Today’s prompt is to set the story in a hospital. Content warning for child illness and descriptions of a medical procedure.
Her daughter had been in that hospital bed for weeks, leaving only for more tests or when she would push her to take a walk down the hall to the play room. Seven year olds should not be hooked up to IVs. She should be running around getting skinned knees and getting into little kid trouble. Her other two children were at home, and she knew their father was hiding their questions of when Mommy and Sissy were coming home.
The battle between sterility and sickness daily waged in the halls did not attract her nose’s attention any longer. Except when sickness won. Her nose was luckier than her ears. She picked up every child’s whimper and cry. When the doctors and nurses made those sounds come from her little girl, she would rub her baby’s ankle to let her know she was there, always there. What she wanted was to hold her and kiss her and make all of this go away.
Nightly prayers were desperate, pleading, but the heavens seemed deaf. She wanted to accuse God for causing this pain or for making it go on, for not healing her child, but her superstitious side held her tongue. She had drawn enough of the wrath of God already. She could not fear Hell anymore; she was already there.
She could only imagine what her daughter went through. The daily blood-lettings for new tests made her sweet little girl beg them not to steal her blood, crying “I don’t like it.” But they could not let her make her own choices. Each new test was a fading hope that this time they would find something. Ignorance is death here.
One of the doctors asked her to come outside and explained that it might be leukemia, based on family medical history and her baby’s symptoms. They needed to do a bone marrow test. They would insert a needle through the flat part of the tailbone and extract the marrow. The skin would be numbed, but they could not numb bone. Because anesthesia is dangerous for children, they could not put her under for the procedure.
“You won’t be able to be in the room. Parents react very badly to seeing this test, and we don’t want to have to do it again. You can wait outside and be the first person she sees when it is over, but you can’t be there while it happens.”
The doctor needed her consent to set everything up. She did not know what to do. If she said no and her daughter had cancer, she was delaying finding out and getting her treatment. She would never be able to live with herself. She signed the form.
When her husband showed up for his nightly visit, she told him about the test. It was tomorrow at one, if he wanted to be here. He was angry, and whispered “Why did you agree to that?! One of use should be in the room!”
“What did you want me to do? Tell them they can’t do the procedure? Delay finding out if she has cancer?”
“Yes! Or no. Just tell them that they can’t do it unless one of us is in there.”
“Do you want us to mess it up and then they have to do the whole thing all over again?! I want to be in the room. Of course I want to be there. But this is not about me.”
“No, it’s about her, which is why we should be in there.”
“And what if the doctor is right and we make them do this to her again. No. We just…” She was crying and walked out of the room. When all of this started, she promised not to cry in front of her baby, even if she was sleeping. She was not going to add to how scary this was. Her husband followed her out.
“I am doing the best I can here. We are doing the best we can. I don’t like that … I am just sitting in there, looking at her and all I can think about is her red hair falling out. I can’t do this. It’s too hard. You have to just be on my side right now.”
He hugged her to him. “I am. I just want her to know we are there through all of this. Do you know what I’m going through not being able to be here all day, everyday. Having to get through my work and keep things as normal as possible at home? And then I get here and every time there are new decisions and I barely have any say in what is happening to her. I know you are doing your best, I know.”
They just stood there, holding each other. The night nurses barely looked at them as they made their rounds, checked the IVs, scribbled notes on the charts.
The two nurses expertly moved her child onto the gurney and wheeled her out of the room. She followed, holding onto her hand, and making sure that she kept pace with them. She was going to hold on until the last possible second.
As they passed the nurses station, someone said, “This is the one o’clock test,” and four more nurses got up and followed. They reached the testing door, and the doctor waiting for them put a hand on her shoulder and smiled kindly at her.
“Okay, Mom, we have to take her from here.”
She leaned down, brushed the sweat-stuck hair from the too pale forehead. “Okay, baby, these people are going to take care of you. I have to wait out here, but as soon as it is over, I will be right here waiting for you.”
The girl had that worried look when you know something is coming but have no idea what it is. “Okay.” The door opened and closed behind them. She stared at it. She did not hear the beeps and the cartoon noises filtering down the hall.
The first scream split right through her, and her hand was on the doorknob, pulling on it and shoving her shoulder into the door. She pounded the door, but her screams to “Let me in!” were lost in her baby’s bloodcurdling ones. They could not hear her, but she had to keep trying. She and her daughter were screaming in unison for them to stop.
Tears ran down her face when the futility finally hit her. She dropped to the floor and put her head in her hands and sobbed as her daughter continued to the scream’ “I don’t like it! I don’t like it! Mommyyyyyyyy!”
The elevator door opened, and her husband was assaulted with sound of his daughter’s screams and the sight of his wife crumpled on the floor. He ran over to her, crying himself, and they sat there desperate for it to be over.
The screams became sobs became whimpers. She wiped her tears and his tears. “Be brave.” She was standing and smiling sadly when the door opened. “Mommyyyyyy. Daddyyyyy.” The sobs shook that tiny body.
“We’re here, baby. We’re here.” They each held a hand a little too tightly on the way back to the room.
The results were back two days later and were clean. She did not have cancer. Her hair would not fall out. She should be happy, but she had scarred her daughter for nothing. They still did not know why she was so sick.
When her husband arrived, after she told him the results, she said she needed to go for a drive. She took the keys and went to the parking lot. Once in the car, she screamed and punched the seats and hit the steering wheel and collapsed exhausted against the door. She shook her head at her fate, inhaled, and went back to the chair at her daughter’s side.