For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
LA Trauma Center, Los Angeles November 30, 2004
Changing rotations from days to nights is like moving to another planet as far as Lizzie was concerned. Daytime rounds tended to be schedule driven and routine even boring juggling paperwork and sales reps in between actual doctor stuff. But night shifts were ripe with variety. The night bypassed the usual suspects for a hodgepodge of God knows what. You never knew who or what was going to come crashing through those automatic doors in the ERR From the ridiculous to hilarious to the downright terrifying and heartbreaking. There weren't any gray areas in the spectrum of human emotion. The twelve hour shift passed quickly and Lizzie had no problem with that! She'd been on this new shift for a couple weeks now and had already learned more about practicing medicine then she had learned in all eight her eight years of book learning. As Friday nights went, tonight seemed unusually quiet, but then it was only eight o’clock, a full two hundred and forty minutes before the witching hour.
“Hey Lizzie,” hollered Mollie Lebowitz, the Maternity charge nurse.
looked up from the clipboard she was reading and acknowledged her with a nod of
her head. Elizabeth
“There’s fresh Danish up on eight in oncology courtesy good old Doc Octopus," she said, rolling her eyes.
"Looks like the old pervert's finally retiring!” Mollie said, stopping beside Lizzie, giving the metal clipboard a thump with her fingers.
“Sorry Mollie, what did you say,” Lizzie asked apologetically?
“I said Doctor Shaw, a.k.a. Doc Octopus is retiring. Although, if you ask me I think he finally accumulated enough harassment complaints to propagate a forced early retirement!” said Mollie sarcastically.
“Oh yes, the fastest hands in LA, I know him. If the cops ever needed his fingerprints all they'd have to do is dust my ass,” Lizzie replied, giggling.
Mollie laughed out loud and continued down the hall toward the elevators on her way back to her ward. Lizzie waived goodbye, putting her glasses back on and returning to the chart she was studying. After a couple of minutes the pastries Mollie had mentioned were starting to call her name. A sweet treat sounded pretty darn good right now and her traitor stomach was growling go, go, go! She returned the chart back into the large circular chart caddy and walked over to the same elevators Mollie had taken only a few minutes before. The car arrived before she pushed the button and she entered the empty elevator, pressing eight on the panel. "Guess those Danish have powerful friends she," she muttered, pressing the button for the eighth floor.
Lizzie checked her look in the brushed aluminum walls and gave her hair a little tease as she rode the six floors from two to eight. She'd always been nervous riding in elevators, ever since she saw the second Exorcist movie, the one where some guy gets sliced to ribbons by a severed cable in one. Flashing back to that scene she hummed a happy tune to squelch evil thoughts. A loud ding announced her arrival at the eighth floor and the doors slowly opened. She sprinted out into the lobby of the oncology ward leaving those bad vibes in the devil contraption and stopped abruptly in front of the nurse’s station. Shaking off the heebie-jeebies she tried to look cooler than she felt, realizing she probably looked ridiculous.
“Smooth Doctor Andrews, I see that we’re our usual ball of confusion this evening,” teased Nurse Hardy, easily the most senior (older than dirt) RN at the hospital.
Everyone called her by her married name, never by her given name. Ednabelle Hardy was the unofficial den mother for every nurse, intern, and resident at this place. Sort of like a Master Chief on board a naval vessel, the highest ranking non-com around, the real power behind the well oiled machine known as LA Trauma, or LAT as most of us referred to it.
“Yeah, well I was ummm…”
“The Danish are round the corner in the waiting room,” Nurse Hardy said with a smile, returning her attention to whatever she was doing before Lizzie had burst onto the scene.
“Danish, really, I had no idea? Maybe I’ll stop on by just to be polite,” Lizzie lied weakly.
“Oh please!” giggled the ancient RN, shaking her head at the silly young doctor.
Composing herself Elizabeth strolled confidently toward the waiting room where the refreshments were laid out. She was starving and really needed the sugar and caffeine rush tonight. So, waiving ta-ta she quickly disappeared around the corner, picking up the pace as soon as she was out of eyesight. Arriving at the waiting room in nano-seconds, Lizzie immediately poured herself a cup of strong, hot coffee, taking it black like a man, and then went straight for a blueberry croissant. That first bite of pastry washed down by that first sip of truly good coffee was almost sinful. It was the closest she’d been to ecstasy in better than a year. Plopping down on a semi comfy sofa she enjoyed bite number two and tried to ignore the tiny voice encouraging her to stuff a couple more into her pockets for later. The little voice in her head was suddenly interrupted by a little voice behind her.
