Now and Then: 10 Years with an Eardrum

If you had asked me how I envisioned my life on August 24th, 2004, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. Heck, I wouldn’t have been able to say anything because of the intubation scrapes on my throat and the tight bandaging around my head. On that date, I had undergone my first tympanoplasty to repair my left eardrum and restore my hearing. With the optimistic outcome my surgeon had promised, I knew my life would drastically improve once I had “perfect hearing” in at least one ear. 10 years later, I looked in a mirror and realized the greatest changes, though made possible by my surgery, were more important than restored hearing.

When I had the surgery, I was twelve years old, trying to find new direction and scared out of my mind of the future. After getting rid of my punk rock spikes and (most of) my clothes from Hot Topic, my wardrobe was in recovery from being my rage outlet at my hearing loss. Underneath my bandages, my hair was short from chopping it off after a decade of ear infections. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to be a singer or veterinarian­­—two careers that demanded normal hearing for very different reasons. My “only hope” of romance was writing obsessively to Tom Felton because middle school boys brutally teased me for having hearing aids. Worst of all, I was plunged into a sea of agony, packing gel, and tinnitus with no guarantee of restoring my eardrum.

Young Christina.
From a 12-year-old “punk rocker”…

…to a 22 year old writer!
Adult Christina.

August 24th, 2014, left me stunned every time I looked at my reflection and saw what I have become. The bandages were long gone from my head, and were replaced with a beehive that sat atop long chestnut curls. I still bought outfits from Hot Topic, but Hello Kitty and retro dresses had replaced spikes and bondage jeans. Though I decided not to be a vet, I still maintained my passion for cats, and was staying in Brooklyn to watch an adorable Manx named Neeley. The passion for music remained and turned into songwriting­­—a part of an unexpected love affair with writing that developed during my recuperation. That love affair has since turned into a blossoming career, with tons of publications at various levels.

Further celebration though came beyond my reflection. I walked hand-in-hand with wonderful guy who traveled from Philadelphia just to see me. In the Brooklyn streets, I cried when I saw a dozen kittens and heard their purrs—a luxury I never knew before the surgery. The only agony felt that day came after my date and I plunged into a sea of fat and gorged ourselves with Five Guys double cheeseburgers. The whole day, I could not stop thinking about how truly lucky I was to have gained so much since that first tympanoplasty. Some would attribute these gains to the natural maturation of adolescence and college life. Though they would not be wrong, they would also miss the whole truth. Surgery has the power to change people in ways they cannot fathom. Without it, I never would have seen myself as a successful writer/musician traveling to watch cats, or imagined that a guy would want to cross state lines for me.

Tom Felton stamp.
From pining for an unrequited celebrity crush…

…to spending days with a wonderful boyfriend!”

Christina with boyfriend

Most importantly, I never thought I would see the day where I could be at peace with my body and myself. Though I am still hard of hearing in my right ear, and there are days where I want to scream, “it’s not fair!”, I am very happy with my life. For someone who was told, before the surgery, to expect deafness by 15 or 16, everything I have feels like a small miracle. Some days, it’s easy to forget that fact because I have had the drum for so long, and I get frustrated because I don’t have more. Being ungrateful, negative, or angry is almost impossible, however, when I recognize the doors this surgery opened. My 10th anniversary reminds me of the great fortune I have acquired, and has me excited for what the next one, two, hopefully even seven or eight decades hold for me. Regardless of what happens, I know that, thanks to my eardrum, almost anything is possible.

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