I still remember that night; a dull night with no stars but a round, solid moon that stood so near to the very point it felt like it would crash onto my head. There had been thunder rumbling about. The clouds were furiously floating about, busily covering here and there. Rain was about to come, really, but it had been like that for the past hour. The nigh breeze that blew past me smelled salty, for the ocean barely meters before this fourty-one storey building, strong enough to kill the fire. I have struggled for the past an hour to light up my cigarette; all attempt to no avail. It was annoying, really. I came here to this deserted rooftop for a light puff. An hour and fifteen tries, I gave up. I regretted then for not getting that wind-proof lighter, but rejoiced knowing, thinking, perhaps I am a step closer to quitting.
Whichever. At three a.m. my eyes were awake, but my mind was slowing down. For the past two weeks I have been mercilessly assigned day shifts. As a university hospital the patients pouring in could not compare to general’s, which basically mean we tended to lesser sick people in overall, but still pretty much busy. I had hoped to return to my actual department earlier this week after being lent to the A&E for the past eight weeks but my superior had yet to issue a return order. I can’t say I hated A&E, but for the sake of my thesis, I have been dully hoping to return as soon as I can. The promised term was eight weeks; that was until Dr. Xavier return from her maternity leave. The A&E was in chaos after Dr. Xavier went into emergency labour and another doctor; Jonathan Miranda collapsed, revealing that he was actually in critical stage leukaemia, taking them both out of service at the same time. Suddenly short of two doctors, help was summoned from other departments. The first was me; a junior doctor struggling to complete his thesis. Just great. But then again, as I said earlier, I wasn’t entirely opposed to the idea, nor did I hate it. I just didn’t like it so much. That night I guess I was very much at my limit and was about to sulk when my pagers went off.
Begrudgingly I dragged myself to the staircase, on my way to answer the call. When I reached the A&E I was shocked to see the puddle of blood on the floor of the red triage when a nurse furiously ran by. When Dr. Sanders grabbed my wrist and dragged me to A&E’s OT, I rolled my eyes. He must have noticed my boring expression when he smirked. As we crashed into the scrub room, he removed his white gown and began explaining. “Accident victim, Larth. She is critical.”
Of course, of course. We were at the A&E. Every accident victim will pass through here. But I felt compelled to ask; “How critical?” as I began to scrub. Critical enough to be in the OT, of course, but I still wanted to know. After all, the people at A&E have this funny way of labelling a lot of thing critical. To this, the head department of A&E turned to me and sighed, which immediately send chill down my nerves.
“Her legs were crushed. Both of it; knee below. It’s 100% amputation.”
I was shocked. How dramatic.
“I’m sure you have heard of Ledya Kensington?”
Again, I was shocked. You don’t mean Ledya Nathalie Kensington? “That dancer?”
Sanders nodded. “It was beyond me how it happened, but we will be carrying emergency amputation of both of her legs.”
Ah. Not just her legs, I guess, that will be amputated. It will also be her carrier. Previously known as the groundless dancer, now with both legs lost, she will finally be strapped down, unable to be airborne again, to the humble earth. As I recall her recital months ago, I could not help but feel strange stabbing in my heart. It wasn’t pity, not quite shock either. It was a kind of feeling I could barely describe which traumatized me the entire way as I carefully removed whatever left of her mangled legs. We were rushing against the clock, she was dying. It took nearly five hours to fix her up, in which the moment I left the OT and into the sunlight I was extremely disoriented, nearly losing my footing. The girl, Ledya was transferred to the ICU soon after the surgery. I left around six hours after I left the OT, only when we were satisfied that she was stable and in no mortal danger. Ending up sleeping the entire night, I was shocked by a rude paging by the hospital that demanded my presence at the ICU. I guessed it was her. It took me a mere fifteen minute to reach the hospital after I ran all the red traffic light, all thanks to a supplement call by Sanders. He informed me that she had slipped into coma; in critical condition, and that she may not make it through the night. It was such tense moment. I had hoped that Sanders’ call was a prank, but it wasn’t.
