“Please hold out your arm.” The man in the white coat scooted forward slightly, legs of the stool grinding irritatingly against the gritty tile surface.
Lyla sat up neatly against the edge of the bed, paper rustling under her seat. Running her palm against the opposite arm, she could feel her touch stimulating the tiny hairs atop her skin. The end of limb was blunt, rounded over just above where her elbow would have been, old wound sealed shut with a tiny line of skin, scar tissue rather.
“It’s healed well. The x-ray hasn’t revealed any abscesses forming.” The doctor ran the tips of his fingers up her bare arm. “Have you experienced any discomfort?”
“No…” Lyla mumbled, watching the metal bell of the stethoscope dangle in front of the man’s paisley tie.
“Good, good.” The doctor spun around atop the stool to the counter behind him, peering into a long rectangular box. “Before we get you fitted with something permanent, I’ll allow you to take this home and get used to the feeling.” The doctor pulled a sheet of tissue paper out from the box, followed by a peach-colored plastic arm, held together with a glaring stainless steel hinge. “Get used to operating it, as well.”
“It looks gross.” Lyla looked up at the device, dangling various cords and electrodes off the back.
“Well…” The doctor spun back around, producing a small mesh pocket shaped to the stub of her arm. “The permanent version will be matched to your skin color, and will have much of the mechanical stuff tucked away, hidden.”
Setting down the prosthetic, the doctor slipped the cloth over Lyla’s arm, pulling it snug. He quickly picked the arm back up, grabbing the wires in his fist and tucking them by Lyla’s side as he matched the socket at the end to limb.
“This will hold on like this.” He continued, fiddling with the strap to go around Lyla’s back. “Now, if you just hold on to this and tell me when you feel the muscles in your back start to react to the stimulus.” The doctor grabbed the vinyl pillow off the bed behind her, placing it between her hands, new and old.
The man moved beside her, and Lyla could feel the cold electrodes move underneath the strap on her tank top and attach to various points on her shoulder blades and spine. The weight of the new arm pulled down on her arm, but the strap could be felt pulling against her neck and shoulder, dragging the piece of equipment up and down with her troubled movements. The muscles up her back tensed, and the pillow in her hand twitched as the new hand slowly tightened around it.
“Can you feel it?” The doctor came back to her front, looking down at the now twitching fingers on Lyla’s fresh hand.
“It feels… so numb. Like it isn’t real.” Lyla looked down at the pillow just as it fell from her grasp and onto the ground with a soft thump.
“Let’s test your range of movement, your grip.” The doctor offered his hand out towards hers. Lyla lifted her fresh hand towards his, fingers clumsily wrapping around his. “Imagine you’re picking up an egg, or… picking up a pet, your child perhaps. Imagine pulling your fingers inwards towards the palm. Softly.”
Lyla concentrated, back muscles twitching, eyes fixated on her own hand. Between her fingers, The doctors’ sat, relaxed, before pulling in slightly. The man quickly stopped, attempting to pull back. Lyla’s face twisted up in concentration, frustration. The doctor’s face turned to a grimace, unable to pull his own hand away. A loud cracking sounded through the room, and the two intertwined hands twisted and buckled suddenly.
Lyla quickly jumped back in surprise from the sound, arm now limp. “I’m… sorry. I just…”
The doctor pulled at his wrist, shaking it back and forth. Tugging at the torn vinyl glove, shreds of the material came away, revealing mechanical joints of his own, connected to a length of plastic material extending up his sleeve. “It can take some time to… get used to the lack of feeling. But, we can work through it.”