Eleanor Day, 79, doesn’t have a Twitter account, but after her live-tweeted cochlear implant surgery Tuesday morning, she has a chance at becoming a trending topic. Perhaps more significantly, she’ll be able to hear again after five years of living entirely without hearing.
The world’s first live-tweeted and live-instagrammed hearing restoration surgery will take place Oct. 2 at 7 a.m. PT at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. Dr. Douglas Backous, head of Center for Hearing and Skull Base Surgery, will be operating on Day while her entire experience will be documented on Instagram and Twitter by Drew Symonds, a supporting member of the medical center’s communication team.
“It’s going to be pretty cool because we’ll be able to send pictures throughout the entire experience,” Dr. Backous said.
The hospital is making this live-tweeted and instagrammed surgery possible in order to raise awareness for hearing loss and cochlear implant surgery.
Cochlear implant surgery entails placing a nerve-simulating electrode inside the inner ear. Dr. Backous said only 10% of people who qualify for this surgery actually end up receiving it. He and his colleagues wanted to devise a way for more people to learn about this surgery. The team decided leveraging social media would be the most effective way to reach people whose parents and grandparents might need this surgery, as well as to reach the hearing impaired who might be using Twitter.
The team will document Day’s experience from the time she arrives for surgery to the recovery room — with magnified pictures of her inner ear during surgery. Typical operating time is 35-40 minutes, Dr. Backous said, but they might take a bit longer to take pics when she arrives and when she’s waking up, so you’ll be able to follow the entire process for about 60-90 minutes.
“It’ll be fun for people to see what the ear looks like, and it’s not very bloody,” he said. But first thing, he says, they’ll warn viewers on Twitter that they will be tweeting actual surgery pictures, just in case anyone’s eating breakfast.
Day began losing her hearing 20 years ago. She’s been completely deaf for five years, and does not benefit from hearing aids. Dr. Backous said she wants to be able to hear her husband, her family and participate in church again. Once the team explained Twitter and Instagram to her, and how the entire documentation of her surgery would work, Dr. Backous said “she’s really excited.”
“If this goes well you could see social media playing a more significant roll in spreading awareness for disease prevention and intervention,” he said of the social media aspect of the surgery.
Hold on to your tissues, though, doctors won’t switch on her cochlear implants until Oct. 14 when she’ll be able to hear for the first time in five years (this might produce another heartwarming video, like this one). Also, the doctor and his colleages will hold a live chat about the surgery on Oct. 10 at www.swedish.org/swedishhear.
You’d think average non-doctors would not want to view pictures of surgery, but the handful of other live-tweeted medicial procedures in the past have proved successful in garnering attention.
Doctors at Houston’s Memorial Hermann hospital did two major surgeries this year and live tweeted both of them. In February, doctors live tweeted an open heart surgery that was both successful for the patient and at raising awareness, reaching a quarter of a million viewers. In May, doctors at that hospital also live tweeted a brain surgery.
Do you think live tweeting a surgery is a good way to raise awareness? Tell us in the comments.