The lock clicked, and the woman pushed the door open unceremoniously. The interior of the room looked like any hospital room. Though she didn’t remember the last time she had been able to afford a real hospital visit. A patient bed sat in the corner, covered with white sanitation paper. High-tech equipment lined the walls. Reyna had no clue of their purpose and hoped that she wouldn’t find out today.
The administrator stepped inside and fiddled with a few tools on a wheeled cart. She glanced up at Reyna, realizing that she hadn’t moved from her position in the doorway.
“Take a seat.” She gestured to the bed.
Reyna took a deep breath, reminding herself of all the reasons she had decided to do this, then walked inside and sank down onto the bed. The paper crinkled underneath her, and she cringed at the harsh lights. Everything smelled like plastic and disinfectant. Reyna had thought the waiting room was the most unwelcoming room she had ever been in. She was wrong.
The woman strapped a band around Reyna’s arm, clipped her finger in a large plastic clothespin-type device, and stuck a giant thermometer in her mouth. She stuck a stethoscope under the band and squeezed a bag that inflated the band and constricted Reyna’s arm. Reyna tried to relax, but she wasn’t successful.
“Good,” the administrator said. She nodded her head as the bag deflated. “Vitals all look good.”
Reyna breathed a sigh of relief.
The woman spoke to herself as she entered information into the computer system. “Temperature—97.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Acceptable. Pulse—72 beats per minute. Acceptable. Blood Pressure—102 over 65. Acceptable/Low.”
She turned away from her computer to face Reyna. “Family history?”
Reyna stilled her shaking hands. She needed to keep it together. She could talk about her parents. This was possible.
“My parents are, um…dead.” The words sounded hollow.
It had been thirteen years since they died in the car accident. Since she and her brothers had moved in with their uncle in the city. Since the world had gone to utter shit.
“Yes, but any diseases or chronic illnesses?” the woman asked. Her voice was flat. No compassion in the Visage hospital ward.
“Breast cancer on my mother’s side. That’s all I know,” she whispered.
“Are you often ill?”
“When was the last time you were admitted to the hospital?”
Reyna wracked her brain. She couldn’t even remember. “Probably when I was a baby.”
The woman gave her a searching look. “Any other treatments?”
“Nothing life-threatening. Just a cold. Local medical practitioners helped when we could afford it.” She stared the woman straight in the eye when she said it. No one could afford a hospital stay. This woman had to know it. She wasn’t going to act ashamed of her life.
The admin tapped out a few more notes and then withdrew a needle and a few small vials from a drawer. Reyna’s stomach dropped out, and the color drained from her body.
Reyna held her breath as the woman placed a tourniquet around her right arm, swabbed the crook of her elbow, and then without warning pricked the vein in her arm. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to calm her rapidly accelerating heartbeat. She suddenly felt nauseated, weak, and clammy. Fear pricked at the back of her neck.
She glanced down at her arm and gagged. Bright red blood flowed out of the vein and into the little tube. Pain throbbed in her elbow, but she couldn’t look past the blood. It made her stomach turn, and she had to physically look away until the administrator was finished.
After she removed the needle, the woman placed a Band-Aid over the hole and then gave her a cup to pee in.
“The doctor will be in with you shortly. Just leave the cup in the compartment in the restroom.” The woman pointed to a nearly invisible doorway to her right. “Come right back here once you’re through. The doctor will be with you soon.”
“Thank you,” Reyna said hollowly.
At least the worst was over.
Reyna tried not to think about the blood loss or needles. She needed to think about eating right, sending money to her brothers, and finally living a real life again. It wasn’t as if this was permanent. She could get out at any time. She could work for a couple months as a blood donor and then quit if she wanted. Just enough to get her back on her feet…for her to find something else.
She left her sample in the restroom and then returned to wait for the doctor. At least the bed was more comfortable than the chairs in the waiting room. Honestly, it was more comfortable than everything else they had at home too.
When she had been younger—before the economic collapse and her parents’ deaths—she’d had a two-story house with a white picket fence, a green lawn, the whole nine yards. Then the accident happened, and she and her brothers had to say goodbye to their home and move in with their uncle in the city. All he was good for was drinking and gambling away their inheritance. He had been that way ever since their aunt had left him. Three years later, the economy crashed. He lost everything, and no one thought twice about him abandoning them when everything else fell to shit.