War Beyond Reguntor (extract)
Read my interview with Michelle Hynes at Art with Attitude!
Waiting by Alyson Dunlop
Kali heated the large bag of watery substance on the special radiator contraption. Her cupboard was full of those bloody bags. She’d had to have the shelves put in especially.
Last one of the day. This was the fourth time she’d done it. A soft plastic tube protruded from her stomach through a small hole there. She washed her hands, wiped the area clean with disinfectant, sprayed the tubes and disinfected the table. Everything was ready.
First the fluid inside her came out into the empty bag from earlier. Kali felt the relief from having those 2 extra litres slowly leave her body. It used to make her feel a bit queasy. Now a year down the line, she was used to it.
But her body was tired and weary. She felt sick and exhausted. Most of all she felt very down. Twenty one years old and she was tied to the house because of this thing – this one thing that was wrong with her. It was so unfair!
It was summer again. Nine o’clock, but still light and warm outside. She sat by the open window wishing her life away. She wanted to enjoy it. Wanted to reach out and touch normal reality, but instead she was here. Here in this grey world of restricted living.
There was no point in going out much. She didn’t have the energy and she’d only have to come back a few hours later for this stupid rigmarole. The first couple of months didn’t seem so bad, but after a year of it, missing all her favourite foods and only being allowed to drink 4 cups of fluid a day, she was heartily depressed. No more chocolate, bananas or salt. Everything tasted bland now. Potatoes had to be boiled to mush.
OH! She felt the tube hit off the nerves inside the bottom of her abdomen. It was like a painful jolt of electricity that shunted her out of the daydream. That was something one never quite got used to! She quickly clamped the tube to stop it trying to drain any more and the pain ceased a little bit. Kali kicked the piss-coloured bag out the way, got the new, heated, clean fluid and hooked herself up to it. She felt it draining in, filling her abdomen again, slowly. It felt as though it was pushing on her lungs, but there was still a half bag to go. She tried taking a deep breath, but there wasn’t much room to do even that.
Well, it was Friday night! If she had to eat shitty white flour she was phoning for a pizza! She dialled the number, “Hello, 1 veggie supreme please. Kali Hunter. Yes, that’s right Regent Street. Flat 1/1. Number 36. Half an hour is fine. Thanks.” That would give her time to finish up with all this, have a quick shower and get into her jammies. Another video and pizza night. The joys!
The pizza place was just round the corner. “One veggie supreme for Hunter.”
“Hunter, aye? The sick girl?” asked the delivery man.
The chef nodded.
They didn’t need to say any more. Every Friday night. They’d already had the conversation about what a shame it was several times. It was just business as usual.
The cook smiled, “And how is that wife of yours, John?”
“Aye, she’s fine. I’ll be a dad any day now.”
“All those sleepless nights!”
“Acht it’ll be worth it.” John smiled proudly. “Is that it?”
The cook handed over the boxed pizza.
“Cheers! See you later!”
The cook and delivery man nodded to one another.
Outside it was the usual busy Friday night. John whistled as he walked along the road.
“Excuse me, son…” a fragile voice interrupted his thoughts, “You couldn’t tell me the way to the underground, could you?”
John smiled warmly, “You’re wanting to just keep going straight along that road there.” They were standing at a fork in the road. “You’d be better crossing here and walking along that side of the street.”
“Oh, right. Thank you, son.” The old woman smiled gratefully and tottered off.
“No bother,” John smiled, turning and crossing the road. Forgetting to look, he didn’t see the car that was coming round the corner. The driver was too busy irately shouting at someone on his mobile phone. In an instant the two collided and the world changed.
She knew all her mates were up at the dancing and she, quite frankly, resented it. Her illness was turning her from the sweet, carefree girl she’d been just a few years before, into this bitter, resentful, depressed young woman tied to her house and her tubes.
The bag had drained in now. Kali pulled herself up, her bloated stomach in front making her look like she was almost ready to give birth. Breathlessly, she waddled through to the shower room, got herself ready for the night and then settled down to wait for her pizza. She wasn’t sure if she’d manage to find a space for it in her stomach, but she would certainly try!
Half an hour went by.
God. She seemed to spend her life waiting for things.
Forty five minutes went by.
She tried phoning the takeaway several times. It just rang out.
Two hours later the film was finished. She’d have to make some tea and toast. She felt sick with hunger now. The pizza place would be getting a complaint when she finally managed to get through to them!
Always waiting. Well, she was fed up waiting!
The phone rang. At last. Maybe they had lost her order or the ovens had broken down. They better make it free. “Hello, yes?”
“Can I speak to Kali Hunter, please?” an efficient voice said.
“Miss Hunter, I’m delighted to tell you that your wait is over. We have a kidney for you!”
“What? Oh my God!” she screamed down the phone, eyes bulging out their sockets, filling with tears. “Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God!”
The lady on the other end laughed, “I’m not surprised you’re happy. Congratulations.”
“What do I do now?”
“Get yourself here as quickly as possible. Do you need transport?”
“Oh, and please don’t eat anything. When was the last time you ate?” the lady said in a concerned tone.
“I haven’t had anything since lunchtime.”
“Oh fantastic! See you soon, then.”
Kali hung up and danced around her living room. She’d never been so happy, nor so grateful, for not having her pizza delivered! In fact, she’d never had to look at pizza again! Tomorrow she could eat what she liked.
At the hospital she washed again and gowned up.
The nurses were all smiling and flitting to and fro.
“This is just your pre-med to relax you.”
She took it with thanks. She was excited and nervous. Something to calm her down would be good. “Do you know anything about the donor?”
The nurse sat down beside her, “Sometimes it’s best not to know,” she said wrinkling her nose, head to one side.
“I want to know,” Kali sat up.
“Well, he was a 32 year old man who was involved in a car accident.”
Kali’s face was sombre as she nodded. The nurse left the room.
Just at that Kali heard a ring tone. She’d forgotten to switch off her mobile phone! “Hello,” she answered in a half whisper, in case she got into trouble.
It was the takeaway.
The man sounded very upset.
“I’m so sorry for the delay with your pizza, Ms Hunter, but there was a terrible accident.”
“Oh dear! Well don’t worry. It actually turned out for the best. What happened?”
“John, the delivery driver was knocked down and killed on his way to your house.”
“Oh my God!” Kali gasped. “That’s so tragic. I’m so very sorry. Oh he was very young.” Kali had met him on many Friday night doorstep visits.
The anaesthetist appeared at the door.
“I have to go.”
She hung up.
“Well, Ms Hunter,” the kindly doctor beamed, needle in hand. “This, I believe, is what you’ve been waiting for! One new kidney coming up.”
Transplantation is a lot to cope with, not just for donor families. I’m currently on the transplant list for the second time. My mum gave me a kidney 18 years ago. It is now past its sell-by date and I’m needing another. A very kind friend has stepped in and been tested. We’re hoping it happens this year, but for now…I, too, am waiting…
Please carry a donor card and join the organ donor register.