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By DAVID M. HUMPHREY, SR.
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2005 David M. Humphrey, Sr.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDARK THINGS ...
THE DOORS EXPLODED at St. Michael's emergency room as if they had been hit by a bomb.
Two grim-faced paramedics erupted through the open doors and down the crowded gray corridors at speeds reserved for the dying and those as good as dead. Patients and doctors alike scrambled out of their way like nervous matadors before a raging bull.
Using the gurney as a lifesaving battering ram, they blasted through door after door until at last they reached the emergency operating room. The OR's faded and pockmarked green walls stood like ancient sentries overseeing this latest victim of man's inhumanity to his fellow man ...
The sparse but clean room quietly welcomed this new critical patient with the strong smell of anesthesia, urine, and sweat. Blood lay on an operating table still warm from the last fruitless attempt to save a life but seconds before. The warm pool was quickly sponged away, and fresh, taut sheets briskly shrouded the table.
Doctors flung aside the straps that secured the unconscious woman and lifted her quickly from the battered gurney to the operating table. They worked feverishly to stop the profuse bleeding and revive her.
"All right. We'll take it from here," said Will Jefferies, dismissing the paramedics out of the operating room.
"Make sure you swab her out for semen samples for the police," snapped a nurse to her trainee, who instantly obeyed. "Good. Now bag it quickly, mark it, and get back over here and give me a hand."
Darting around the operating table like bees in a hyperactive hive, within seconds the young black female was attached to monitors that beeped her weakening condition to the hospital room staff.
Dr. William Jefferies studied her declining heart rate on the monitor with quiet dismay, then shouted for an injection of epinephrine. Instantly, nurse Angeline Winters, gray haired and in her late fifties, prepared and injected the powerful heart stimulant. Nurse and doctor both watched the monitor and held their breath.
Mildred Hartley was the RN on duty, a flaming redhead in her forties who was known to have a temper as fiery as her hair. The pert and attractive ex-marine drill instructor was also a Vietnam medical vet. She quickly searched the patient's body for obvious and hidden wounds. She ripped open the already torn and bloody blouse, revealing a snow-white bra, now tie-dyed red, the left cup nearly filled with the victim's blood.
Mildred surveyed her quickly as she tossed the soiled bra to the side and shouted, "I've got multiple stab wounds here-looks like two near the heart! Let's clean her up and see what else we've got!" She barked orders as if she were still a drill instructor in boot camp and expected them to be obeyed just as quickly-and they were. Her shoulder-length hair, snatched back hurriedly into a ponytail, snapped like a red whip as she whirled about working frantically to keep this woman alive.
The stimulant, once given to the patient, still had no effect. Her heart rate fell like a wounded star. Voices shouted information back and forth as they fought desperately for this woman's right to survive ...
"I've got the bleeding stopped, Doctor. Total of four stab wounds to the upper chest and one to the scalp, down to the skull, deep bruises on the throat and inner thighs. By some miracle the stab wounds to the chest all missed the heart, but they're 'danger close'!"
"Good-let's hope her luck holds out," said Dr. Jefferies, but he knew they were losing her. He looked at the blood pressure gauge to his left, and his heart sank.
"Doctor, her pressure's down to 40 over 20!" said a masked attendant excitedly.
"I know-I can see," snapped the young doctor testily. He bit his lip in growing frustration, and the others watched him as they flew about their duties, looking to him for leadership.
He'd been under tremendous pressure of late, working double shifts to cover his bills and expenses from reed school. Having a mother in a nursing home who called every day to say how much she missed him didn't help any either. The guilt of that alone was eating him alive.
And the malpractice insurance! It was cheaper trying to pay off the Mafia! Sometimes the pressure was just too much, and he felt as fragile as a glass of fine crystal beneath a sky that threatened violent winds and hailstones. Me felt as if his troubled mind were a dam that could burst at any moment. But, still, somehow, with Sam's help, he kept it all together.
He watched the monitor while he quickly pondered his next move.
"Pressure down to 30 over 10!" said a tense voice, trying to remain calm.
The monitor stared back at him, reflecting all of the victim's depressing vitals. She was sinking fast. "Nurse, give her another shot."
She quickly and efficiently obeyed. Nothing happened.
They worked another twenty minutes, to no avail. "I don't understand it-nothing's working," he said aloud, half to himself. He wished Sam were here.
