By Tara Guastella
Lynn Crisci and her boyfriend, Doug Julian, attended the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, sitting on the edge of a sidewalk café, about 30 feet from the first bombing that occurred that fateful day.
When the explosions occurred, Lynn watched the smoke, debris, and shrapnel travel upward. But what she later learned is that pressure cooker bombs are designed to explode horizontally, rather than vertically. This fact appears to be part of the reason why Lynn incurred a frontal lobe brain injury, hearing loss in her right ear (which was facing the explosion), and constant tinnitus. Other people she knew who were closer to the explosion—but standing up instead of sitting down—did not suffer the same type of injuries.
Though Lynn had her hearing tested after the explosion, and has documented hearing loss, the doctors did not recommend a hearing aid. This makes it very challenging for Lynn in situations where background noise is present, such as in a busy restaurant or bar. The hearing loss plus her brain injury makes it often impossible for Lynn to hear, and then mentally process, what someone in a noisy setting is saying to her. Lynn feels her hearing problems put a strain on her relationships, embarrassing herself and others and drawing negative attention.
Tinnitus impacts Lynn to the point where she has much difficulty falling asleep and usually gets three hours of sleep nightly. Her tinnitus is further aggravated by stress and loud noises, which makes the tinnitus worse.
Lynn also suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), putting another strain on her long-term relationship with Doug. “I feel that he often ends up taking care of me, more like a dependent than an equal partner,” says Lynn. “I feel like a burden to him which leaves us both frustrated, stressed, and unable to focus on my strengths.”
One positive is that Lynn knows she has survived a traumatic event before. A professional musician who started performing at age 5, Lynn had a workplace accident in 2006 that left her in a wheelchair for several years and needing a cane to walk for several years after that.
Not only is Lynn walking today, but she also completed the 2014 Boston Marathon. “I did it to take back my neighborhood,” she says. Living blocks from the marathon finish line, she was sick and tired of feeling afraid every time she went outside. With the goal of facing her fears in mind, she trained for five months—often daily and often in pain—in order to finish the Boston Marathon. She had never been a runner before, much less race a marathon.
Lynn’s hearing loss affects her everyday life as well as her career. Music does not sound the same to her anymore. She’s far from giving up, however. “You don’t know what you can do until you want it badly enough,” she says. Lynn is hopeful that our Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) will restore her hearing one day so she can reclaim her artistic calling.