The Moment She Changed Who She Was

This long, wavy, blond hair represents her soul. It represents the blood, the sweat, the tears of that month. It reminded her of the only thing she felt she had left. It never felt so good to wash it, to have it brushed, as if her soul was being cleansed. It was tied up in ponytails, held out of the way by the nurses, stroked for comfort, and braided and twirled in free time. It's long length represented her past, a past in which she held regrets but good memories. It's that last hair in her PICC line, the last week of July. The snip, snip of the scissors as she cut away her carefree, mean, easy-going self. The moment she changed who she was. And never looked back.

These big, blue, ocean-floor-patterned eyes represent the late afternoon of July 10, 2008. They represent the family getting up and stepping aside, and her sitting down in the chair. They represent the seemingly never-ending flow of blood down her right arm, and the damp, white towel placed over her face so she wouldn't see. They represent that one millisecond, that flatline, that spot of black, and the hard push back. They are the protests mixed in with tears as they lifted her onto the table, the hard cry as they fit the cap over her head and eased her onto the pillows and blankets. They're the orange-yellow sun in the background over the eight cranes she counted, but he counted nine. They're the teen room, the kid's room, the thunder and lightning in the dark purple and royal blue sky filling that window wall. They are the homemade blankets at the foot of her bed, and that promised trip to the Galleria that she never got to go on. Waking up at six and going to bed at one. The sadness and pain from these memories forever engraved in them. The moment she changed who she was. And never looked back.

This tanned, beauty-marked skin represents the needles and pain and PICC lines. It holds the obvious ugly scars on the surface and secret overwhelming pain beneath. It represents the big patch of gooey, cooling gauze that stretched across her back, covering the tiny needle holes that were made as the table tilted beneath her. It is the sun through the window that warmed her, and that one, long walk everyone planned for. It is that inviting playground behind the gates, the busy underground McDonald's, and bustling children's library where the most she could do was stand and watch. It shows the bruises, her sunken eyes and the dark circles below them, the needle pricks on each of her fingers. It represents the thick, disabling bandages, the simple band-aids, the tape, and the sutures. It still shows just the physical pain of that month, all the PICC lines, I.V.'s, and glucose readings. The moment she changed who she was. And never looked back.

These small, delicately shaped, beauty-marked, half-working ears represent the machines near her bedside. They represent the nasal cannula, the constant flow of hissing air helping her breathe when she couldn't. They represent the constantly beeping heart monitor and the SAT's the doctors and parents had their eyes glued to for hours each day. They are her parents' and doctors' shaky voices with strained words and faked happiness. They are the faint cries from the kids next door and the chatter of the nurses from the desk across from her room. They're the opening of the door every four hours to check her vitals, the soft calming voices of the nurses in her room, and the loud booming voices of the doctors making rounds at six in the morning. They're the hustle and bustle of the McDonald's in the basement and the slurping of her apple juice box the day she had enough strength to go down there with her crowded I.V. pole. They're the chirping of the birds as they went outside next, into the Abercrombie building where the model town could have entertained her for hours. They represent the shock at her own cries and her quick decision to give up courage. The moment she changed who she was. And never looked back.

Nobody yet understands how much that one month changed her. July 10, 2008 to August 10, 2008 was the month that changed her life. She entered as an eleven year old but emerged as an adult. She understood things people who were decades older did not understand. Her faith was stronger but her patience weaker. Every second of that month changed her. There wasn't an unimportant second that existed after that fateful day for her.

But barely a soul has she told of her experience. She hides behind the curtains in the doctors' offices from her true self. Her true self lies behind those curtains, that month and every experience. She feels that only her doctors know who she really is. And even though she feels this is the truth, she wish it weren't. She wishes that her life was about more that breathing treatments and hearing aids, needles and scans and scars. And that is what everyone knows her as. The vibrant girl with the vibrant life; a seemingly perfect family and seemingly perfect body, a large social life and perfect grades. But were they to look behnd that stereotypical checkered curtain in the doctor's office, they would see the true young woman, from machines and tubes, from needles and pain, from a life-changing month in the hospital. The month she would never get back, but the month that would never leave her. The moment she changed who she was. And never looked back. 

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