Sewing is my happy place, my zen, my bliss. And after the crappiest of crappy weekends, it's also my salvation.
You see, my 10 year old niece - Petal* - has spent the weekend in intensive care at the Children's Hospital in Brisbane.
It all started with the 'flu. Things took a turn for the worst on Friday evening. Her mother looked in on her before going to bed, and discovered Petal in a distressed state, struggling to breathe, with bloated face, arms and hands. She immediately rushed her to hospital, where she was admitted upon arrival.
Wellington being two hours ahead of Brisbane, it was early Saturday morning before I heard the news. By then the hospital staff had found fluid on Petal's lungs and high levels of protein in her kidneys, in addition to extremely high blood pressure. She was transferred to the Children's Hospital during the day, but was unable to be taken off the high oxygen-mix, so remained in intensive care.
My day past in a fog. How the usual weekend chores were done, I really can't remember. Night fell, the fire was lit, dinner was eaten. There was another update to say her condition hadn't improved.
Faced with a night of sleeplessness, I turned to my sewing pile. Next up was a dress I need to make for a wedding I'll soon be attending, but it just didn't seem the appropriate thing to make given the circumstances. Instead, I chose another shirt, red linen/rayon and Simplicity 5670 from 1982. Using view 4 as the base, I changed quite a bit - released the pintucks below the bust, shortened the full front placket (actually, I cut 4 sleeve cuffs and used two as the new plackets), left off the collar, using only the stand, shortened the sleeves to 3/4 length, and lengthened the hem by 20cm.
So in a blur, I sewed. Pintucks, plackets, topstitching, french seams, collar - on, then unpicked at centre fronts and lowered by 1.5cm. By then my eyes were heavy so I finished the night by chalking and pressing up the hems.
Sleep came and went. Sunday morning dawned chilly and bright. Another update - still no improvement, but with a dreadful suggestion of an illness that - like the Harry Potter books - shall forever remain unspoken.
A comforting shroud descended with the whirring of the sewing machine. Collar fixed and topstitched, hems too. French seams for sleeve heads then side seams. Neat - like the neat kid on the gurney 2,500km away.
Sleeve bands, a final press, photography in the garden for a change.
I had to keep going, find more to do. Did I believe my stitches could mend a child by proxy? "Yeah, Naa", that fabulous/irritating Kiwi saying. Yeah?
Ahh, mending, hole in sweater, dropped trouser hems, missing buttons replaced.
Finally, finally, deep into the evening, the update. The swelling was receding, Petal's poor battered little body was now accepting a lower flow of oxygen. While the chest x-ray was still bad, she was about to be moved to the pediatric ward.
Today, Petal is slowly showing signs of improvement - eating, propped up in bed, asking to see her little brother, whom she adores - she really is that neat a kid.
It will be a week until we know for sure whether there's permanent damage to heart, kidneys, lungs. Cross your fingers and kiss your kids.
All because of the 'flu.
* Name has been changed.