The lounge is busy today.
Standing room only,
when we arrive.
For an hour we stand by the kitchenette
Our favourite nurse walks by;
“It’ll be a long wait today” she sighs
and her eyes flick to the two little people with me.
One is here
because he has no other choice
the little girl is too.
My head is throbbing with stress by the time a recliner becomes available.
Noah clearly thinks that being in the small feeder ward
is not part of his grand plan today
and he has been lying spread eagle on the floor
driving his train engines on imaginary tracks.
No matter how many times I’ve begged him to use his inside voice
his seems to be the loudest here.
It probably isn’t
we are the only young family
in a sea of empty nesters, the elderly, the frail.
One woman sleeps, one is reading but most of them are looking
straight at us.
Two hours in and I have fed the little birds
all of my resources.
They look to me with open squarking beaks.
I have nothing left
I was expecting to be almost home by now.
The air is heavy as I try to bargain with the boy who is sick of sitting still
and only wants to be outside.
Beads of sweat form above my lip
as he asks me for the fifteenth time in ten minutes if Ivy has finished
and if he can pleeeeeeeease go outside
to chase the pigeons.
I shush him, stroke his hair.
He does not have the patience of his twin.
She is still,
has barely moved,
her legs curled underneath
two dolls share her space
and her conversation.
I think that they might be having a tea party
and how much I would like to join them
when a nurse appears and says it is our turn.
Noah climbs into the chair and places his hospital approved goggles on his face.
“I’m a doctor too,” he proclaims.
“See, I have the gorgels, my gorgels, just like you.”
The nurse chuckles as she cleans the numbing cream from Ivy’s chest.
The site looks sore and angry
and she seethes and shakes with each swipe of the clorhexidine.
“Is it sore?” I ask
and she looks at me, her eyes tight.
“Remember your breathing” I say
and she takes a huge cleansing breath
in through her nose
and pushes the pain out into the world
just like we have practiced.
I see her shoulders relax a little
and so we do it again and again
until the swabbing is finished.
I stroke her hand.
I croon to her.
It’s all I can do, now that we are in the sterile field.
I tell Noah;
“you need to keep still”
and so he jiggles in his seat and bashes his train onto the arm rest.
This is hard for him too.
I pick him up and put him onto a saddle stool,
tell him not to spin
but within moments he has done at least ten circuits and I don’t know where to look.
I try to be everywhere but Ivy needs me to soothe
and Noah needs my guidance.
Suddenly the gripper needle is there and the nurse palpates the port
She is not our usual nurse but she is nice
and has a kind face.
Ivy grabs my hand.
I put a couple of Rescue Remedy jubes in her mouth
and begin the routine of talking her through.
She is so good
and without any trouble at all the needle pierces her skin
and finds it’s way into the membrane of the catheter.
I know that I hold my breath.
It’s all I can do to stop myself from grabbing the needle and throwing it as far as I can.
The nurse pulls back on the syringe
but instead of blood
She tries again
we both know she has missed.
She slumps down,
almost into Ivy’s lap.
“I missed” she whispers.
Ivy already knows and when I tell her that we will have to go again
she places her palm to the sky and waits for me to give her more of the rescue lollies.
She looks straight ahead and I wonder if I should try to do anything,
or if it is all pointless.
The nurse repeats the steps and when she pulls on the syringe
it seems as though the whole of the lounge is holding it’s collective breath this time
but no blood flashes back.
“Oh no.” says a man who has been trying to teach Noah how to wink.
“Oh no”. says the nurse with the kind face.
She looks like she is going to throw up.
A position change and another attempt yield nothing except for a look of terror from
I can see she is starting to panic.
It’s not so much the needle as the anticipation
They are going to have to try again.
“I can’t do this to her again” the nurses cries, “I won’t”
and she peels away her gloves.
I need to turn away.
My legs are shaking and my throat has closed in on itself.
How can I let them keep doing this?
Time and time again,
jab after jab after jab.
I stand there.
I comfort Ivy.
I tell Noah for the thirtieth time that it’s not over and the pigeons have gone to lunch.
I soothe the nurse.
I don’t do any of the things I would like to do.
Fall in a heap.
Grab the pair and run.
The trolley is swiftly cleaned and set up again.
A new sterile field created.
A new nurse.
One we have not met before but she too is gentle.
They all are.
She talks her way through the procedure.
It is both comforting and disconcerting all at once.
Finally the gripper needle comes forward and punctures her skin, a small tear drop of blood leaks from the site.
Ivy gasps, the sting, the pressure, the pain is starting to get too much.
Behind me I hear Noah suck in his breath in a twin commiseration
as the syringe is pulled back.
There is blood!
I have never been so happy to see it.
The whole room smiles
and I hear a gentle conversation begin amongst the patrons.
I feel as though I can breathe again.
One nurse jokes that I need to go and lie down, that I look like death warmed up today.
The kind faced nurse apologises and thanks the successor.
I thank them both (how odd it is to thank someone for inflicting pain, I think).
We all smile
and I tell Noah
it’s time to go.
Ivy looks up at me and I see she is okay
and once the sterile field is broken I scoop her up and tell her how proud of her I am
how brave she is
and we walk into the afternoon
with another week to recover.