I sat in the huddle with the others around the desk. Bleary-eyed and mind elsewhere, I nearly missed the ward sister’s instruction. “… and staff nurse will supervise when you dress the wound.”
Her voice was clipped. Perfunctory. My pulse throbbed in my neck and my tongue felt like sandpaper. I hadn’t cared for Blossom before.
“Good morning, Blossom, I’ll be looking after you today.”
“Mornin’ nursey, thanks be to the Lord.” Her smile filled the furrows of pain across her face.
Maybe it would be fine. I’d swapped the shift with the other junior. My birthday and I wanted the evening off.
The blanket bath took longer than expected. Blossom was a once large woman and impervious to being rushed. I soaped and wiped; limb by limb, uncovered and covered; rolled and rolled back. Shrieks of pain interspersed with pleas to the Lord interrupted her chatter. I worked around the large pad on her back; my fingers trembled.
My mind wandered to the West End, where I’d shopped. Was it a frock or was it a dress? Was there a difference? I knew it had to be long and smart. I possessed nothing suitable. I was all denim and T-shirts.
“I need to do your dressing now, Blossom.”
“Jist get on wi’ it,” she said, “an’ don’t ya ‘urt meh.” Her usual smile dimmed momentarily.
“I’ll try not to. I’ll just get ready.” Clammy fingers crossed. No sign of the staff nurse.
I recited the rituals under my breath: swab the trolley, wash hands, dressing pack, lotion, syringe, quill, tape, scissors. The wheels rattled over the wooden floor as I followed the dust motes threaded in the streaming August sun. Even the scratches on the trolley shone.
I fumbled as I opened the packets. Tried not to spill the lotion, when its pungent smell caught the back of my throat. As I removed the old dressing, I saw the source of her pain. Blackened, greenish tissue gaped in her lower back and fizzed when I flushed the lotion.
“Git off meh butt!” Blossom screamed.
I jumped and clattered against the trolley. The contents spilled.
Red-faced and heart thumping, I started again. Focus.
There were a lot of candles on my cake. I took a deep breath. I remembered Blossom on every birthday.