Tracheotomy since 05/19

Trigger warning: mention of life-threatening accident

I’m SO grateful to the author of this guest feature, Zoe (@zoejena_), for sharing her inspiring story on Free to Spiel. Despite being involved in a life-threatening accident that closed the Canada-US border and led to her living with a trach for almost 2 years since, Zoe has always remained positive and never given up. I love how her Instagram post captions always end with something like “Keep smiling.. why not? ;)” and am so happy to be sharing her story today!


I am extremely lucky to be here today

Hello! My name is Zoe and I’m a teenager from Canada. I’m very excited to share not only my life story, but also some inspiration and positivity to brighten your day. 

In May 2019, I was in a life-threatening accident that will forever change my life.

I crushed and broke nearly everything in my throat, leaving me with no possible way to breathe through my nose or mouth. My oxygen started to drop rapidly and with each passing second I got closer to never breathing again.

I was given an emergency procedure called a tracheostomy, which saved my life. A trach is a small breathing tube that was inserted into my neck, and I have continued to live with for the past 20+ months; it is my only way to get air into my lungs because of my obstructed airway.

My injuries were so rare and severe that they had to shut down the border as I was rushed from Canada into the United States of America. I was then taken to The Children’s Hospital of Michigan, which is one of the best pediatric hospitals in America. This is where I underwent several surgeries and stayed over a month in the ICU and ward.

I am extremely lucky to be here today and I will forever be grateful for the EMS, doctors and nurses who saved my life.


“There was not a chance in a million years that I would ever give in”

This event has had a large impact on my life and those close to me. It has taught me a lot about the importance of family and friends, and about being grateful for the little things in life that bring us happiness. 

I’ve always been a relatively smiley and positive person, so when the accident happened and as I sat in my hospital bed, I guess I just thought to myself: “it is what it is”. I can’t change what’s happening to me right now, so why not make the most of it?

As I look back on the hard days, I don’t remember much, only the times I made the best of it. When you spend too much time worrying about the bad things in life and the “what if”, you often lose sight of the little good things that are right in front of you.

A concept I had was that I had two options:

  • Option 1: I could be angry and depressed at the universe for making this happen, making me not be able to breathe, making me miss out on special activities, not be able to hang out with friends, miss out on my teen years, have constant surgeries, and so much more.
  • Option 2 (which I took): Take the experience as a challenge. There was not a chance in a million years that I would ever give in; I refused to let the hard days win. Life isn’t supposed to be easy; you will have bumps along the road. But if you keep pushing through, these experiences are what define you as a person and continue to make you stronger.

“No-one expects you to smile and be happy every hour of every single day”

Another big thing you need to remember, which I’m always encouraging everyone to do, is to keep smiling and always stay positive (I know that can be easier said than done).

Some days it’s okay to not be okay. No-one expects you to smile and be happy every hour of every single day – after all, we’re all human and so stumble across very negative emotions, whether they are sadness, anger, etc.

When you feel those strong emotions coming through, then let them out. Keeping them inside for long periods of time will only negatively affect you and stop you from continuing on as your best self. On those types of days, I sit back, take a deep breath and remind myself of why I keep going. I think about future goals and plans I want to achieve, and take a moment to reflect.   

Self-care is also very important, but as I understand from personal experience, is very easy to push aside. Sometimes when you’re too busy doing other things or trying to keep up with social media, it’s very easy to lose track of yourself.

That’s why it’s good to find simple activities and hobbies that you can do to regain control and take a step back from the overwhelming real world. Some of my interests that help clear my head space include reading, baking, music, drawing, yoga and even just taking a moment to have a good stretch.


Thank you Zoe, for sharing your story! Readers can connect with the author via Instagram (@zoejena_).

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