Someone dropped a book as they drifted to sleep in the Newbank Memorial Hospital waiting room. The buzz of several conversations at once, carried throughout the compacted area, as people chatted away about last week’s news and tomorrows' debts. No one seemed to take notice of the baby crying in his mothers arms or the cursing teenager holding a blood saturated T-shirt over the gaping wound in his leg. Triage nurses roamed about the room, calling out names in their droning voices. Saturdays were always the busiest days in the emergency department.
In the north corner of the waiting room, next to the blood pressure control station and the magazine shelf, sat a weary looking woman in her late twenties. She sat clutching her handbag and MP3 player as she choked back her tears. Carol-Anne, a slender woman with chestnut hair, emerald eyes and a rather peaked complexion, sat in the crowded room waiting to find out what had become of her best friend, Tina. Something in the way her face was set, told the world that devastation was engulfing her. Had a single person peered into her eyes, they would see the pain deep within her. Carol-Anne and Tina had been best friends since elementary school. They did everything together, so for this to be happening made it very difficult for her to keep her composure.
“News travels fast, doesn’t it?” An elderly woman asked, as she leaned over Carol-Anne.
“Pardon me?” she choked, trying to conceal the fact that she had been crying only moments before.
“Poor girl never knew what it her. They say she may never come out of that coma. How unfortunate.” clucked the old woman.
“I…I’m s…sorry” stammered Carol-Anne “Who are you talking about?”
Tears welled in the kind old woman’s eyes as she held up a copy of the days paper, pointing to the article directly under the main headline;
NEWBANK WOMAN, VICTIM OF HIT AND RUN -
“It happens everyday, all over the world. People just don’t use their heads anymore.”
Carol-Anne had yanked the paper out of the old woman’s hands, without even realizing it. As she continued to read the front page, uncontrollable tears began to stream down her face. The story was about Tina, and she knew it. It was true, Tina had become yet another victim of hit and run in Newbank. The previous one had been a young boy, about ten years old. He had died instantly, according to published reports. Carol-Anne knew that Tina was still alive. She had been on the phone with the leading physician, only moments before heading to the hospital. She had been informed that Tina was on life support and in a coma. Tina had sustained major cuts and bruises and worst of all, a fractured spine. The doctor had told Carol-Anne, that if Tina did indeed wake from her coma, she would be bound to a wheelchair and probably for life. The entire team of surgeons had worked together in surgery to try to correct the problem, but due to the location of the fracture, one of the vertebrae had severed the spinal cord almost completely. Despite the collaborative efforts, Tina was left paralyzed from the waist down.
As Carol-Anne wiped her eyes and looked up she noticed that the elderly woman had vanished. So many images raced through her mind as she once again, tried to compose herself with minimal success. The once packed waiting room had now emptied almost completely. Aside from Carol-Anne and two others, everyone else had either already been seen by the doctor, or got up and left due to their own impatience. Only the sounds of the television and the turning of magazine pages, had their place in the room now. Not a single word was spoken for a few long moments, before…
“Carol-Anne Burns?” A short, blond, chunky nurse made her way out from the corridor and peered around, awaiting response.
“Right here.” stammered Carol-Anne as she shoved her MP3 player into her pocket, grabbed her handbag and made her way toward the nurse.
“ I understand that you are marked as next of kin to Tina Martin. Are you related through marriage? “ The nurse rifled through paperwork on a clipboard. Avoiding eye contact at all costs.
“No, Tina is my best friend. She has no family so she uses me as her emergency contact” Carol-Anne stared at the stout nurse, waiting for some form of response, some eye contact, some answers to what she shouldn’t even have to ask. The nurse did not speak again but gestured with her hand for Carol-Anne to follow. The two walked at a gated pace through the hallways and to an elevator. Almost mechanically, Carol-Anne followed the nurse into the elevator and watched silently as the doors closed behind them. The nurse’s chubby fingers prodded the second floor button and within seconds, they were in motion - Ding!-
As the doors opened, a pacifying feeling came over Carol-Anne. They were now on the floor where Tina was being kept, but no… that wasn’t it. Could it be the freshness of the air? The waiting room in the emergency department had been stuffy and stale, whereas now the air had a feeling of vastness, of calmness. Homey, flourishing plants occupied every corner of the second floor. Every several feet, were comfortable lounge chairs and loveseats, situated in a welcoming way. After gazing in awe around the corridor, Carol-Anne realized that the nurse was far ahead of her and rounding the corner at the end of the hall. Quickly she ran to catch up and just as the nurse turned to say something, Carol-Anne came to a rather speedy halt, nearly colliding with her.
“She’s in there, room 2757” whispered the nurse.
All at once, feelings of anxiety swept through Carol-Anne’s body and mind. She was not prepared for this. How could anyone be, after-all? Making her way over the threshold and into the room, Carol-Anne advanced on the drawn curtain. Reaching out, she pulled it back without any further hesitation.
A wide assortment of tubes running from intravenous inserts, to medical apparatus’ and the oxygen pump, were the first things to catch Carol-Anne’s eye. A young, beautiful, but seriously brutalized woman lay peacefully on the cot. Long, dishevelled strands of blond hair were draped over the pillow. A silver and clear respiration mask was affixed to the unfortunate woman’s face. Attached to the mask was a screen, displaying various numbers which made no sense to Carol-Anne. The quiet hum and chirp-like beeps of the heart monitor seemed quite distant. Such a sight was enough to make even the strongest or people, fall to the floor in sorrow. This was Tina, Carol-Anne’s beloved friend, and for the first time, she contained her emotions and placed her hand overtop of her best girl’s motionless fingers. Everything around them seemed to drop out of existence, as the strength of their connection remained very much alive.