Tuesday 23 December 2014

Day 23: The Patient by Glynis Scrivens

Death knocked on the door.
The nurse didn’t notice him. She was busy inspecting the feeding tube and oxygen mask of her patient. These hours were crucial.
Lying on the bed, eyes closed, Sheila was only too well aware of his presence. She’d met him once before, years ago, during a very difficult labour. She knew he’d wait stubbornly, but she could be stubborn as well. She hoped that would be enough. It would be cruel for Death to take her now, just as she’d become a grandmother. And she knew James would never manage on his own.
She was intermittently aware of the warm pressure of James’s hand. If only she could signal to him that she was still here, fighting on, in her fragile frame.
She knew she looked fragile. She’d seen herself just a few moments ago, before Death knocked. It’d been like a waking dream, floating above her body. How pale her face had looked. And she was shocked to see how many machines seemed to be linked up to her body, keeping it from Death’s clutches. No wonder James looked so worried.
“I’m going to be fine, darling,” she wanted to say. But she knew that was far from the truth.
She’d heard the private conversation between the doctor and the nurse, out of James’s hearing. It hadn’t been very hard to read between the lines.
“It’s touch and go,” he’d said. “We’ll have to see if she responds to these new antibiotics.”
   The nurse nodded. “Visiting hours are over. What should I say to her husband?”
   “Just let him stay here. It might give her extra strength. They seem a very devoted couple.” He’d paused. “And if she doesn’t respond, it’ll all be very quick. We may not be able to reach him in time.”
   Something in Sheila’s soul had relaxed at those words, sobering as they were. She needed James here. And if she must go with Death, she’d want him here to say goodbye.
   The strange thing was, she didn’t even know what had gone wrong in her body. She’d been in the kitchen, getting out the ingredients for pastry. She wanted to bake an apple pie to take over to her daughter that afternoon. It’d happened in a moment. A wave of dread and nausea as she fell to the floor. She had no recollection of the ambulance arriving or of being brought here to the intensive care unit. She’d evidently had an operation. In her more lucid moments she was aware of an acute pain in her side, and she’d seen the dressings earlier.
   And she was aware, perhaps more so than ever before, of how deeply she loved James. They’d been married for nearly forty years now. It’d been love at first sight, that day he’d come to the optometrist’s and she’d helped him choose a pair of frames.
 She wanted to share this special memory with him. And to ask him what had happened to her. It was hard being unable to communicate at such an important time.

About the author:
Glynis Scrivens writes short stories, and has been published in Australia, UK, Ireland, South Africa, US and Scandinavia.  She writes for Writers' Forum (UK). She has had articles in Pets, Steam Railway, Ireland's Own, The New Writer and Writing magazine. Her work has appeared in seven anthologies. She lives in Brisbane with her family and a menagerie of hens, ducks, dogs, lorikeets, and a cat called Myrtle.

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