July 2020 Nottinghamshire Live
Sister Linus Otieno
A Catholic Nun who lost her hearing and communicated through writing has explained how electronic implants have 'opened the world up' for her. Sister Linus Otieno's hearing problems started back in 1989. "One day, while working in Africa at the time, I woke up and could not hear anything at all," she said. “Later that same day I regained hearing in my left ear, but for the right ear I needed hearing aids. I was treated for colds and allergies with no improvement to my hearing (in the right ear).” Over the years she's had hearing aids fitted but she still couldn't hear in her right ear.
In 2009 she moved to Nottingham, where she works at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Catholic Parish, in Bulwell. Her hearing declined further and more scans revealed no apparent problem in either of her ears. And, in 2016, things got significantly worse. “Again, I woke up one morning and the hearing in my good ear had gone,” said Sister Linus.
To deal with her hearing problems, and communicate with her parishioners, she carried a notebook and asked people to write their questions and requests down for her. “After the left (good) ear went off, everything became very hard,” said Sister Linus. “I felt isolated as now communications were only done through writing. I used so many notebooks. “I couldn’t hear our doorbell; whenever the doorbell went somebody was to signal me. I could not sit freely with people, as I could not follow a conversation. Visitors on my door had to write down their names and whatever agenda they had.
It was very embarrassing for me. I got nothing from the church services.”
In the following months, doctors proposed a cochlear implant as a solution. After her operation at the Queen's Medical Centre, in December 2018, the implant was switched on. “This has opened the world up for me,” said Sister Linus. “Before, I could not use the telephone. The audiologist asked me a question which I clearly understood and answered. I could even hear the clock ticking on the wall. I can hear the doorbell and talk freely with visitors. I now feel relaxed to sit with people. I can hear the birds sing and many other things.”
Installing a cochlear implant involves surgeons using a surgical drill, guided by a microscope, to make a precise hole in a patient’s skull to connect the implant to their hearing nerve. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, many operations including cochlear implantations stopped at hospitals across the country, including at the QMC, as a safety precaution. However, a new plastic drape has been designed to create a protective barrier or ‘tent’ between the theatre team and the patient’s head and upper torso. This is now in use at the QMC, allowing surgical teams to re-start these important procedures safely.
Professor Gerry O’Donoghue tries out the new microscope PPE drape before its use on patients in the cochlear implantation operations
The new process involves using an extra drape to surround the microscope to create a 'tent' over the patient, while they are on the operating table. This is necessary to contain particles generated by the drilling process, which may contain coronavirus, from spreading. This covering protects both the patient and the surgical team from potential infection from coronavirus.
Professor Douglas Hartley, consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon, added: "Our PPE solution was developed in just a matter of weeks by a team involving our researchers, the surgical team, and equipment suppliers Delta Surgical, and was generously funded by the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre. Our new invention has allowed us to minimise delays in performing cochlear implants in our most urgent cases, which are operations for children who are born without hearing. Unless they receive a cochlear implant typically within the first year of their life, these children can experience a severe delay in developing the ability to speak and in gaining vital language skills. So it is vital we move ahead with these operations as quickly as we can, while remaining safe.”