Post 61 Waiting. The Patient's Wife

Alice Fielding, her face lined and anxious, rang her daughter, Mary.   Thanks to an earlier call, Mary

already knew that her dad had collapse and been rushed to the hospital.   She had collected her little girl from the nursery and had been having their dinner when the call came through.  She promised to come as soon as she was able to arrange childcare and summon a taxi.  

As suggested by the theatre orderly, Mrs Fielding then went to the canteen, ordered a drink and a biscuit and then, fearing the worst, settled down to wait in a quiet corner.   One hour passed, then a second.   Her daughter arrived, and still she waited, desperate for news.   Was the fact that the operation was taking so long a good sign or a bad one?    Or had her husband already died, and they were afraid to come and tell her?

Every time someone entered the canteen, or the telephone rang, her heart jumped, thinking there might be a message for her.  Another thirty minutes passed, and still no one had contacted her.   On and on, she waited.

‘I can’t bear this any longer,’ her daughter finally said.  ‘Surely, there should be some news by now.’

‘You don’t think they’ve forgotten about us, do you?   They were so busy with your dad;  its quite possible.’

‘But who can we ask?   No one in here will know anything about it.’

‘I’m going to ask one of the nurses over there.   Surely they will know what we should do.’

Hesitantly, she approached a group of nurses who were sitting chatting at a nearby table.    One of them went to the canteen phone and rang the theatre on her behalf.   She returned a couple of minutes later.

‘Your husband’s still in theatre,’ she said gently.  ‘I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait.   But they know that you’re here, and they’ve promised to send someone down to speak with you when they’ve finished.’

As they waited, Mrs Fielding thought of their time together, their courtship, that embarrassing moment when Ken had been so old-fashioned and formally asked for her hand in marriage, those early days when life had been such a struggle with young children and so little money.  And then more recent times, happier times; their daughter’s wedding and the day when their first grandchild was born.  What a little joy she was and how Ken loved to play with her.   Her arrival had been a godsend when Ken had been so low, having lost his job.

The canteen door opened again, and once more, her heart jumped, but it was only another group of nurses who sauntered to the counter oblivious of the panic their entry had caused.

Still they waited.  Apart from a few nurses, they were now the only ones in the room.  Mrs Fielding looked at her watch; it was two in the morning, they had been sitting there for nearly four hours.  The longer they waited, the more pessimistic she became.  Her daughter tried to be optimistic.

‘If they’re still operating on Dad, he must still be alive; there must be a chance.’

But as the minutes dragged on, her mother increasingly feared the worst.

‘I’m not sure how I’ll manage without him,’ she said.  ‘He was such a lovely man, so kind, so thoughtful.  I know he got a bit depressed when he was made redundant, but he was the strong one you know, the one who kept us going when things got tough.   Do you remember the time when....’

She stopped as once again, the canteen door opened. This time it was the surgeon.

She saw him stop as his eyes scanned the room, looking for them.  Then he walked slowly, reluctantly, towards them, his shoulders drooped, his face severe, sadness mixed with the exhaustion in his eyes.  Tears filled her eyes; she knew exactly what he was going to say before he had even reached them and started to speak.



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