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'I'm ready to come back to St Piran's.'
No words filled the silence, there was no quick response to her statement, so Izzy ploughed on, determined to make a good impression with Jess, the hospital counsellor. 'I'm really looking forward to being back at work.' Izzy's voice was upbeat. 'I know that a few people have suggested that I wait till the baby is born, I mean, given that I can only work for a couple of months, but I really think that this is the right thing for me.'
Still Jess said nothing, still Izzy argued to the silence. 'I'm ready to move on with my life. I've put the house on the market ' She felt as if she were at an interview, effectively she was at an interview. After the terrible events of four months ago, Ben Carter, the senior consultant in A and E, had told her to take all the time she needed before she came back to the unit where she worked as an emergency registrar.
It would have been far easier to not come back, and at nearly twenty-eight weeks pregnant she'd had every reason to put it off, but Izzy had finally taken the plunge, and instead of ringing Ben to tell him her decision, she had dropped by unannounced. But to her surprise, instead of welcoming her back with open arms, Ben had gently but firmly informed her that it would be preferable if she see one of the hospital counsellors.
'I'm fine!' Izzy had said. 'I don't need to see a counsellor.'
'You are seeing someone, though?' Ben had correctly interpreted the beat of silence.
'I was.' Izzy had swallowed. 'But I'm fine now.'
'Good!' Ben had clipped. 'Then you won't have a problem speaking with someone else.'
'Ben!' Izzy had hardly been able to contain her fury. 'It's been four months! You know me'
'Izzy!' Ben had interrupted, refusing to be manipulated. 'I worked with you daily, I've been to your home, I got on well with Henry and yet I had no idea what you were going through, so, no, I'm not convinced I do know you or that you'd come to me if you had a problem.'
Izzy had sat with pursed lips. Ben could be so incredibly kind yet so incredibly tough toohe would let nothing jeopardise the safety of his patients or his staff and he was also completely honest and open, so open it actually hurt to hear it sometimes. 'I've spoken with my senior colleagues '
'You've discussed me?'
'Of course,' Ben had replied. 'And we all agree that coming back to A and E after all you've been through is going to be tough, that we need to look out for you, and rather than us asking every five minutes if you're okay, which I know will drive you crazy, I'm going to insist that you see someone. I can page Jess Carmichaelshe's good, all very informal, you can go for a walk, have a coffee.'
'I'm not sitting in the canteen, chatting about my life!' Izzy had bristled. 'I'll see her in her office.'
'Fine,' Ben had responded, and then his voice had softened. 'We want what's best for you Izzy.'
So here she was, on a Friday lunchtime, just before her first shift back, again sitting in a counsellor's office, telling the same thing to Jess that she had to Ben, to her mother, to her friends, that she was fine.
'It's often suggested,' Jess said, when Izzy had told her that her house was on the market, 'that people wait twelve months after a bereavement before making any major life changes.'
'I'm twenty-eight weeks pregnant!' Izzy gave a tight smile. 'I'd suggest that change is coming whether I'm ready or not. Look ' She relented a touch because Jess was nothing other than nice. 'I don't want to bring the baby home to that housethere are just too many memories. I really want a new home by the time the baby comes.'
'I can understand that,' Jess said. 'Have you people to help you with moving?'
'Plenty,' Izzy said, 'Now I just need someone to make a half-decent offer on the house.'
'How will you feel' Jess had a lovely soft Scottish accent, but her direct words hit a very raw spot 'when a domestic abuse case comes into the department?'
Izzy paused for a moment to show she was giving the question due thought then gave her carefully prepared answer, because she'd known this would be asked. 'The same as I'll feel if a pregnant woman comes into the department or a widow I'll have empathy for them, but I'm certainly not going to be relating everything to myself.'
'How can you not? Izzy, you've been through the most awful experience,' Jess said and even her lilting voice couldn't soften the brutal facts. 'You tried to end a violent, abusive relationship to protect the child you are carrying, and your husband beat you and in his temper drove off and was killed. It's natural to feel'
'You have no idea how I feel,' Izzy interrupted, doing her best to keep her voice even, a trip down memory lane was the last thing she needed today. 'I don't want the "poor Izzy" line and I don't want your absolution and for you to tell me that none of this was my fault.' 'I'm not trying to.'
