A tweak on option #2 for Rita's Fiction Friday Open Call..
Beth exited the “T” at Brigham Circle and hurried up the steps to the front entrance of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She was not late, but Beth hated to cut things too close. The life of a nursing student was hectic enough. Beth didn’t see any reason to stress herself more by playing with time limits and schedules.
Today she was starting a special elective. As a second year student, Beth now had some control over her course load. She had chosen the transplant unit. Beth had a special draw to that segment of the patient population. Her uncle was alive today because of a lung transplant five years ago. Beth knew nothing of the donor except that cause of death had been some sort of stroke. Uncle Jeff had encouraged his entire family to sign up as organ donors. Glad to do so, they each carried an organ donation card with them, and had a spot marked on their driver’s licenses in case they were ever in an auto accident. Uncle Jeff was one reason Beth had decided to go into nursing.
Rounding the corner, Beth found herself at the nurses’ station just as her instructor was approaching from the opposite corridor. After a briefing on what to do with her belongings and how the unit worked, Beth headed for the locker room to change clothes. No street clothes allowed in here. She donned scrubs, shoe covers, and a stretchy flimsy hair cover. These patients were all pre-transplant, most of them immunosuppressed, and all at risk and susceptible to any bacteria or virus introduced from the outside. Beth would be assigned two patients. As a student, she would not have complete responsibility, but she was expected to know histories and diagnoses and medications. It was not at all like a regular med-surg unit. Part of her assignment here was also to do an in-depth interview with one of the patients. This was required for her psych course. Nothing like multi-tasking.
Once finished with report, Beth went to meet her patients. They were in adjoining rooms, so that personnel would have minimal “in and out” trips. One of her patients was a 16 year old girl admitted for a bone marrow transplant. Her parents were in the room with her. The other was a young man about Beth’s brother’s age...two years Beth’s senior. He was awaiting a liver transplant. He was alone, staring out the window. His piercing emerald eyes pinned her as she entered. She had never seen such bright eyes in such a pale face. Even the yellow cast to the surrounding whites of his eyes was outshined by the deep green irises.
“I’m Beth Larsen. I’m a student, and I will be helping care for you today,” Beth recited. “Are you Adam Welch?”
“That’s me”. His voice was stronger than Beth would have expected, considering his appearance.
“You don’t look very comfortable in that rumpled bed. Want to get up in a chair?”
“Sure”. Adam got to the chair with Beth’s help. She explained her assignment to him. When she got to the part about the interview, he looked skeptical.
“Well, how about if we just talk, then? If there’s something you don’t want to talk about, change the subject.”
As Beth went about her duties, she engaged Adam in conversation. He had an easy manner, an attitude of acceptance. She had read his history, but Adam filled in his version of the details. She discovered that his liver damage was due to injuries sustained in an auto accident about a year ago. A motorcycle had skidded into him. His car ran off the road, flipped, and rolled down a hill. He had had multiple fractures and internal injuries. Several surgeries later, he was still struggling with impaired liver function. A combination of trauma and the stress of metabolizing multiple drugs infused during his treatments had left him with a failing liver. He was here in the hospital because he had been told that a liver might be available. Ironically, it would come from a motorcyclist. Adam’s blood type was AB negative. Matching him wasn’t easy. Beth knew that most of her own family was O negative. Universal donor. They had all been tested when they signed on as organ donors.
Beth’s thoughts went to Greg. Her brother had been an avid biker since he was 16. Nothing could separate him from his bike. Apparently he now had a new Harley. He would be arriving from Portland, Maine on it sometime tomorrow. Tomorrow was Uncle Jeff’s birthday, and the whole family was gathering to celebrate. Beth just wished Greg was not coming on the bike. She always worried.
The bad news for Adam came in around 10 AM. There would be no liver available. The victim’s family had signed the paperwork, but the injuries were such that some of the internal organs were just not salvageable. Donor Cycle. Beth knew that was the term some hospital personnel used for motorcycles. Her brother Greg joked about it as well. Riding a donor cycle. It turned Beth’s stomach.
