Thursday, October 20, 2016

Two Cochlear Implants, A Whole New World

Adele Millwood’s Story

For my first 32 years, I heard all the sounds of life, including my two sons’ first cries. But Christmas 1988 was the last time I heard normally. That winter, I suffered a major sinus infection which left me with mild hearing loss in the right ear. I got a hearing aid and things started sounding better; doctors assured me it wouldn’t get worse, but over the next 16 years, that proved to be quite untrue.

When my left ear starting fading also, I had numerous MRIs, but doctors could not figure it out. I vividly remember staying up all night with my husband, Randy, both of us crying. What was wrong with me? Why was I losing my hearing? We were both terrified I would wake up one morning completely deaf.

Even with the addition of a second hearing aid, it was getting dangerous for me to be in parking lots; I couldn’t hear cars speeding up behind me. I was terrified of being home alone when Randy traveled for work. My corgi adapted to my loss and helpfully barked to alert me to the phone or oven timer, but I was isolating myself socially. It was difficult to be involved in conversations with friends, and my adolescent sons were struggling to communicate with me, too. Frightened and frustrated, they lost patience when I was unable to understand.

In the spring of 2005, at my (dreaded) yearly hearing test, the audiologist asked, “How are you functioning?” In tears, knowing I had ‘failed’ once again, I responded that I was not. I was actually totally withdrawn from life. She said I might qualify for a cochlear implant (CI), and I cried even more at the hope of a solution. There were very few surgeons near our New Orleans home at the time who were doing CI surgery, but I was referred to one and confirmed as a candidate. On August 27, 2005, I got approval in the mail from my insurance company. The very next day, Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on New Orleans and forced us to evacuate our home. I had that insurance letter in my hand on the way out the door!

My son Caleb’s wedding was scheduled to take place in New Orleans for the week after we evacuated, but luckily we relocated. Though it was a beautiful day, I could not hear the vows or the toasts. All the noise was muffled by my hearing aids. The same thing happened at my son Josh’s graduation. He was valedictorian, but even from the front row, I didn’t hear his speech. My surgery could not come soon enough; I had zero reservations about it.

My CI was scheduled for six weeks after Hurricane Katrina, and the hospital regained power just in time. They shaved the right half of my head and made an incision all the way behind my ear. Then, I waited six weeks for activation, anxious, nervous and excited. It seemed like forever. My hearing aid in my left ear wasn’t doing much and I depended on reading lips. Curiosity consumed me — what would it sound like? The first things I heard were beeps and buzzes. They were testing the electrodes to make sure everything was connecting and firing up. The next thing I knew, I heard Randy say he loved me, and we were both crying. He was the first one I wanted to hear.

One week after activation day was Thanksgiving, my first real holiday in a long time. The whole family gathered, and unlike years before, I was part of every conversation. Voices sounded crisp and clear, and I learned that my sons had developed a habit of talking about me behind my back, even when I was in the room! In those first few weeks, I relearned sounds. Even the sounds of the car blinker and the hum of the refrigerator were new. Some sounds were wonderful: waterfalls, birds chirping and waves crashing on the beach.

I celebrated five years of hearing in October 2011 by having my other ear implanted. I started out with two good ears and wanted that again. By now, we had moved home to Maryland and I was referred to Doctor Regina Presley and Doctor Scott London, who are both incredible. The surgery was way easier than the first one: the incision was much smaller, and they barely had to shave my head. I went home that day, thrilled with the results and motivated by my grandbabies to recover quickly. I got to hear my granddaughter Kaylee say her first word, my name, ‘Delly.’

I am forever grateful for finding the Cochlear Implant Center at GBMC. They took the time to know me as a person and understand my life and family. I’m not just a number here, like at other places. Dr. Presley goes above and beyond, even holding workshops for patients where we care for each other and learn together. Her passion for helping is amazing. She now helps me extend my wonderful experience with the Cochlear Implant Center into volunteerism by connecting me with new CI candidates. I answer questions from a patient perspective and offer support. It’s so much more than just a clinical setting here — it’s family.

For additional information on the services provided by GBMC’s Cochlear Implant Center, visit or call 443-849-GBMC (4262). Read Adele’s family’s perspective of her hearing loss at

Supporting Our Elders with Home Healthcare

Accessing quality healthcare can be a complicated dilemma for elderly patients with mobility impairments. Transportation to doctors’ offices is not only a challenging burden for patients themselves; it can also create stress for loved ones who don’t have the physical ability or flexibility in their schedules to facilitate the visits. Because of the difficulty of attending appointments, many seniors end up in the emergency room for ailments that could have been treated in a simpler fashion if addressed earlier. Worse, some elderly patients find themselves having to choose an ambulance ride to the emergency room over a regular visit to a primary care provider or specialist because the latter is not as financially or physically practical for them.

When unnecessary emergency department visits started to become too frequent for elders, GBMC HealthCare took notice and developed the Support Our Elders Program. “As a society, we have challenges as to how we can afford to care for elders in the manner we would want, particularly at home,” says W. Anthony Riley, MD, geriatrician and Chief Medical Officer of Gilchrist Services. “The Support Our Elders Program was born out of the recognition of the need to go where the patients are.”

The program provides home healthcare medical management and coordination of care for patients age 75 and older who meet a set of eligibility criteria. Many patients have multiple chronic conditions and are increasingly limited in their ability to independently perform the personal activities of daily living. Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner Beverly Ruiz leads the program and provides patients with physical and cognitive assessments, medication and symptom management and advanced care planning. “We want patients and families to feel supported and confident in any transitions they need to make,” she says. “I work with people on their level and carefully explain the next steps of treatment.”

Linda Henderson, BSN, RN-BC, the Clinical Care Manager for the Support Our Elders program, has seen firsthand how this comprehensive in-home healthcare has improved the quality of life for older patients and their families. “We don’t just treat a symptom; we are addressing the whole patient, developing a care plan and treating the caregivers’ needs, too,” she says. “We have communication, connection and continuity.”

Estelle Langstrom is a Support Our Elders patient who came to the program after getting sick with pneumonia and failing to find a doctor who could come to her. She had no way to access care without the help of an ambulance; now Beverly provides the services she needs in the comfort of her own home. “Someone is always there for me,” Estelle says. “No matter what time of day, I get my questions answered.”

If you or a loved one is in need of home healthcare, call the Support Our Elders Program at 443-849-6257 or visit their website at for the full list of eligibility criteria and program benefits. To see a video with more of Estelle Langstrom’s story and to learn more about the program, visit

Lentil Soup


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, diced
2 medium stalks celery, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups dry lentils
1 can (14 ½ ounces) crushed tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
6 ½ cups water


In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, and onions; cook and stir until the onion is tender.

Stir in garlic, oregano, basil, and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in lentils and tomatoes, then add the vegetable broth and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 1 hour or until lentils are tender.

Store leftovers in the refrigerator and reheat on the stove or in the microwave. The soup will taste better the next day!

Nutrition Information

Yield: 11 servings
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 151
Total Fat: 3 g
Saturated Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 248 mg
Total Fiber: 7 g
Protein: 9 g
Carbohydrates: 24 g
Potassium: 503 mg

Recipe retrieved from provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.