May 15, 2013
A Number of Wellness
In the absence of miraculous signs of recovery -- like vanishing wounds, exuberant disposition, writing on the wall -- I rely on evidence of improvement found in cryptic numerical expressions, like "CBC = 24.6" or "99.7° F" or "150 cc's suctioned".
Even though phrases like these hold meaning for me, it's hard to interpret the sum of it all as "good news." Changes for the better happen so gradually and are so shifting, there's no room for a sense of peace or optimism. Changes for the worse happen suddenly and at any given moment, no matter how "well" a patient seems to be doing.
And bacteria...to my mind, it's far more menacing than chronic illness or congenital conditions, because bacteria is alive; it's a foreign invader that multiplies and destroys, and you just pray the antibiotics are strong and smart enough to overcome the attack.
Gumball lays there and lays there and lays there, still, unchanging. The IV drip churns and beeps, the sink leaks, the baby in the next room wails in her own variety of agony. I sit here on the "sofa" with my coffee cooling and the clock's hour hand stuck on the same damn number it was half a day ago.
What I want is a new numerical expression. Take all the blood you need. Run all the tests you want. Take her vitals till we're all sick of readings, but dammit, give me a new number.