"Her body's not responding to anything. It's almost as if she's lost the will to live," remarked a young intern a lot louder than he had intended. Jefferies shot him a cold stare. The young man quickly wilted under the piercing gaze.
The body was a machine and nothing more, as far as young Will Jefferies was concerned. Fix the machine, and you fix the problem. The will, the soul, the psyche, and all other so-called spiritual aspects of life had absolutely nothing to do with it.
For Dr. Will Jefferies, there was no room for philosophy, conjecture, or anything else that couldn't be proven by medical science in his operating room. He wouldn't have it. He'd learned that lesson well in medical school.
The young intern swallowed hard and quickly looked away to the comfort of his monitor.
Jefferies sweated, pondering what to do next.
What would Sam do if he were here? Always solid and self-assured, unshakable, he always held the answers to everything-the right answers. If there indeed had ever been a God in this "godforsaken" universe, He would've been like Sam Hardison.
But Sam wasn't here now. He was on vacation.
Jefferies stood silent briefly, feeling for all the world like some kind of medical bandit. Somehow he must steal back the life that death was working so fervently to steal away from them. He stared at her inert body, a body that now lay perfectly still.
Too still, he noted.
He glanced up at the monitor to confirm her vitals once more.
Suddenly, Virginia Sills' body lifted in a twisted arch and pounded the table violently several times, then slipped into a grand-mal seizure. Her slim brown body hammered the table unmercifully, like a jackhammer gone mad or a woman possessed. For several long minutes they fought to get control of her. The whites of her eyes glowed eerily in the OR's ancient fluorescent lighting. Jefferies and the other staff responded quickly and battled earnestly to hold the unconscious woman down.
Then, as suddenly as it had begun, it was over, and the OR fell strangely sullen and quiet. They all breathed a huge sigh of relief as they slowly released her and returned to their positions.
Abruptly the stillness was shattered again as the monitor erupted into a persistent and unnerving screech.
One minute after the massive convulsions had stopped, so had the victim's heart.
Again the staff exploded into a frenzy of action as the life of Virginia Sills, like water from a broken cistern, began to slip through their fingers and seemed to fade away into the very air around them ...
VIRGINIA HEARD VOICES as her life slipped away.
"Doctor!" said a faraway voice. "We've lost all vital signs and she's not breathing!"
The hospital room erupted into activity. Faintly, as if from the opposite end of a tunnel, she heard a frantic metallic-sounding voice say, "CODE BLUE, EMERGENCY ROOM! CODE BLUE, EMERGENCY ROOM!"
And without quite knowing how, she knew they were talking about her.
Two young nurses new to the ER whispered furtively to each other as the others worked frantically to revive the comatose woman.
"I don't think she's gonna make it," whispered short, petite, blonde-haired Cathy Starks. The pert young Peter Pan look-alike was rotating out today to Capitol Hill General.
"I don't either," responded slender Andrea Robins, both unaware they were overheard clear as a bell by Mildred Hartley, who instantly shot them a look that could wither stone. They also were heard by Virginia Sills.
Is it true? Am I as good as dead? Never to see my mother and father again? Never to prove my father wrong about what he'd said to me? Is this it? pondered Virginia.
"No!" said a powerful, thunderous voice in her ear, in direct opposition to the others-a voice, it seemed, that only she could hear. It continued, "It is not yet your appointed time to die." The voice was emphatic, almost angry, as if it knew a defiant secret the other voices did not.
Jefferies was already up on the table, straddling Virginia's body, pumping the chest rhythmically, sweating profusely. Blood, like red tears, streamed from the chest wounds with each powerful push of his hands. He called loudly for the defibrillator.
The room had become a mass of confusion as doctors and nurses poured in, wanting to help save this unknown woman. Surprisingly, among them came senior staff cardiologist Samuel Hardison, a huge bear of a man. He pounded into the room, casting his topcoat aside, buttoning his hospital coat up over his twelve-hundred-dollar navy blue Canali suit. Back one day early from his vacation, he had walked through the hospital doors but moments before when the code blue call came. "What's the status here?" he shouted above the melee at Jefferies.
I can't lose another, Jefferies thought to himself as he continued the rhythmic pressure. I just can't!
