Thursday, September 3, 2015

An Emotion Filled Day

I can't think of a more emotion-filled day than the one I just experienced. I woke up out of a deep sleep at 3:45 and checked to see if there were any texts from Keith regarding Mom. There were none. I couldn't fall back asleep so I got out of bed and went downstairs.

I received a text from Keith an hour later: "Mom passed at 5:10". I've been expecting such a notification. Sitting there in the quiet of the den illuminated only by my laptop, all of my thoughts turned to her with wonder for what she must be experiencing at that moment. I was sad about her passing but only briefly. I was more relieved and happy for her.

She decided a few years ago that she wanted to donate her body to medical science. She arranged for the University of Minnesota to receive her remains and they'll be in possession of them for the next 18 months while medical students learn from her by dissecting and studying her body. It's such a selfless thing to do and I'm so proud of her for doing this. At the end of 18 months, her body will be cremated and her ashes will be returned to us.

I had to be at Mayo Clinic in Rochester this morning for a follow-up hearing test. I followed Rachel in the fog to Cheap Charlies for breakfast and then she accompanied me to Mayo Clinic before heading off for a job interview as a certified nursing assistant at a long-term care facility. I need to add: Later in the day she was offered and accepted a salaried position from the University of Minnesota working as an Admissions Representative. She signed a one year contract with them and is very excited about the position. It's a nice place for her to work while she continues to apply to Physician Assistant schools, waiting for an offer. We're very happy for her.

I knew I had regained some small amount of hearing but I couldn't be sure if it was useable at all or would it maybe just be distorted and possibly interfere with my good ear. I was anxious about this appointment. I recalled in an earlier post here how I had been willing my ear to hear the beeps from the imaginary hearing tests I'd conducted in my mind.

Now it was happening.

The technician explained to me how the test would proceed before placing the headphones over my ears.

First the right ear. I heard the tones and clicked the clicker as they faded out of range.


My left ear sprang to life with the sound of a tone. CLICK! Again. CLICK! I was hearing them just as I had before although likely not all of them. But this was so much better than not hearing them at all. I was excited because they appeared very clear without any distortion whatsoever.

Then came the test for hearing comprehension. A word was spoken into my ear and I had to repeat it. "Airplane" "workbench" "houseboat" etc. I scored 100% in both ears. I had to work harder at interpreting the left ear because it wasn't as loud but I got them all. It was such a strong emotion for me to know that I was hearing again from an ear that I'd pretty much written off as deaf or dead less than a week earlier.

After the hearing test, I met with Dr. Carlson to discuss the results and talk about an additional injection of steroids just as I'd had the previous week. He looked at the audiogram from the 24th of August, just 10 days earlier and said: "I don't typically tell this to my patients but when I see a test result like this I often think to myself that there's little if anything we can do for this person". He followed up by saying "You're a lucky man".

Let me show you what he's referring to. Here's the audiogram from 10 days ago. Check out the graph in the bottom left. The numbers along the left side are decibels. The plots along the bottom of the graph are of the decibels needed for me to hear at a given frequency (annotated across the top). My test from 10 days ago shows that I'm in a "severe hearing loss" range based on the chart in the bottom right in this image. And here's today's audiogram. The red plot is my right ear and the blue is my left. You can see the marked improvement that has me so excited. My hearing loss has been upgraded from severe/profound to mild. That's just so amazing to me and I am so thankful for this progress and for all of your prayers and encouragement during this difficult time for me and my family. I really don't have adequate words for how I feel.

I received another injection of steroids today that will hopefully continue to work to improve my hearing even more. The doctor cautioned that these values can go down as well as up. Still, I'm hopeful.

And that brings me to the final emotional event of my day. I officially retired! Actually, it wasn't as emotional for me as I anticipated it would be and I was glad for that. I arrived at work around 2:30 and checked in with Tracee and the office staff to let them know I was there and ready to sign myself into a life of Saturdays but that I needed to quickly make the rounds of the facility to say some goodbyes. And so I did.

A brief stop at my mail-slot to see that my name had already been stripped from its placeholder. A photo of the hallway for old time's sake and a totally unplanned photo of Megan. "KAY-GEEEE!" I'll miss that, Megan!

A quick run through the control room and Area 5 to shake hands and wish much success to those who remain. Also, a photo of our area's retired controllers list and the order in which they left. Okay, I am absolutely going to miss this place. I just will, but it's time to go!

Back to the administration wing and some time chatting with Shirley before processing me out. Tracee grabbed a photo of us then I had them switch places. Tracee was actually going to be the one processing me out but with all that's been happening with Mom, she took the day off but came in to watch me leave. That was so nice of her.

I shook hands with Kelly, our facility manager, and we chatted a little then it was time to walk out on the best career I could've ever hoped to have had.

I emailed Kelly a submission for our facility's publication, ZMP Contrails.  I'll leave you with it:

I can still vividly recall sitting in the auditorium at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center that March morning in 1982. There were maybe 500 of us, all excited, nervous and with eyes wide open taking it all in as we filled out the many forms and listened to the academy director tell us of the slim chance any of us had of actually becoming a successful Air Traffic Controller. He had our full attention. I was more worried about simply making the grade then; how could I have known the blessing this life of quick-turnarounds and midshifts would eventually become to me?

It’s been such a rewarding career and although I’m looking forward to life as a retired controller, I can honestly say that I will most definitely miss this place, the people and the art of making sense from chaos on the radar scope in the ultimate of video games.

Today marks the end of 37 years and 5 months of government service for me and I just want to say thank you. Thank you for being a part of this journey with me and for adding to the color and flavor of this place, of this career that I literally thank God for each and every day.

Best wishes to you all!


Kevin Gilmore (kg)


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