I May Never Be A Mermaid

When I was little I dreamed of being a mermaid, I would jump into the water pushing my legs together like a tail, swimming along the bottom of the pool. Today, the thought of that makes me cringe. Growing up I lived in the water, but one day that changed. By the time my ears fully developed, around age 10, I could no longer jump off the diving board, or swim to the bottom with my friends. I had a pinhole in my eardrum, caused by tubes as a child, which made going into the water extremely painful. Even if I was splashed, I would run out of the water in pain, clutching my mother on the side of the pool, wishing I could go back to the days of pretending to be a mermaid. I spent my summers trying out different kinds of earplugs, wearing odd fabric bands around my head, and avoiding the water in general. I was miserable watching my older sister and friends dive under the water, begging them to swim where I could stand. I often became the judge for the diving competitions and spent my days reading in the shade instead of in the water.

In the seventh grade, my ear doctor explained a surgery that would allow me to go back to the days of pretending to be a mermaid, and maybe even join the swim team with my sister. They would take a piece of cartilage from my ear, and patch my eardrum with the skin. I was ecstatic, and counted down the days to November, the month of my surgery. When the time finally came, the surgery went as planned and I was back in school after four short days. There was no way to tell, if the surgery had worked until my eardrum was completely healed, which would take months, so it was a long time of anticipation. When my doctor was able to see the eardrum properly, he gave me the bad news that the hole remained, and the surgery had failed.

I returned to my days of worrying about going in the water, putting my earplugs back in, and my fabric band around my head. I found a new doctor in Boston, and the journey continued.

With my new doctor, the amazing Dr.Lee at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, he discovered that a major part of my problems came from negative pressure in my eustachian tubes, which means my eardrum is constantly being pulled back. My sophomore year of high school we decided to try surgery again, this time replacing the entire eardrum with skin from my arm. This was more extensive, since they would actually have to cut off my ear to perform the replacement, and I have a pretty cool scar to prove it. Though, like the last surgery, there was a chance another hole would simply form again because of the negative pressure. I had to be extremely careful.


The surgery turned out to be successful, but my ears are not normal. I still have to stay out of the water, although the risks are not quite as bad. My hearing fluctuates in my left ear still, and I often cannot tell how loud I am talking, or where sound is coming from. I have to be careful at concerts and when I fly in an airplane, and I’ll always ask my friends to repeat themselves. I’ve learned to adapt though, and I don’t sit on the edge of the pool crying anymore. I may never be a mermaid, but I can do so many other things in my life that it doesn’t bother me anymore.