She found herself more upset for Adam than she thought she would be. He, however, seemed to take the news in stride. Apparently he had been down this road before. Beth thought about the donor. She couldn’t help but think how often a doctor’s signature on a death certificate signified the renewal of life for someone else. Someone they would never know.
Adam’s doctor decided to keep him another day or so, just to finish the lab work and testing they had begun. He was due for some updating anyway. Beth’s shift was ending just as Adam’s mother walked into the room. Beth could see where he’d gotten those eyes.
Saying goodbye for the night, Beth headed once more for the locker. As she donned her own clothes, she found thoughts of Adam creeping in. Those amazing eyes, the way his dark hair curled just a little above his brow. His ready laugh. Nope. She had to stop THAT!
Arriving home about 30 minutes later, Beth was just in time to help her mother with Uncle Jeff’s present. With little else to do when he was hospitalized for so long, her uncle had become a TV buff. When he ran out of current shows, he started watching reruns of older sitcoms. Two of his favorites were Seinfeld..and Cheers. Her mom had found him complete boxed sets of both.
“Any word on Greg?” Beth asked. “He isn’t going to try to drive in at night is he?”
“ He hasn’t called,” her mom replied.” In fact, I had hoped we’d hear from him by now. It would be nice to get a better idea of his timing."
They got through the meal, and the evening. Beth’s mom and dad were in their separate offices, Beth in her room working on her psych paper. She found herself pacing, unable to concentrate. Greg hadn’t said he’d call, but usually he did. Maybe he just figured he’d see them tomorrow.
Still thinking about her brother, Beth went to bed. She slept restlessly, with visions of her brother’s mischievous smile mixed in with flashes of a boy with emerald eyes.
By the next morning, Greg had still not called. Uncle Jeff was due in at around 10. Beth had to go to the hospital, so, extracting a promise from her mother to call with any news...or to have Greg call her, she set off for the T.
The morning was gray. There was a little drizzle, just enough to dull visibility. Beth hoped it wouldn’t turn to a full downpour. Lost in thought, she watched the scenery whiz by. Beth had grown up in a small town in New Mexico. Silver City had nothing even approaching a rapid transit, let alone a rail system. Boston’s “T” was the first she had ever encountered. It was pretty amazing, really! When her dad had gotten job in the Boston area, Beth had included that as a possibility for nursing school. The big city sometimes still overwhelmed her.
“Damn!” Beth shot to her feet as the train slowed. She had missed her stop at Brigham Circle...and Longwood Avenue was coming up fast. She would walk it, otherwise she WOULD be late.
Hurrying out the doors, Beth made her way out to the street. That was going to be a LONG few blocks! Hoisting her backpack to her left shoulder, Beth stepped into the crosswalk.
The oncoming truck never stopped.
Beth became aware that something was very wrong. Her mother was there. And Uncle Jeff. And there was Greg, talking to her father. Good! He had made it! But why was he shaking?
Her mother, seated next to a hospital bed, was crying. A man she recognized as one of the staff doctors was talking with her, and someone else was there with a clipboard. She was signing some papers.
Beth was moving in closer to see what the doctor was writing when she suddenly noticed a flash of silver from the corner of her eye. She focused on it. It was a filament stretching from her midsection to a figure on the bed beside her mother; a figure on a gently whooshing ventilator.
And then there was the light. With no awareness of anything else, Beth faced the light and moved toward its brilliance.
“Mrs. Larsen.” The doctor spoke softly. “I am so sorry for your loss. I know that this was her wish. She spoke so often of the importance of giving someone else a chance at life. Many people will benefit from her generous spirit. As a matter of fact, there is a young man here right now whom we have had difficulty matching. He desperately needs a liver. “
Beth’s mother watched solemnly as the doctor opened her daughter’s chart and placed his signature upon the death certificate.