Anh yêu em Tuyet...
Tôi yêu con gái KaSandra & Katrina...
Tôi thương con trai của bố Luc…
a novel by nicholas sheridan stanton
LA General Hospital, Los Angeles California…Monday, June 27th, 2005…5pm
Lizzie stopped before entering the chemo lounge. What a dumb term to use for the room she thought. Nobody inside there was doing much lounging around that was for sure. She could see Katie Tate sitting in an ugly green semi-comfortable vinyl chair. You know the type, the kind that squeaks every time you twist or turn in it, how annoying! She was so small in the large piece of furniture. She looked like Goldilocks sitting on Papa Bear's lap. Beside her was a med-tree where the clear color coded bags hung, dripping poison at various intervals into the pick line that protruded from her little chest. Katie sat very still to keep from disturbing the needle inside the pick.
A wrong move on her part could accidently dislodge the needle which would require a nurse to reinsert it, a very painful procedure, especially if you got the wrong nurse! Katie sat with her head back and her eyes closed, breathing slowly and evenly, relaxing as she listened to her mother read to her. Lizzie couldn’t hear Anita Tate through the thick glass but she could see the book. Anita was reading Charlotte’s Web, one of Lizzie’s favorites from childhood. She decided to leave mother and daughter alone with their quiet moment and backtracked to the nurse’s station.
“Hi Phyllis, can I see the Tate girl's chart?” she asked politely.
The nurse looked up from her work and frowned. Phyllis Newman was a stocky woman in her late forties, an ER veteran who had only recently been assigned to the cancer wing of the hospital. It was a change of pace that she sorely needed but she was having difficulty adjusting to the slower pace. Twenty five years of sirens and drama had taken its toll on her personality. She'd developed the usual emotional callousness that came with seeing it all so to speak, and did not believe in greener pastures as a concept. That was just a myth she'd be happy to tell you.
Still, she had to deal with the drama that comes with human tragedy minus the gore and the sirens, although, she would have preferred them to the sadness that came with terrible loss after long battles. At least with accidents and murders there was someone or something to blame. With cancer the only one to blame was God, and He was blameless to the faithful and non-existent to those who did not believe. At least in here there was time to say goodbye, to exchange knowing looks and to wail or whisper I love you one last time. Removing her glasses Phyllis swiveled in her chair to retrieve the metal clipboard containing Katherine Tate’s chart from the wall caddie. The chart was color coded with a green stripe affixed to the manila folder. It was a pretty simple system, sort of like a traffic signal. Green was good, it meant there was hope. Yellow was not so good, it meant that things weren’t going so well, and red was bad, it meant your days were numbered. She spun back around and handed the chart to Lizzie.
“Here you go Doctor Andrews,” she said without looking up.
“Um, thanks Phyllis. No reds on the wall tonight, that’s a good sign,” Lizzie said trying to coax a smile out of the duty nurse.
“The night is young doctor,” Phyllis said flatly.
Lizzie winced, “Ouch! Not exactly Sally Sunshine today are we Phyllis?” she replied, turning to head for the lounge area to study Katie’s chart.
“No time for fairy tales missy,” Phyllis muttered as Lizzie walked away.
She beat it over to the lounge area at a fast walk and was happy to find that it was empty for a change, a rare luxury. Everyone must have dashed down to the cafeteria for lunch. It was Monday that meant tortilla soup day, the specialty of the house. But Lizzie was more tired than hungry so she sat in one of the soft leather chairs set around an oval shaped coffee table covered in old magazines and settled in to catch up on Katie's progress, and if possible, take a ten minute catnap, as long as her cell phone stayed silent of course.
Flipping open Katie’s chart she scribbled the date and time on the log-in page. She verified that the correct drugs and dosages being administered. She noted Katie’s vitals, nothing out of the ordinary all things considered. It was still early in the regiment so the child was a few days from the real suffering. Lizzie felt her abdomen tighten empathetically as she imagined the next few weeks for the little girl. She had come to understand that the old adage "the cure will probably kill you" was more prophesy then witty saying. She looked up at the clock and yawned, it was only 5pm but she'd been on since 6am. Exhausted, Lizzie decided the time was right for a little snooze and she let the chart settle into her lap.
