“Oh no, he has epistaxis. I don’t know how to treat him; I’ve only treated animals before in all the years I have lived.” Suzanna cried, her sweet little voice cutting across the corridors of their five-bedroomed family house. She frantically searched her vet’s kit, ‘tears’ threatening to leave their safe haven.
“He looks more animal than human to me. Try the animal way.”
The man with an 80s Afro, and reading glasses leaning on the door frame said gently while smiling at her.
“Daddy is right.”
Suzanna whispered, and as if triggered, dropped the toy kit, abandoned Mr. stuffy bear nurse and ran straight into the man’s open arms.
“Daddy!” She exclaimed burying her head into the crook of his neck. He chuckled and in a dramatic voice asked,
“Epistaxis? How does a seven year old like you know the word?”
Suzanna frowned and started playing with her father’s hair.
“I found the word in one of those books I read and I went to complain to mummy. Why would they put such a big word in a book for someone my age? See, whoever wrote that book must know that I am not able to carry the weight of the big dictionary.”
“And what did mummy tell you?”
“Look at it this way Suzy,” Suzanna, quoted trying to imitate her mother’s soft but firm tone,
“You have learned a new word today. Epistaxis is the medical word for nosebleed.”
Chuckling, Tyler adjusted Suzanna on his arm.
“She was right. Let’s go see what she is making for supper.”
Before they could get to the kitchen, they heard a Knock-knock and several voices talking to each other. Frowning, Tyler looked at his wristwatch and shook his head. It was already 7.30 p.m., way past curfew time. Who could it be? Sending Suzy to her mother, Tyler opened the door and frowned deeply at the sight of the two police officers and the other two who, judging by the white lab coats, assumed were medics.
“Mr. Tyler Mwezi?” The female medic asked.
“We are working with the government during this time and even more closely with the surveillance officers.” She supplied as she played around with the bolt pen in her hand.
“You mean, those doing contact tracing?” Tyler asked, a frown creasing his normally smooth features.
“That’s right and we’re tracing your wife as a contact to our latest patient. However we are not here to take her in for quarantine but rather to tell you all to self-quarantine for the next fourteen days as she is being considered to be a low risk…”
“…contact.” The pretty medic softly finished her statement just as another scream came from the house. Alarmed, every single one of them, police, doctors led by the father rushed to the kitchen.
“Hurley!” Tyler called to his wife who was on the floor, hands on the throat as if choking on something.
“Your inhaler, where is your inhaler?” He asked but she couldn’t answer as she was short of breath and seemed to be getting worse by the minute. One of the medics rushed to her side. Tyler had one hand on his wife and the other on his daughter.
“It refused.” Suzanna said softly amid tears.
“What?” Everyone asked in unison and she lifted the pair of inhalers that she had gripped on so tightly as if determined that at least one should work.
“I am taking her to the hospital, curfew or no curfew.” Tyler stated defiantly, waiting for anyone to stop him but everyone nodded in approval. Before lifting Hurley, he knelt, put his palm on her forehead and tilted her head back. Gently, he lifted Hurley’s chin forward with his other hand and proceeded to give a mouth-to-mouth CPR, pausing in between to give her enough time to exhale. Last week during her checkup when Tyler had asked the doctor for first aid techniques in case her inhalers failed, he’d not have thought, he would apply his newfound knowledge so soon.
“Don’t you think by doing that you could get infected by Corona?” One of the police officers who had remained at the kitchen door asked making everyone stare at him including little Suzanna. Tyler narrowed his eyes at him for a few seconds and figured that this was the worst moment to give the officer a piece of his mind, but dear lord, how insensitive of him!
“Corona? I don’t understand. Is that why you are here?” Suzanna asked, a little frown creasing her soft and flawless features. One could tell that she was greatly troubled.
Tyler knew that there was a long father-daughter talk coming, but he needed to get his wife to the hospital first. He lifted her gently and walked to the medics’ vehicle. He couldn’t take his jeep as he needed to keep the CPR going. He knew that one of the medics could have done it but she was his wife. Therefore, after ensuring that Suzy was comfortable in the co-driver’s seat, they drove to the hospital, all that while, Tyler hoping that this night was not going to be the final day to have his wife alive in their marital home.
One Day Later
Suzanna, carrying an apple on one hand and, a knitted princess doll on the other, skipped to what she always referred to as, ‘The room with pretty chairs and many books, commonly known as the house’s study room. She wanted to show her mother how clean she had kept the doll that she had knitted for her but her excitement died the moment she opened the door and saw the empty corner. On a normal day, it had a desk full of papers, pens, bottles of water, a dictionary, a novel, an open laptop and her mother swinging on the office chair working on film scripts for her husband as she whistled the hours away. Yes, whistling. Tyler called her the whistler every working day of the week.
In the past two months, Suzy had got used to her mother working from home, being her teacher and playmate. Every hour, she kept forgetting that her mother was not home and now as she clutched her doll tightly, she felt lost and sad. As she felt tears drop, she felt her father lift her, and her sadness started fading.
“But you and mummy said we are protected as long as we wear a mask, wash our hands, not greet people with our hands, no hugging and everyday, even when we go grocery shopping, we should stand far away from other people.” Suzanna complained as she absent-mindedly recounted on her fingers the protocols which she is always reminded so to protect her and others from COVID-19. Tyler nodded, understanding her daughter’s predicament. He had explained to Suzy what the police and medics had been doing at their house the other day and she still could not understand why some people do not do as the government instructed them to do. To her, the government was the law and she wondered how they got away with it.
As Tyler explained to Suzy for the umpteenth time that sometimes things did not work as planned and that some bad things happen at times, they did not notice the two figures sneak in, one carrying a backpack and the other a clutch. They did not know that the one person they both wanted back so badly was just a few feet from them, and the two women did not disturb the peace of the father and daughter until ten minutes later when Suzanna asked,
“So if mummy does not have COVID, what is the problem?”
“Her medicine needed to be adjusted as her asthma became severe, uhm, worse.” Nancy the female medic who passed by with a colleague and the police officers the other day explained to Suzy, a large smile planted on her face.
“Mummy!” Suzanna cried as she ran to her mother’s open arms while Tyler nodded at Nancy in greeting, before moving to hug his wife and daughter. As Nancy watched the trio huddle in one of the seats together, she proceeded to explain that observing pandemic prevention advice such as social distancing and frequent hand washing could help people with asthma avoid contracting COVID-19, just like it helped everyone else.
Clinging to her mother’s black hoodie, Suzanna listened keenly and smiled. As the adults proceeded to talk about various topics over cups of tea, she slowly fell asleep on her mother’s lap, her doll princess not far from her small fingers and before they knew it, it was an hour to seven p.m.; to curfew time and thus time for Nancy to leave.
“Thank you for bringing mum back.” Suzanna’s rough, sleepy voice followed her to the door and Nancy couldn’t help but break into a smile. She whispered her goodbye and showed herself to the door.
As she walked out, Nancy couldn’t help but wonder how many families like Suzy’s had been divided during that pandemic. As she closed the door behind her, Nancy promised herself that she would observe every single precaution, if not for her, then for every other person she’d meet, for somehow she believed that everyone of them had a loved one who needed them alive. She vowed to try her best with every patient, to ensure children like Suzy got to be with their parents.