"Can you walk these over for me, Mel?" It's Dr. Saint John.
"Excuse me, do I look like the messenger boy?"
I actually like Deborah very much. She's a sweet girl and very, very bright. But she has yet to figure out that young and cute is no match for menopause and attitude. I have both in spades.
It's not so much that I object to walking over to radiology. There are a couple of young hunks of flesh that are worth looking at in said department. Never mind that they have the social skills of two-year-olds. I never said I wanted to talk to them.
But as head nurse in the emergency department, it is my sworn duty to make sure that interns and residents are raised up right, and part of raising them right is to teach them, early on, that you will NOT answer to their every beck and call. Cave into them a few times and they'll start mistaking you for maid service. I don't even clean up after my own kids. I'll be damned if I'll do it for these.
"What about Sue and Kate? And Ahab? You got three people."
"They got paged."
"Oh yeah, right, the Pinto and the semi argument. Shit."
"Can you do that, Mel?"
"Look, tell you what. I'll keep an eye on your patient while you put in the orders. I take 'em over, they're gonna ignore 'em for hours, and your boy didn't look that good."
"O-kay." She sounds a little disappointed. Probably because she didn't want to walk the extra 75 feet to radiology.
Wait a minute. Is she blushing?
"He's a cutie, even all mucked up, isn't he?"
Her response is to go beyond blush and into crimson, and to take off like a scared rabbit.
All I can say is, it's about time.
We haven't had any good new gossip in ages.
I tell Patti the receptionist to take over for a few minutes. Scary thought, having Patti manning the desk, since most humans have more brains in their fingernails than she has in her entire body. But it does give me a chance to get away from her arguing with her latest boyfriend on the phone.
Time was that that was enough juice to keep the gossip machine around here lubricated, but now it's just old news.
Hospitals run on gossip. People think they run on insurance money, but that's a myth. The only reason to work here is to see what everyone's up to. Of course, when it gets really dull we make it up, but it's so much more fun (and incriminating) when there is some basis in reality for it.
I knock on Room 4's door, which is locked. You'd think these people were paranoid or something. Or they've been in hospitals before and know the drill.
"Dr. Saint John?" I see he's gotten the pronunciation correct, at any rate.
"No, it's Ms. White. The head nurse."
The door is released by the older gentleman I saw come in with the younger man.
"Well, hello, pretty lady," he greets me.
"Not hardly. How's our boy-hey, did you know your shoulder's bleeding?"
"Oh, don't fuss, I just cut myself, it's no big deal."
This person may be short, but he is very obviously male, and in male-speak, his sentence translates out to, "I have actually severed a limb, but will bleed to death before I admit that I'm hurt."
"Let me see it." I order him, sensing that a polite request will have as much effect as ordering a tornado to cease and desist.
"Right here?" He looks aghast.
"Yes, right here!"
"I'm not that badly hurt. He's the one you should be worried about." He points to the restlessly dozing figure occupying the gurney. Poor boy must really be out of it. If you can sleep on one of those things, you're either beyond exhaustion or a resident.
I check the young man. He's still a disaster, covered with cuts and bruises, although he's been cleaned up some. At least he smells better than when he came in.
I check him over to make sure that it doesn't appear that any internal hemorrhage is sneaking up on him while we are so pleasantly chatting here.
The boy is...
He may be injured as hell, but it's obvious that he is, well, extremely well endowed.
"He looks all right. For now. At least he's sleeping. C'mon, let's have a look at your shoulder."
He stares at me with steady, cool green eyes. "I'm not leaving him."
"I can tell from here that it needs to be sutured, sir."
"No, it doesn't."
"Yes, it does. I'm going to send you over to the suture room to get put back together."
A flash of anger in those eyes. "Apparently you didn't hear me, ma'am. I'm not leaving him alone."
A knock at the door. "Dr. Saint John."
I release the latch and she steps in. Poor kid. She's dying to go home. Her day off was supposed to start nearly an hour ago.
"Mr. Frohike, come along with me."
"You don't understand, ma'am," he says sharply to me. "He's...we've...been through a lot in the last couple of days."
"Yes, and although actual mileage may vary, yours is showing, Mr. Frohike."
"I can't leave him alone."
"Would you feel better if I...stayed with him?" Dr. Saint John speaks up-very haltingly, I might add.
