Before I open my eyes, I hear voices. They’re talking to each other near me but I can’t understand what they’re saying. Foreign. It’s a foreign language. If they’re making up my state room with me still in bed, I shall make a complaint. Feeling irritated I open my eyes, a slit. The light’s dazzling but I see nurses. I’m in hospital.
Suddenly I become the centre of attention. Smiling faces loom, looking down on me. They’re probably saying, ‘You’re awake. That’s good. How do you feel? Would you like a cup of tea?’ I nod my head, hopefully and try to speak but there’s something large in my mouth. I put my hand up to it – a plastic tube. I must have been very ill but I don’t remember.
My last memory was walking through the streets of Buenos Aires. It was very busy with people drinking at pavement tables and I wanted a drink. It was very hot and humid.
I’m thirsty now. I need to take this pipe out of my mouth so I can drink. My hand moves up to it and another hand gently stops me.
I open my eyes, fully. A doctor is really close undoing something. He’s taking out the tube. I retch. My tummy hurts, but I’m relieved it’s out. I smile and try to speak but can only croak. What’s he saying? Spanish? I wish my sister was here. Her Spanish is really good. Mine’s non-existent.
A nurse offers me a cup with a spout like you give to toddlers. I suck and the water sooths my sore throat. I drink it all and then I say, ‘I’m English, inglés.
‘Ah, English. Hello. Can you tell me your name?’ says the doctor.
He wrote it down on my chart. ‘Good, Marcella. Do you know where you are?’
‘Hospital. I think I’m in Buenos Aires.’
‘That is correct. You are doing well. Are you in pain?’
‘My tummy hurts.’
He pulls back the covers to examine me. A nurse removes a dressing and I gasp with pain. She puts on a clean one and I relax.
‘Have you taken out my appendix?’
‘No. Do you remember what happened to you?’
I ignore his question. I’m feeling confused and frightened. ‘But I’ve had an operation. What for?’ It seems a simple question but he’s avoiding the issue. I look at him and he’s struggling to tell me something. Perhaps searching for the correct translation.
‘I’m sorry to tell you, Marcella, but you were a victim of a violent attack.’
‘Was I stabbed?’ I don’t remember. Why can’t I remember if such a dreadful thing happened to me?’
‘It is called dissociative amnesia and it is likely you will remember some of it in time. You were reported missing by the cruise ship and the police found you in an alley, yesterday. You were robbed so we did not know who you were.’
‘So, I was robbed and stabbed.’
He shook his head. ‘No. I’m sorry. You were attacked specifically because you are young and healthy. There is a black-market demand for body parts, kidneys in particular. They operated on you and took out one of your kidneys.’
‘No! Oh my God.’ Tears run down my face and he gives me a tissue.
‘You will be fine. You can live a full and long life with one kidney.’ He smiles, touches my hand and walks away.