Life Support

by Iris Carden


She woke slowly.  The pain at the back of her head was black, overwhelming, drawing her in, like a black hole pulling everything into itself.

"Open your eyes", she commanded herself.  She tried to obey her own demand.  Slowly she opened her eyes. Stark, white light burned its way from her retinas through to the black hole at the back of her head.

She closed her eyes again.

Where was she. She could smell hospital - the strange smell of disinfectants and medication.  It was a sterile plastic smell. There was a hum of some kind of machinery, a bip-bip-bip that could have been a heart monitor, a woosh, woosh that must be some sort of pump.

She wanted to rub her sore eyes, but her hands were stuck where they were, about 45 degrees from her body on either side.  She tried to pull at them. Her wrists were somehow restrained, they would not move. The restraints weren't tight, but they were secure. She was effectively trapped.

Was there anyone else around?  She wanted to call out, but there was something in her mouth, something she couldn't move. She was aware of something in her nose as well - and lots of something sticky holding this in place.

She slowly opened her eyes part-way, not to let in so much light, just a bit.

Definitely in a hospital room.  There seemed to be tubes attached to her every orifice, and some that had been attached in places the orifices had to have been created.

How long had she been here?  Had she had surgery? Had she lost the baby? Why couldn't she remember?

She so wanted to touch her belly, to feel where her son was growing.  Why must her hands be restrained?

"You're awake?" It seemed more a question than a statement. The quiet voice came from somewhere outside of her field of view.

In a moment, a young woman wearing pink surgical scrubs appeared and was looking down at her.

"Mrs Thompson? Mary? You're really awake?"

Mary tried to answer, but couldn't because her mouth was uncomfortably clogged.

"You've got a tube in your throat.  We'll have that out as soon as a doctor approves it."

Mary tried to move her hands, to show that she wanted her restraints removed.

"Your muscles have atrophied.  You haven't used them for a long time. It's OK, a physiotherapist will help you with that. You'll be able to move your arms and hands again, even walk again. It will take some work, but it will be OK."

How long could she have been here? What about her baby? She had been at 38 weeks, could she have been here so long he was due now?

"I'm just going to the other side of the room to phone the doctor," the nurse in the pink scrubs said.  "I won't be far away."

Mary struggled to hear the nurse's quiet voice becoming much quieter as she talked to someone else, somewhere out of sight.  She could not make out any words, just a sense of urgency. Was there something wrong? Had she lost the baby?

The nurse was back.  "Doctor says I can go ahead and take that tube out of your throat straight away. It's going to be a bit uncomfortable, I'm afraid.  Doctor Kayley will be here soon.  Oh, I'm Lisa, by the way. Just relax, this is going to be unpleasant."

"Unpleasant" and "uncomfortable" did not begin to describe the trauma Mary experienced, as it felt like the tube was being pulled from right inside her chest to the outside world.

Tears were running down her face by the time Lisa said, "That's it. Over now.  So sorry about that."  Lisa gently dabbed up the tears with a tissue.

Mary tried to speak, but what came out was a croak, her throat felt like it was being rubbed with coarse sandpaper.

Mary tried again. "Husband," she managed to rasp. She suddenly felt exhausted from the effort.

"I'll call your family as soon as Dr Kayley's seen you," Lisa said, smiling gently.

Mary tried to smile back. She wasn't sure she'd succeeded.  Even her facial muscles seemed incredibly unresponsive. Lisa would call Mark.  Mark would make everything right. Mark was the kind of man who always made everything right.  He was always so strong, so confident.

A tall, young, blonde woman in pink scrubs with a stethoscope hanging from her neck came into Mary's field of view.

"Hi Mary, I'm Sarah Kayley.  I'm the Registrar here in Intensive Care. Let's take a look at you."

The doctor shone lights in her eyes, listened to her chest, poked and prodded, and hit her joints with a small hammer-type device.

"I don't know what to tell you, Mary. You're a medical miracle.  I know you don't feel like it at the moment. You've been in a coma."

"Baby?" Mary croaked.

"The baby was fine.  He came through the delivery perfectly.  You were the one who had the problem. Your blood pressure went up out of control. You had a seizure, and you slipped into a coma.  You've been here in the ICU since then. It's OK. You're going to be fine now.  We're going to take care of you for a while, get you eating real food again, things like that, and then you can go to rehab."

Mary managed a very weak smile. She was exhausted, and found herself falling asleep.

When she opened her eyes again, the black hole at the back of her head was hurting a little less, and she found she could open her eyes a little more.

Two men were beside the bed.  They looked familiar.  One looked like Mark's father, and the other looked remarkably like Mark had done when they first met, in college.

The older man, gently put his hand over Mary's.  "I never gave up hope," he said, tears forming on his face and in his voice.  "Darling, I want you to meet David, our son."

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