'I've dealt with it,' Izzy said firmly. 'Yes, it was awful, yes, it's going to be hard facing everyone, but I'm ready for it. I'm ready to resume my life.'
Only Jess didn't seem so sure, Izzy could tell. She had made such an effort for this dayshe was immaculately dressed in a grey shift dress with black leggings and black ballet pumps, her blonde short hair, teased into shape, and large silver earrings adding a sparkle to her complexion. She had been hoping to look every inch a modern professional woman, who just happened to be pregnant. She would not let Jess, let anyone, see behind the wall she had built around herselfit was the only way she knew to survive.
Jess gave her some coping strategies, practised deep breathing with her, told her to reach out a bit more to friends and Izzy ran a hand through her gamine-cut blonde hair that had once been long and lush but which she'd cut in a fit of anger. Just when Izzy thought the session was over, Jess spoke again.
'Izzy, nothing can dictate what comes into Emergency, that's the nature of the job.' Jess paused for a moment before continuing. 'No matter what is going on in your life, no matter how difficult your world is right now, you have to be absolutely ready to face whatever comes through the doors. If you feel that you'd rather'
'Are you going to recommend that I be sent to Outpatients?' Izzy challenged, her grey eyes glittering with tears that so desperately needed to be shed but had, for so long, been held back. 'Or perhaps I can do a couple of months doing staff immunisations'
'Izzy' Jess broke in but Izzy would not be silenced.
'I'm a good doctor. I would never compromise my patients' safety. If I didn't feel ready to face A and E, I wouldn't have come back.' She gave an incredulous laugh. 'Everyone seems to be waiting for me to fall apart.' She picked up her bag and headed for the door. 'Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you all, but I refuse to.'
Izzy was a good doctor, of that Jess had no doubt.
As she wrote her notes, she was confident, more than confident, that Izzy would do the right thing by her patients, that she was more than capable to be working in Emergency. But at what cost to herself? Jess thought, resting back in her chair and closing her eyes for a moment.
Jess wanted to send a memo to the universe to insist only gentle, easy patients graced Izzy's path for a little while.
Only life wasn't like.
Jess clicked on her pen and finished writing up her notes, worried for her client and wishing more progress had been made.
Izzy Bailey, while still fighting the most enormous private battle, was stepping straight back into the front line.
'Obstetric Team to Emergency.'
Izzy heard the chimes as she tossed her coffee and sandwich wrapper in the bin and did a little dance at the sliding door that refused to acknowledge her, no matter how many times she swiped her card. An impatient nurse behind her took over, swiping her own card, and Izzy tailgated her in.
They'd start her in Section B.
Of that she was sure.
Writing up tetanus shots and suturing, examining ankles and wrists Despite her assured words to Jess earlier, Izzy was actually hoping for a gentle start back and was quietly confident that Ben would have arranged for one.
'Obstetric team to Emergency'
The chimes sounded again, but Izzy wasn't fazed. It was a fairly familiar callfrenzied fathers-to-be often lost their way and ended up bringing their wives to Emergency rather than Maternity.
Izzy glanced at her watch.
In ten minutes she'd be starting her first shift.
Walking through another set of sliding doors, which this time opened without the use of her card, Izzy found herself in the inner sanctum of the emergency unit.
She'd timed it well, Izzy thought to herself.
By the time she'd put her bag in her locker, it would be almost time to start, which meant that she could bypass the staffroom, the small talk.
'Izzy!' Beth, an RN she'd worked with over the years, was racing past. 'Cubicle four Everyone's tied up She just presented.'
Except Jess had been right.
There would be no gentle easing in, Izzy fast realised as Les, the porter, relieved her of her bag. Beth brought her up to speed as best she could in short rapid sentences as they sped across the unit.
'About twenty-three weeks pregnant, though she's vague on dates,' the rapid handover went on. 'She won't make it to Maternity, I've put out a call '
'Who's seen her?' Izzy asked as she squirted some alcohol rub on her hands.
