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The Thirty Days of Magrat (part nine)

Joe Spivey's picture
Submission type:

If Magrat had been expecting a dark and dingy sick ward packed with groaning and sighing people close to death, then we can hope that she would have been pleasantly surprised by what greeted her as she and the head nurse stepped away from the top of the stairs.

A great many of the buildings, not only in Hope but all over the province, were in a state of poor repair. Even the clinic had peeling paint and missing floor tiles. Paint, proper oil-based paint, was expensive and new floor tiles were incredibly rare. But in the women’s hostel an extra effort seems to have been made. Repairs had been carried out, walls and ceilings repainted and up here in the dormitory, new and brightly painted bunks with clean linen made the place welcoming. Neither were there any broken or boarded up windows. Instead, bright sunshine poured through clean glass panes in windows that slid up and down to allow the fresh, meadow scented air inside.

The four bedridden patients lay on crisp white sheets, their single beds deliberately placed next to the windows so that, even though they couldn’t leave their beds, they could see the comings and goings outside and not feel apart from the world.

One of the four patients Magrat and Maisie had come to see, however, seemed much less bedridden than the others. Maisie stopped at the head of the stairs and stood with hands on hips and a disapproving look on her face.

“Amy Pond! You will please stop jumping up and down and get back under the covers.”

Eleven-year-old Amy Pond scrambled back under the blanket. She tried her best to look suitably contrite but her eyes sparkled.

“Is the doctor coming today? Can I get up? She said I could get up today.”

An amused Magrat followed Maisie down the row of bunks towards the far corner away from the little girl’s bed. The head nurse answered Amy with a foreboding glower.

“No, she isn’t coming, and she actually said you might be able to get up today. Whether you do or not will be up to me, so behave yourself and stop disturbing everyone else.”

Amy mimed zipping her lips closed but climbed to her knees to watch. As they passed the little girl’s bed, Magrat winked at her, and Amy hid a giggle behind her hand.

“Hello Queenie.” Maisie said softly, pulling up a chair. “Stella tells me you had a good night last night.”

The woman in the bed never responded but continued to lay still and stare up at the ceiling. Magrat stood behind where Maisie was opening her bag. Queenie Watts was, according to her notes, about twenty-four years old. But to Magrat, the frail woman on the bed could have passed for someone in her forties, maybe even older. Queenie, her physical injuries long since healed and leaving just the scars, was on palliative care. Some of her scars, Magrat could see, were surgical, but many were not.

Queenie’s other injuries, the ones nobody could see, were longer lasting and may never heal. All the people around her could do was feed her, keep her clean and try and stimulate her mind. Stella and her small band of volunteers took on the brunt of the task and daily visits by Maisie or Doctor Troy kept an eye out for problems associated with long term bed rest.

After checking and noting down Queenie’s vitals, Maisie showed Magrat how to check for bed sores and manipulate the joints and stretch unused muscles. All the while Magrat, encouraged by Maisie, kept up cheerful conversation, talking about everything from the weather to local gossip.

They left Queenie’s bedside, however, with Magrat feeling very sad, and showing it on her face. Maisie pulled her away out of earshot and leaned in close.

“Stop that.” She said, shaking Magrat’s arm. “You stop that right now.” Magrat looked confused but Maisie hadn’t finished. “You can look happy. You can look cross. You can even look exhausted but don’t you ever… Ever, let a patient seeing you look like you look now. All that does is increase their anxiety at best and make them give up on life at worst. So, you wipe that look off your face right now girly-girl.”

Magrat pulled herself together and forced a smile into her eyes and onto her lips. Maisie watched.

“Okay. Better.” The stern, disapproval melted from her face. “There are going to be times when your heart is absolutely breaking, but you just have to save it for when you are alone. Understand?”

Magrat nodded and Maisie straightened up.

“Good. Come on, this will cheer you up.”

They made their way over to the untidy, book covered mess that was Amy Pond’s bed. Seeing them coming, Amy pulled the covers up to her chin and lay flat as a board with her arms down by her sides on top of the blue blanket. Once again pulling up a chair, a stool this time, Maisie this time sat Magrat down and stood at her shoulder. She opened her bag and pulled out her stethoscope and a blood pressure gauge. In the early days of her training, Magrat had once called it the ‘pumpy doo-dah’ in answer to one of Doc Troy’s spot quizzes. She never made that mistake again. She handed them to Magrat.

“Amy, here wants out of bed and, to be frank, Stella can’t wait.”

Already used to the procedure, Amy had kicked the bedding down and lifted her bedgown even as Magrat finished setting up the, what she now knew was a sphygmomanometer, after writing it out a hundred times.

Magrat checked Amy’s Vitals and wrote them down neatly on her record. Maisie looked over her shoulder.


“Erm, BP is 106 over 63 which is a little low but normal. Pulse is steady and strong, if a little elevated, but she is excited.” Magrat and Amy exchanged a grin. “Temperature is normal.”

Amy looked up at Maisie with puppy dog eyes.

“So, can I get up? Pleeeeeeease?”

Maisie sniffed.

“Let us see your wound.”

Amy rolled towards them until she was on her side. A 50cal machine gun round had hit Amy just below the ribcage on the left side of her body. The bullet had torn through the descending colon and the shock wave produced had turned her left kidney into jelly.

Fortunately for Amy, her party had included a native shaman who had, against the odds, managed to remove the remains of the damaged kidney and cobble together the torn ends of her intestine. He had also packed the wound with a homemade crude antiseptic foam and this concoction had prevented septicaemia from creeping in until she had arrived in Hope and Doctor Troy had taken care of her.

What Magrat was looking at now was the resultant wound from the initial damage and the subsequent repeated surgery. Amy had a gap in her side that Magrat could put her fist in. The gap extended from the bottom of her ribs and all the way down to the top of her pelvis. The wound was a mass of new and old scar tissue and had taken months to heal. Magrat examined it. Amy held her breath. Maisie picked at a hangnail. Eventually Magrat lifted her head and tentatively pronounced the wound looked healed and clean. Maisie glanced at it.

“Yup. Looks like you’re good to go kid.”

Amy leapt up and flung her arms around Magrat’s neck and was all girlish squeals and giggles even as Magrat was trying to extricate herself from Amy’s strangle hold.

Amy’s celebration hug was cut short, however, by a man’s voice from downstairs.

“Y’all git down here now… And bring your pet raider with you!”


Hyle Troy's picture

Oh Oh... Ringe til politiet....

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers

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