The smell of bleach fills the air. Bleach, blood, disinfectant, and water.
The corridors glisten from the overnight waxing. The low hum of machines can always be detected by those who listen carefully. Computers and machines are now the lifeblood of this facility, it having been decided by the powers that be that automation is the key to efficient care.
Behind each door a human story unfolds. Here a woman lies in wait for death, her still face illuminated by the thin light from the window. Her daughter sits silently by her side. In the next bed, a young woman recovers from an infection, the slow drip of antibiotics and saline working in tandem effort to send her home again.
On floors above and below, dramas take place from moment to moment, from hour to hour. Death wanders these halls freely, yet Life too has its sway. Skilled hands slice bone and skin; cantankerous limbs are guided towards their intended function; organs recover and fluids regain balance once again, and troubled minds are occasionally stilled.
The human body---so efficient, so greatly streamlined through evolutionary processes---is yet still so vulnerable from inside and out. Torturous kilometers of tubing deliver fluids where they’re needed. Digestive organs churn the staff of life into life itself. And the lungs---Oh the blessed lungs!---deliver those molecules of oxygen to capillary beds hungry to release their waste in exchange for that which they crave so mightily, so righteously.
As new life bursts forth from wombs engorged with blood, the journey begins anew. A head emerges, then shoulders and the remainder of a squirmy body covered with mucus.
How did those two original cells knows how to replicate themselves so efficiently? How can such life be born of the microscopic, the verifiably invisible? And how does such a lump of flesh become instilled with spirit and self? As this being lies in wait in the comfort of the womb, when does the soul manifest? When does this biological wonder receive its spiritual identity?
Within the woman dying down the hall, that baby’s first breath still breathes. Once upon a time, her rib cage was squeezed through that same vice-like canal, fluids pushed from the bellows by incredible force, almost volcanic in nature. And with that first breath of air, that first gasp, her body (which previously and paradoxically breathed only fluid) transitioned from the Aquatic to the Terrestrial. With that breath, her fledgling heart truly began its work. In that painful and exquisite moment, her birth was birth itself. Her breath was breath itself. It was then that her violent grasping at this new and mysterious world began.
(c) 2008 NurseKeith