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Three months ago, Paul Wheeler was getting ready for a milestone surgery. Not only was he the 1000th patient to receive a cochlear implant from Sunnybrook’s implant team, but the procedure was also the last shot he had to regain hearing in his left ear. Hearing aids just weren’t cutting it anymore. He needed another option.
I was lucky enough to meet with Paul on the morning of his surgery, and remember him being cautiously optimistic before heading into the operating room. We joked about practice making perfect, but the weight of the day was palpable. At a certain point, he told me, you have trust that the experts know what they’re doing.
|Paul Wheeler has his cochlear implant|
activated for the first time.
You get moments working in a hospital that truly inspire you, and what happened next literally brought me to tears. Within a few minutes, Paul was repeating words and sentences, and telling me my voice sounded pretty clear. Two decades of slow hearing decline, social stigma and dwindling hopes had literally turned on a dime. He could hear again, and the moment is captured in my video.
I recently caught up with Paul at his home to see how the last few months have been. He told me it’s been a lot of work getting used to the device, and relearning various sounds. He admitted it’s also easy to misplace the small external parts of the device. But, he said, all of that has been pretty minor considering about 90% of his hearing is restored on the left side. The sound of his car’s turn signal clicker is now clear, and he’s even asked his wife to turn the television volume down a few times. Music is musical again.
I’m so grateful to have met Paul and that he let me tag along for the last three months. One million patients come through these hospital doors every year, but he’s one I’ll never forget.