#TBIthursday: Is this my superhero origin story?

As someone who likes movies, TV, and pop culture, I know all about superhero origin stories. That’s when something happens to an otherwise ordinary person that turns them into a superhero. It’s when Peter Parker gets bit by a radioactive spider and then turns into Spiderman. Or when Barry Allen is struck by lightning during an explosion of a particle accelerator and he then becomes The Flash. This week’s #TBIthursday memory is about a time when I thought maybe my accident and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) was the traumatic event that was going to turn me into a superhero.

Spoiler alert ⚠️: I am not a superhero, so therefore, my accident was NOT my superhero origin story.

Our story picks up during the summer of 2017. After an accident that left me with injuries large and small and incredibly diminished hearing and strange recurrent sounds playing on a loop (that I called my “sound loop”) I was resigned to my new reality. I was a woman in her 30s who was reliant on living with her parents again and couldn’t hear a lot of sounds in the world, including music. [Cue sad music 🎶… ironically.]

I wasn’t depressed but I was far from jolly. The TBI had leveled out all my emotions so that I was pretty neutral all the time. I didn’t get overly excited or happy very easily (if at all). However, I did get irritated and angry pretty easily. This was a change from how I had been before the TBI. I was pretty laid back and shy pre-TBI but I was getting more anxious through the years and suffering from panic attacks.

When the accident happened I was certainly at that crossroads point in the story (if we’re thinking in terms of superheroes and their origins). I had been suffering from chronic daily migraines and Fibromyalgia for many years and it had eaten away at my confidence and drive. I was in a job that had served me well for a long time but had stopped serving me well and I needed to find something that would use my library science master’s degree. Even though I was not exactly where I wanted to be in life, I was fiercely independent and determined and starting to gain focus. And then I was in a nearly fatal car accident that left me in a coma for three weeks, a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), a fractured femur, shattered pelvis and injured neck. When I came out of the coma my family and doctors realized that I was deaf (I hadn’t been before the accident).

I went from a fiercely independent 37 year old single woman living on her own in the city to a woman who now couldn’t live independently and was reliant on living with her aging parents. My parents moved to live with me since where I was living had more health care options and was also within the same metropolitan area as my sister and her children. At the time of the accident I had been living in a smaller apartment that didn’t allow dogs. When I was released from transitional care (transitioning from hospital to home) my parents and I moved to a larger apartment that allowed dogs. Because I planned on getting a dog eventually before the accident happened and we still thought that could happen after the accident. [Cue happy energetic music 🎶.]

The accident happened September 2016 and by July 2017 we were ready for a puppy. So on July 30, 2017 (exactly 3 years ago today), my parents and I got a very adorable black and white cocker spaniel puppy. We named her Selby Sweetie and decided to go up to our lake cabin for a while to train her. Because potty training a dog in an apartment didn’t seem enjoyable when we lived on the second floor. [Cue wa-wa sound effect that signifies something slightly unfortunate.]

So our story really picks up the action in August 2017. My parents, my new puppy Selby and I are in the car on our way to our Northern Minnesota lake cabin. Puppy Selby is riding on my shoulder (because as a pup she preferred head and shoulders… not the dandruff shampoo). When I tried to move Selby away from my ears I heard the very loud THUD THUD THUD of puppy Selby’s heartbeat 💓. Considering my hearing has been greatly diminished and compromised since the accident (even though my hearing did start to slowly come back 3-4 months after the accident, heavily distorted), hearing LOUD heartbeats seemed unusual. I remarked that I could hear the puppy’s heartbeat and my Dad asked if I’m turning into a superhero with super hearing (we used to go see superhero movies together, so he knows all about the superhero origin story). [Cue hopeful music 🎶.]

Those who have experienced deafness or hearing loss know that just because you can’t actively hear sound, doesn’t mean that you hear nothing. It’s different for different people. No one’s hearing loss or deafness is exactly the same. For me, since my hearing difficulties are really a result of the TBI and not actual malfunctioning with my ears, my hearing loss is unique. I write more about my hearing in several previous posts that you can find linked on the TBI and hearing loss page.

So, even though hearing my puppy’s heartbeat 💓 like it’s as loud as a marching band bass drum 🥁 didn’t signify that I had superhero-like hearing it still signified a change in my recovery. [Cue wa-wa disappointing sound effect.]

Crumpling paper across the room is incredibly loud when some voices are impossible for me to hear easily even when the person is right next to me. The reality is that in the Summer of 2017 when I thought I might be having a superhero origin story experience, I was really having my hearing loss and TBI origin story. [Cue hopeful and upbeat music 🎶.]

A Super Puppy

Today (July 30, 2020) marks the third anniversary of Selby’s “Gotcha Day.” Which is the day we got her 3 years ago. To celebrate, I would like to tell Selby’s own superhero origin story!

I was home with just Selby and I had been various places in the house and misplaced my iPhone. I carry it with me when I’m alone in case I need to call for help (or text/FaceTime since I can’t hear enough to talk on the phone). I went to the living room and used the Find My Phone feature on my iPhone. It sends a sound to the device. And I of course couldn’t hear it but Super Sonic Selby (her superhero name… 🤫 don’t tell anyone) could and led me right to my misplaced phone in the basement. It was adorable. And wonderful. I love that little pup! Happy Gotcha Day Anniversary @selbysweetie

Some artwork I did inspired by my little super pup!

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