“Breathe with me.” The nurse said calmly to the panicking young girl currently hyperventilating. She took slow, exaggerated breaths as she tried to draw the child’s attention.
“I can’t, I can’t control it, I can’t breathe!” The girl panicked, her voice coming in gasps as she struggled for air. The nurse could see in her in-vision display the results of her excessive, rapid breaths: her blood CO2 levels dropping.
Reaching out, she took the girls hands. “Look at me. Your lungs are working fine, it just takes time to get used to artificial lungs. Hold your breath.” She instructed, before smiling. “Puff your cheeks out like a scary blowfish!”
Making an odd, snorting-giggle sound at the nurse demonstrating the look, the little girl did just that.
“Oooh, that’s an excellent blowfish impression! Now, can you feel your lungs? They make an odd little sound regularly, right?”
The girl nodded.
“Breathe in and out with those sounds. You’ll get used to it after a while, and the cool computers in your head that we put in will make it easier for you.” The nurse explained gently. “You’re being very brave though, I can imagine it’s scary.” She said as she watched the girl listening for the noise. “There, better?”
Nodding, she breathed a little more before speaking. “Thank you, Miss.”
“It’s what I’m here for, Astrid. Now, you know when you get older you’ll need to get new lungs, right? And when you’re all grown up, they will need check ups and maintenance. That means you’re going to have to do something very important.”
The young girl in the bed, her brown hair still short after the cranial implant surgery, thought very hard about what it could be. “Follow the instructions and doctor’s orders?”
“Well, that’s important too, but this is even more important: You’re going to have to find all sorts of cool things to do in between those appointments. Because these lungs? Your cybernetic heart? All that technology? It may require upkeep, but it will give you the freedom to do so many things, Astrid. Far beyond the walls and coridors of this hospital.”
Her patient smiled up at her, reaching for the book by her bedside. It was an old, slightly battered gardening book for use with aeroponic units. “I’d like to grow plants… and maybe look after people in need.”
“Anything is possible if you’re determined enough, Astrid. Including getting you washed and dressed.” The nurse teased. “Your parents will be here soon for a visit, and kids still in their pyjamas at lunch time might not get to watch their favourite gardening netcasts.”
Astrid Van Bergen swung her legs over the side of the bed as quickly as she could manage. After all, today was the day that Gardener’s Globe were giving away a new, multi-plant Gaiatron aeroponics unit, and she had her bedside phone topped up with credits for the call.