She was indeed critical. Half an hour before my arrival she convulsed. They tried to stabilize her before my arrival but lapsed into a coma. For the next few hours we raced the hours again trying to determine the reason; before we found it. Blood clot in her brain was what the culprit. It must have flown there from her amputated legs, and Sanders was quick to enlist the help of Lea Hayley. She was immediately sent to OT again. While the surgery went on I spent my hours tending to cases; all with unexplainable heavy heart, until Sanders called me. Ledya had made through the surgery. Lea was successful. The clot was gone. We prayed for her recovery.
And when she regained consciousness three days later, all three of us breathed sigh of relief; though only the first stage. It took her another two days to fully regain her consciousness; which means only then she realized that her legs from knee down were gone. Regina the nurse rushed me to her ward one afternoon, and I, for the first time, came eye to eye with her. She seemed shocked, but her expression was blank, it confused me. She was staring at her bandaged legs with a kind of gaze I could not decipher. Regina greeted her and introduced me; for I had yet to properly introduce myself to her and was given a mixed stare. She was still confused, but took my hand anyway. Her eyes were searching for answer from my face, but I could barely offer any. So quietly, I pulled the stool next to the side table and sat by her, took her hand, gave her a sympathy smile and prepared for a lengthy explanation.
“Miss Kensington, you were involved in a very hideous accident nearly a week ago,” I said, opening our conversation. She was still staring at me, but this time with bewilderment which of course confused me. “Your legs, down from your knee, was a total wreck. We had to remove them in order to save your life. I am sorry that this has to happen no…”
My words stopped there, I had expected this. In normal circumstances, the patient would cry and thus began the lament which usually start with ‘why me?’ sort of self-pity statement. But what happened instead was something I did not expect.
It was a hug.
A very tight hug which spoke of an alien emotion I would never expect in this kind of situation. Helplessly shocked, I turned to Regina and found her equally bewildered. I asked her, but she shrugged. Not any of us was prepared for this; it was nowhere in the textbook-of-patience-reaction-to-the-news I am used to, and because I wasn’t prepared nor was familiar with such reaction, I merely let her have her way, until she began to tremble. Alarmed, I removed her from her hug and found her sobbing; which further confused me. No words seemed appropriate at that moment and I was left with only one choice; to stare at her. Nearly drown in my own confusion, she finally said; “Thank you,”
Which, of course, barely fit whatever situation we were in.
How odd. Or was she mocking me? Losing her legs at the prime of her career…
Ledya Kensington offered no explanation for her gratitude. I consulted Sanders over this and he interpreted it as her way of gratitude to still have her life. I accepted his description despite the lack of originality. Ledya Kensington never spoke about this gratitude ever again, no matter how many times I visited her for check-ups. Three weeks later, I returned to my old department, and Sanders took full charge of Ledya Kensington’s case. I never saw her since.
It was a day like any other, only that it felt worse than any other given days because that was the very day I was to submit my thesis. Such thing had always wrecked my nerve, ever since I was only a medical student. The symptoms always mimic that of depression, and no matter how hard I tried, I will always have that depressed look. At this time around I noticed how people tend to avoid me. It was funny, but I was too lethargic to even take notice of their comical expression when they saw my face.
Except for a voice that miraculously greeted me when I stepped onto the untreated floor slab of the rooftop.
“Doctor Larth,” that voice began. I turned around and had to gasp. Ledya Kensington smiled. She seemed serene. Her shaved hair had grown. She had cut the rest of her lock in order to accommodate her new hair, and her scar was no longer visible. Though such changes were minor. The most important part was that…
She was standing. On her two legs. I was surprised, and delighted over what I perceived. When she saw the look on my face she smiled again, this time ever wider, more serene than the first. “It’s been a year since we last saw each other.”
I nodded. “You seemed well, Miss Kensington. Congratulations on your recovery,” I said dryly, not knowing what to say. To this she smiled sweetly. When she did not say anything, I found myself scurrying for words. “You look grand. What is your mission here today?”
“Mission? I have an appointment with Dr. Sanders and Dr. Hayley.”