“What’s your name,” a little girl asked? Lizzie twisted around in her seat and looked up sheepishly from her snack. She ran her tongue across her front teeth to avoid a blueberry smile and answered the child, “Elizabeth,” she said.
“Hi Lisbeth, I’m Katie,” the girl replied with a cute impish lisp. Lizzie smiled at her, noticing that the child was pulling an IV tree along side of her.
“Honey, are you supposed to be out here?” Lizzie asked softly.
"Where are your mommy and daddy?"
"Mommy is at the cafeteria," answered the child.
The little girl smiled at her, ignoring her question and looked down at Lizzie’s feet. “Your shoes are untied,” she said, pointing with tiny fingers. Lizzie looked down to verify the child’s claim, she was likely right; her shoes were always coming untied. Lizzie set her refreshments down on the coffee table and bent over to tie her shoes. “Listen, I can walk you back to your room when I finish here Katie, would you like that?” she asked.
“Okay,” the child replied in a cheerful tone.
Lizzie finished off the croissant in two mega bites, choking them down with a big gulp of coffee then jumped up from the sofa to helped Katie maneuver her IV tree back into the hall. They walked hand in hand toward her room, passing the nurse’s station on the way. Nurse Hardy looked up from her work and got out of her chair when she saw Katie. She wagged a stern finger at the little girl that contradicted the warm smile on her face.
“Katherine Jean Tate! What are you doing up at this hour?” Nurse Hardy asked.
“I couldn’t sleep Edna, my room was making thhcary noises,” Katie answered.
“Scary noises indeed! All you have to do is press the call button and I’ll come straight away my dear, you know that,” explained Nurse Hardy softly.
“I know, I’m thhorry, but I was bored,” Katie replied pouting.
“Yes, well never the less, you belong in bed young lady, you have a big day tomorrow, “Nurse Hardy said, gently scolding the child.
“Maybe we can talk doctor into taking you back and tucking you in. She might even read you a story before she goes back to work. Why don't you ask nicely,” she said winking at Lizzie. Lizzie took the hint and chimed in, “Oh, yeah, sure, I could do that. What do you say Katie?”
“Alright, but you have to read Green Eggs and Ham, the whole thing, okay?”
“It’s a deal, Dr Seuss it is,” Lizzie answered enthusiastically, winking back at Nurse Hardy.
The younger generations waived to their elder and scurried down the hall giggling. When they reached Katie’s room, Lizzie held open the heavy wooden door as the kid navigated her way back to her bed. Katie scaled the metal sides expertly like a rock climber and crawled under the covers, skillfully keeping her IV lines from tangling. The tree teetered perilously as she socked at her pillows, fluffing them up, causing Lizzie to scurry over and steady the apparatus before it tipped over.
“Careful sweetie, I don’t want to have to put any stitches into that pretty little head of yours,” Lizzie teased.
“My pillows were flat,” Katie explained.
“No worries honey, no harm done. Now, where is that book of yours?”
“Over there,” the child replied, pointing at a stack at least four feet high in the corner of the room, near the bathroom.
“My goodness, how long have you been in here anyways?”
“You’re funny,” Katie said giggling at the surprised expression on Lizzie’s face.
“I’ve been here since my birthday last month,” she answered.
“Really, since your birthday, so how old were you?”
Katie held up six fingers and smiled. Lizzie smiled back trying not to let her analytical face betray the fact that she'd deduced from the IV bags what this adorable child was suffering from. This was the oncology ward after all so it hadn't been too hard to put two and two together. The fact that the kid had already been here for weeks was a little puzzling as most chemo kids were in for a week or less then home or off campus until the next round. She wondered what was up with that. And what was so big about tomorrow anyways? She wrestled with that for a few seconds until she saw a question begin forming on Katie’s cherub-like face. Lizzie quickly took two giant steps toward the pile of children’s books and fished out a well worn copy of Green Eggs and Ham.
“TA-DA, here it is,” she exclaimed, beaming back at Katie like she had discovered gold.
“Yippee,” Katie replied excitedly.
“Sit on my bed with me, okay?” the child asked, pleading.
“Sure sweetie,” Lizzie answered, crossing the room to sit beside her.
She made a mental note to make some inquiries later. She knew that she should mind her own business, and not get involved in something that was not likely to end well. But her maternal instincts won out over her better judgment, as usual. This was familiar territory for her. It was only a little over a year ago that another suffering child had stolen her heart. She let herself picture Gabriel Bouchard's smiling face for a moment, and then jumped back into the present before a tear could form and began reading to Katie.
“I am Sam…Sam I am…”