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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Secret languages

"Wawa wawa wawa!!"

Her angry babbling crescendoed as the nurse and I approached, and she kicked her legs wildly in our general direction, rattling the cotsides. She had been crying constantly for two days, refusing to eat or drink, and her black eyes had dulled and sunk far back into her head. Efforts to tempt her with tasty sugary drinks and savoury purees had failed miserably, and she was losing weight rapidly.

I tried to distract her with some shiny bright toys whilst examining her, but she was not fooled.

"Wawa wawa wawa!!", she wailed, struggling feebly and scooting backwards away from me. She batted at my stethescope with her fists, glaring at me from under a shock of curly hair. There were purple bruises all over her body.

"Wawa wawa wawa!!"

Her parents had died long ago and she had been sent to us from a care home. Nobody had thought to accompany her. Her clothes were dirty, sopping wet when she arrived at the department - she did not even have a diaper on. When I rang up the home, a bored voice informed me that her personal carer had left. There was no way I could get any more information about her condition. I made a mental note to fill out a concern form about the atrocious behaviour of the care home.

Fortunately, her older brother arrived. At the sound of his voice, she grew still and the furrows in her forehead smoothed over. She put out a wrinkled white hand and he clasped it in both of his.

His face was somber. His hands grasping a sturdy walking cane, he looked at me with sad grey eyes.

"She's never been the same since the stroke."

In a soft voice, he spoke to her quietly, gently, whispering in her ear. "Wawa wawa wawa," answered she, "Wawa wawa." He nodded and replied, "I'll find you another place to stay, don't you worry."

Later on, I watched as he fed her spoonfuls of orange juice and then tomato soup. Afterwards he sat by her, holding her hand and they talked.

"I'm fine, don't worry."
"Wawa wawa wawa."
"Stop apologising, I'm your brother."
"Wawa wawa."
"I won't let them hurt you anymore. Don't worry."
"Don't mention it."
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