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Story Time Contest: Hero Edition
is going to be a cat when she grows up.
15th Aug 2012 at 7:39 AM
Thanks: 34924 in 85 Posts
The toll of saving lives has worn Eric Cowert down from a brilliant and optimistic doctor to a deeply embittered shell of his former self. After losing a young patient, he wants to quit the medical profession for good, and the best efforts of his colleagues have failed to re-ignite his enthusiasm or re-build his confidence. But there's always another night ... another shift ... another patient.
Despite what they tell you in the movies, a true alcoholic can't kick the habit by throwing a glass at the wall or pouring the hooch down the drain. Sure, you'll feel better for a hour or two—you might even make it through your evening. But once you wake up in the night with your heart knocking through your chest and your mouth completely dry no matter how much you swallow and your hands shaking like hell and sweat running down your back, believe me, you'll get another bottle.
Right now the whiskey I've been drinking feels good in my stomach. Right now Jyoti's in my arms and I can't get enough of her. Our kisses are hungry. You'd never guess that we were fighting like hell with each other just an hour earlier, calling each other all kinds of horrible, ugly names. But right now we can hold each other like hormonal teenagers and
carry on as if nothing really matters.
Because right now, nothing else does.
I moan back at her.
"Eric … is that your phone?"
"It'll go to voicemail, just ignore it."
"I'd love to, but it's been ringing non-stop for the past five minutes."
"Baby, come on … please …"
I can hear the "doctor" in her voice, and I know that we're done for the moment. That'd better be the goddamn owner of the hospital on the line. Anyone else is getting cussed out.
"… I don't know this number."
Jyoti is looking over my shoulder. Her brow is wrinkled. "… well, I do. And they've called six times. You need to get dressed."
"Who is it?"
"It's the hospital switchboard, they must need you to come in." She's already half-dressed.
"Get going, would you? I can wait. Whoever's on that operating table can't."
I stand there, still stubborn, still undressed. "I don't operate, Jyoti."
"I'm not going to argue with you. If you can't be bothered to save lives anymore, that's your problem. I'm leaving. Goodbye, Eric."
Right now I feel the whiskey in my stomach. It's coming back up.
By the time I get to the hospital I'm pissed off. My evening's ruined, I just puked up a bunch of perfectly good liquor, my head is spinning, and this place reeks of cleaning fluid and dried sweat and burnt-out machines. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see one of the hotshot residents running my way. His name is Withers, and I wish it was anyone but him right now. "Hey, Cowert. Need you in the ER, stat."
"That's 'doctor' to you, Withers."
"Look, man, I don't have time to kiss your ass. The only reason I'm even bothering with you at all is because I couldn't get anyone else. Now hurry up, the patient needs a stomach pump and a possible blood transfusion and god-knows-what-else."
I'd punch him, but he's already running away, a perfect Dr. 'here-I-come-to-save-the-day' Dickwad.
I follow him down the hall, but I'm in no hurry. By the time I reach the ER, he's furious.
"Where the hell have you been? Didn't I tell you this patient—"
"If the patient was sick enough for you to yell at me in person, then you should have never left his side. Now start using that damn medical degree, and save the attitude for your one-night-stands."
I shove him out of the way and approach the groaning man in the bed in front of us. I see the bluish lips, the hard breaths, his contracted pupils.
"The chart says he had some bad shrimp and a bit too much to drink tonight—"
"The chart's crap. He's OD'ed on morphine. Get this guy a Naxolone drip bag and hook him up to IV."
"You didn't even—"
He does. We're there for a while stabilizing the patient.
Withers leaves the room first. The attitude is gone. He's pale. "That guy's friend said he'd eaten some bad seafood—"
I come up behind him. "Look, kid. No one is going to come in here and tell you that their own father broke their arm, or that their nosebleed is from snorting cocaine. Even in a hospital it's hard for people to really be honest. You gotta trust your eyes, not what you're told. Learn that lesson quick, it'll save you a lot of sleepless nights."
Withers backs away. He looks a bit shaken. But I don't have time to go after him; I've got work to do.
After you see one trauma patient, sometimes you really feel like you've seen them all. The tired faces and the sad families and the vitals and the charts all blur together, especially when you've been looking at one person after another for five hours non-stop. Withers clocked out early and left me alone. He suddenly "got a migraine." More like got a dose of reality, the spineless bastard.
I'm on my way to the break room when I see a familiar face—two familiar faces—to my left.
He's on his back, hooked up to a heart monitor. She's watching him. She looks like she's been here for a long time. I stop and look at her.
"It's not your shift, Mrs. Hallenbeck."
"Doctor … please, not now."
But I've already shoved the curtain aside and come in.
I don't need to see Aaron Hallenbeck's chart; the neatly-closed cut on his left wrist tells me everything. Myrna won't meet my eyes anymore. "I found him when I came home from evening mass. I didn't know what else to do …"
"You did what you're supposed to do, bring him where professionals can take care of him. Now why don't you take care of yourself, and go home and get some sleep."
"With all due respect, sir, I think we both know that's not going to happen. If Aaron comes to and I'm not around, it'll take a lot more than 28 stitches and a shot of sedative to calm him down."
"That wasn't a request, Mrs. Hallenbeck. I'm not suggesting that you go home, I'm telling you as someone familiar with hospital rules—"
"Well, I'm telling you as the primary caretaker of a very sick man that I don't intend to leave that sick man alone.
I don't know who made the rules, but they're wrong."
"If you could let me
could for once understand that some of us actually have a moral responsibility, regardless of what
shut the hell up!"
Her expression is terrified, furious, humiliated. Her eyes keep darting to my raised hand. Her mouth is half-open, as if she's going to say something. But she's silent.
I grit out, "Please allow me to explain the rules to you, Mrs. Hallenbeck, since you don't seem to understand. When human beings get tired, we make mistakes. The mistakes of doctors and medical professionals can't be fixed with White-Out or by correcting a clerical error. Our mistakes cost people their health and their limbs and their lives. And I refuse to come identify you in a morgue tomorrow night after you sleepwalk into traffic and get run down by a truck.
will take of your brother personally,
will make sure that he understands that his sister needed to take care of herself for once, and
will bring him to your house myself so that you can keep babysitting him forever and ever. But right now, you are leaving this hospital, and you are going home."
Still, she doesn't leave, and I can't tell if her resistance is out of duty or sheer stubbornness. The stress has driven all of the blood to her pale face. I point a shaking finger at her. "When you burn out—and you
—you'll be just like me. Remember that, Myrna."
A few moments later, I'm alone with the unconscious man. I look at his wrist again and throw it away from me in disgust. He was never in any danger. He just wanted his sister's attention, and he got it. Damn, did he get it.
"That's love, man," I growl. "You're lucky."
"Yeah." I hear a stuffy little voice in the background, calling for Mommy. "Should I call back?"
"No, it's okay, she's been ill all night, not sleeping well. Where are you?"
"I just got home."
"So you went in? … there's hope for you yet."
"Don't kid yourself. I just like the overtime pay."
"Suuuuure," she drawls. "I won't be in tomorrow, but give me a call again, okay?"
I'm half-smiling when I hang up. No matter how much we fight, Jyoti always seems to forgive me. Maybe I'm lucky, too.
CC used: store items, custom eyes, OMSP, tipsy OMSP, skin by HP. Also used: Hospital set by Hekate999, custom photos by me.
Plot points used (current round): Not You Again
Plot points used (previous rounds): Mysterious Past, Embarrassing Rescue, Good is Boring, Beware the Nice Guy.
Word count: 1,466.