<%-- Page Title--%> Straight Talk <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 138 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

January 16, 2004

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Lasting Impressions

Nadia Kabir Barb

For many of us, certain events take place that have an incredible impact on our lives or we meet someone who leaves a lasting impression. These events may be the most inconsequential of things and the time that you spend with these people may be fleeting but the imprint they leave is indelible.

Last year, the day after her birthday, my daughter fell off her bicycle and broke her arm. I think my heart might have stopped for a moment when I saw her lying on the ground trying to hold up her bent-out-of-shape arm. Thankfully my husband was there and called for an ambulance. We rushed her to hospital and the doctor said that she had actually managed to snap her forearm literally into two (she had broken both her radius and ulna). The orthopaedist was concerned that it may not be adequate just to have the bone set but that she might require surgery. We were, of course, worried sick. They then took her up to the paediatric ward as her operation was scheduled for the following morning. My husband went home to be with our two other children and I stayed with my daughter.

The section of the ward we were in had six beds and I noticed after I had settled my daughter in that only one other bed was occupied. It was early evening and the lights had been dimmed so it took me a little time to see the little baby lying in the bed. The lady sitting by her was evidently her mother. As we were the only people in that section, it was inevitable that after awhile we started up a conversation. She asked how my daughter had broken her arm and I reciprocated by asking her about her baby. She told us that her daughter had bronchitis. Up until that moment I had assumed the baby, whose name was Emily, was less than a year old. Her mother said she was almost two but was small for her age--she had been premature. Then she told us that Emily had been born with a hole in her heart and had undergone major surgery soon after her birth. She then went on to mention certain other medical problems that Emily had had to cope with and I was humbled at my ignorance of these ailments. It was only when I went up to the bed that I noticed the tubes protruding from various parts of Emily's body. It was painful to see. She gave me a beautiful smile and her mother said that her face was partially paralysed hence the somewhat lopsided smile.

A couple of hours later Emily's mother picked up her bag and gave Emily a cuddle and told us she had to leave as she was a single parent and had two other children waiting at home with a baby sitter. The nurse came in to check that everything was alright with Emily and sat with her while she fell asleep. I lay in bed with my daughter while she tried to get some rest, but all I could think about was Emily and all I could hear was her laborious breathing. As I listened to her it was as if someone was constricting my chest. After awhile I sat up and looked across to see if Emily was in any discomfort but there was no visible movement so I went up to her bed to take a closer look. I watched her little face as she slept and spent the rest of the night hovering between my daughter and Emily.

The next morning they took my daughter in for her operation and to our relief, when they brought her back, we were told that she had not required any metal pins in her arm and it had been set into place without surgery. When we got back to the ward Emily's mother was back and we chatted a little more until lunch time when she said she had to go and bring her children to the hospital as the babysitter was away. She then asked me if I would keep an eye on Emily. I sat next to the little baby and put my hand through the railings of the bed and stroked her hair and she touched my arm--tentatively at first and then held my hand. After she had dozed off I went to sit by my daughter. Emily's siblings arrived and stayed until the evening. They gave Emily cuddles and kissed and left for the night. Once again I was unable to sleep and spent my time between the two girls. Every now and then the nurses came in to check on Emily and would offer me tea or coffee. This routine continued for one more day until my daughter was discharged. My husband came with our two children and before we left my daughter asked if we could give Emily something to remember us by. My husband ran down to the hospital gift shop and reappeared with a cuddly toy and when Emily saw it her face lit up and she lay down on the bed and made it into a makeshift pillow. I sat on the chair and uncharacteristically felt unable to hold back my tears. I felt like I was abandoning this beautiful little baby who smiled through all her pain and misery. Who was going to make sure she was alright at night? What if she wanted a cuddle in the middle of the night? My husband tried to reassure me by telling me that the nurses would look after Emily and her mother would be there in the morning. My feelings were irrational and probably misplaced but my heart ached at the thought of leaving her. Even my husband seemed reluctant to leave Emily. However, once the nurse had filled in all the necessary papers we had to say our goodbyes. Emily's mother thanked us for looking after her daughter and we went home with heavy hearts.

My daughter had a check up at the hospital after a couple of days of being discharged and we both knew without having to say it out loud that we were going to go and see Emily. When we arrived at the ward, Emily was lying in her bed hugging the cuddly toy we had given her and visibly perked up at our visit. We stayed for an hour and played with her and it warmed my heart to see her smile and gurgle with laughter. They say "parting is such sweet sorrow" but there was nothing sweet about Emily's tears and distress when we had to leave. I felt like Judas at the last supper. If I could have I would have picked her up and taken her home. Finally the nurse had to pick her up and distract her while we slipped away. When we went back to the hospital for another check up, Emily had been discharged and we had no way of contacting her.

My daughter summed it up so accurately for me when she said, "I am so lucky, I only broke an arm. Poor Emily has had so many problems and she's still so smiley and cheerful and she isn't even two." I couldn't have said it any better. We have much to be thankful for and it is sometimes a good thing to think of the "glass being half full" and counting our blessings. Emily is often in our thoughts and will always occupy a little corner of our hearts.




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