My name is Francesca
500 Words: How We Met
Change of shift. Nursing staff huddled over clipboards in the corner of the high dependency unit. Hushed voices above the blips and bleeps of the machines.
Whispered murmurs from the few relatives allowed in. Handover completed, each staff member disperses to a task.She made her way to his bedside and smiled warmly at us as she reached for his chart.
He lay there, cuffed to the bed, his bare chest studded with wires and leads, connected to machines that whirred and flashed.
Monitors aglow with coloured lights. Green and red. Orange. Yellow. All blurring into an ignorance of what was good and what was bad. For us.His eyes were closed but his eyelids fluttered. He was trying so hard to open them.
His breathing was laboured and we watched the rise and fall of his chest like hawks, our eyes darting back and forth to the monitors. Not that we knew how to read them. His handsome face seemed to be swallowed up by the clear plastic oxygen mask. It looked so tight and uncomfortable. She had read his notes and checked the machines. She plotted down some readings, all the while moving silently around his bed and around us.
As she stopped to watch his face, he must have sensed her presence. He managed to open his eyes. Just a little. They tried to smile.”Is your name Sam?” she asked, gently checking his wristband. “Oh no, I’m wrong, this chart says Saviour.””It is Saviour,” his wife answered, “but everyone calls him Sam.””But Saviour is such a beautiful name,” she replied”Well, when he came to Australia and got his first job, the boss said Saviour was too hard to say or to remember. So he called him Sam instead. And he’s been Sam ever since, really.”She nodded knowingly. “They tried to do that to me, you know, when I arrived in Australia as a schoolgirl from Italy. The teachers wanted to call me Frances instead of Francesca but I wouldn’t let them. I told them, ‘My name is Francesca, not Frances.'”We could imagine her as a small child, probably bewildered and upset at having left her home and extended family, her school friends and her country. She wasn’t going to lose her name as well, no matter what the teacher said!”Good on you,” we smiled.
She looked at him, sunken in his bed, his eyes now watching hers.
She reached for his fingers and held them gently.
She leaned in towards him and whispered, “Well I will call you Saviour, if that’s alright with you?”He used the little strength he had to squeeze her fingers in response.
We saw a flicker of a smile.