Oh. I nodded. “Still yet to be cleared from your therapy?”
“Today will be the last, if the result is satisfactory.”
“I pray it will be as how you wish.”
I smiled; but it was out of courtesy. I wasn’t sure of what to say, so I sat on one of the benches. She asked for permission to sit next to me but I told her I would be smoking. When she said she did not mind, I readily let her, and all the while I can barely take my eyes off the hints of prosthetics peaking from her boots. There were thin veins. I thought they were just the timber, or the material’s characteristics, so I pried. Only to realize that they were actually carvings, intricately done and exquisitely detailed.
“Charles made these for me,” she said, but then added, “Charles Levischres,”
“That fashion designer.”
“He is more than that,” she countered, as a matter-of-factly. I apologized, puffed on my cigarette, and found her eyes gazing at me. When our sight met, she held hers but I looked away. My ears felt hot, surprising me. She chuckled again, attracting a glance.
“Do you still dance?”
“Any plan for a recital?”
“I am no longer with Bolley.”
Her old dance troop. Must have kicked her out, now that she had lost a dancer’s reason.
“Sorry to hear that.”
“It’s okay. I dance independently now,” she said as she threw her arms into the air. “May not mean much to others, but I am happy. No more ballet though.”
- “Let me know if you plan to have any. I am a fan,” I found myself honestly revealing, which again caused my ears to burn. When I saw her amazed gaze, I looked away in such a way that made me feel childish. Sweetly, she smiled, while I cursed my impromptu honesty.
“I saw you at my last recital,” she began. “I remember…”
She took out a handkerchief. I was horrified, chocked on my smoke. The memory flashed. Yes, we have met, but I had never thought she would…remember.
Or keep that measly handkerchief.
“That was why I thanked you.”
My jaw dropped.
“When I learnt that it was you who amputated my legs;” she paused, “along Dr. Sanders that is.”
“What do you mean?” the meaning of her words was beginning to make no sense.
“I hated ballet, but I had no way of escaping my position as the prima ballerina of Bolley,” she confessed. “That last recital was the last straw. That was how you found me crying in that parking lot.”
I gasped and unthinkably uttered; “Your accident was staged?!” to which she laughed.
“Heavens, no!” she gasped funnily. I could not help but awkwardly laugh at her reaction, feeling my ears heating up. Prompted by the situation, I asked her, rather sceptically; “Really?”
She laughed. “But I did pray to God…because I was so helplessly trapped in the cage I myself erected…for His…” she sighed, “intervention.”
“He answered by taking away your legs?” I carelessly said, which warranted myself a mental beating. Idiot mouth had to go off without restrain before my brain can ascertain the affect.
“I did ask for a shortcut,” she said, shrugging a shoulder which caused me to choke, for the second time, on my smoke. Well. I did not expect such answer, but a shortcut? Really? Oh well. At least she wasn’t offended by my idiotic statement earlier. Or seemed to be. Oh God. Stop thinking Larth.
“Desperate people are funny, aren’t they?” she said. My mental beating stopped I found myself nodding, in agreement to her statement. She seemed sad, but not devastated. When her eyes made way to her prosthetics, I scurried again for ways to fix the situation, thinking and afraid of the emotional rollercoaster she may soon board. I was about to say something when our eyes met again, and I realized that aside sadness, there also exist sincere amount of gratitude within those jewels. “At least He answered my prayer very soon,” she paused, “before my mental degrades.”
By then I was amazed over this woman. She traded her position as one of the world’s most celebrated prima ballerina and her legs for her mental health?
“I am still me, even if I have lost my legs, but I am well lost, if it is my mind that I lost. I have dream. That dream will be lost if I lost my mind.”
“Are you seriously saying this out of conscience, or was it words spoken to comfort your own heart?” I asked out of nowhere, barely aware of the words that escaped my mouth. Despite the brewing admiration I felt within, the words came out sounding sceptical and somewhat cruel. When I realized the tone I used and tried to rectify the situation, she laughed.
“Are you asking why I tell you this?” she shot back, shocking me.
“More or less.”
