test Results for Possible Implant

I had my EABR for my left ear last Tuesday under general anaesthetic. It really didn't go well - a 24 hour stay turned into a 5 day nightmare!

To recap, my Cochlear Implant in my right ear that gave me near normal hearing for 15 years, suddenly stopped working properly eight months ago. I’ve gone from hearing almost perfectly, to profound hearing loss again. Something I didn’t think I would ever face again.

Four years ago, I had a full labrynthectomy in my left ear, to try and stop the terrible vertigo I’ve been getting since I was ten years old. We never thought I’d need that ear seeing the implant worked so well in the other. I also had a partial labrynthectomy in my implant ear. Unfortunately I still get vertigo.

Anyway – it was decided that we would try and implant the left ear, but before doing this we had to find out if the left auditory nerve was still viable. Just before Christmas I had the EABR under a local anaesthetic. This involved electrodes being placed on the head (4) to record brain waves of any sounds I might pick up from the 5th electrode which was placed inside my ear. It was an extremely painful procedure, and we got no result as they couldn’t increase the electrical stimulation because of the pain. After they peeled me off the ceiling they decided to do the same test but under a general anaesthetic.

That was last Tuesday, 29th January, 2008. I fronted up at Auckland City Hospital, and was placed in a lovely hospital gown that had absolutely no fashion sense whatsoever. It looked more like prison garb! Was wheeled into theatre and the doctors miraculously found two veins in which they placed needles. Miraculously because I have extremely difficult veins, usually nonexistent. They placed the gas mask over my face which I hated – kept saying I couldn’t breathe, added something to my veins and before I could count to three I was under.

I thought I was only going to be under for half an hour, but I was under for 1 hour 40 and when I woke up, I immediately felt sick and my ear was extremely painful. I was taken down to the ward after about an hour and had a nice private room with a view. I couldn’t really stay awake, and when I did walk my balance was really off. It was decided I would stay the night as I kept falling backwards which was a bit unsafe.

I woke up the next morning quite dizzy which got steadily worse all day. I woke up sometime during the night about to throw up, looked for a bowl, finding none, went to ring the nurse then ran out of time so threw up out of the bed onto the floor as I wanted a clean bed!! Unfortunately I lost my balance, somehow did a 360degree flip (Hey I would have got 10/10 for gymnastics), and landed on my head and knocked myself out. I came too, to find two nurses help me clean myself up, and help me back to bed. I vaguely remember a doctor there too, but really don’t remember much that night except for being pretty ill.

Unfortunately, because I live on the shore, and not in Auckland City, and because my then illness wasn’t the result of my procedure, and Auckland City hospital didn’t have enough beds, I had to be transferred by ambulance to North Shore Hospital. The Ambulance ride made me much worse. North shore Hospital was in a sorry state as well, with no beds so it was two days in A&E. I was severely dehydrated, and both lines had crapped out and no more veins, so they placed a central line in my neck to give me drugs and fluids. My implant battery had also run out and I was too dizzy to change them, so now no one could communicate with me either.

I was given a private room in the infectious diseases ward up on the 10th floor with a lovely view that I was too sick to appreciate! Seems Auckland Hospital had the MRSA bug and until I could be cleared by lab tests which took two days, I had to be quarantined. This meant anyone coming into the room had to gloved, gowned and masked which was great – as I couldn’t lipread. I also managed to get cellulitis in my left hand from the drip. I found it on Friday night – found my hand was double the size. I felt like the Aunt that Harry Potter blew up!

I slowly came right over the weekend, and it took me a while to convince the docs I was okay to come home on Monday. They wanted me in another night, but I hate hospitals at the best of time and wanted home. So I escaped late afternoon, a little lighter, with a black eye, A bruised big toe from the fall, and a still swollen right hand, and a throat infection that I picked up in the overcrowded A&E department.

The results of the test are not encouraging. My doctor emailed me the following result….

‘The team were unable to get any auditory nerve responses at any current stimulation level. The gear was working well as it was picking up muscle activity at higher levels, which tells us that the receiving side was working and higher current levels were also being picked up by the facial nerve, which tells us the transmitting side was working’

So this means that a Cochlear Implant for my left ear will not work. I can carry on muddling along as I’m doing now with an implant not working well, or have the existing implant replaced with a new one, with a risk that they might not get the new one in after they take the old one out, leaving me without any hearing at all, forever. I see my specialist on Thursday afternoon where I will assess all the risks with him, but right now, this minute, another operation is the last thing I want!!

There will be no hasty decisions.

From Rags to Riches

Some people shouldn’t own pets. Not at all. They simply don’t know what’s necessary for them at the most basic level – food and water.

