It must have been 17 years since the Hoolihan family were last on Ward E17.
This time was not much different from the last. The same feeling of dread accompanied them during the walk from the car park, into the foyer of the Queen’s Medical Centre, past the coffee shop, up the lifts, around the corner and finally into the ward. The smell of disinfectant and boiled vegetables was in the air. Not much had changed. Some familiar faces were there too. Roy and Kim were the renal nurses on duty the first time and Dr Evans was the same consultant they spoke to all those years ago. This sense of familiarity gave the Hoolihans some hope, that perhaps the news they were about to receive would not be as daunting as the last time.
When the letter first arrived from Nottingham’s Children’s Hospital, they thought that perhaps it was some error as it had been some time since the eldest daughter had been transferred to the Adult Renal Unit in Leicester, the city where the Hoolihans resided. But the letter summoning them advised that they were writing in regards to their youngest daughter, stating that due to some error in the system, the yearly review that was supposed to be conducted had not taken place and that they should come in immediately to discuss the results of her recent blood test.
As they sat waiting in the Parent’s Room, they were reminded of the time they had spent in this small enclosed space, using the microwave to reheat food that had gone cold whilst waiting for test results and making lukewarm cups of tea using the donated tea bags and stale milk that was kept in the old fridge. They had spent months coming in and out of this room, back when the eldest Hoolihan daughter was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease and was admitted to the ward. When she eventually went on to receive an organ transplant, they never expected to return.
In an attempt to ward off any bad luck, Mrs. Hoolihan clutched her rosary beads tightly and muttered short prayers. This practice often helped her to pass the time whilst also giving her a sense of productivity- she may not be qualified enough to understand medical terminology, but she was well versed in spiritual healing, which to her was equally important. Mr. Hoolihan shuffled pages of documents in his hands, some referring to the medical history of his youngest daughter and others to do with his voluntary community work. He often engrossed himself in such activities as it was his instinct to help anyone that asked. This too provided an outlet from his anxious thoughts, especially now when his worst fears may be coming true once again.
The youngest Hoolihan daughter was the most reserved and intelligent of the three. Being the baby of the family meant that she was often fussed over much to her annoyance. Even now Mrs. Hoolihan was force feeding her an Indian packed lunch even though she was not particularly hungry at the moment. In order to pass the time, she tugged at the appointment letter free from Mr Hoolihan’s piles of papers and read through it again.
“Uh.. Papa? This letter says that the appointment is at 1.30pm on Thursday the 8th of March?”
“Today is the 1st of March”
Mr. Hoolihan sighed with exasperation and Mrs. Hoolihan held back her scorn for her husband. They packed up their things and scurried out of the hospital to make their way back to Leicester. They were spared their dread today but would need to repeat this journey all over again next week.