Vaibhav Kanwal

designer & developer

Hope & Hearing

I remember being a teenager going daily for my hourly swimming sessions. It was fun. The scorching summer months in Northern India meant me spending a large part of my afternoon playing with water and lots of it. I also recall getting frequent ear infections as a result of water entering my left ear. I used to wonder why it was only my LEFT ear at that time however was quick enough to forget after a short antibiotic course of medicines. The same continued for a good part of my pre teen & early teen years. I can faintly recall my decision to stop my favorite sport, but mostly it was the frequent ear infections and we happily blamed the not-good-enough water and life went on. I took up another sport Tennis this time and spent a healthy part of my teen years playing Tennis all year round from 2002 - 2009. Ear? All well. Done. Forgotten.

Unexpected Surgery

Fast Forward 5 years. Few weeks before 2011 ended, I had some discharge in the same left ear and I promptly scheduled an appointment with my ENT. I was hopping it to be a regular infection just like previous times and a course on antibiotics would help me relieve me of my familiar pain. Thankfully, it did however I was informed this time that there existed a perforation in the tympanic membrane. That's medical speak for "hole in the ear drum" I was amused and wondered if it was all result of my previous experiences with water almost a decade back but that was history and we had to move forward. I was advised a course of antibiotics to help stop and remove infection, followed by a surgery - Tympanoplasty to fix the perforation that existed in my left ear

Prognosis

The following month after my semester exams were done with, I spent the next weeks taking second, third & fourth opinions on state of my ear. In all, it was concluded by all doctors that surgery was the only definitive treatment with a success rate of 90%. I felt disconnected from all that was happening inside my ear and from the doctors because I for one, was in no pain. My infection had been eradicated but was told that the only cure was a surgery. Without which, I had a high probability of catching it again exposing myself to the high spectrum of risks each time, should it happen.

Risks

I was told to undergo Tympanoplasty & Mastoidectomy. Tympanoplasty is surgery to reconst the ear-drum while Mastoidectomy is surgery to remove cells in the hollow, air-filled spaces in the skull behind the ear. The risks if I delayed could rage from : Interesting as it may be, the risks or complications resulting due to the surgery were also the same. I remember joking with a friend of mine what could happen if the doc operating on my ear was a sudden sneeze or cough. He would be like, Oops! Sorry. The surgery went well but you might not be able to taste much of anything because I had to sneeze or Wow! you got yourself a singing ear. Ridiculous forced humor aside, I decided to go for the surgery on 13 January 2012, Friday

Day of the Surgery

I remember getting ready early morning on the day of my scheduled surgery. Not eating / drinking anything from past midnight had me feeling hungry and excited. It was something new for me and I was hoping everything would turn out well. I remember being led away by the surgeon coordinating the operation and the team of people who were to operate on my left ear. I happily said Bye to my mom and dad and walked away to the Operation Theater. I particularly, remember remarking "This looks scary" as I entered the OT and the surgeon made a quick remark - "Scared? Be a man. We'll take good care of you. It'll be fine" . My instant observations were large OT with numerous microscopes and medical instruments hanging from the ceiling. A little green stretcher with a head rest which seemed to have been prepared for my arrival. I was laid down and covered with some blankets so I felt warm and cozy. The OT felt a bit cold which I assume could have been because of my fear or the winter season. I lay there and the preparations started. One guy stuck sensors on my chest and torso while another placed a Sphygmomanometer to monitor my pulse rates. One Doc shaved the left side of my head around the left ear giving me a mushroom cut on the side. The doctor was friendly and made sure I was comfortable.  I had a woman anesthetist walk in greeting me and asking me lots of questions about me in general so as to distract me while she pocked me with a needle in my hand. It was then I realized, it was TIME. I don't recall much after some sharp pain in one of my hand as the anesthesia worked its way through intravenously. Somewhere as the thoughts meandered across my mind and I convinced myself to feel the effects of anesthesia. In a few moments, I passed out. I remember walking up with a headache, confusion and LOTS of let-me-sleep-some-more feeling. I had a nurse come in drop some water droplets from the dropper onto my lips. I felt good. My lips felt dry and water seemed different as it moistened my lips and mouth. Just a few drops and not more. My surgeon came in, called my dad and asked me if I wanted to talk. I remember hearing my Dad on the speakerphone and me replying "Dad, I want to sleep, let me sleep" and some incoherent babble before I again passed out. I had large bandage around my head with lots of padding over the left ear. I was discharged from the hospital the same day in the evening after the effects of anesthesia subsided. Below is how I looked after the event was over. This one's 4 hours after the surgery.

Afterthoughts

That's a long post you've been reading! My surgery went fine and I expect to recover within the next 4 weeks. I have been told that my hearing would be back within the next 6 - 8 weeks and that I can continue normal routine after just 7 days. I will share my progress as I go through the post-operative period. Hopefully, if you came here Googling to find/read more on Tympanoplasty/Mastoidectomy, the above should provide a first hand experience. I will post more of my experience with the surgery and after care in the coming week which should address some common concerns and enable fellow future operation seekers to have a better understanding of the operation and the process. Don't worry. 2012 is going to be Awesome!