This story is by Rebecca Morehouse and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
At first, Jonas hadn’t noticed anything amiss even as he grew tired during the day and couldn’t seem to quench his insatiable thirst. But, when he couldn’t make the bike ride to David O’Shaughnessy’s house, he knew something was wrong.
“I’m afraid you have Type 1 Diabetes,” their family doctor said, eyeing Jonas’s parents who looked sick with worry, “it’s alright, Jonas will be able to live a normal life.”
A normal life, Jonas mused as he sat in the waiting area of Bradley Hospital’s Endocrine Clinic ten years later. It had been a normal life, perpetually obstructed by fainting spells, drowsy mood swings, irreversible nerve damage, endless hospital visits, and most recently, despair and guilt.
Since his parents died in an accident the year before, their life insurance left him with a small fortune. Embittered, Jonas wasted most of it on gambling, drinking, and a water-front apartment where he brought girls. They were impressed for a minute until they realised he wasn’t a self-made career jockey or lucky son-of-a-bitch from old money. His wealth was fleeting, he knew this, he also knew that he should know better, but he was too tired, too grief-stricken and too sick to care.
Jonas continued to run uncontrolled blood sugars, never feeling in control of anything. He spent many nights laying in hospital beds with insulin IV drips inserted into his arm, feeling so alone and bound to his grief, that he couldn’t imagine anything getting better. Nothing, certainly not the money he inherited could buy him health and happiness, until today.
Today, an anxious excitement burned through his veins like thin wires connected to high voltage electricity, ready to burst. Jonas gripped his small, battery-powered insulin pump. This little boxed-shaped machine, resembling a pager, provided him with continuous insulin delivery through long plastic tubing attached to his lower abdomen. Jonas stared at the medical marvel which had become a part of him, his only choice for limited freedom, until today.
As Jonas silently celebrated, he reached for his phone to re-read the message that changed his life;
Mr Jonas Wright,
It is with great pleasure that we accept your application to our Microchip Transplant Therapy (MTT) program, the world’s first cure for autoimmune disease, as you have been found eligible.
Your local Dextron certified healthcare practitioner will make contact to organise an initial appointment.
On behalf of Dextron Inc, we wish you all the best on your journey to health and happiness.
Dr Sebastian Marx
CEO, DEXTRON INC.
Jonas scoffed at the term, eligible. As he remembered, the application stipulated that he fork over his last $30,000 before any initial appointment could be made. So, eligible was simply a veil for privileged.
Acutely aware of his new-found privilege, Jonas shifted uncomfortably in the hard plastic chair, looking at the other patients, wondering if any of them were here for MTT. An older couple huddled together quietly chit-chatting, a pregnant woman leaning back with her feet propped on a chair across the aisle, and a nurse in peach-coloured scrubs with a little girl all sat, waiting. Jonas’s excitement grew, and his mouth twisted into a tight smile. I look insane, he thought, shaking his head both amused and a little embarrassed. He scanned to see if anyone had noticed his odd behaviour. None of them had paid him any attention, except for the little girl.
“My name’s Flic,” she said, bright green eyes gleaming through dark circles and pallid complexion. She looked about seven or eight years old, but she was dramatically underweight, so he couldn’t be sure.
He nodded and gave a little half-smile, looking to see if the nurse would notice and otherwise entertain her. She didn’t, or at least she refrained from making it look like she did.
Flic stared at his hands, still clenching his insulin pump, “you have a Dextron 800.”
She motioned to an earlier model insulin pump attached to the waist of her school uniform skirt.
“I got this 760 donated from the Australian Diabetes Association,” Flic said proudly, oblivious to his apathetic demeanour, “it works better than insulim shots, but it’s still kinda hard.”
To this, Jonas couldn’t help but smile. Flic looked at him inquisitively, swinging her feet, back and forth.
“It’s always hard, no matter what pump you have,” He said.
She nodded enthusiastically, delighted that he’d joined the conversation.
“My am… een… iya,” she stuttered, “makes me too tired to give insulim shots.”
“Amenia?” Jonas queried.
“Anemia, Pernicious Anemia,” the nurse corrected.
So she was listening.
“Yeah, that!” Flic beamed.
“So, you have Diabetes and Anemia?”
