By: Ellie Parker | Features  | 

Hearing Lost and Found

“You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” We’ve heard the cliché hundreds of times, but, in reality, it couldn’t be more accurate.

I am a bona fide adrenaline junkie. I have yet to discover a feeling more freeing than upping the ante and living on the edge. However, I’ll be the first to admit that I have a tendency of pushing my limits a little too far at times. The pursuit of the thrilling has resulted in priceless memories, but it has also ended with a few trips to the ER. I had never questioned my need to live on the edge until this past summer, when my thrill-seeking almost cost me my hearing.

A friend of mine had been raving about this new wakeboard park that had just opened on the outskirts of Georgia. I had always wanted to learn how to wakeboard and decided that now was just as good a time as any. I enlisted some friends to join me on my adventure, and we headed out to Emerson.

When we got to the wake park, I was a little disappointed. The lakes were teeming with young kids, a usual indication of family-friendly activities (not exactly what I was going for). Nevertheless, having already covered the tens of miles from Atlanta to Emerson, we decided to try it out. The park was set up like this: there was a circular lake with a rotating line overhead. Attached to the line were five ropes with which the rider would grab on. The line would then pull the rider around the lake. As we watched from the shore, we reasoned that the feat looked easy enough. When it was my turn, I sat on the edge of the water with my board up and waited for the pull of the rope. Within seconds I was flat on my face. What we hadn’t accounted for was the speed of the line and the core strength necessary to leverage the weight of the rope with the weight of your body. But I wasn’t fazed by my wipe out; I had come for adventure.

A few hours later, soaking wet and very bruised, I got the hang of it. Our time was running out, but I implored my friends to wait around for a little while I struggled to curb the last bend of the lake. I had tried almost a dozen times, but I couldn’t seem to keep my balance at the last turn. I was determined to master this lake before the day’s end, and I went out for one last ride. As I approached that stubborn curve, I leaned forward to get a better choke on my rope. I quickly realized that I had thrown myself off balance, but before I had the chance to rectify my stance, I was flying forward. The rope had tugged, and I had fallen — hard.

The second I hit the water I knew that something was wrong. In an effort to protect my face from the impact, I had subconsciously tilted my head to the right. As I waded to the surface, I felt a shooting pain across the side of my head. And then, all at once, I realized that I couldn’t hear out of my right ear. I strained to hear the voices calling to me from the shore, but I heard nothing. For those seconds in the water, I understood that I would give absolutely anything to get my hearing back. It was something I never thought about, but suddenly it was the only thing that mattered.

As I made my way to the edge of the lake, I thought about the steep price I would have to pay for my recklessness. I called my mom and, having gotten similar phone calls in the past, she readied herself for yet another ER visit. I couldn’t quiet my mind on the ride to the hospital. My brain jumped from bad to worse scenarios as I considered living my life half-deaf. Though I had since regained some hearing in my ear, sounds were muffled and intermixed with an incessant ringing. When I arrived at the hospital, the PA regretted to inform me that ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) injuries were not her specialty. She recommended we make an appointment with an ENT specialist as soon as possible. That night was restless. I was riddled with regret. I played the scene over again and again in my mind wondering what had compelled me to make that last trip around the lake.

The next morning, I met with the ENT specialist who told me I had done serious damage to the side of my face (which had completely blown up since the day before), but luckily my eardrum wasn’t badly injured. I had perforated my eardrum and had damaged my Eustachian Tube, but with time, everything would return to normal.

For the first time in over 12 hours, my muscles relaxed. I felt the tension leave my body as I breathed a sigh of relief. True, I had dodged a bullet, but the prognosis easily could have gone the other way. In those hours of anxiety and regret, I realized that I needed to make a change. Though I had made it through this fiasco relatively unscathed, the next time I may not be as lucky.

I may never curb my desire for adventure, and I don’t necessarily think I should. But, with only one life to live, it is important to find a way to maximize every experience in the safest way possible. My brush with catastrophe was a wakeup call for me. My need for speed has elicited some exciting adventures, but as inertia would have it, I could have just as easily crashed. In those hours of hearing loss, I found a new appreciation for the day to day trivialities that are so easily taken for granted.


Photo Caption: Hearing is a gift that so many of us take for granted.

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