Frontier Medicine

12 06 2007

Medical Bay

"…the medical bays were relatively small; each colony pod had ten or so, not counting the prefab-packs still in storage. They could be rigged onto M-1010 catepillar rigs to create mobile medico stations, which proved useful during the initial stages of colonial construction."

It was simple enough – a procedure practiced for hundreds of years, the doctors said. Sanna was nonetheless nervous, and the rest of the colony with her. She felt the weight of anticipation upon her, as heady as the painkillers.

“Okay, Sanna,” the doctor spoke to her, “we’re performing a lower uterine segment section. One cut, right across here.”

Sanna saw the doctor’s arm move, but could not feel the gloved finger draw a line across her abdomen. Her heartbeat quickened. She remember the epidural anaesthetic.

“Right above the bladder. There will be less blood loss, and it’s much easier for us to repair.”

Sweat had clustered on Sanna’s brow; someone wiped it away. She wished Lia had been here. She conjured Lia’s face, and imagined him stroking her jaw line, whispering reassurances. Lia replaced the doctor, drowned him out entirely: she heard nothing of the caesarean hysterectomy, the effect of interstellar deceleration on her placenta and uterus, or the statistics of miscarriages since leaving Sol.

Sanna blinked at the light, mounted on an articulated arm, which the doctor positioned over her. The vitals software beeped and clicked; she heard her own heartbeat pounding in her ears and emulated by the monitors in a shrill monotone. She felt dizzy, hot, like she would pass out; she wondered if this was anaesthesia, or analgesia, or simple fatigue.

There were no contractions, of course. Her pregnancy had been complicated – by the tail-end of Quoqasi’s deceleration, by planetfall, by the effects of rationing. These were the somatic problems; Lia’s death so close to full term was the most worrying. Sanna had been carefully monitored throughout her pregnancy, particularly after planetfall. When Lia was killed in the mining accident, the doctors began to prepare for surgery.

There was one quick, confident motion; a transverse cut across her swollen belly.

The anaesthetist scrutinized her readouts. She couldn’t see her smile, of course, but read comfort in her eyes and the way they softened at their outer edges. Sanna stared into her eyes, desperate for human contact; the anaesthetist reassured her without any words.

A sheet was draped across her body, below her breasts; above this she saw the doctor lift a purple mass, sticky with amniotic fluid. There was a cough, more of a choked splutter, and then the beep of her heartbeat and the buzz of electronics were replaced by a febrile, urgent crying.

Tears came to Sanna’s eyes, tears of joy and of sorrow, as, she saw, they came to the eyes of the doctors and nurses.

The doctor clipped and cut the umbilical cord. When her child was brought to her, Sanna again feared fainting. She looked into his eyes, grey like marble and misted over, but alive and curious.

“Peregrine White,” Sanna whispered. “Peregrine White Winslow.”

The anaesthetist leaned over to her. “He’s the first child of a new generation. This place is really home for him – he’ll never know Earth, or the light of Sol, or even the Ship. All he will know is Fram; everything else will be legend, the stuff the old-timers talk about.”

Sanna was lost. This child, her child, was the first for the Colony. For the first time she felt the importance of this child’s life – the first human to be born under a different sun.

“Miss Winslow,” the doctor said evenly, “In this moment, in this theatre, we’re at a milestone for the species. A hundred a fifty billion humans have existed throughout our history, up to this point – but your son is the first of us to be born away from the cradle of our species…”

She knew that she should feel proud, moved, happy, but she felt those emotions only as a background, projected dimly on her consciousness. All Sanna wanted was for Lia to be there, to hold his son, even just for a moment…

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