“It’s a small stroke,” the doctor at the Carbonear hospital emergency room said. “It’s not fatal and most of the effects will pass. We call it a TIA. Like a stroke, but the blood clot doesn’t stay in one place. The effects come and go, but it’s a warning. If there are clots travelling around, it’s only a matter of time until she has one lodge somewhere.”
The doctor, Helen thought, is talking like I’m not even here. Ever since she’d gotten to the hospital, it had been like that. Everyone — nurses, the ambulance crew — described her in the third person, as if she was a lab specimen or a medical experiment. She wanted to sit up and tell them that she was right there, right in front of them, that she could understand everything they were saying.
Helen was lying on her back on a gurney, her head and shoulders slightly raised. The examining room was remarkably plain, a row of shoulder-high white cupboards the only thing she could see beside the back of the doctor’s head and a slice of the big overhead lamp.
She couldn’t see who the doctor was talking to: Helen guessed it had to be Sarah.
“That’s not the only thing. There’s a whole bunch of things I’m worried about, but cognitive function is the main concern,” the doctor said. “Mrs. Connors can’t go back on her own.”
“We’re with her almost every day.”
“You can’t keep it up forever. I’m sending her into St. John’s for a full examination. I think she has some other mental issues as well, and we should get her assessed. She may need full-time care, in the near future, if not right away.”
Then Sarah’s voice: “You mean Alzheimer’s? We know about that. She’s gone downhill a lot, more since the funeral, but some days are better than others. But St. John’s? Full-time care?”
“Do you have family in the city?”
“My older sister and brother are both there.”
“Maybe they could meet the ambulance. Just so there are some familiar faces there. It will help — it may keep her calmer.”
“Can I go in the ambulance?”
“Better if you follow them. Your mother won’t be going anywhere until I’m sure she’s stabilized, but I think they’ll want you to take your own car.”
Helen was still thinking about the first thing Sarah had said: “We know about that…”
And the only thing Helen could think was, if everybody knows about it, why hasn’t anyone ever bothered to tell me? Or had they told me?
Then she thought: What funeral?
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