The blue water reflecting the sunlight in flashes of light is inviting. All around the pool, the gardeners are trimming away trees to create an open patch for the sun to warm the water. Swimming is her favorite exercise.
Mara is lying in her bright bikini bathing suit on a chaise off to the side, not quite in the shade and still in full sun. Ole sole’s work paints a chamois color on her taut dancer’s body. The ballerina wants to be in the sunshine, and they read her mind to provide all she wishes. It will always be that way now.
“I want to dance! I want to be a ballerina and wear beautiful outfits!” How many times did her mother hear those two sentences? The family provided the esteemed school and the former prima donna for private lessons. The lessons went well and she was almost ready for her first dance in the hallowed hall they contracted for her troupe. But there remained one thing that stood in her way.
Eighteen and ready for the stage, the young dancer wants nothing to interfere with her desires. She wants a hysterectomy to end the monthly pain and banish the possibility of pregnancy. No, children are not in the plan Mara has and her parents, somewhat distressed, agree. Only children often get their way.
The physician concludes the pain will always be there. Only drugs will stop it, but that would mean she couldn’t dance for a week.
“Before I go for the surgery, let me get in one last swim!” She scrunches up her shoulders giggling, looking down at her flat stomach, knowing it will always be that way and plunged into the deep end of the pool.
Surgery is swift and without incident and she lies in bed into the dim evening light with no one noticing anything unusual. Nurses, interns, and her physician all found her doing well if a bit more than groggy. The numbers on the monitor yell no emergencies. It is the usual after-surgery, low blood pressure handled with bags of fluids.
A night nurse is the first to sound a shrieking alarm as she checks Mara’s bed, now soaked with the precious fluid of life. Frantic efforts fail to defeat the coma that seized her body but did not result in death. Afterward, weeks of consultation, charges of malpractice and lawsuit did nothing to lift the coma that persists.
“It’s irreversible,” their family physician announces; “And I don’t know that she’ll ever come out of it.” Did they want her sent to live out the rest of her life in a rehab facility?
“No,” her mother screams, her face contorted in an unusual mass of furrows. “We’re taking her home. She’ll have nurses day and night. It’s where she belongs, where she wants to be. I want her to be home when she wakes up.” That was months ago.
A virtual outpatient clinic is set up in the home. Every medical need is to be met and everyone waits for the fateful day of awakening—but the staff knows better. Not a word is uttered that doesn’t reinforce the mother’s belief.
Today, she is massaged with suntan lotion to ensure an even tan. Tomorrow, they will dress her in something fashionable and rest her in the shade. If it rains, she will be settled on the sofa in the music room where her ballet slippers hang. Never again will she don a tutu or put those slippers on her feet, but she’s home.
The nurse walks quietly into the house away from the pool, failing to see the brief flutter of an eyelid. Is her mother right? Is love the needed medicine?
P. A. Farrell is a psychologist and published author with McGraw-Hill, Demos Health, and writes for Medium.com. She has published self-help books and lives on the US East Coast.