Will looked up suddenly, startled and relieved to see his mentor and friend back. He would know what to do. He would save her. "I thought you were-"
"We'll talk later, Will. Right now-status!"
"Rape victim, Sam," he shouted, swallowing hard as his huge friend pulled alongside to help. "Blood pressure dropped to 30 over 10, grand mal, then cardiac arrest."
"Shame, what a lovely girl," noted a young blonde nurse quickly, her eyes taking in the bruises on the otherwise attractive face-a face surrounded by a dark waterfall of black hair, hair that now lay tangled and matted with congealed blood. The young blonde was rotating out of St. Michael's today also, and was glad of it. Just too many gunshot wounds, stabbings, and drug overdoses, she thought to herself. St. Michael's was the charity hospital, so they always got the worst cases, the ones nobody else wanted or the ones that had questionable coverage.
"No time for chatter!" snapped Mildred to another young trainee who tried to join in the whispered conversation. "Help me with this darn machine!"
A young Carolyn Hodge, an X-ray tech just getting off from duty, rushed into the ER, hoping to be of some help. She was nervous and a little unsure of herself. Nevertheless, she darted to the older woman's side and lent a hand. She too became swept up in the swirling frenzy to save this woman's life.
This was her first week working at St. Michael's, and the atmosphere was electric. Her first time working in an inner-city hospital, she found it an arena of constant excitement. Her heart was pounding a river of adrenaline through her veins. It was awesome to think that at this very moment someone's life was in their hands, that whether this person lived or died depended on what she did or didn't do. Her brown eyes flashed with excitement.
This was so cool!
Meanwhile, Jefferies continued to pump frantically and to brief Sam at the same time, his words now coming in strings of hurried gasps at odds with the rhythm of his strong hands upon her chest: "They found her ... in an alley ... deep shock ... WHERE'S THAT DEFIBRILLATOR!! I CAN'T KEEP THIS UP MUCH LONGER!"
"It's still not worki-There it is! Clear!!" shouted the fiery-haired RN as she extended him the two paddles.
"Sam ..." Jefferies gasped weakly, in a voice barely above a whisper. It sounded more like a forlorn prayer as Jefferies looked imploringly at his mentor. He didn't have to say any more.
Jefferies jumped down from the table, and Sam shot past him like a sprinter in the Olympic track and field competition. He snatched up the two high-powered voltage paddles from Mildred, who yielded instantly and melted away to other vital duties.
"I've got it, Will! Take a break," ordered the older, more experienced doctor.
Will always marveled at how swiftly, expertly, and confidently Sam worked. He was awesome to watch.
Well, she was in god's hands now-his god, Samuel J. Hardison, the only god he knew.
Exhausted from his intense thirty-minute dance with death, Will collapsed against the nearest wall for support. His handsome black face was glistening and pained, his shirt and white coat soaked with fresh sweat, his chest heaving from the effort as Sam shouted in his deep baritone voice, "CLEAR!!" He slammed the two paddles on Virginia's chest, and 650 volts of electricity surged into her tired and weary heart. Her body convulsed from the power and heaved itself up off the table and back down again-as still and as silent as death itself.
"CLEARRRR!" shouted the tall, gray-haired black heart specialist again. He would not be denied. She must live.
"ZZZZZZZZTTT!" The bolt of primal power pounded the heart muscle, slamming it with an elemental surge of energy that could not be denied. But death's grip was at least as strong as this powerful force of nature, and death seemed to be the one force that would not be denied this day ...
"Give me 20cc of epinephrine."
"But Doctor Hardison, she's already had-"
"Yes, Doctor! Right away!"
"My God, please don't die," whispered Angeline, almost moved to tears by the woman's pitiful condition, strangely moved by this single tragedy out of the hundreds she saw daily. She clasped the tiny crucifix around her neck and squeezed it so hard that she thought the metal might break. Her lips silently mouthed the words again that her heart prayed in secret, "Please God, don't let her die ..."
Unseen, in the far corner of the crowded room, a small shadow seemed to twitch and wince, as if in pain, then scurry away ...
Virginia slowly opened her eyes and looked around her. She didn't hurt anymore, she noticed.
Excerpted from Dark Things by DAVID M. HUMPHREY, SR. Copyright © 2005 by David M. Humphrey, Sr.. Excerpted by permission.
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