Elephants And Tea - June 2020 - 16

Because I Can

BY HANNA MADSEN

less of whether I was awake or asleep, a nurse came in to
stick this tool in my mouth. It beeps if it detects blood
flow. It sounds like the radio between stations or a whale
calling. My friends came and read me the news. I looked
in the mirror and all I saw was a bald pumpkin-sized head
with two blank eyes staring back at me. For a day or two,
another patient I couldn't see kept screaming.
You see, while I was asleep, a small army of medical
professionals had sliced open my neck from ear to ear and
removed my tongue and some other stuff. Then, they cut
open my left leg from hip to knee and put my thigh muscle into my mouth. They then put in a feeding tube next
to my belly button and plugged a tracheotomy tube into
my throat. I'm lucky because they didn't have to remove
my voice, it was just a few centimeters away.
I moved to a regular wing of the hospital in the middle
of the night at some point. I'm not sure when, anymore. I

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ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM
JUNE 2020

started choking, on what, I don't know. It's not like I was
eating anything. Maybe I was choking on my blood? It
took a while, but some nurses came in and gave me some
oxygen and other stuff. Maybe it didn't take a while, but
time stops when you can't breathe. I choked three more
times after that. Once on blood, twice on vomit. It's kind
of like being stuck in a wave under water. You don't know
when you will catch your next breath, so you keep very
still and wait until you can take another small breath.
I got used to the hospital. Every morning, the doctors
would come in at some ungodly hour. Like seven. I used
to wake up at 4:30am/5am to run, but that was pre -
whatever this was. Seven is just cruel. I would ask them
what I had to do next. I figured that the surgery was like
the marathons that I used to run. You run to mile seven.
And then mile 10. And then mile 18. And then it's over.
After the doctors left, my stepmom would help me shower
in the sink. And then I would slip into Netflix. You see,
I didn't actually live in the hospital. I lived in Netflix. In
the football fields of Friday Night Lights. In the glitzy
New York offices of Mad Men. When I couldn't watch
anymore, I looked at the flowers on my bed. Tried to remember what fresh air tasted like. Dream of eating real
food. Of running in the woods. And three times a day
my family or friends would walk me. It really hurt. It is
really, really hard to support a head the size of a pumpkin.
The doctors let me go home when I could clean out the
tracheotomy and manage the feeding tube myself. I hated
the trach. I hated coughing with it. I hated cleaning it
every few hours. I couldn't bike with it on. I couldn't run
with it on. I couldn't breathe with it on. I made a small
hospital room in my parents' living room. A small puddle
of misery with a tracheotomy surrounded by plants and
tissue boxes. Every day, sometimes several times a day,
my parents or my friends walked me. We walked farther
and farther. It still hurt to support my pumpkin head,
but I got stronger and stronger. And my pumpkin head
got smaller and smaller.
The trach came out. I started trying to speak and
swallow every day. I practiced reading words allowed. I
choked on bread and butter. I cried every day. A friend
said that maybe I wouldn't be able to work abroad again
- how could I possibly keep a feeding tube clean in a city
with limited clean water supplies and health services? I


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Elephants And Tea - June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Elephants And Tea - June 2020

Contents
Elephants And Tea - June 2020 - Cover1
Elephants And Tea - June 2020 - Cover2
Elephants And Tea - June 2020 - 1
Elephants And Tea - June 2020 - Contents
Elephants And Tea - June 2020 - 3
Elephants And Tea - June 2020 - 4
Elephants And Tea - June 2020 - 5
Elephants And Tea - June 2020 - 6
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Elephants And Tea - June 2020 - Cover3
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