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About a girl who is on life support and her parents turn the machine off and about what happens to her parents.
[1,023 words]
Saskia Dodd
[April 2000]
Alcohol Hallucinatons (Poetry) A poem. [11 words]
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Child's Winter Days (Poetry) A Poem. [22 words]
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Sunrise, A Collection (Poetry) A collection of verse. [79 words]
War, I Remember, The Hunter, The Dance (Poetry) A collection of verse. [159 words]
Saskia Dodd

      He touched the side of his daughter’s face while her mother held her hand.
      “You can turn the machine off now doctor, we are ready”, the girl’s father said as her mother sobbed quietly into her lace handkerchief.
      The doctor looked at them and then at Carey, the three year old girl lying on the bed. There was nothing further Dr. Jacobs could do.
      Mr and Mrs Peterson had waited so long for Carey’s arrival. Mrs. Peterson had had trouble falling pregnant and they had wanted to have their own child rather than adopt. After nine years of perseverance and trying every fertility program Carey was finally conceived and their world now revolved around this little girl.
      Carey had been playing in the tree house and sandpit in the front yard of the Peterson’s house the day of the accident. Mrs. Peterson couldn’t have foreseen the day’s events but still blamed herself. Dr. Jacobs could understand that. The driver who had crashed through their front fence and hit Carey had blown 0.06 when the police had carried out their breath test. Of course, the driver had walked away unharmed.
      Carey, however, had sustained too many injuries and had been on life support for the past three weeks. It had been a long three weeks for Mr and Mrs Peterson who had barely left Carey’s side. Mr. Peterson had told Dr. Jacobs yesterday that they had decided to turn the machine off. Dr. Jacobs had agreed but now that the time had come he didn’t know if he could go through with it. Carey, with her blonde curls and long eyelashes, reminded him so much of his own daughter. It was times like this when Dr. Jacobs wondered why he had chosen to become a doctor.
      “You realise she may not stop breathing immediately. Once the machine is turned off Carey may continue to breathe by herself for a few minutes, or a few days. I can’t tell you exactly how long, but as we discussed yesterday Carey’s lungs are weak and I doubt she will be able to keep breathing by herself for any longer than one or two days” Dr. Jacobs whispered trying to conceal the distress he was feeling.
      “Thank you Dr. Jacobs, we understand.” Mr. Peterson held both his wife’s and his daughter’s hands.
      Dr. Jacobs slowly reached for the switch and turned it off.
      “I’ll leave you alone. Just buzz if you need anything”, Dr. Jacobs said as he left the room.
      Mrs. Peterson sat with her head bowed. Her shoulders trembled as tears fell onto her skirt. As Mr. Peterson stood beside his wife staring at Carey there was no way he could know this would be as much comfort he would ever again be able to offer his wife. He watched as Carey’s chest rose and fell for the last time. He didn’t make a sound as he dropped his wife’s hand.
      “Nooooo. No. Not yet. Not my baby.” Mrs. Peterson threw herself on her daughter, shaking her to wake up, while Mr. Peterson watched on.
      Dr. Jacobs heard the yelling from down the hall.
      “Nurse, nurse, come with me.” Dr. Jacobs was at Carey’s room before he had finished speaking. He touched Mrs. Peterson on the shoulder.
      “You can’t let her die doctor. I should’ve been watching her more closely. Pleeeease, there must be something you can do.”
      “There’s nothing, Mrs. Peterson.” Dr. Jacobs gently raised Mrs. Peterson by the elbow. The nurse took her other arm and guided her from the room. Mr. Peterson continued to stare at his daughter.
      “Mr. Peterson, Carey’s gone. Maybe you should wait with your wife. You can’t do anything more here. Your wife needs you.”
      Mr. Peterson’s eyes didn’t move from his only daughter as he sat where his wife had sat previously. He held one of Carey’s hands in his while he rubbed her head with the other one. Strands of hair moved back against his hand before falling into place with each stroke.
      If only Mr. Peterson could show his wife the same affection in the future. But it was not to be. He would spend his days at work and nights at the pub ordering one drink when he went in so they wouldn’t ask him to leave. Sitting at a table in the corner he would look into his drink for hours. The drink would always be untouched when he left. The pub would be somewhere to go. It would be easier there. He wouldn’t have to watch his wife sit day after day in the same armchair staring out the window thinking the new fence was too new and wanting the old one back. She also wanted the tree house back and the sandpit. Mr. Peterson would remove these the day after the funeral.
      They would stand apart that day too. Maybe if he responded to his wife when she reached for him instead of moving away. Maybe if he had of been able to at least look at her, then she mightn’t have taken to sitting all day. But he wouldn’t be able to look at her then. Every time he did he would think of Carey and how she was supposed to be looking after her. He knew it wasn’t her fault but she had been there. Surely there was something more she could have done. Then it would be too late. His wife would begin not to look up when he came home, wouldn’t acknowledge his presence.
      He would think of all this one night as he sat rotating his drink between his hands. He would have five drinks that night before leaving. He would wish he were dead. Death would be better than the life he would have. It would be that night he would know that he couldn’t live with his wife anymore.
As he stroked Carey’s hair though he couldn’t even begin to think of the future. His wife was the furthest thing from his mind. It was at this time he should have realised nothing would ever be the same again.



"This was very well written. I 've actually lived thru the same nightmare. It really touched home. Excellent!!!" -- D.Valentin.


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© 2000 Saskia Dodd
May 2000

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