Scrunching down in the chair she propped her feet up on the table when she noticed the California section of the LA Times in front of her. The headline read “G.A.W.D. Almighty.” That jolted her wide awake! She sat up quickly and scooped up the newspaper. Katie’s chart fell to the floor as she shook the paper open to read the whole article. Below the bold print of the headline was a photograph of the Tate’s with their benefactor, Grover Gateway, the famous publishing billionaire and another man whose name she didn’t recognize, but whose face was very familiar. They were standing in the lobby of the chic, luxurious Bonaventure Hotel, downtown. Lizzie knew the place as that was where her parents always stayed whenever they visited to check up on her. It was her father’s style, top cabin all the way he always said.
As she read the article she kept turning back to the photo. The man the paper identified as Jean Luc Rojier had a face that was on the tip of her memory. It frustrated her that she couldn't place him. She knew this guy from somewhere? She read on, apparently Gateway and Rojier were associated through this G.A.W.D. Foundation, although the story didn't exactly make clear the nature of their relationship. She bit at her lip as she continued reading. Gateway Associates Worldwide Donations was making quite a splash internationally with their "Hope for Children" campaign.
Lizzie had to admit, she was impressed if not down right inspired by their mission statement, "deny no child the right to fight." Actually, she witnessed the power of that statement with Katie Tate. Without G.A.W.D. Katie wouldn't have lived to see her next birthday. And while she may not see another, at least now she had some hope to cling to. Hope, and the comfort that came with knowing she wouldn't be abandoned, that her life was important, that she was worth fighting for, that she was worth the investment. Lizzie finished reading the article, then folded up the paper and took another look at the headline. She giggled connecting the dots as she made the connection between G.A.W.D. and GOD. She stared at the photo again, her smile fading as she studied the face of Jean Luc Rojier.
“NUTS, who is that guy?”Lizzie wondered aloud.
Lizzie jumped, startled by the sudden appearance of Anita Tate. She snorted a hello and tossed the paper back onto the table, picking up Katie’s chart from the floor in front of her and leafing through it quickly.
“Sorry Anita, I didn’t hear you come in. How’s Katie doing?”
Anita Tate pulled her sweater tighter around her and folded her arms, her eyes betraying the nervous smile on her face. Lizzie could see that Mrs. Tate was tired and she looked frightened. People conveyed terror in one of two ways typically. They either looked at you with a pleading expression and nervous smile. Or, they avoided making eye contact and tried to change the subject when they were pressed to explain what was wrong.
“Oh, she’s her cheerful self; you’d never know that she was as sick as she is,” answered Anita.
“That’s comforting isn’t it?” Lizzie asked rhetorically.
“Not really. Come on doctor, we both know what she’s in store for. Don't you see her smile fading, her eyes sad while she suffers in silence, just like the last time,” Anita said curtly.
Lizzie bit at her lip, apologizing with her expression, and wishing that she hadn’t been so glib with her reply. Mrs. Tate saw that she had touched a raw nerve in Lizzie, and apologized.
“I’m sorry Elizabeth. I didn’t mean that to snap at you. I’m just preparing myself for what’s next. You understand don’t you?”
Anita glanced past Lizzie and pointed at the newspaper. “Did you read the article?” she asked.
“Yeah, just before you walked in,” Lizzie answered.
“Pretty amazing isn’t it? I mean the newspaper is usually filled with so much crap, it’s nice to read something positive for a change,” Anita said with a weak smile.
“Oh yeah, I totally agree,” Lizzie replied with a puny smile of her own.
“G.A.W.D, can you believe it?”
“Yeah, that made me smile too.”
“Katie's asking for you, can you stop by?” Anita asked in a cheerier tone.
“Of course,” Lizzie answered, grabbing the newspaper as they walked out of the waiting lounge together.
“Who are you,” she muttered glancing at the photo one more time. She made a mental note to find out.