'You,' came Beth's response.
She'd forgotten just how unforgiving Emergency could be at times. Just then she saw Ben, wrapping a plastic apron around himself, and Izzy was quite sure he'd take over and usher her off to Section B.
'Have you got this?' Ben said instead, calling over his shoulder as he sped off to Resus.
'Her name's Nicola,' Beth said as Izzy took one, very quick, deep breath and stepped in.
'Hi, there Nicola. I'm Izzy Bailey, the emergency registrar.' Izzy wasn't sure who looked more petrified, the student nurse who'd been left with the patient while Beth had dashed for a delivery pack or the mother-to-be who brought Izzy up to date with her rapid progress even before Izzy had time to ask more questionsit was Nicola who pulled back the sheet.
'Okay.' Izzy pulled on some gloves as Beth opened the delivery pack, Nicola was in no state to be sped across the floor to Resus. 'Let Resus know to expect the baby,' Izzy said. 'Tell them to get a cot ready.' She took a steadying breath. 'Emergency-page the paediatric team.'
'Vivienne!' Beth instructed the student nurse to carry out Izzy's instructions, and Vivienne sped off.
'There's going to be a lot of overhead chimes,' Izzy explained to Nicola, 'but that's just so we can get the staff we need down here quickly for your baby.'
The membrane was intact, Izzy could see it bulging, and she used those few seconds to question her patient a little more, but there were no straightforward answers.
'I only found out last week. I've got a seven-month-old, I'm breastfeeding '
'Have you had an ultrasound?' Izzy asked.
'She's just come from there,' Beth said for Nicola, but, as was so often the case in Emergency, a neat list of answers rarely arrived with the patient. They would have to be answered later, because this baby was ready to be born.
He slipped into the world a few seconds later, just as a breathless midwife arrived from Maternity and the overhead speaker chimed its request for the paediatric team to come to Emergency. He was still wrapped in the membrane that should have embraced him for many months more and Izzy parted it, using balloon suction to clear his airway. He was pale and stunned, but stirring into life as Izzy cut the cord. Though outwardly calm, her heart was hammering, because difficult decisions lay ahead for this tiny little man.
'You have a son,' Izzy said, wrapping him up and holding him up briefly for Nicola to see. Though seconds counted in the race for his life, Izzy made one of the many rapid decisions her job entailed and brought the baby up to the mother's head, letting her have a brief glimpse of him. Nicola kissed his little cheek, telling him that she loved him, but those few brief seconds were all there was time for.
Beth had already raced over to Resus, and Izzy left Nicola in the safe hands of the midwife and student nurse as she walked quickly over to Resus holding the infant. A man, dressed in black jeans and a T-shirt, joined her. Walking alongside her, he spoke with a heavy accent.
'What do we know?'
'Mum's dates are hazy,' Izzy said, and though he had no ID on him, there was an air of authority to him that told her this was no nosey relative. 'About twenty-three weeks.'
'Mierda!' Izzy more than understood his curseshe was thinking the samethis tiny baby hovered right on the edge of viability. At this stage of pregnancy every day in utero mattered, but now he was in their hands and they could only give the tiny baby their best care and attention.
'Diego.' Beth looked up from the warming cot she was rapidly preparing. 'That was quick.' The chimes had only just stopped summoning the staff, but he answered in that rich accent, and Izzy realised he was Spanish.
'I was just passing on my way for a late shift.' He had taken the baby from Izzy and was already getting to work, skilfully suctioning the airway as Izzy placed red dots on the baby's tiny chest. 'I heard the call and I figured you could use me.'
They certainly could!
His large hands were rubbing the baby, trying to stimulate it, and Izzy was incredibly grateful he was there. His dark hair was wet so he must have stepped straight out of the shower before coming to work. He had gone completely overboard on the cologne, the musky scent of him way too heavy for a hospital setting. Still, she was very glad he was there. As an emergency doctor, Izzy was used to dealing with crises, but such a premature baby required very specific skills and was terrifying to handleDiego was clearly used to it and it showed.