The school minibus drove into the hospital grounds and parked at the far end of the parking lot. After thanking the driver, Karabo threw her bag over her good arm and made her way to Dr Anand’s rooms. She’d been here for a check-up two weeks after her operation, so she knew where to go, and walked past the hospital reception desk, straight to the elevator. The sanitised smell of hospital filled her nostrils and she picked up her pace, eager to be rid of the cast. She was ready to move on with her life.

As she entered the doctor’s teal-coloured rooms, the secretary smiled warmly at her. ‘Karabo?’ she asked. Karabo nodded.

‘Your mother is already here with Dr Anand. Please go through,’ she said, directing her to the doctor’s door.

As Karabo opened the door, her mother sat upright with legs crossed — looking intently at Dr Anand. He stood up from his chair, his cheeks slightly pink.

‘Karabo,’ he said slowly, ‘so pleased to see you.’ Karabo scanned the doctor. Why was he pleased to see her? He was about to inflict more pain on her arm. Maybe that was why.

‘Come sit my dear, let’s take a look at your arm,’ said Dr Anand, showing her the examination bed at the far end of his large consulting room.

Karabo looked at her mother suspiciously. ‘Hi Mom.’

She could tell that Anathi and the doctor had been talking about something they didn’t want her to know. She felt her stomach sink and hoped that it wasn’t to do with her arm. After she dropped her bag next to her mother’s feet and kissed her on the cheek, she walked over towards the bed where the doctor waited to examine her. She sat down and brought her arm up for Dr Anand to assess.

‘How is the arm feeling Karabo?’ he asked.

Karabo shrugged. ‘Fine. Itchy, and a pain when it comes to getting dressed, showering, playing sport, basically everything, besides sitting on my bum,’ she said. The initial frustration and anger she felt at being incapacitated by her arm had eventually faded into annoyance. Then she’d established a routine and new skills to deal with her disability. Now it had become boring, and she just wanted it all off so that she could get back to her normal life.

Dr Anand lifted the arm and examined the cast from different angles. He seemed pleased. ‘Right, come to this table here and take a seat.’ He pointed to a table that looked like a school desk. Next to the table was a small circular saw-like instrument. As she sat down, Karabo watched Dr Anand carefully.

‘Great news Karabo, we can definitely take the cast off. Everything is looking great. I just need another round of x-rays, and then I’m pretty certain I can confirm the removal of the pins and add you to tomorrow’s surgery list,’ he said, smiling at her. She stared back at him blankly.

‘Well, good then. Place your arm here. I’m going to cut the cast off with this saw, so don’t get a fright from the noise,’ explained Dr Anand, before switching the saw on and cutting the cast off Karabo’s arm. White specks of dust flew everywhere, and created a small white cloud around her arm. Karabo stared down at the cast, praying that Dr Anand wouldn’t slip and slice her arm open.

Once he’d cut along the full length of the cast, Dr Anand switched the saw off and began to gently prise it apart. A rank smell rose up from her arm, and Karabo felt nauseous. Her arm stank of something like mouldy cheese, but Dr Anand’s face gave nothing away — except for a slight twitch of his nose. Concentrating on the task, he carefully lifted Karabo’s shrivelled arm out of the cast. The pins poked out of her skin and she felt like she’d been turned into some kind of cyborg. Where once her arm had been flesh and muscle, there were now only thin remnants. Karabo couldn’t take her eyes off her grotesque arm — and she felt transfixed and disgusted in equal measure. As Anathi appeared at her side, she placed her hand gently on Karabo’s shoulder.

‘You OK my love?’ asked Anathi.

Karabo nodded slowly. ‘It’s so gross mom,’ she said eventually.

Dr Anand interrupted. ‘It’s an excellent heal Karabo. I promise you, this is very good, and the skin and muscle will heal very quickly. Taking the pins out tomorrow will be a cinch and then you can get back to your hockey,’ he said smiling at her.

His announcement felt like he’d pushed his hands against her chest. She hadn’t really thought about going back to hockey.

What if she got hurt again? She felt dizzy and confused, and slumped back into her chair.

‘Karabo?’ came Anathi’s voice through the fog that was closing in on her.

As she tried to respond, she felt herself sink into darkness.

‘Karabo!’ called Anathi’s frantic voice. Karabo opened her eyes and blinked slowly. ‘I think I fainted?’ she said.

‘Oh, my word!’ said Anathi looking into her face.

‘It’s probably just the shock of seeing her arm. It’s often quite a surprise to see what has happened to the body,’ explained Dr Anand, looking at Anathi. ‘I’ll call a nurse to bring a wheelchair and you can take her up to her room in the ward,’ said Dr Anand, walking back to his desk to make the call. Anathi stroked Karabo’s bloodless face.


Question: Why do you think Karabo fainted?