“Uh, huh,” Flic nodded, “And… hyper… hyperism,” she said confidently but turned toward the nurse who gently corrected, “Hyperthyroidism.”
“Yeah, but I just take medicine for that,” Flic said dismissively.
“How long have you had all those?”
“Since, always,” Flic answered casually, “Nurse Maggie says I’m blessed with them until, always.”
A little pain shot through him.
Suddenly, Flic’s attention swiftly moved from Jonas to the box of broken and weathered toys sitting across the room. Promptly, she hopped off the chair, making a b-line for the toybox.
Jonas looked on, astonished at her bravery. She continued, unaware of her audience, placing chipped Hotwheels cars and scratched plastic blocks along the carpet.
“Is that common?” he said aloud, without thinking.
“Hmm?” Nurse Maggie jumped.
“Having that many illnesses. That’s not common?”
She sat up, straightening her wrinkled scrubs, “it’s not as uncommon as you may think. We see a lot of children come through with clusters of autoimmune diseases.”
“Oh,” he accepted her answer without fully understanding, “and her parents?”
“Flic’s in and out of foster care,” Maggie met his concerned expression, realising that her answer hadn’t sufficed, and continued, “I help manage a lot of kids, like her, who come to this hospital for appointments.”
“A lot of kids?”
“Again, more than you’d think.”
“Unlucky…” his eyes fixed on Flic who was building bridges out of blocks and driving the cars across, making tiny vroom noises.
“Unlucky, but not uncommon,” Maggie confirmed.
Jonas looked up to see a woman smartly dressed, holding a folder against her chest.
“Yes,” he stood and began to follow her down the corridor, glancing at Flic, still playing happily.
“Thank you for waiting, Mr Wright. Apologies for the setup, unfortunately, until the new clinic is finished being built, all MTT patients have to be seen here, at the public clinic.”
Jonas considered this for a moment and thought of everyone in the waiting area; the older couple, the pregnant woman with swollen ankles, and of course, Flic, bright-eyed and bold. All of them, public patients, a different class to the private elite.
“Here we are,” the woman motioned to a large room at the end of the corridor, labelled;
Dr Michael Frey MBBS, MPH, FRACP
Endocrinology & MTT
“Ah, Mr Wright, please come in.”
Jonas approached a deep-seated leather chair with oversized cushions, much more comfortable than the hard plastic ones in the waiting area.
“You’ve had type 1 for over a decade, diagnosed at thirteen, is that correct?” Dr Frey peered over his glasses at Jonas, who nodded in confirmation but wasn’t fully present.
“This is a momentous day for you. It’s certainly not something…”
“Wait,” Jonas blurted.
“Yes,” Dr Frey responded cautiously.
“I’d like this opportunity to go to someone else.”
“What do you mean?”
Jonas rose abruptly from the cushy chair and started for the door, “Can I bring them in?”
“I suppose so… but we’ll have to organise all the necessary tests and…”
“Yes, yes fine,” Jonas disregarded the logistics and scurried out of his shiny office back towards the public waiting area.
He found Flic playing in the corner, and Nurse Maggie waiting patiently. They’re still here; he rejoiced. As Jonas approached Maggie, he realised how crazy he’d sound, but he was steadfast. He began to explain, and before she’d hardly had time to acknowledge his presence, he stated, “I’d like Flic to take my place.”
For the first time, he saw emotion creep across Nurse Maggie’s face, as she comprehended what he was asking. Slowly, her hands reached her mouth, and she began to nod profusely, as tears welled in her eyes.
When Jonas appeared in Dr Frey’s doorway with Flic and Maggie by his side, Dr Frey was still sitting at his desk, stunned and bewildered, wondering if this crazy asshole was coming back. Jonas ushered Flic to the deep-seated leather chair with oversized cushions. She climbed up and sat neatly, her feet dangling off the edge, looking even smaller and frailer than before.
He nodded at Dr Fey, who quickly discerned that this was to be his patient and Jonas simply the financier. He explained as best he could that the MTT would re-program her cells to stop fighting her body and therefore cure her autoimmune disorders.
“All of them?” Flic asked wide-eyed.
“How long can I have it for?”
Jonas smiled, “Until, always.”