Blood and water
Sitting in the newly re-modelled renal clinic waiting room, of The Royal Melbourne hospital. Sitting across from my parents. The small round lights in the ceiling above our heads seem overly warm to me. My parents look old. When did this happen? Did I have something to do with this? Today is Dad’s day getting a bunch of tests. We are waiting to see the Renal specialist. The old guy with little to no bedside manner. The seats are salmon pink. The admin desk resembles a space craft and the compartments to lean into and speak to the medical secretaries and nurses, are way to high above my head. While waiting for the doctor, what better time than this to discuss feminism with my parents.
”Im not a feminist.” My father says, crossing his arms.
”Im not a feminist.” My mother says. This makes me so sad and I sort of hate her then. I mean how can she not be one when she has raised a person like me?
”I am not a feminist,” My father says. ”Because in high school they destroyed the dark room and turned it into a home economics class full of ovens. I have never forgiven women for that.” There is a sparkle in his eyes that shows how much he is enjoying needling me. I rise to the bait as always.
”That is not the fault of women. That is the fault of the people in power thinking that a school with a new influx of female students, means they need a home economics class. Instead of thinking that girls may want to be photographers as well.”
I turn to my mother, she has a tatty out of date New Idea magazine in her lap. The reading material in waiting rooms is so pox. ”Mum, I blame the patriachal religion in which you have been steeped from birth, for your views.”
Other patiants in the waiting area are turning to look at me. One women in particular is staring at me hard. She looks away when i look unblinking into her eyes.
Before meeting my parents here I went to pathology to give blood. Five tubes to be exact were filled my my particular brand of red. No breakfast was eaten as I am never hungry till after midday these days. I had sat in the chair and rolled up my sleeve. While the needle did its work I tried to control the shakes that suddenly took hold. I used all my will power to make sure the arm with the needle in it, did not shake to the point it made the needle move whilst still in my juicy vein. It stayed still and the needle was removed so quickly and smoothy I hardly felt it.
The cotton bud and tape on my right arm, I made my way to the renal clinic to meet my parents.
After Dad had seen the doctor. We met up with a transplant co ordinator called Belinda. Our usual one, Emma, was on holiday in Italy. Belinda was wearing a black and white striped shirt and a black skirt. She was carrying a clip board and had a lanyard round her neck. Her hair was light brown and cut in a bob. She took us to the waiting area next to the renal clinic that was less crowded. The chairs were blue in this waiting room. My parents sat across from me and Belinda. They looked at me intently and Belinda looked at me. Everyone here is always looking at me, it is impossible not to let it go to my head at times. A young women who looked about my age approached us. She was wearing a white blouse and a blue skirt with tiny blue polka dots and the cutest blown shoes. I found myself smiling up at her and she smiled back. She seemed familiar. She sat next to me and spoke. ”Hi Jess im one of the counsellors here and we have met before.”
”Yes!” I exclaimed, ” I cried in front of you at a dialysis info session. you were wearing an outfit I liked then and you are again now.”
She smiled at me. ”Thank you and yes that was me. I am hear just to make sure everyone is feeling alright as often these kinds of situations can bring up alot of feeling.”
”I know but I think my Dad and I should be fine. There are no skeletons jangling around between us.” I say.
So Belinda starts to explain some things to me about what to expect when it comes to the procedure of getting a transplant. As she speaks I feel it all starting to tip to a point of no return. At this tip is a very large weight of information and as Belinda speaks the pile of information topps further and further and I feel like I am under water and i never learned to swim and anyway why is everything going blurry as if i am under water and where is Leong? Where is he when I need him. Oh god.
Before the actual operation I will be admitted to hospital a few days before. They will insert a tube into my neck and this tube will be kept in me for the entirety of the hospital stay and a few weeks after. Through that tube they will seperate the plasma from my blood. My father and I do not have the same blood type. This is not a problem but they do need to make sure everything will run smoothly.
I feel like i am seeing things from under water because I am crying. The hot tears of fear and overwhelming despair overtake me and i double over and cry into space between my legs. I look up at Belinda. ”I am sorry i am just. . . its. . . I dont even have my boyfriend anymore and . . . ”
My mothers voice. ”But, you chucked him?”
Rage is replaced by fear and i look up and straight into her face. ”That is not fucking helpful, Mum.”
My father leans back a bit in his chair as if I am going to punch him. He does not chastise me for swearing. He does not tell me off like I am a child. I want to say sorry to my mum. But, I am not sorry.
She is right of course I did break up with him but he is still in my life and he is still important to me. The word chuck sounds terrible and cruel. She will never understand what it is like to feel strong and alone biut not lonely.
The hopital PA makes an announcement.
”Could Jessica Knight please make her way to Pathology. Could Jessica Knight please make her way to Pathology.”
I look up and wipe my face and sniff a few times. Grabbing my wallet I stand up. ”I will be back soon.” I say. I leave them to talk more about me and about everything.
When I get to Pathology there are three female pathologists standing around chatting. They all smile at me in recognition. Every single one of them has taken my blood at some point. The one with a gray hair and a soft looking body that would be comforting to hug, says. ”There was a number missing on your hospital id number on the tubes. You need to get the blood test again.”
I stand there and pull up my sleeve. I present the evidence, through tears and hiccups. ”No. Fuck. Please. No. You already. . .Look. Its done.” I cry and swear some more. There are no other patiants around. Even if there were I doubt I would have acted with more dignity. My body was no longer my own. It just got handed around like a piece of interesting and medically significant slab of bone and tissue. I stood like a cornered deer in a field, all twitchy and volotile. The lovely ladies took on different roles in synchronicity. One took my hand and led me to one of the small rooms curtained off. Another went and got me a cup of cold water. And another continued talking softly to me in a calming voice.
I stepped up the step and sat in the big blood giving chair. These chairs are maroon and have nice wide arm rests. I lay my head back and started to try and breath normally. I presented the untouched left arm. The lady who went to get water handed the cup to me and I drank it down.
”I guess I can take comfort in knowing they are at least thorough.” I say softly. The pathologists laugh.
I felt the cold trickle of water all the way through from my mouth to my stomach. A cooling and serene trickle. I handed the cup back and lay my head back. I closed my eyes and a lady gently stroked my for head. She spoke to me as another lady swabbed my vein and the smell of alcohol wafted up to my nostrils.
”Your a woman, therefore you are strong.”
The words fell over me like a blanket and my second needle of the day slipped in.
Words I wish my mother could have said to me.
i could fill a bath tub
with the blood i have given
over the past year.
I can imagine the surgeons
rubbing their hands with glee
at the prospect of fixing me.
I am a challenge
they come across rarely.
The sort of difficult body type and size
but tough enough
to come out the
I gave blood on monday
and i did again today.
My favorite part
the press of the cotton bud
and the tape
pressed over tight.
I could fill a bath tub
with the blood i have given
over the past year.
which is why it gets my poetry and
you get no mention.
A month after this it is found that my father can donate a kidney.