As she washed the shampoo from her hair, Katherine watched as a handful of her ginger curls fell into the tub. She sighed, wondering how much more hair she could lose before it became noticeable. She finished her morning routine, making sure to wear her most comfortable jeans and favorite shirt, for she needed them to help her get through the day. Then she moved on to packing her bag.
She was always optimistic when she packed, taking more items than she needed. Books to read, a sketch book and pencils for drawing, a journal for writing. Though Katherine knew she would never touch any of these items, she still brought them to every visit with a small glimmer of hope she would use them. The bag also contained a fleece blanket, purchased for the sole purpose of these visits, to help keep her warm and give her a sense of security. She loved her blanket, which featured an image from her favorite TV show drawn in the style of her favorite artist. It made the visits more tolerable.
Elsie, Katherine’s mother, asked her if she was ready to go. She grabbed her bag and the two made their way to the hospital. It was a short trip, seeing the hospital was only a few blocks away, but it was long enough to feel the dread these infusion visits brought. Every eight weeks, at eleven o’clock, the hospital beckoned. The visits were about 3 hours long and the infusions, while overall helpful, the immediate side effects were terrible. The infusions were always on a Friday and they put her down for the count for the entire weekend. Katherine couldn’t believe it had been eight weeks already, since she still had a shadow of the bruise from the last visit. She shook her head and got out of the car.
Katherine walked through the glass doors and was greeted with a smile by a woman named Sylvia. Sylvia was a gentle woman, who always knew you by name. On her desk, there was a statue of the word faith. If you looked closely, you could see the statue had been broken several times. Despite the repairs, it still looked beautiful, a symbol worthy of a Catholic hospital. Sylvia wrapped a band around Katherine’s wrist, number 10 this year, and sent her to the waiting room.
Katherine was escorted to bay number 6, a room with a view they called it. Each bay contained a recliner, a tray table, a guest chair, and the dreaded IV stand. She came to hate those stands. Their metal poles, cold and stiff; the boxes, loud and mocking; the tubes, like an octopus waiting to attack. She wished for the day she would never have to see those stands, but for now there was no end in sight. The bays also had a TV, a decent selection of channels, and free wifi. Bay 6 featured a view of a courtyard, which had been decorated for fall. It was a chilly day, and the courtyard lacked any sun exposure, so it was lonely. No one wanted to sit in a chilly courtyard with views of bays with IV stands.
Katherine had a set routine when she got to her bay. Table and chair went on the right, IV stand on the left. The pillow went under her left arm, while her iPad and phone sat on the table. She turned the TV on and found the channel airing one of her favorite shows. There were usually two episodes airing, which helped kill some of the time. Katherine kicked off her shoes and placed them under the guest chair. Sometimes her mom stayed with her and they would chat, but she was on her own for this visit. She grabbed her blanket, reclined the chair, and waited for the nurse.
Nurse Patty came in to get things started. She set up the IV line, trying to find the best vein. Katherine always requested it be in the left arm, freeing her right one for drawing. Patty managed to get a vein on the first stick, a miracle considering her veins. The last few visits required “spa” treatments, warm compresses on the arms to help puff up the veins. She had become numb to the infusion process, and most of the time she was just going through the motions, but the first stick of an IV still stung. She doesn’t think she would ever get used to it. Patty drew a couple of vials of blood, taped the IV up, and handed Katherine a cup full of Tylenol and Benadryl. Just in case medications they called them. Just in case you spiked a fever and just in case you had an allergic reaction. Now they waited for the drug. Sometimes it came quickly, other times the wait was long. This time they were quick. Patty entered the bay decked out in a gown to protect her from the drug, if it were to spill. Another nurse came to assist in the cross checking of personal information and the coding on the drug. Once all was cleared, Patty hooked up the drug and set the timer for two hours.
Katherine curled up under her blanket and watched tv, occasionally checking Facebook to see what her friends were up to. Thanks to the Benadryl, she started getting drowsy and closed her eyes. She woke a little while later to find her show had ended. She reached over for a drink and grabbed her phone to text her mom. Katherine always felt a bit cut off from the world on infusion days. The cold, sterile environment, the flurry of hospital activity offered little comfort and no companionship. She checked Facebook again just to get a small sense of community. Still drowsy from the pills, Katherine closed her eyes. She was awoken by an alarm coming from the stand next to her head. She looked up, hoping to find alarm was for an empty bag and not a kinked line. She was in luck, the infusion was done. Patty entered the bay and turned off the alarm. She disconnected the IV and gave it a flush of saline. Katherine instantly got a metallic taste in her mouth and a sting in her arm. Saline flushes were another thing she would never get used to. Patty bandaged up Katherine’s arm, warning her to keep the dressing tight to minimize the bruising. Katherine rolled her eyes, knowing quite well there would be a bruise. There was always a bruise. She packed up her stuff and said goodbye.
Till next time Katherine thought. Friday at eleven o’clock. Eight weeks from now.