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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Blog (10/20/11)

TITLE: No Longer Alone
By Beth Muehlhausen


Institutional food-aromas wafted through the hospital corridor and into Darla’s sterile room - forerunners announcing instant mashed potatoes smothered in canned gravy. Knowing dinner would arrive within minutes, Darla finished working on her daily blog entry and slipped her laptop under the bed sheet.

Darla’s blog had become crucial while waiting for a donor’s heart that could replace her own weakened one. Hospital personnel presented factual and procedural information, but were not available to engage in personal conversations. The blog had become her designated safe place to pop the emotional cork and vent pent-up thoughts and feelings.

No one seems to get it. The physical body receives all the attention here, as if it’s some snazzy Lamborghini in a mechanic’s body shop.

Meanwhile, the true heart of the person is ignored. Who am I, anyway? A hunk of flesh with a broken pump? Does anyone know how desperately I want to LIVE, and yet how ready I must be to DIE?

Who are you, Nurse Renee, with your downcast eyes, few words, and killer-of-a-syringe? A vampire demanding blood – always more and more BLOOD? Is there a real person lurking behind your tent-like blue scrubs? Can you talk to me? Will you let me get close enough to prove I care about you?

The food cart rattled and stopped, rattled and stopped, on its way down the hallway. Finally Darla heard muffled voices outside her cracked door.

“This girl has a blog,” Nurse Judith said in a hushed voice to her helper. “Her sister gave me the link. It’s good – goes way beyond clinical stuff.” She paused, wondering if she should say more. “She’s desperate for a friend. I can finish the rounds if you’d like to stay here for a few minutes. She’s your age.”

The candy striper, Mary, nodded and pushed open the door to find Darla peering in her direction.

“Hey!” Mary offered. “How’s it going? Hungry?”

“Not really. But thanks.”

“Do you have internet access in here?” Mary asked the leading question as she scooted the tray of food into position over Darla’s lap.

“Actually, I do.” Darla patted the laptop and pulled a silver corner from beneath the sheet. “It helps – a lot.” With a surge of sudden boldness, she added, “Leave the food covered for now. Can I tell you about my computer?”

“Sure!” Mary eagerly pulled up a chair.

Delighted with Mary’s availability, Darla introduced her writing passion. “I have a blog … where I go to talk about things …”

“Awesome!” Mary exclaimed. “Want to read an entry for me?”

Darla’s cheeks flushed as she pulled out her computer and flipped open the lid. “Okay.” As she began to read, her voice adopted a sense of urgency.

I need a friend here in the hospital. Even more than that, I want to be a friend. The nurses seem preoccupied, as if their robotic hearts have been numbed by the observance of so much pain. Surely they need to be authentic on some level, for their own good. And their stories might also help me understand my increasing passion to make sense of suffering.

I’m convinced it only takes ONE PERSON to make a difference in this place. I’m desperate to find a friend here, someone to encourage me, and someone I can encourage in return. I’d like a chance to live instead of just waiting to die.”

She closed the laptop and peeked up to see Mary wiping a tear. “I’d like to be your friend,” Mary offered gently. “Will you be mine? I need one, too.” After a pause Mary rose, pushed aside the food tray, sat on the edge of the hospital bed, and grasped Darla’s hand. “Can I have your blog address? So I can read it when I’m home – and respond?”

“Of course!” Darla exclaimed. And then more quietly, “You’re an answer to prayer.”

As Mary rose to leave, Darla noticed for the first time the candy striper limped and wore a cumbersome leg brace.

“It was great to meet you, Darla – to connect with the real you, down inside. I think we have a lot we can share about suffering and redemption,” Mary said with a big smile as she shuffled through the door.

“Thank You, Lord!” Darla whispered after her. As meatloaf and mashed potatoes drenched in gravy beckoned from beneath her plate’s stainless steel warming dome, Darla heard only the Voice within her own heart: you are no longer alone.

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This article has been read 497 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Allison Egley 11/04/11
Oh, I really like this.

The only thing I was a bit confused about was whether the MC heard the conversation outside the hall. My impression was that she did, but hid it well. I was kind of wanting confirmation, though.

This is really good, and a great example of how blogs can connect people. I think I may know who wrote this too. :)
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/05/11
This was outstanding. As both a nurse and a frequent patient I could really relate to the MC. With all the cuts in budgets it does seem that nurses are too busy. It's one of my biggest pet peeves.

The only thing I might have questioned was the viability of a candy striper actually being allowed to talk and interact with a critically ill patient. But I realize all institutions are different and it could be feasible in some institutions.

The message was great. We all need to we reminded from time to time that one person can make a difference.
Jenna Dawn11/07/11
Great story.

I, too, was a bit confused if the MC was overhearing the conversation in the hallway. Since she initially had the POV, I wasn't sure if that switched or what.

I was drawn into the characters and so happy for the MC that she made a friend. :)
C D Swanson 11/09/11
This spoke to my heart. I loved this...One person can really make a difference in one person's life.

I loved it! Great job.
God Bless you~
Noel Mitaxa 11/11/11
Wow! Or should that be "Woe?" The way you set the scene with the food trolley sent all my hunger juices hurrying home to mama!
but then you lifted us through your MC's spiritual hunger and zeroed in on God's grace at work. Great close!
Yvonne Blake 11/14/11
There's a real lesson in this story.
It would help the reader if you stayed in the POV of one character. The scene in the hallway explains things a little too much. This would be stronger if you told in only from Darla's point of view.
I like your use of italics to show the blog entry as internal thoughts, for that's what they are.
Kristine Baker11/14/11
POV was a little confusing.
The internet blog sites surely have connected people and have helped them to not be alone.

Good story!
C D Swanson 11/17/11
Congratulations on your well deserved HR placing! This spoke to my heart so much. I loved it.

God Bless~
Rachel Phelps11/18/11
I thought I had commented on this one earlier this week, but apparently not. Cool idea, and congratulations on your EC!