Last Christmas, my neighbor caught me at the letterbox and asked me if I had seen his new cat. I hadn’t. I never liked the neighbor much – they were renting the house in front of me, and had to share a driveway. They and their whole family or any visitors had total disregard to the fact that the driveway should be kept clear for my car and any visitors wanting to visit me, and would block it frequently. Sometimes it took threats to the police for them to finally clear it, other times letters from the owner/rental lease company threatening they would be removed from the property, but mostly they would simply cause trouble at every opportunity.

They’ve long gone now thank goodness – but they should never be allowed to own animals.

A few days after that conversation at the letterbox, I noticed they had gone away. Greatly relieved at a few days peace and quiet, free from loud music and no cars blocking the driveway, I spent the time in the garden redoing my watering system. I was having great difficulties getting it to work properly. On the second day in the morning, while still working on watering system, now redoing it in sections to isolate the problem, I was joined by a little tiny white kitten. Ever so friendly, she played with my hands, and was so desperate for human company she didn't mind getting totally soaked each time I tested each section by turning on the system and getting drenched. All day this little white shadow followed me. If I disappeared inside the house – in it would follow, and trot back outside to help again with whatever needed doing.

At 4pm I called it a day – and went upstairs to have a shower to get rid of all the grime and dirt from the garden. I came back downstairs to find this little white shadow fast asleep on my couch – totally worn out. I popped her on my lap and it purred and purred and slept.

My two Burmese cats were not impressed.

At 10pm I noticed the neighbours were still not home, and this kitten was far too young to be outside at night. I popped next door to see if they had left any food or water for it outside…. Nothing. Not a drop. I fed the kitten – and it wolfed down the food as if it hadn’t seen anything for months.

My two Burmese cats were definitely not impressed.

Midnight rolled round, nothing for it – the kitten was obviously staying over. I found an old box, lined it with plastic, and I had kitty litter that I use for my bbq in the cupboard, so popped that in my ensuite, popped the kitten on an old blanket on my bed and went to sleep. The kitten didn’t move once, all night.

My two Burmese cats yowled and growled outside my bedroom door all night – not at all impressed to have been locked out.

My daughter got in the next morning and was surprised to see this white kitten, which greeted her when she came in my room, then followed her round the house like a devoted puppy dog as she got ready for work.

“Can we keep her”
I was very tempted.

By this time my two Burmese cats were ropeable. They would throw murderous looks my way at every opportunity, and I didn’t trust what they would do to a poor defenceless kitten, so I rang a friend and asked if she would mind the kitten for a day while I tried to find a new home for it. I couldn’t very well keep it when the neighbours would come back from holiday and reclaim it. Secretly I hoped my friend would take it in so totally irresistible this kitten was.

I rang the one friend who had no pets, who lived on a lifestyle block with two young boys, Sam and Logan. The perfect family for this lovely kitten. They didn’t want pets – but I decided to try them anyway. I spoke to Geoff, as Nikki at work. He worked some magic obviously on Nikki and she turned up with the boys to look at the kitten that afternoon. Big mistake to take the boys to see the kitten, and I knew then the kitten had a great home.

Became best friends with a pet lamb called Zorro!

Kitten was called Snowy, and taken to vet. Flea collar was taken off as she was far too young to be wearing one. She was flea ridden, and had worms and heart worms so bad it was making her cough. Very underweight and malnourished.

Neighbours came home four days later. About three days after they came home he came to my door.

‘Have you seen our cat?’ he asked
‘That little white thing?’ I asked
‘Not for a few days’ I said – which was true – I hadn’t seen it for a few days!
‘We’ve been away’ he said
‘Probably went looking for food and water’ I said
‘Probably – it doesn’t really matter – it was a freebie anyway’ he said and walked away.

Why people think a kitten so young can fend for itself in food and water is beyond me.

So that was the rags part. Poor kitty such a bad start in life, but now is living it up on a lifestyle block. Nikki, Geoff and the boys renamed Scuppers as it became the cat that goes away on the yacht each weekend. Has learnt to like seafood – especially scallops (how hard is that?) To catch birds, stalk chickens, no mice in the house any more. Tears around the house and the gardens and paddocks and speeds not able to be clocked. So visible, so white – can’t hide anywhere! Except under the Christmas Tree !

Major pest - knocks tomatoes off the bench for fun, and lies on top of whatever you are trying to do.

Became best friends with a black lamb called Zorro.

White cats are known to be deaf, but Scuppers luckily missed the genes for this. She has a tiny black mark on her forehead, and has yellow eyes. Most cases of deafness in white cats are in blue eyed cats. The white color of the coat in cats as well as the blue color of the eyes is a genetic characteristic which in some cases causes deafness due to lack of a cell membrane in the inner part of the ear which it is believed is related to the genes responsible for the color characteristics. to deafness.

My watering system still doesn’t work properly.