Sight – a sense that people take for granted – is one thing that 19-year-old Lisa Michelle Medina of Montrose, Mich. is not concerned with. Medina is one of seven living people in the world born with bilateral cranial facial birth defects: Her facial structure did not form properly in the womb.
“By all rights, I should be dead, because I was swallowing my mom’s amniotic fluid for the nine months she was carrying me,” Medina said. “My upper lip was split down the middle, and my cheeks, around the area where a persons eyes should be, weren’t formed. It was all open.”
As a young child, she began a rigorous regimen of what has totaled 60 surgeries at the University’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Since she was born, she has been in the care of Dr. Louis Argenta, who now works at Wake Forest Hospital.
Having to deal with taking mountains of medication, visiting doctors regularly and battling depression throughout one’s childhood is not an easy task. Throughout her turmoil, Medina turned to music for sanctuary. Growing up, her father was always playing Spanish music around the house, and she developed an early affinity for the art. “It really hit me when I first heard the song ‘Pretty’ by The Cranberries,” she said. “I could just relate to that song so much.”
As years progressed, Medina’s musical tastes evolved along with her emotions. Depression set in, and the music she listened to took an aggressive twist. Hard rock seemed to combat the pain in her life. Growing into an inescapable vacuum, music has become her passion in life. “It’s my saving grace,” Medina said. After contemplating suicide many times and even coming close to intentionally overdosing on pain medication, she battled her condition by letting music be her guiding angel.
With a collection of over 800 albums, Medina has recently started attending concerts in addition to listening to her music at home. “When I’m at a show, I feel accepted. I feel like I’m one of them,” Medina said. “My dad takes me to shows, even though he doesn’t like the music.”
On Wednesday, Medina attended the Nonpoint concert at Six Shooters Concert Hall in Saginaw. Medina has been listening to Nonpoint since their first album but had lost touch with their music for a couple of years. Last fall, while she listened to the radio, the band’s Spanish-infused single “Rabia” came on the air, and the familiar voice of singer Elias Soriano caught her attention. Eagerly awaiting the end of the song to find out who the band was, she was sure it was them. “Being blind, you develop a real sense for voices. Elias has one of those voices that grabs you and you know you won’t forget,” Medina said.
Despite not being able to actually see the performance, Medina showed more enthusiasm than many of the fans up front. Dancing along and singing through the entire set almost to the point of hoarseness, she expressed her appreciation for the band. Following their performance, she eagerly awaited the group at their merchandise table, where she stood with a bag of candy for vocalist Soriano. “I heard in an interview that he loved Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, so I had to bring him some,” Medina said. The four members of the group all signed the T-shirt she bought and thanked her for listening and coming out to their show. Medina opened up to Soriano in tears. “You can stay strong, sweetie,” Soriano said to her.
Walking away from the concert in sheer awe, she pondered whether the night’s events had happened or were just a surreal dream. Even though she couldn’t see them perform, even though she couldn’t put a face to her idols, even though she can’t see the autographs on her shirt, Lisa Michelle Medina took away what no one else did from that concert: a reason to live.