Carol Alvarado responded with the unnatural calm crisis produces in some people. Lotty was in surgery at Beth Israel; Carol would call the obstetrics department there and find out what hospital I should take her sister to. She knew where I was--she had been there several times visiting Hector. She put me on hold.
I stood, the phone damp in my hand, my armpits wet, legs trembling, fighting back the impulse to scream with impatience. My flabby-chinned companion watched me covertly while shuffling her paper. I took diaphragm breaths to steady myself and concentrated on a mental run-through of "Un bel dì." By the time Carol returned to the line I was breathing more or less normally and could focus on what she was saying.
"There's a hospital somewhere close to you called Friendship Five. Dr. Hatcher at Beth Israel said it's supposed to have a Level Three neonatal center. Get her there. We're sending out Malcolm Tregiere to help. I'll try to get Mama, try to close the clinic and get out as soon as I can."
Malcolm Tregiere was Lotty's associate. Last year Lotty had reluctantly agreed to resume part time the perinatal practice at Beth Israel that had made her famous. If you're going in for obstetrics, even half time, someone has to cover for you. For the first time since opening the clinic, Lotty had taken on an associate. Malcolm Tregiere, board-certified in obstetrics, was completing a fellowship in perinatology. He shared her views on medicine and had her quick intuitive way with people.
I felt a measure of relief as I hung up and turned to flabby-chins. She was agog watching me. Yes, she knew where Friendship was--Canary and Bidwell sent all theiraccident cases there. Two miles up the road, a couple of turns, you couldn't miss it.
"Can you call ahead and tell them we're coming? Tell them it's a young girl--diabetes--labor."
Now that the crisis had penetrated, she was eager to help, glad to call.
I sprinted back to Consuelo, who lay on the grass under a sapling, breathing shallowly. I knelt beside her and touched her face. The skin was cold and heavy with sweat. She didn't open her eyes, but mumbled in Spanish. I couldn't hear what she said, except she thought she was talking to her mother.
"Yeah, I'm here, baby. You're not alone. We'll do this together. Come on, sweetheart, come on, hold on, hold on."
I felt as though I were suffocating, my breasts bending inward and pushing against my heart. "Hang on, Consuelo. Don't die out here."
Somehow I got her to her feet. Half carrying her, half guiding her, I staggered the hundred yards or so to the car. I was terrified she might faint. Once in the car I think she did lose consciousness, but I put all my energy into following the dispatcher's hasty directions. On up the road we'd come by, second left, next right. The hospital, slung low to the ground like a giant starfish, lay in front of me. I slammed the car against a curb by the emergency entrance. Flabby-chins had done her part. By the time I had my door open, practiced hands had pulled Consuelo easily from the car onto a wheeled stretcher.
"She's got diabetes," I told the attendant. "She just finished her twenty-eighth week. That's about all I can tell you. Her doctor in Chicago is sending out someone who knows her case."
Steel doors hissed open on pneumatic slides; the attendants raced the gurney through. I followed slowly, watching until the long hallway swallowed the cart. If Consuelo could hold on to the tubes and pumps until Malcolm got there, it would be all right.
I kept repeating that to myself as I wandered in the direction taken by Consuelo's gurney. I came to a nurse's station a mile or so down the hall. Two starch-capped young white women were carrying on an intense, low-pitched conversation. Judging from a smothered burst of laughter, I didn't think it had anything to do with patient treatment.
"Excuse me. I'm V.I. Warshawski--I came in with the obstetrical emergency a few minutes ago. Who can I talk to about her?"
One of the women said she was going to check on "number 108." The other felt her cap to make sure her identity was still intact and put on her medical smile--blank yet patronizing.
"I'm afraid we don't have any information about her yet. Are you her mother?"
Mother? I thought, momentarily outraged. But to these young women I probably looked old enough to be a grandmother. "No--family friend. Her doctor will be here in about an hour. Malcolm Tregiere--he's part of Lotty Herschel's team--you want to let the emergency room staff know?" I wondered if Lotty, world-famous, would be known in Schaumburg.
"I'll get someone to tell them as soon as we have a nurse free." A perfect Ipana smile flashed meaninglessly at me. "In the meantime, why don't you go to the waiting room at the end of the hall? We prefer people off the floor until visiting hours start."
I blinked a few times--what relevance did that have to getting information about Consuelo? But it was probably better to save my fighting energy for a real battle. I retraced my steps and found the waiting room.