Eve Johnson lay on the bed, tubes attached to her arm, held on with sticky plaster. The machine continued its slow, steady beep, beep, beep.
She was in the recovery room after having undergone a relatively simple, routine operation.
Simon Bairstow and his medical team had been there many times before. For him it was second nature, like eating his breakfast, brushing his teeth, or making love to his wife.
Eve’s parents were allowed inside. The two sets of grandparents had arrived but chose to remain in the waiting room. The parents needed time with their daughter.
They crouched by her bed, one on each side, holding her hand.
On the way to the hospital, Eve’s mother had bought a get-well card and some flowers, a cheap bunch of roses from a local store – the result of being in a rush to see their girl.
Her father had a box of Quality Street with a picture of the purple one on the front; Eve’s favourite.
Mrs Johnson moved her hand over Eve’s forehead. ‘She looks peaceful, bless her. She’s going to be fine, thank God.’ Relief flooded her face after the trauma her daughter had been through.
‘Yeah. It was so worrying though; I don’t want to go through that again.’
Mrs Johnson leaned over her daughter, searching her husband’s face for reassurance. ‘She’s not so pale anymore.’
‘Yes, Doctor Bairstow said the improvement would take time. She had a kidney removed; it’s a big deal.’ As Mr Johnson kissed his daughter gently on the head, Eve began twitching in the bed, struggling to breathe. Then the machine flatlined.
Mrs Johnson looked at her husband. ‘What’s going on?’
‘I don’t know. Eve, Eve, darling.’ He moved the cold, wet hair from her face and placed his palm on her forehead, trying to calm her.
‘Quick, get someone,’ the mother shouted furiously.
Her husband jumped up, dazed and spinning in a circle, the blood temporarily draining from his head. He darted out of the room and into the corridor of the hospital, then raced to the main desk and approached a nurse talking to someone on a mobile phone held to her left ear. She spooned pasta into her mouth with her other hand.
‘I need help,’ Mr Johnson demanded.
He could hear his wife shouting, ‘No, no, please,’ from the room where his daughter was lying
Eve’s dad quickly explained what was going on in room fourteen. The nurse reached underneath the desk and pressed an alarm button.
A few seconds later, three nurses came running along the dreary hall, followed closely by Mr Johnson. They entered the room and politely asked the mother to leave.
Eve’s parents waited by the door, clutching hands, watching as the nurses examined the girl, touching her neck and starting CPR.
Eve’s mother cried out while her husband tried his best to console her.
A few minutes went by; the nurses began shaking their heads. They’d stopped pumping on the girl’s chest.
As Eve’s mother frantically opened the door, she saw the nurses shaking their heads. Eve’s time of death was recorded at 8.46 AM.
‘No. No, don’t do that. Don’t tell me she’s dead. Keep fucking pumping.’
She struggled to get free, needing to run to her daughter, to make it all OK. Mr Johnson held her back, arms clasped around her stomach. She fought, flinging her arms and kicking out.
One of the nurses turned, telling the parents how sorry they were: they had done everything, she’d battled to the end, it was no one’s fault. All the formalities to make the parents feel better, to cope, to deal with it. But their daughter was dead. She’d had a kidney removed, something happened with an adverse reaction, and now there it was in black and white. Here one minute, gone the next.
Suddenly, their worlds came crashing down. They say before someone dies, their life flashes in front of them, racing through their mind. Some have visions of childhood memories, running through a meadow, hand in hand with their parents, a school outing, the image of a favourite teacher from times gone by, being consoled by their parents when their confidence was at an all-time low and they felt they couldn’t go on, when life had dealt too many knocks, when they were scared to progress or to live their life. As parents, you’re always there to pick up the pieces, to give your child the motivation they need to continue, the confidence to get up, to survive, to fight back.
Eve’s mother had flashbacks as her daughter lay on the bed: Eve’s first birthday, the family gathered round, helping her blow out the one candle in the middle of the cake. The time a boy living across the street had gained the courage to walk over and ask Eve to be his girlfriend. They were only eight or nine at the time. Eve’s parents had watched from the upstairs window, laughing at the boy’s audacity. Her first netball match, her prom, the time when her dad had blushed and tried to explain the birds and the bees, stumbling over his words and walking into the other room in embarrassment, how Eve and her mother had laughed.
Now it had been taken away from them. As quickly as Eve had arrived, she had gone, leaving them with only memories to cling onto and the hope of seeing her again one day in a better life.
Mrs Johnson stood in the hall by the desk; the same nurse sat on a chair, an empty carton and half a cup of coffee placed to the side of the table. The glare from her computer screen lit up her features, showing every line and crease of her fifty-two years. The nurse had a friendly, approachable face with plump cheeks. She wore a blue uniform that showed too much cleavage, and her left eye was lazy.
‘Where’s Doctor Bairstow?’ Asked Eve’s mother.
The nurse was flustered, flicking through sheets of paper, tossing pens to the side. She looked up at Eve’s parents. ‘He’s in theatre, I’m afraid.’
Eve’s mother hammered her fist on the desk, making the pens dance. ‘This is fucking ridiculous. Get him out now. I want to see him.’ Her face was flustered, wide- eyed and out for Simon’s blood, someone to answer for what they were going through.
The nurse looked to the side, glancing down the long corridor. ‘I’m afraid it isn’t possible. He’s carrying out an operation.’
‘I don’t give a shit if his wife’s in labour. I need to speak with him now. Do you understand?’ Mrs Johnson lunged forward, causing the desk to tilt backwards. She swung her arms and caught the nurse straight in the face. Mrs Johnson grabbed the nurse’s thick black hair and pulled her forwards, banging her head on the desk.
The nurse managed to reach up and pull a cord to the sound of alarms ringing, a red light flashing on the wall above her.
Eve’s father pulled his wife back. A few seconds later, security came running to the desk and tackled her to the floor.
Eleven days later Doctor Simon Bairstow and his wife Grace attended the funeral. Grace had convinced her reluctant husband to attend; she said that paying his respects would help him deal with the situation and feel better. It was a local church, with a hundred or so mourners. He stood at the back, to the left-hand side. He wore a black suit and looked sharp; his wife wore a white blouse, a smart jacket and a knee- length skirt.
The coffin had a picture of Eve on her graduation day; eighteen candles set out for each year of her life, the flames dancing in the slight breeze. They left when the priest called everyone to stand for the final prayer.
As Simon and Grace got into their flash car, the procession exited through the front door.
Simon blessed himself. As he pulled away, Eve’s mother spotted him outside and raced over. ‘You. You bastard. You have the cheek to show up here after what you did.’
Simon wound down the window. ‘My wife and I offer you our deepest condolences. We’re extremely sorry for your loss.’ He moved to wind the window back up.
‘You know what you can do with that?’
Simon tugged at his tie and touched the accelerator.
She called after the car as it sped off into the distance. ‘Murderer. You fucking
murdering bastard. Rot in hell. Do you hear me? Rot in hell.’