She did not say anything to me when she picked herself up, took three steps toward me, took my hand and put that handkerchief into my palm.
“I have decided to pursue my dreams.”
Our little odd conversation from a year back, when I found her crying, still in her ballerina outfit, tutu sticking out of her trench coat, in that parking lot on my way to my car flashed back. Remembering the words I told her one by one sent a rush of blood into my face. My neck tensed. I remembered the exact one thing I told her;
“If you hate floating in air so much; dive into the water. To hell what others would say. It’s your life, not theirs. Once you are no longer able to dance they will still be around and be remembered but you? They should be able to find another to replace you. You are not the only dancer and this is Bolley we’re talking about.”
Remembering that I cupped my face in embarrassment. Truth be said, I was merely annoyed with her crying, sobbing, and of course, that runny mascara seemed horrendous to the me who nearly missed her show after working an unforeseen long shift when I said that. I walked to her, gave her my handkerchief was out more out of conscience rather than pity, but that was then. I wanted to apologize for saying something so cruel and borderline heartless, but did not because again, she did not seem that upset to me.
“I long to be a mermaid,” she began with a smile. “You saw through me when we met at the parking lot. How odd. You know me well. Have we met before, Dr. Larth?”
I have seen you before, of course. A prima ballerina known world over, but that’s just about it. I am just a normal doctor working in a university hospital, trying to complete my specialization. I enjoy dance recitals, concerts, orchestras, theatres. I know the gist and goings of the scene, but I don’t have any particular favourite artist. Ledya Kensington caught my attention for she had proven herself to be a refreshing prima ballerina; a youth twelve years my junior. A brilliant dancer, captivating and unnaturally talented; a pure genius. I had thought she would grow on to be a prolific ballerina like that of Anna Pavlova. Never though she would end her carrier by losing her legs and forced to retire at a young age of twenty-three. Losing both legs…
“Have we met before, Dr. Larth?” she asked again, her eyes gleaming. I was mildly surprised.
“It was a wild guess,” I said, trying to be as honest as possible. It was the only sentence I had left. She smiled. She bowed her head, letting out a small laugh. I sighed. Her phone rang and she answered it. She apologized and excused herself and I let her, but that was only after she asked for my permission to stay in touch. I merely let her.
We parted ways since. Sanders told me she has successfully completed her therapy, a feat he described as miraculous. She kept her words by keeping in touch. I obliged by replying. Sometime it simply crossed my mind; I don’t need her to keep in touch for me to know her going-on. The tragic event did not take her out of public’s eyes, merely strengthened her position as a celebrity. Even without her diligently emailing me once in a while, I would have known of her progress with the help of those prying people out there, and of course, internet.
Ledya Kensington still dances, most of it for charity. She never failed to send me tickets to her recitals and I tried my best to attend all of it. Despite her fall from Bolley Royal Dance Troop, her popularity soared, having being nicknamed Immortal Belle. She was immortalized by various artists inspired by her journey in countless form; paintings, sculpture, namesake, and six years after the ordeal she graduated with a Masters in Marine Biology, travelling and diving into world’s ocean. She lived her life in the sea, dancing underwater. It was her dream coming true, but one that came with a price.
Definitely a woman to reckon, a story to remember. Never give up. Never, ever, even when you are faced with an uncertainty, not even when your legs were taken away. Ledya Kensington has proved that she does not need a pair of legs to be successful; only strong heart and of course, faith. Her story came to fill a special section of my little book, as one of the most amazing patient I ever had.
Author’s note: Heck I don’t even know where I was going with this story. Trying to break out of my monotonous student life and dispel that huge writer’s block barricading the progress of my fantasy novel; also was trying hard to not let this turn into yet again another love story. My major isn’t anywhere near medicine, so some of the description may seem off. Given my OCDOF (OCD-Over-Facts) I had to go and do some research about amputation and the likes. Oh God Why! X_x;
Inspired by Aimee Mullins’, who despite her shortcoming strutted the catwalk for Alexander McQueen wearing beautiful prosthetics :) hope it makes sense, and I would be very, very happy if anyone enjoyed this.