Jane was staring in the wrong life, she had walked onto the wrong
set, this was not how things were supposed to be.
This had been her plan; Leave College, get job, enter fabulous
career. Meet man, get married, produce first child. Work, mother,
juggle, produce second child. Work part-time, start vegetable
patch, produce third child. Retire from work, become earth mother,
take up writing, reiki, yoga what ever takes your fancy. Kick
back and watch kids grow up to be fabulously well-adjusted adults.
Jane left college and got a job marketing in the technology sector,
she rose through the ranks making Marketing Director, her dream
job, just before meeting Martin. Martin and Jane had a whirlwind
romance, followed by a stylishly understated wedding, an over
the top honeymoon and bang, a blue line on a pregnancy test.
Jane planned to return to work after the minimum amount of maternity
leave. She had already lined up a nanny to look after baby at
home. Out of sight was out of mind in her business, the sooner
she got back to work the better. She expected the first couple
of years to be hard graft but it would be worth it.
Jane stared at Sara lying in her hospital cot. She was beautiful,
soft, wide eyed, with a tiny sprinkling of white downy hair on
the top of her head. She slept most of the time. She looked perfectly
normal if you ignored the tangle of wires and tubes that snaked
around every part of her. Machines beeped rapidly, intermittently
and randomly to no tune but their own. Jane thought of the nursery
waiting for Sara at home, the soft lights, the fluffy blankets,
the music box hanging over her cot, all redundant, waiting for
a child that may never make it out of the fluorescent-lit hell
they had been living in since she was born.
Sara had an enlarged heart, the muscle was not working properly,
it was stretched and floppy, it was banjaxed before her life had
started. Dr. McNally had explained it expertly with a black pen
and a blank piece of paper.
What she needs is a new heart, he said, we have put her on the
list and we will just have to wait and see. Fingers crossed.
In a flash he disappeared into the next cubicle. This was not
Grays Anatomy, there was no music; no kind nurse to put her arms
around them, no credits rolling so say the drama was over, just
silence punctuated by the beeping machines keeping Emma alive.
Jane cried. Martin held her. Sara slept. They stayed that way
for two weeks and then Martin said it was time for him to go back
to work. Jane watched amazed that he could leave but also relieved
that one of them could do something. He came in every evening
and they talked about his day, Sara’s oxygen level and what
concoction the canteen was serving for dinner. One evening six
weeks after she was born, Sara smiled at her mum and dad and then
fell back asleep. They both cried that night.
When Martin left Jane would roll out a mattress beside the cot
and lie down to sleep. Instead of sleep though she lay awake and
bargained with God. Jane had been reared a strict catholic but
she had given up her religion years ago when her dad had died.
No bargaining with God had brought him back, so without telling
her mother she stopped believing. Since Sara was born, Jane was
back talking to God again, desperately trying to make a deal.
She knew to get a transplant she needed a heart, she needed one
from a baby of the right size with the right blood group, she
needed a perfect heart. She lay on her mattress and stared at
the ceiling begging for a heart, she promised she would never
go back to work, she would never be cross with Emma, she would
go to Mass every week, she would let her mother live with them
when she got old, she would give her own heart if she could, God
had to understand she needed her child fixed. This was not how
life was supposed to be.
Nora, Jane’s mother visited the hospital everyday. She chatted
to Sara about everything, she told her about the bus journey into
the hospital, the teenagers who spat out the window, the driver
who thought he was Pavarotti. She told her how she did at bridge
the night before, she even told her what cards were trumps. When
Jane left the room she told her what she had planned for Christmas,
she showed her pictures in catalogues of what she was going to
buy, she promised to take her shopping as soon as she got out
When Jane came back she would sigh,
Mum she can’t understand you.
She can understand me alright, we’re going to have a special
Christmas this year.
Jane didn’t bother arguing, Nora didn’t seem to get
the gravity of the situation and she was not going to burst her
Nora was a religious nut. Martin joked that she would eat the
statues if she could. She went to mass everyday, she threw holy
water at everyone who entered her house; she said the rosary,
the angelus, the stations. She had a saint for all of life’s
calamities and was constantly saying Novenas for other people’s
special intentions. Since Sara was born, Padre Pio was her man.
I’ll have the glove tomorrow she said as she was leaving
Padre Poi’s glove, Angela is getting for me, I told you
Right Mum. I’ll see you tomorrow.
Nora had been trying to get the glove for weeks. Her friend Angela
from the bridge club cleaned the offices of Padre Poi Ireland,
she had put in a good word and they were waiting for the nod to
have the glove released. The glove could cure anything Nora said.
Jane was sceptical but she did not feel in a position to argue
given that she was bargaining with God every night.
That evening McNally dropped in on Martin and Jane and told them
time was running out, Sara’s oxygen level was falling further
and they could not increase her medication without the risk of
damaging her kidneys.
What are the chances of getting a heart this side of Christmas?
Jane looked at her feet, it sounded like he was ordering a turkey.
We really have no idea, we’ll just have to wait and see.
He shook hands with them then before he left, he had never shook
hands before; Jane knew they were on the last lap. That night
she actively prayed for a baby to die so hers would live.
Take one that’s not going to make it anyway, she pleaded.
Then she cried yet again hating herself for wishing what she dreaded
on some other family.
Nora bustled in the next day; she dropped her coat on the back
of the chair and ripped of her hat and scarf.
Quick close the curtains, she whispered.
Mum your not drug dealing, you don’t have to close the curtains.
If other people find out we have the glove they’ll all want
it, it won’t work as well then.
Jane whipped the curtains around the cot.
Nora rummaged in her basket and took out a wooden box with a glass
top. Inside was a filthy black fingerless glove. She laid it glass
side down on Sara’s chest and knelt beside the bed. Jane
watched. Her mothers eyes were closed and her lips moving ferverently.
Jane knelt the other side of the bed and laid her head on the
cool hospital sheet, she felt her fight slipping away.
Suddenly her mother was up and putting the box back in her basket.
I have to bring this straight back.
By the time Jane stood up she was gone, it felt like a dream.
Sara stayed asleep; her oxygen remained at 85%.
Jane woke the next morning to find a Nurse tapping the oxygen
machine. She looked at the display, 100% it read. Sara was lying
awake all pink cheeks and ruby lips, pulling at the tube going
into her nose.
She looks great today the nurse said as she attached the blood
My god this girl is doing well. I might just call the doctor in
to see this she said as she flew out the door.
McNally came in and poked around; he seemed more interested in
the machines than Sara. He tried every blood pressure cuff and
tapped the oxygen monitor briskly. The results did not change.
This went on all morning, fleets of doctors came and went taking
and retaking blood pressures, and finally after lunch they wheeled
Sara down to have a scan.
McNally met them in the parent’s room afterwards,
her heart appears perfectly normal, I can’t really explain
it, he said.
To Sara he sounded more upset than when he had told them the initial
It’s called a miracle, Nora piped up, God can change his
mind about things too you know.
We are going to let you give her a couple of ounces of milk and
see how she goes, he continued ignoring Nora’s interjections.
That afternoon, Sara held her baby for the first time. She was
eight weeks old.
They left the hospital the following week. Sara resigned from
her job, deciding to skip the juggling phase of her life and go
straight for the vegetable patch and the mothering.
Nora documented the whole incident and sent it off to the Pope,
she is still waiting to have it recognised as a miracle.
Emma is now two years old and often runs her parents ragged, sometimes
they forget that they nearly lost her and what life could have
been like. Once yearly McNally checks her over and still cannot
explain her recovery.
Jane never makes plans for the future but does hope to have another