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"Precious Gems 23" - Bella’s* courage
29 March 2018

I arrived at the hospital with our nurse, unsure what to expect. Bella is our Starpals patient, suffering from leukaemia. Our nurse informed me that the night before, Bella had been terrified when she coughed out so much fresh blood. Her temperature was high and breathing laboured. She had been fighting hard with everyone around her and made it difficult for the hospital team to help her. Bella was just very scared.

Before we went into her room, the hospital nurse said that Bella refused to be showered or changed. She also explained that Bella had stabilised, calmed down and had struggled less with them. Our nurse explained to me that as Bella was dying, her body was shutting down and resistance becoming weaker. The hospital nurse also informed that the doctor had given permission for Bella to go home anytime the family was ready as this would allow Bella to be with her younger sister and be in her own comfortable and familiar surroundings.

Bella is all of eight years. Her tiny frame was curled up under the blanket and she had an oxygen mask on her small but somewhat swollen face. Her eyes were closed. There were many other tubes leading out from under the blanket to the numerous bags and tubes of liquids, hanging on the poles, just next to her bed. On the small sofa next to her, mummy and daddy too were curled up under blankets, fast asleep – they were overwrought and too tired to know we were there.

Our nurse whispered to Bella and asked if she was refusing to be changed as she was feeling cold? With eyes still closed, Bella whimpered very softly and nodded her head ever so slightly. The air-conditioning was centrally controlled and could not be switched off. Our nurse suggested that Bella hold her ‘bair-hugger’ while being changed, so she will be warm and Bella agreed to be changed later. “Bella, I’ve brought a story book today. Would you like me to read to you?” “Umm” Bella replied. Our nurse took out the book “I miss you – A first look at death” by Pat Thomas. “Do you know someone is born every day? Do you know someone dies every day?” began our nurse. “It is a normal part of life…do not be scared…one day, mummy, daddy and mei-mei (younger sister) will join you”. The story was apt and our nurse had hoped to help Bella understand that death is a natural complement to life and had also hoped to help Bella understand her personal feelings better.

I felt really sad as I watched Bella listening to the story with her eyes closed, unsure what was going through her small mind or if she understood what was going on. I could only pray that she would not suffer in her remaining days and that her parents be given the strength and courage to carry on with their lives with their other daughter. Be strong Bella! We all love you!

*Not her real name