He’s an intelligent man because he’s not only a doctor running a busy clinic but easily switches from speaking French to German to English depending on what patient he is talking to.
Consider though, that English is the most common first or second language here in Switzerland and you may understand how the hot flush of anger and shame slapped me on Friday when he spoke to me in a packed waiting room. “Now you do realise that if we don’t find anything in Sapphire’s stool sample then it’s all in her mind, don’t you?”
My legs wobbled and my eyes stung, rendering me witless and mute. He continued, slightly louder this time, assuming that I was a bit stupid.
“You need to TALK to her. Is she happy at school? Does she have friends? REALLY TALK TO HER.”
I nodded and got out of there as fast as I could, almost forgetting to hand over the bag of freshly-made excrement for the nurse to send off to the lab for testing.
He means well, the pompous git. He’s obviously seen more of life and the extremes of human nature – let alone anatomy – than I have, but the words stung. For two weeks Sapphire has endured vomiting, nausea, blinding headaches, dizziness, lack of appetite and crippling stomach pains. She’s missed school for most of that time due to being unable to stand up for very long or concentrate.
Her blood test results showed that her body was fighting a major infection and she was given four different kinds of medication to take. All the packets and instructions were in French, German and Italian. The pharmacist saw my confusion, took pity on me and printed the dosage instructions in English. I felt like pulling his head over the counter towards me and planting a big wet one.
The vomiting and diarrhoea stopped by the end of week one, but not the pain, disorientation, weakness and exhaustion. The second blood test showed that she’d gotten over the infection.
She was sent to have her face x-rayed, as her sinuses were swollen. The scans showed no polyps or problems but a prescribed nasal spray has made the passages clearer. Her eyes were checked and the optician advised that her glasses – made in 2009 – were too strong for her. New lenses are ready for collection tomorrow.
Walking to radiation clinic across from the train station, we stopped every five metres or so to let Sapphire take a breath and fold herself over to somehow squash away her stomach pain. Inside, the clinic was festooned with prints, paintings and sculptures of nudes. "How is a three foot sketch of a man's willy supposed to make me relax, Mum?" Cheeky monkey.
“You ‘ave made pee pee already,” Scan Man huffed.
“Er yes. We weren’t aware that she needed to have a full----“
“Come back in ‘alf an ‘our. Drink much, so that you have much pee pee but don’t go pee pee.”
Sapphire’s lip drooped in self pity ten minutes later when a bucket-sized mug of gingerbread-spiced latte was placed in front of her. “Come on love, you’ll enjoy this. Coffee’s a diuretic, so you’ll be back with---“ my fingers formed the international quotation sign “-----loads of pee pee for Scan Man.”
She giggled. “Shoosh mum, do we need all of Starbucks to know?” I stood up, put my hands on my hips and played the ham. “Why yes, we do, actually. Everyone should know that---““SIDDOWN MUM,” she laughed. “Oh damn, I’ve spilled it down my front....”
Back home, the phone call came. No discernible stomach issues and the appendix is fine.
I do know Sapphire. I do.
I know that she’s very ill and that her headaches and stomach pains are real, not faked or psychologically manifested. I do. It worries and scares me a little to see how listless and unwell she is. I believe her. I trust her. I know her.
.... don’t I?
Do I have to go back inside, sit alongside her snoozing figure in our bed and ask, “Is there anything that you’re worried about? Is there anything you’re not telling us? Is there anything making you unhappy?”
She sat up, reaching for my hand to comfort me instead of the other way around. “I’d rather be at school than here with you. No offence.”
None taken. I kiss her soft forehead and leave her to snooze.
Love Chunks gets back home from his two week odyssey in Canada and Mexico and finds a 43 year old, a twelve year old and a furry seven year old waiting for him at the door, all smiles.Sapphire’s still in her dressing gown but happy to see him. Milly is pensive – will the return of Alpha Male mean that Alpha Female won’t devote as much attention to her? Besides, she’d just endured having her teeth cleaned, with now-crusty bits of white toothpaste clinging to the hairs on her chin. I just want to breathe in his warmth, scent and strength.
The weekend sees Sapphire improve slowly but still always doubled over in agony immediately after eating anything.
I send her to school today. She’s eager to go despite having a throbbing headache and wondering if she’ll cope with the smell, noise and food on offer at the school cafeteria at lunchtime.
When Milly and I get back from our walk, the phone rings. It’s the doctor’s nurse. “We have found some bacteria in Sapphire’s sample. The doctor wants to see her today after school and he will have some medicine ready for you.”
Her English is halting, so my questions about what is it, will it get better, what sort of medicine and how long will have to wait until this afternoon. I put on my favourite playlist and run like the wind on my treadmill, singing out loud to every song. I don’t wish any misfortune for my daughter, but I am relieved that they found something. I do know her.
Roger emails me. He’s flying back to Australia for a conference tomorrow. Is there anything I’d like him to bring back from home?
The smell of burnt rubber fills the room as I think hard. For months I’ve moaned about things I miss but this morning all I can think of is a wooden spoon. No shop in Geneva sells them, so it’s little wonder they don’t make cake here.
“I’ll bring you three,” he says, noting how the traditional last prize item in Oz is my number one choice here. “Perhaps you can give one to Sapphire’s doctor.”