My brother’s voice woke me from the peace of sleep. As soon as I felt the cold air on my face, the tingling behind my nose, the raw surface of my eyes and the dull ache in my head, I wished to return to the darkness of feeling nothing.
“Come and see Justine,” he said.
She hated it when he called her Justine, feeling that this demoted her from the rank of mother to that of a mere human.
“I’ll be there in a few moments,” I said.
From the silent response, I gathered that a few moments would be too long, so I gathered myself in a single moment and came downstairs.
“I … can’t …” my mother said.
“Can I get you anything?” I asked. “Are you alright?”
“Breathe,” she said. “No.”
The emergency medical services on 111 went through their routine questions about whether she was conscious, whether she had suffered an injury, whether she was bleeding, and whether she could complete a sentence without gasping for breath.
The ambulance car got lost in our road, which is poorly lit at night and has no numbers, only names. The man who arrived suggested going to the hospital, getting some IV medication for the infection my mum seemed to have, and hopefully being home by the weekend.
Every bed in the Accident and Emergency Ward was full, and the waiting room was half full. A young couple sat by the window, the man’s bandaged foot in his girlfriend’s lap. When I returned an hour later to get a coffee, the girl’s feet were in the man’s lap and his bandaged foot was on a chair. An hour later, the girl was stretched out on three chairs, and the man was sitting beside her.
Between these hours, my mum had blood drawn, got attached to a monitor, and had an IV drip placed in her arm. She said no to pain relief but the nurse gave it to her anyway. As it seeped in, her breathing settled, and she fell into a peaceful sleep. After almost five hours in the chair, I sat on the floor and put my head on the pleather seat, which smelled tangy and un-breathable.
By morning, the doctor told me my mum was stable and there was less chance of getting an infection at home. The driver and I moved my mum from the wheelchair into the taxi with great difficulty.
“It’s a miracle,” she said. “I’m not in pain any more.”
She watched the familiar pre-dawn landscape passing by, and I could see that it made her happy. It was a miracle, again. But in my mind, I saw that young couple waiting peacefully for hours in the waiting room, talking to each other in soft voices, at peace, and I knew that that was a miracle also.