The storm hit. The wind sent dust and papers and cars spinning in its vortex. Hail pelted down, denting the ground, shattering windows; bullet-like, hail shot through buildings, until it lodged in the soft soft bodies of an animals or people, who were dying everywhere.
The sound was deafening. A high-pitched wail, like a banshee or a screaming tornado siren in a beleaguered Midwestern farm town, rose above the cacophony of buses and trucks twisting and crashing into each other, rose above the roar of the trembling buildings shaking and collapsing into each other.
The pressure of the storm pushed at the bodies of the people huddled in supposed safety. They were underground, far underground, but the storm found them there. The pressure alone was enough to make their ear drums burst. Some moaned, some screamed, some just cried.
I squeezed my eyes shut against the sudden light. The nurse’s aide, Marvette, had flipped the fluorescents on when she bustled in. She was covered in layers of gowns, a lemon yellow one on top. She wore multiple masks. “Time for vitals,” she called softly, trying to be kind. I could hardly hear her over the roaring in my ears. A side effect of hydroxycholoroquine: deafening tinnitus.
Marvette pushed a thermometer into my mouth. She peered through her face shield at the numbers displayed. The machine beeped and she pulled out the thermometer. She slid a blood pressure cuff up my left arm. She tapped a button on her machine and the squeeze began. The focused pressure on my arm was a momentary distraction from the slamming pain in the rest of my body. She pressed more buttons on her console, uploading the information, and tore the velcroed cuff off my arm in a quick movement. Then she clipped an oximeter to my index finger of my right hand. It clung to my finger like a small child, whose hand can only encompass one adult finger. She frowned at the number glowing on the screen. She urged me to take a deep breath. I did, but it made me cough – a short, dry cough that left my lungs clutching for air. She looked at me with concern. Sit up, she said. I thought that would make it worse, but she was doing her best. I complied. Apparently, the number didn’t get any better, if the deepening of her frown meant anything.
And here was the nurse with her sharp needle. Marvette sighed and gave up, removing the oximeter clip from my finger. She went on her way. I asked the nurse, in my jagged, gasping way, why I had to be woken at 5:20 every day just to be stabbed. “It’s just how we do things,” she murmured. She inserted the tiny vicious needle into the tender flesh on the inside of my elbow. She couldn’t find the vein. She tried again, murmuring apologies. Still nothing. She said my veins were tired; too many needles for too many days. Finally she got a what she called a “lively vein”, and the blood moved at a steady stream into the tube.
She finished, removing the needle, while pressing a cotton ball to the wound. She put surgical tape over the ball and off she went with her blood-filled tubes.
I’m alone again. It’s 5:25 in the morning. It’s still dark outside. Dawn will come soon.
It’s a good thing I’m so tired and weak, or I might notice how much this really sucks.
*The beautiful image above is by Olivier de Sadeleer.