Read an Excerpt
It only happened occasionally, which made it hurt more. And when it did Delyth was never wrong. She knew with an absolute certainty that the young man in the bed in front of her was dangerously ill. He might die before morning. And yet she could find little wrong with him.
It was midnight, and she had been bleeped to admit him to Gregory Ward – a surgical ward – from A and E an hour ago. He claimed his name was Birdie Jones, one of many young street-dwellers, and he’d been knocked down by a hit-and-run driver and brought in by ambulance. Apart from shock, abrasions, and general bruising, he had a closed fracture of the radius – a broken arm.
‘Don’t think there’s much seriously wrong with him,’ the A and E registrar had cheerfully told her. ‘We’ve put a plaster on his arm and patched him up. But keep him in for a couple of nights for observation.
Feed him a bit, and then he can go out on the streets again.’
This was a hospital in the centre of London and there was something she had been told more than once: ‘We provide medical care only. We cannot concern ourselves with social problems – we are not funded to do it.’ Delyth knew this was a harsh but necessary doctrine.
Now young Birdie was in her care. She had clerked him carefully and followed the set procedures, keeping a close eye on blood pressure, pulse, abdominal signs. All was as expected. Although thin, he wasn’t malnourished.
But the knowledge had come with the strength of a physical blow. Birdie was in real danger. She checked all her findings again – what had she missed? Apparently nothing.
Delyth sighed. She was the humblest of doctors, a mere house officer. She had only qualified a few weeks ago. The correct procedure in case of doubt was to refer upwards, in this case to James Owen, the specialist registrar. But she knew James had been at work since six that morning, and he wasn’t going to like being disturbed.