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a novel by nicholas sheridan stanton
LA General Hospital, Thursday, August 26th, 2005…10:30am
Carrie Soo was officially late. The girl might be a brilliant oncologist but punctual she was not! Fortunately Linda Bradley was well aware of the idiosyncrasies of the hospital's latest acquisition. An acquisition by the way, courtesy a well executed power-play on her part she thought, mentally patting herself on the back. Linda and a small team of recruiters based in Tokyo, Japan had beaten the odds and their long time rival Boston General by landing the biggest fish in the pond, one Dr. Carrie Pak Soo in an unofficial competition for the world's best medical minds. Actually LA General had no business winning out over BG, an older, well established center of excellence specializing in cutting edge cancer treatments. But what LAG lacked in prestige, reputation, and the kind of opportunities a progressive thinker like Dr. Soo would require, they made up for with the deep pockets of Sanford Peck and his Standard Pharmaceutical Empire.
In a side by side comparison LAG didn't come close to measuring up to BG, but with pockets that deep, old man Peck had the edge in an all out bidding war, which is exactly what it came down to where the young Korean doctor was concerned. You need the right bait to land a fish that big, namely, money. And in the Asian culture cash is king! A blank check was the ace up Linda's sleeve, that and authorization to go as high as eight zeros. It didn't take long to sway Carrie, especially after the company assured her that they would bankroll her relocation as well as her family's'. Carrie's biggest stipulation was that she didn't want to leave her family behind in North Korea. Getting them all out of that rotting society, free and clear, would require a king's ransom, and to his credit Sanford Peck was willing to foot the bill. It was by no means a soft hearted gesture on his part, no, not in the least. It was good business, plain and simple. Dr. Soo was young, and she was brilliant, already a force to be reckoned with on the world stage in her field of expertise.
Getting her to commit to a very long term arrangement with Standard Pharmaceutical was going to pay huge dividends in the long run by way of research grants from the Feds and significant upticks on Wall Street. In fact her recent paper in the Harvard Journal of Medicine introducing the world to her breakthrough in early detection methodology of deadly strains of childhood cancers, specifically rhabdomyosarcoma, had already bolstered Standard shares by a noticeable 8%. Not bad for a rookie thought Linda. A sudden rap on the office door startled her and she caught her coffee mug before it tipped over and spilled the last swallow onto her desk.
"Yes?" Linda said curtly as she tidied her desktop.
"Sorry Ms. Bradley, but Dr. Soo is here. Shall I send her in?" asked Derek Frost, her usually quiet executive assistant.
"Okay, give me a minute then send her in. She can wait a sec while I refill my coffee cup," Linda said reaching for the thermos on the credenza behind her.
"Serves her right for being fashionably late," Derek said as he exited her office, closing the door gently behind him.
Linda wasn't exactly looking forward to the meeting. As she sat down with her fresh cup she put on her reading glasses and opened the chart in front of her. Linda had already studied the contents several times. The decision was clear to her. Dr. Soo's recommendations were direct and correct, as clinical as they come, sans any what if scenarios and troublesome emotions. The girl was one cool cucumber. Perhaps that was cultural? Linda forced herself to abandon that thought for fear of prejudice. Picking up her mug she took a sip as Carrie walked into the room. She was thin, and tall compared to most of the Asian women Linda had known, standing at 5' 9" in a pair of hospital flats. She was dressed in a stylish pair of ecru colored slacks with an amber cashmere sweater over a white long sleeved blouse. All of which was covered by a freshly pressed white lab coat. She wore her hair pulled back into a long ponytail that made her look even younger than she already did. No wonder Wallace Tate referred to her as Doogie Howser. Carrie smiled at Linda and sat across from her in one of the two leather arm chairs in front of her desk.
"You wanted to see me?" she asked with the voice of a 12 year-old.
Linda stared to smile and stifled it, "Yes Dr. Soo, I did. I wanted to chat with you before you spoke with the Tate's about Katie," she began.
"Alright. What about?" Carrie asked.
"Your recommendation, you are quite sure about it?"
"Yes, absolutely, without question," replied Carrie, her face expressionless.
"Carrie this will be the first child you've lost, what does that mean to you?"
"She is a patient who happens to be very young. Young people get sick and die too. We cannot stop the cancer from taking her life. It is inevitable. It is no longer practical to treat her. Hospice is the only choice medically," answered Dr. Soo.
Linda studied the young doctor and found herself envious of her ability to tune out everything but the facts. That amazed her and at the same time repulsed her. She wondered for a moment if there were a Carrie Soo behind that stern expression or if only Dr. Soo existed? Linda wondered if that was how she looked herself whenever she tuned out the world to deliver a harsh message. She thought about Wallace Tate and his "always too soon to quit" philosophy and was sad that it wasn't true, for Katie anyway. For some reason she thought of Nikko and wished she had met Wallace sooner and heard his words of loyalty and witnessed his dedication to someone he loved. There was a lesson she could have used.
"Ms. Bradley?" Carrie asked, breaking Linda's trance.
"Sorry, I was just concerned that about your meeting with the Tate's. What time are you seeing them again?" Linda replied.
"I will meet with them at 3 o'clock in Katie's room. Joan Wilson from Social Services will also be there. We'll explain the DNR documents and then discuss a discharge date which will be as soon as home care is arranged. I believe that the G.A.W.D. Foundation has offered to help with this transition, no?" explained Dr. Soo.
"I see, did you ask the Chaplain to come along?"
"No, do you think that will be necessary?"
"I think so, for Mrs. Tate's sake anyway."
"Understood. What about Dr. Andrews," Carrie asked.
"What about her?"
"Shall I ask her to be present?"
"I thought about that. She starts her shift around that time. Page her before you go to see the Tate's. Let her decide. I think she'll want to be there," said Linda.
"Alright. Is that all then?"
"Yes Dr. Soo, that'll be all. Good luck," Linda said as she removed her glasses.
Carrie Soo stood and started to bow, catching herself halfway into the foreign custom and turned to leave the room. Linda closed the file as she watched the prim and proper doctor exit her office. She turned in her chair to look out the window. She was sorry to see the morning disappear and turn into midday. The hope that comes with every new day was turning into harsh reality as the sun raced to its apex in the bright blue California sky. By evening the Tate's would be dealing with the news of the day. It would be a long time before they recognized hope again in a daybreak.
Tomorrow Linda would call Nikko and apologize for being a coward, for running away instead of fighting for the love she always claimed to have for him. Nikko may have loaded the gun with his lies and deceptions, which was reprehensible. But she was the one who picked it up and used it to kill their marriage. That was cruel and unfair. She never saw herself as a quitter, and sought comfort by calling herself a survivor. But she didn't feel like a survivor, not even when her friends and family said she was. She felt like a quitter and she didn't like it. Wallace Tate never quit on his daughter. Linda knew that even after this afternoon's meeting the man would still be hopeful, right up to the moment Katie took her last breath and God brought her home. That's the kind of dedication that comes with true love. That's what she swore she had for Nikko, until she took it back. Words on paper she had said to him. Linda began to sob softly, suddenly feeling very alone.
"Ms. Bradley, are you alright?" Derek asked peeking in on his boss.
"No Derek, I'm not…leave me alone please," Linda replied in a soft voice, as she massaged her temples with her right hand stretched across her brow.
"Yes ma'am," Derek replied, closing the door gently behind him.