Friday, June 3, 2011

A Drop Of Sarah


Age: 27

Number of tattoos: 1

Age when I got my first tattoo: 26

More tattoos planned?: Not at the moment. I got my tattoo as a memorial piece, I feel as if I got another tattoo on a whim, it would cheapen the one I have.

Tattoo style: I love really traditional American tattoos. Bold primary colours, strong black outlines. Pin-up girls, roses and banners.
Any other mods?: The standard piercings, 3 earrings in each ear and one in my navel. 

My tattoo story:

So it goes.

Up until the age of 4 my life was very picket fences. My Mum and Dad, although they weren't married, lived at home together. My older brother and sister were from my mothers previous marriage, but they were always my kin, never less. December 15th 1987. My mother and I (I was 3 at the time) were doing last minute Christmas shopping. My brother (10) and sister (7) were home from school before us. My sister was a smart ass. She would go to school and say she had no lunch. The teacher would then give her money to buy lunch at the canteen. Becky of course already had lunch, so she would use the money to buy lollies. For whatever reason, she didn't get to the canteen that day, so after school, since Mum wasn't home yet, she decided to go across the street to the milk bar and buy her lollies. We lived on a street which was also home to the local High School, therefore we had a school zebra crossing out the front of our house. On this particular day the crossing guard had left 15 minutes early. Becky saw a boy from her school, I think he was a year or two older than her, she crossed the road easily enough, sheepishly said hi to the boy, whom I'm told she had a crush on at the time. She went to the milk bar and bought her lollies. When she came back, she saw the boy again, and being all caught up in the shy self consciousness that most girls with a crush get, she hurried across the road without looking. This was 1987. There were no 50kmh residential road speed zones, there were no 40kmh school zones. My sister was hit by a car traveling at approximately 65kmh. She was thrown 30 meters. 

Becky was in a coma for 3 months in the Royal Children's hospital. I'm told, though I have no memory of it, that I didn't see Becky until after she woke from her coma. The first time I saw her, I was frightened by the tubes coming out of her, and the machines attached to her, and I left the room. The second time I saw her, I ran straight into the room, jumped on the bed, gave her a big hug and she laughed for the first time since the accident. I don't remember the hospital, all I remember is staying in a town house across the road from the hospital while Becky was in the ICU. Becky suffered severe brain damage as a result of the accident. She lost the use of the right hand side of her body, she lost the ability to walk, she lost the ability to speak more than to say "mum" and "ow", but most of all Becky lost her future, a life of experiences that she would never have. 

My parents relationship dissolved, my Mum became quite hard and bitter towards the world. Becky lived at home with me, my Mum and my brother for about 10 years. She was the first disabled person admitted to our local High School which my Mother had to fight tooth and nail for, because the saddest thing about Becky's disability was that, although she lost all forms of communication, she understood everything perfectly well. Her mental capacity to learn and absorb new information was not in any way damaged, which meant that she new perfectly well how sad her situation was. The school didn't believe that Becky was capable of learning. She proved them wrong. Becky, although having missed almost all of Primary School, graduated from High School. It eventually became too much for my Mum to look after Becky full time while also being a single parent to my brother and I as this meant she had to be home full time. We had a number of other problems going on,

Becky then moved into full time care accommodation with 4 or 5 other people with similar levels of disabilities. The problem with this sort of care, is that the carers are not doctors, they are not nurses, they don't have to be trained or qualified in any way. They had a budget to stick to to be able to feed the residents, and it was low. Therefore, Becky, who couldn't walk, and had no easy way of exercising, was fed pasta for dinner every night. She then as a direct result, gained a significant amount of weight over the following years. this then meant that according to OH&S laws, she required 4 staff members to lift her out of her bed, and into her wheelchair. The house very rarely had 4 staff on, and Becky was bound to her bed for the most part. As she got bigger, her quality of life deteriorated. In this house, the carers would often leave the windows open over night. Due to Becky's disability, her lungs were not large, and they were not strong. Every winter she would get a cold, the cold would become the flu, the flu would become pneumonia and she would be hospitalized. 

In the winter of 2009 the world was fighting an epidemic of Swine Flu. Becky got a cold, the cold became the flu, the flu became pneumonia and she was hospitalized. My Mum had moved interstate some years earlier, she called me on the morning of June 12th 2009, she said that Becky was in the hospital with pneumonia and that the doctors say she won't recover. I got to the hospital as fast as I could while my Mum and younger brother went to the airport and tried to get on the first flight to Melbourne. Becky was intubated in the ICU to help her breathe as her lungs were full of fluid. I sat with her for hours as we all waited for Mum to get there. The doctors said that Becky was suffering and that the humane thing to do would be to turn off the machine helping her breathe, and remove the tubes, they expected that she would pass very quickly after that. Mum was consulted over the phone and gave the go ahead to proceed without her. I held her hand, I cried, and she continued to breathe on her own. At the time it seemed like she would make it, that she was strong enough to recover and we were all very pleased. In hindsight it was the worst thing that could have happen in that situation. My Mum and brother did arrive several hours later, as did my older brother and my dad. We spent 3 nights sleeping in chairs in her room, listening to her fight for every breath, closely monitoring the oxygen counter telling us how much oxygen was getting to her brain. The doctor met with us all in a private room and told us in no uncertain terms that Becky would not survive. She will die from this, she will never leave this hospital alive. We needed to hear this as we had begun to get hopeful, and had begun to challenge the hospital staff on why they weren't doing more to cure her. It was at that point we all understood, they weren't trying to cure her because they couldn't, they were making her comfortable for her impending and inevitable death. On the fourth day I went home, I'd been home for about 15 minutes when my Mum called to tell me Becky had passed. I went back to the hospital and said my final goodbyes. While she was in the hospital we learned that Becky didn't just have pneumonia, but that she had also contracted Swine Flu. She was now a statistic. 

Becky was 29 when she died, she had lived with her disability for 22 years. Becky weighs heavy on my heart as I was not a good sister. I visited her maybe once a year. It was just too hard, and I felt like I was visiting a stranger. I have no memories at all of my sister from before her accident, only those I've created in my mind from footage I've seen of her in home movies. I got my tattoo as a reminder to myself that I had a sister, and that she is now free from the burdens of her disability, and that I needn't grieve her passing. 

My tattoo is of a sparrow in flight, holding a banner that reads "so it goes", the "so it goes" is from Kurt Vonnegut's book "Slaughterhouse-Five", in this book we are told that if you could see into the future, you would see your own death, and you would see that it is inevitable and unavoidable, so it goes, and that we need not grieve death, so long as we have our memories, the people we love are still alive and well, they simply aren't creating any new memories. 


Tattoo by Bugsy at Fox Body Art


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