Coming Back

I went back to the V.A. hospital yesterday. This time, it was to get my follow-up hearing test, which Dr. Hoa ordered up after my surgical followup with him, back in June. I’d reported to him then that it felt like I was hearing things a little better, even without my hearing aid in. So, he ordered the hearing test.

It is apparently true — my hearing is coming back! The audiologist told me I showed significant improvement in three different ranges of hearing, the ones that generally involve hearing what people are saying (the important ones, in my book!)

Another benefit of the difficult surgery performed on my inner ear back in April! The difficult part was actually the post-surgery period of healing — I was actually out of it for the surgery itself, the first time I’d ever gone under anesthesia for anything. That was kind of a trip.

Sunset on the Potomac — photo by JB Bridgeman

I do still need the hearing aid — it’s not all the way back, but it was great to have confirmed what I suspected. There’s still other issues in there — still a negative pressure differential, where the pressure in the inner ear is different than the pressure outside the eardrum.

We’ve tried just about everything to get to the bottom of that issue, and that condition still persists. But, at least I haven’t had a major vertigo episode since the surgery in April. That’s the longest I’ve gone without an episode since they first started occurring, about three years ago.

This week, I was worried that I was about to have a vertigo episode, actually. I think it all started with the Chili Cookoff at work on Tuesday. We’re in the middle of the Feds Feed Families campaign, the one that I chaired last year for the agency. My friend and former boss, Carl, is heading up the campaign for the entire Department this year.

HPEB, 7/17

I went out and picked up a bunch of cans of food, for myself and my fellow Management Council colleagues — to participate in the cook-off you have to bring cans of food to donate — with the help of my deputy, Frank. I then proceeded to eat a lot of chili. I didn’t plan to, but each entry was so good, I had to keep trying more.

Last year, I was a judge, and had to eat some of all of forty chili entries. That was fun at first, but soon turned into torture. When you judge one of these deals, you can only afford to take one or two bites of each entry, when there’s forty-some entries, if you want to be able to sample all of them.

The torture comes in two parts — first, when you taste a chili you really like, you want to eat more of it. But, you can’t — you have to make sure you save room for all of the chilis. The second part of the torture is when you reach that point where you don’t think you can eat another bite of chili — but you still have ten more you have to sample. That’s when you start popping a Tums between each bite. At the end, you feel bloated and like smoke is coming out of your ears — from all of those spicy ingredients.

HPEB, 5/17

This year, I didn’t have to suffer those tortures — I was free to eat whatever chili I chose to eat. I still wound up eating well over half of the chilis entered — only this time, I was eating entire cups of each entry I tried. I way overdid it. It was just so good!

Then, I realized I had forgotten to take the little purple pill (omeprazole)I take every morning for acid reflux. Bad combination — the next two nights, I woke up in the middle of the night with heartburn, and took a while before I could fall back to sleep.

My sleep patterns were off, and I woke up Thursday morning with what felt like the old migraines. They didn’t progress to vertigo, like they usually have in the past, but I was concerned. I debated going in to work, but decided to give it a try, knowing I could always come home early, if needed. I hung in there, and worked a full day.

The hearing test itself involved a lot of poking and prodding, blowing air pressure into my ear to measure the pressure differentials, and typically, I don’t feel that great after all of that. My ears, like my teeth, are very sensitive. Then, by the time they actually started the beeps, and the random words I had to repeat, the tinnitus/ringing in my left ear was so loud, it required a lot of focus to listen for the test sounds, over the ringing that was already going on.

So, I didn’t go into work after the tests — I took the afternoon off. I met a man I am sponsoring in town, and did some step-work with him at a Starbucks. Then, I came home and took it easy, watching the last few episodes of a new Netflix series I got hooked on, “Ozark”, all about a guy who gets seduced into a money-laundering scheme, that eventually goes very south — all the way from Chicago to the Ozarks, in Arkansas.

Watching a show like that makes my daily challenges seem so minimal, in comparison. That’s probably why I am drawn to such shows.

The best part about this week was — I didn’t travel anywhere. I was home all week. It was great to be home, for a change. I’ll be home all next week, as well — then another business trip, this time to Athens and Atlanta, Georgia. I’m enjoying the home time, while I can.