“I’m only thirteen!”

I have this memory that I don’t understand. It was like a dream, but it felt so real. I was on a hospital gurney surrounded by faces I didn’t recognize. It was as if I had just woken up and all these people were buzzing around me. They were rushing so fast it felt like I was moving. It was as if I was rolling backwards down a hallway, on this gurney, with people buzzing around me saying things and doing things. I was confused and scared, and I kept yelling “I’m only thirteen! I’m only thirteen!”. I screamed it louder and louder until I realized that it wasn’t that they couldn’t hear me, it’s that they weren’t listening. The buzz intensified as they continued with what they were doing. They felt like they were so close. Their faces were right in my face. I can almost remember what they looked like. Then I realized what they were doing. A tube started coming at me as I struggled and screamed. They still weren’t listening and then I felt the tube slide down through my nose and into my throat. “I’m only thirteen!!” The gurney rolled faster and faster. Then everything went dark again.

It’s hard to believe that it may not have been real. I was on so many meds for pain. I could have hallucinated the whole thing. Maybe it was a weird morphine dream. When I woke up, I had tubes and wires in every part of me. My neck, my ribs, my stomach, everywhere. And yes, that exact beige tube from my dream was in my nose, feeding me. But I didn’t know that until I woke up. So how would I have invented that memory?

For some reason that dream has stuck with me and had more of an impact than my first few days in the ICU. I remember the room and unknown faces around me. I remember being asked questions I couldn’t possibly know the answers to, but they seemed to think I should. I didn’t know where I was. I wasn’t conscious so how could I know where I was? They had moved me from the first hospital. Apparently, I was supposed to know that. But how? Had I been awake? If I’m supposed to know where I am, maybe I was conscious when they put in this tube. I’ll never know.

After waking up in the unfamiliar room and the whirlwind of all the people around me taking my vitals and asking me questions had settled, I started to realize I couldn’t move. Not because there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t move because I was afraid. There was this weight and pressure in places all over me. I could feel things moving within me, through my skin, connecting to the machine and poles and things I didn’t understand all around me. I couldn’t move because of the weight of all of it. It was too heavy for me in that moment.

I remember the pain and pressure in my neck. I had this big chunk of tubes and tape hanging off it. I couldn’t move my head. My arms were full of IVs, which turned out were the least of my concerns. My breathing was restricted by tubes threaded through my ribs in each side of my body and into my lungs. More tubes from under my ribs coming out of my stomach. And the scariest of all… there was a machine.

I didn’t look down. I knew I had to prepare myself. I could feel the pressure and pumping of this machine on my stomach. I lay as still as possible so that I didn’t feel everything moving. I didn’t want to know. I wasn’t ready to see it or how big it was or how much damage it had made. I wasn’t ready to accept that my perfect, fit, able body, wasn’t that anymore. Was it even mine anymore?

Then I realized that I had to. I had to let them have it. I had to let them do what they wanted and needed to do no matter what. And so, I did. I waited, I endured, and I complied. I chose to believe their words “We’re going to get you dancing again”. I had to do it all because that’s how I would get to go home. All I wanted was to go home.

To be continued next week.

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