Humans of Calvert County, Sarah Merranko & Anita Santoyo

“I’m originally from Delaware but honestly, since it is so small, I never really related to Delaware. I would always say I was from the ‘Chesapeake area” because I connected more to the water. I knew I never wanted to live somewhere that was land-locked, but my husband and I happened upon Calvert sorta by accident. It’s been wonderful for the past six years that we have lived here.

I have Meniere’s disease. From my understanding, it left the genetic vulnerability that when I was swimming in the bay, that bacteria, we couldn’t see and may not have even been able to test for, had access and I lost my hearing. It was sudden, severe, sensorineural hearing loss. It was literally overnight. I went to sleep being able to hear, and then I woke-up deaf. I can now understand somewhere in the neighborhood of 30% of speech very blurry. It’s changed my world, and I’m not going to lie that I haven’t shed tears over it. But I look forward to who I’m becoming.

I am learning sign language and I am gifted with people in my life who are making it possible for me to enjoy this period of my life. I am definitely a different person than I was, but this becoming part, although difficult, is showing me many new things. I definitely don’t want anyone who hears my story to be afraid of the water. I have fought so hard to encourage people to explore our waterways and see all the wonders of our environment. I know what I have is incredibly, incredibly rare.

The Chesapeake Mermaid’s traveling nature show was born out of the desire to teach people about the environment. I have always been involved with the environment, and with animals. It was another way to reach out and share knowledge and experience with the environment and the bay with others. Once the Mermaid started getting out there, this amazing thing started happening. People were stopping and talking and asking her questions about the environment. She could talk about the environment so easily, so she serves as a fantastic ambassador. And what is so cool is that adults ask questions too-not just kids or people with kids. They might have questions that they haven’t wanted to ask others, like academics, but they will ask the Mermaid because it isn’t intimidating.

When you have a fishtail, somehow people don’t mind. It’s an amazing and magical experience. If there is anything I really hope people take away from their interaction is empowerment. I know that there is a lot of information, and a lot of things going on with the environment that may make people question why they should even try, but what we do, every day affects not only our environment but each other. We are all connected.

Whether or not they are going to change something in their lives, or whether they just want to continue to learn or and explore, or telling someone else, all of that is contributing to the greater good. Hopefully, the story doesn’t end when we close the book. It continues with everyone with what they want to do with the environment.”

Note from HOCC: In addition to the advocacy the Chesapeake Mermaid does on behalf of the environment, she has found other ways to make a difference in the community, like creating an accessibility map of Chesapeake Beach and North Beach that she personally created and made to scale.

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David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...