Spinal Meningitis and Spider-Man: Why I Love Comics

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By Darrin Michael

Awhile back, Jarid asked all the main writers for the 616 if they would be interested in coming up with a story about how they came to love the comic book culture.

I’m going to be honest. At first I was hesitant because it actually brings up some bad memories along with the good ones. As I’m sure it is with many other collectors, I have a very personal reason as to why I got into comics. I’m a pretty laid back and outgoing dude and I don’t get worked up about talking about most things, but the reasons I got into comics and why I still am into them is a pretty unique story.

So….

Here’s my story.

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When I was in kindergarten there’s a period of time I can’t remember at all. Sure, I know none of us can remember a lot of things that far back but this was different. For about three months, my time was spent at the Children’s Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio due to having Spinal Meningitis.

I remember towards the end of this time finally coming to and waking up in a strange room that wasn’t my home, not knowing where I was at. The room was big with lots of weird machines hooked up to me. The only two things I recognized were a Teddy Ruxpin doll sitting on a chair next to the bed I was in and stack of comic books on a stand next to it.

After about 15 minutes a nurse came in, and realizing that I had come to immediately contacted my parents to let them know I was awake. After three months of being most blacked out in the hospital, the few times I had awakened, my parents would later tell me I would always ask them who they were, where I was and start screaming due to having a mile episode of amnesia caused by the meningitis. I had also not made it at all. In fact, I’m very lucky to still be here.

Spinal Meningitis is a pretty nasty infection. Basically, it’s caused when bad bacteria in the air around us gets in to our brain through the skull and causes and infection. It’sdownload most common in young children, especially newborns with soft spots as that is an area of the skull not fully developed meaning that part of brain is more susceptible to possible infection. It’s fairly common but treatable if caught soon enough (mine wasn’t and usually only happens once in someone if it does at all. The pain the infection causes is perhaps the most vile, excruciating headache your head will ever feel. Each time I came down with it, I woke up in the middle of the night screaming bloody murder in pain. It terrified my parents.

Unfortunately, it came back three more times throughout my childhood. The second time was in third grade. Although rare, the doctors still didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary. When the third time came the summer before fifth grade. They knew something was up and decided to move forward with test. They would find a microscopic hole in my nasal sinus passage which had been there my entire life. It was through this one, tiny whole that the world of pain I had gone through as a child would get through.

Once the problem was found, things didn’t get easier.  I had to go through 8 and half hours of major neurosurgery were they basically pulled down my face from my skull, then removed the front portion of it, patched the whole, and reattached it all back together with titanium screws. (And yep, I still look adorable after all that.)

Two weeks after my surgery, I was able to finally go home. I remember being ecstatic because a local police officer had opened up a new comic shop in my hometown of Piqua, Ohio. When I walked in with my Dad, my head covered in bandages (Not going to lie I looked rough) he didn’t even charge my Dad for anything and simply said thanks for coming in. Unfortunately his shop never made it but I still see the same police officer around town and always say hello.

To this day, the two things I remember most after spending so much time in the hospital during my childhood are as follows

– That big stack of comic books sitting by my bed when I first woke up in some weird new place. After waking up the first time, the comic books helped calm down after not knowing what was going on. When I saw them, I realized my Dad had left them. If there were comic books in this strange room then he had been their watching. It as only after that realization when I was able to finally calm down. Needless to say during my time in the hospital, I spent much of it reading stories about my favorite superheroes.

– The kindness the police officer showed me hobbled little sick kid. I was very nervous about my huge scar across my head. Also, I couldn’t walk well and my head was half shaved. I thought I looked like Frankenstein and my fifth-grade year, at that point, was only a week away. I was very insecure about having to return to school looking like that. The officer made me feel comfortable. I must not have been too scary after all, he had hooked me up with some free comics ; )

Ever since that cruddy time during my life, I’ve continued to read comics and more, enjoy the culture as a whole. Even better, now the heroes from my childhood are hitting the big screen and I couldn’t be more excited.

I guess if you’re going to take one thing away from this story it’s this: Comics in some way shape or form connect with everyone, on their own level. We all have opinions on characters, writers and artists; but when it comes down to it’s all the same. Without the good writers we can’t have the bad writers, without the bad artists we can’t have the good artists and so on.

Have fun with this stuff.