Ms. Lan often used to think of suicide as her severely impaired hearing sometimes became too much to bear. Nagging ear pain, persistent headaches, sleepless nights, days of shutting herself away from others – especially following failed surgeries at reputable hospitals – had stripped Ms. Lan of all hope. But FV Hospital and Dr Nguyen Quang Dai, Head of ORL, returned sound to Ms. Lan and restored her chance to live a normal life following a miracle surgery.
From a sociable and happy woman, Ms. Vu Thi Lan, 61, from HCMC, turned into an unconfident and quiet woman after a prolonged middle ear infection, which caused severe hearing loss.
Ms. Lan visited a large hospital where doctors concluded she had a middle ear infection (otitis media) on her right side and confirmed that she would have her hearing back after surgery. Unluckily, her surgical outcome was that she always heard muffled sounds, like wind blowing through her ears.
Tearful days living in a world without sound
Ms. Lan was told she needed a second surgery, together with the promise of being “able to hear” from her doctor. She was so hopeful on the day she underwent surgery and then felt extremely disappointed for yet another failure. She could not catch any sound at all and her ears constantly leaking fluid. Ms. Lan visited another hospital where doctors told her that her condition was very severe.
They said that the prolonged otitis in both ears meant that whether she could hear following surgery was just a matter of luck. Ms. Lan accepted the fact that she must undergo another painful procedure in the hope that she would get her hearing back and talk with other people again. But once again, she had no luck. Lan suffered from total deafness after undergoing surgery three times.
She lost all of her hope. Her condition seemed more severe, with whistling sounds like ambulance sirens in both ears, shooting headaches and a lack of balance.
Since then, Ms. Lan confined herself to her home. Familiar stores and small markets near her home now seemed impossibly far away. Seeing her became tough, even for her family members. She lived a quiet and silent life and fell into depression. She said: “My life was hell for two years. I could not eat or sleep. I lived with persistent chronic pain, day to day. “Frankly, I just wanted to die, but I did not want others to spread rumours that I was neglected by my family. None understood my condition. Anyone that has suffered from deafness and agonising pain as I did can understand that my life during this time was not equal to death.”
Neither living nor dying was an option for Lan. She thought her life had ended there and tried to accept a silent life. But her meeting with Dr. Nguyen Quang Dai, Head of ORL, FV Hospital, opened a new chapter to her life.
A complete regeneration through sounds to life
In addition to the three above-mentioned surgeries, Ms. Lan also sought for treatments from many other places and was always refused by doctors. Ms. Lan’s friends suggested that she go to Australia or Singapore to have cochlear implants. Her luck was in this time when she met with Dr Nguyen Quang Dai and received cochlear implants without having to pay to travel abroad.
Dr Dai said: “Ms. Lan’s previous surgeries changed her ear anatomy. The normal structure of the ear includes the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. An auditory portion of the inner ear called the cochlear contains hair cells, which are responsible for receiving and processing sounds and enable ears to hear these sounds. In case of Ms. Lan, three prior surgeries caused damage to her cochlear and disordered her ear structure, hollowing it out so there was no longer an outer ear, eardrum or middle ear. This meant that Ms. Lan was not a candidate for wearing a hearing aid or receiving a normal cochlear implant. She had to undergo two stages: the first was to restore her hollowed-out ears and the second was to receive a cochlear implant. Currently, a cochlear implant is recognised as the best treatment for hearing loss. Cochlear implantation typically works well in cases where patients have suffered profound deafness for years, such as in Ms. Lan’s case. A cochlear implant normally takes one hour to implement but this special case took me four hours to finish.”
Ms. Lan shared: “I know my case was challenging but Dr Dai said the surgery would be successful and I trusted him. My relatives were afraid that I would be disappointed one more time if this surgery failed and they were determined to prevent me from proceeding. However, I and my family put all of our trust in Dr Dai.”
Finally, Ms. Lan’s trust was repaid! Waking up after the surgery, she did not even know whether the surgery had been performed as she felt no pain or discomfort as she had during prior surgeries. “It was like a miracle! I no longer suffered from whistling sounds, I had no dizziness or a racing pulse, no anxiety and no balance problems,” recalls Ms. Lan.
Ms. Lan was discharged three days following her surgery. By the fifth day, she was so happy to go to the supermarket after years of not daring to go anywhere. She felt as if she’s been reborn, she’d regained her health and was enjoying life as she had before. Three months after the surgery, in line with the prognosis provided by Dr Dai, Ms. Lan was busting with happiness when she could finally hear sound again. Less than one year since her surgery, she can communicate normally with others and even answer telephone calls. She has returned to her daily activities, such as going shopping, cooking, taking care of her grandchildren and watching TV. For Lan, her outcome was a dream come true.