3 June – form the handwritten notes of Lisa Robinson
I am sitting in a worn office chair in the Free Zone 110 Hospital. Kelly is lying on one of fifteen beds in the long, narrow ward. Her dear, little face is pinched and white against the slightly whiter pillowcase and her soft moans blend in with the coughs, wails and cries of the fourteen other small children in the room.
My choices were limited this morning. I either skipped going for the job interview I had finally managed to wrangle and brought her here, or risked coming back to a dead child. Overnight, Kelly’s temperature had climbed steadily and, despite my lying her on the floor of the bathroom and filling the room with steam from the hot water tap in the shower, her cough had worsened, booming in her chest, and making her frail body shake with effort.
I picked up the thick file lying on the small table next to her bed and ran my eyes swiftly over the mixture of typed and hand written notes.
Name: Kelly Robinson
Age: 10 years old
Diagnosis: Acute bronchitis
Underlying condition: Brittle chronic asthma and a biofilm in her sinuses
Genetic microchip implant: None
Bitterness rose in my throat like bile as I read those last words. No, my beautiful little girl doesn’t qualify for a genetic microchip implant because of her parents’ status as unemployable people who were unable to adjust to the new labour market that came about due to mass-scale digitalisation in the mid 2020’s.
She wouldn’t be lying in this hospital bed in this sterile, white ward, if she had access to the genetic engineering options available to the privileged dwellers of the Work Compounds. The mutation in the gene responsible for her chronic asthma and impaired lung functioning could have been successfully treated through the biotechnology available in the microchip. Lisa didn’t understand all the detail, but she did know that the use of biotechnology could help to remove the negative consequences of the mutated gene that was causing her daughter’s illness.
Kelly had been such a strong and healthy girl when she was born. At that time, David and I were both employed and, although David’s job was under threat from the proposed impending implementation by the world government of the fully-fledged world-wide cyber-physical system, known as Bella, it had not as yet happened. I also had a job and was hoping to upskill from a bookkeeper to a role in financial data analytics. All pink and cute, Kelly breastfed well and the obstetrician had allowed us to be discharged a day early from the hospital because she was doing so well.
At three weeks old, she stopped breathing for the first time. Checking on her sleeping in her pram, I noticed that her lips had gone blue. Her chest was not rising and falling as it should have been. I grabbed the baby out of the pram and she immediately started crying, loudly and lustily. Wrapping her up warmly, I ran out of the house and used took the electric bus to the hospital. The journey was one of the most frustrating ones I have ever experienced. The electric bus moved slowly along its rails and seemed to stop at each and every stop. On arrival at the hospital, we had to wait in a crowded and noisy room full of sick and snotty children for the paediatrician to see us. The doctor was kindly, although the dark pockets of puffy flesh under her tired eyes told me of her exhaustion. She sent me to the X-ray department to have a sonar and x-rays of Kelly’s lungs and chest. It was 6 PM by the time we got back to overflowing patients waiting room and 7 PM by the time we saw her again. She examined the X-rays and sonars and read the various reports and then she diagnosed Kelly with bronchiolitis. Bronchiolitis is a virus that affects the respiratory tract. The infection causes inflammation of the tiny airways, called the bronchioles, which lead to the lungs. The swollen airways fill up with mucus which makes breathing difficult. Kelly, and I as the primary caregiver, were admitted into hospital for treatment. It was a terrible time for us both. The doctor mentioned the possibility that nanotechnology might need to be used to treat her, if her condition proved to be on-going and potentially of a genetic nature. My heart pounded and my hands shook when she told me the astronomical cost of treatments involving genetic engineering. I prayed that we wouldn’t need this treatment.
This post was written for Sue Vincent’s weekly write photo challenge: https://scvincent.com/2019/06/06/thursday-photo-prompt-choices-writephoto/