Her cheeks are flushing hot.
The short older man looks at her sternly. "You promise not to leave him until I get back here, is that clear?"
"Y-yes." She stammers out.
"Fine. Mr. Frohike? Let's move it."
Can't live with them. Can't kill them.
He looks so small right now. Which is an odd perception, since he's even bigger than I am.
Maybe it's because he appears so helpless. He's got all kinds of junk flowing through his veins, including morphine, which right now doesn't seem to be adequately combating the pain. He stirs constantly, uttering little moans that suggest the pain is much more than physical.
He moves from stirring to attempting to rustle about.
"It's okay, you'll be fine." I gently lay a hand on his head. It's warm.
The gesture seemed to calm him.
I check the monitors. Most of his vitals are stabilizing, but he's still got a temperature of 101.5.
That means that I should write admitting orders.
Writing admitting orders is something I do all the time, and I get no particular thrill from it.
So why am I shivering as I begin to prepare his?
I'm in the midst of signing the last of the paperwork to take to Admissions when he begins moving again. He begins whimpering but it rapidly escalates.
I touch his hair. It's still pretty gunked up, but the nurses managed to clean the worst of the stickiness-and the smell-from it. In spite of the detritus remaining, I can tell he's got very soft hair. Like a baby's. Probably a beautiful creamy color when it's not full of blood and dirt and oil.
This time he opens his eyes. He tries to speak, but it takes a while for something to come out.
He's struggling. "Take your time. It's all right." I keep my tone soft, soothing.
"Frohike." I think that's what he said.
"Is that your friend?"
"Uh-huh." Speech is a terrible effort for him right now.
"He's in the suture room. He'll be back soon."
He's in a morphine haze, staring at me blankly, as if the intent of the words did not register.
"Your friend is right nearby, Mr. Langly."
"His name is Ringo?" I'm puzzled here.
"No. Me," he croaks hoarsely.
"That's what people call you?" Admitting form says Richard, but then again, I went through college being called Thespis...still use it as my email address.
"Some." He moves, just enough to cause a lot of pain, and he winces and moans.
I touch his hand. God, he has lovely hands. Large but well sculpted. At least I'm sure they are when they're not so terribly torn up.
I feel something akin to an electric shock move through my body as I touch his hand. Oh God, what am I getting into here?
He's your patient, I remind myself. Part of the professional relationship is establishing enough trust to be able to move into the other person's body space. This is actually one of the more difficult aspects of training. I think that's why they have you start out by cutting up a corpse. It's your first crack at being in someone's face. Fortunately, the body is very dead, so it doesn't matter how badly you screw up on the first go round.
Touch is supposed to be comforting to the patient, and nonthreatening to the physician.
This touch feels anything but professional.
Especially when I feel his fingers wrapping around mine.
I look down to make sure I'm not imagining the warm jolt that just stung through me.
No, I'm not. Sure enough, his fingers are curling over mine. In spite of his weakened condition, he's got a pretty good grip going on.
"Wha's your name?" He asks.
I'm about to say, I'm Dr. Saint John, but instead, "Deborah" falls out from my lips.
"Deborah. Pretty name."
He gives me a little smile, closes his eyes, and falls back into narcotic slumber.
As for me, I should be going home. I should be ready to transfer him over to a house physician. Once patients leave the emergency room, they're no longer my responsibility.
I have laundry. I'm tired. I'm hungry. I need a shower. I should really get my ass out the door.
But not now.
"Y'know, if you want, I can stitch this up myself. Unless you want to wait for one of the doctors. That might be a while," I say to Mr. Frohike.
"Fine with me. Just do it quickly. I need to get back to my boy."
"Sorry. Busy day here. Freezing rain, brings in a lot of accidents. Mostly cars, but we get some idiots who think they can stand up on the roof when it's slick as a penguin's butt."
"Well, we did get up on the roof, but that's not how it happened," Mr. Frohike says to me.
His voice is quiet, serious.
"What did you boys get into?" I ask.
"Wanna talk about it."
He shakes his head in the negative. "No. Just get me stitched up so I can take care of the boy."
"Very well. That boy means a lot to you, doesn't he?"
"They both do."
"Got another one. Not here right now."
"He's all right?"
"I don't know. But I need to find out soon. Let's get on with it."
I begin to help him peel the layers of bloodied
clothing off and go about my