In the middle of a busy hospital emergency room, Dr. Ana Ramirez couldn't help but notice orderly Mike Fuller's quick skills and impressive bedside manner. And, yes, his very good looks. So she proposed a simple cup of coffee to talk about his future, never expecting to find herself wishing she were a part of it....
But until Fuller could talk about his past about family secrets, sacrifices and the faith that pulled him throughhis future was on hold. As was any relationship with Ana.
Or was it?
About the Author
When Jane Myers Perrine wrote her first book in second grade, her teacher predicted she'd be a writer. Although that story disappeared long ago, she has many more to tell. Because her husband, George, is a minister, they've moved all over Missouri, Virginia, Kansas, Kentucky, Georgia and Texas. Jane has taught high-school Spanish in most of those places but has also been a program director in mental health centers. She and George now live in the beautiful Hill Country outside Austin, Texas, with an arthritic cocker spaniel and two felines, sweet Miss Maggie and Scooter, the Wonder Cat. Jane's father was both a minister and a medical doctor. She finds special joy in writing about the faith she found as a child. The same parents who took her to church also gave her books and encouraged her love of reading.
Read an Excerpt
"Coming through," a nurse shouted as she pushed a crash cart down the hall of the emergency room.
Mike Fuller leaped away and landed in the path of a gurney being moved at breakneck speed. "Hey, you," shouted the orderly as he swerved around Mike, "grab the door to the elevator and keep it open."
Mike dashed toward the closing door and held it open until the orderly and his patient arrived. After the doors shut behind them, Mike again entered the E.R. and navigated through a hallway so crowded with patients on gurneys that there was only a narrow pathway between them. Ahead was the central desk where he'd been told to check in with the nursing staff.
No one was there.
A glance through the window on his right showed a waiting room filled with people. From outside the building, the siren of an approaching ambulance wailed, a sound which warred with the sounds inside the buildingshouts of medical personnel and the bellow of the loudspeaker calling doctors and spewing forth codes. Amid the noise, medical staff hurried past, stopping in one cubicle or another.
Mike inhaled the stifling scent of disinfectant and looked around him. Even if he was only an orderlywell, clinical assistant, but everyone knew that meant orderlyhe was here, inAustin University Hospital during the late shift. The commotion made him feel alive and want to be part of it. Unfortunately, he had no idea what he should do. Whether he was an orderly or a CA, he could do only what he was told. That had been pounded into him during his training and three-day orientation.
He turned to see a beautiful woman watching him. She was short, but beneath her open lab coatwhich meant she was a doctor so he shouldn't be noticing how attractive she waswere curves, delightful curves. Right now, he had too much going on in his life to even look at a woman, but only a dead man wouldn't check out this one. She was exactly the kind of woman he'd always liked in the pastexcept for that one mistake with tall, blond Cynthia.
This doctor's dark hair was pulled back in a round little knot. She had beautiful golden-brown skin and brown eyes, which, he realized, were glaring at him. In addition, her lovely pink lips were forming words. "I need you," she said as she pointed at him, "to check the vitals of the patients in the hall. Then get gloves and a bucket and start cleaning Exam 6."
"But" Mike started.
"I know, that's housekeeping's job but with the mess tonight, we're all going to have to pitch in on everything." Then she walked away, saying, "Thank you," over her shoulder as she entered one of the cubicles.
"I see you've met Dr. Ramírez, the head resident in the E.R.," said a nurse as she returned to her desk. "She can be demanding at times, but she's a great doctor." She glanced at Mike's name tag. "Welcome, Fuller. I'm Pat. We can really use you tonight."
"Is it always this busy?"
"Depends. Tonight there was a chemical spill south of town." She picked up a marker and started writing names on the dry-erase board. "We've got injuries from three traffic accidents and a gunshot wound in Trauma 1. And a family in a house fire." She shook her head. "A lot of other injuries I can't remember. A fairly normal night here."
Then she sat. "Might as well get you started. I'll have Williams show you around." Her gaze scanned the area. "Williams, come on over here."
When the brawny orderly arrived, he smiled to expose a gold front tooth. "Glad to see you, man. We're two orderlies short so I'm working too hard."
"Mike Fuller." He held out his hand.
"No time for that." Williams slapped Mike on the back. "Come with me."
"Dr. Ramírez wanted me to"
"Check the vitals on the patients in the hall. Let's get going." The other orderly handed Mike a stethoscope.
"You'll be supervised by the head nurse, but everyone in this place will give you orders. Just do anything anyone tells you to do, and you'll be fine."
The rest of the shift was spent in hard work, eight solid hours with only a few minutes break here and there.
Once he found himself whispering, "Dear Lord, please get me through this." The prayer surprised him because, right now, he and God weren't on the best of terms.
Once, as he pushed a gurney toward the elevator, he passed Dr. Ramírez making notes in a chart at the nurses' station.
"Look but don't touch," Williams warned him. "Yes, she's pretty but she's a doctor. She makes sure we all
Mike didn't read it that way exactly, but staying away from Dr. Ramírez was good advice, both personally and professionally.
After the first wave of those who'd been affected by the chemical spill had been taken care of, two ambulances arrived from a gang shooting. The vitals of the first kid to come in had dropped and the EMTs couldn't get the wounds to stop bleeding.
While everyone hovered around the gangbanger, Dr. Ramírez looked at a tiny Hispanic woman on another gurney who'd been an unlucky bystander, the EMT had said.
The doctor picked up the paramedic's notes and read them. Finished, she said, "I want that woman in there." She pointed at Mike then at Trauma 2.
He nodded, grabbed the gurney and pushed it into the cubicle Dr. Ramírez had indicated. On the count of three, he and a nurse's aide named Gracie moved the woman to the trauma bed. Gracie cut and peeled off the woman's blood-soaked clothing, then put her in a gown.
The patient closed her eyes, whimpered a little and bit her lower lip.
"Get a drip started," Dr. Ramírez told a nurse. Then, her voice soft and low, she said to the patient, "Â¿Le duele mucho, Señora Sánchez?"
Mike remembered enough of his college Spanish to know that she'd asked the elderly woman if she hurt. The patient nodded.
The doctor pulled the blanket and gown down to study the area on the patient's right shoulder the paramedics had treated. "Â¿AquÃ?" She gently pressed on the area around the wound which had begun to seep blood.
"Ay, me duele mucho."
He could tell from her expression that the pressure had hurt the woman, a lot.
"Help me turn her on the left side," Dr. Ramírez said to Mike. "Slowly and carefully." Once Mrs. Sánchez was turned, Dr. Ramírez ran her hand over the patient's shoulder and back. "No exit wound," she said.
"Okay." Dr. Ramírez glanced up at Mike. "After the IV is going, take her to the OR. I'll call the surgeon."
Before Mike could transfer Mrs. Sánchez to a gurney, the doctor took Mrs. Sánchez's hand and said, "Señora, todo va a estar bien. Cálmese. El cirujano es buena gente."
Something about everything being okay, to calm down because the surgeon was a good guy, Mike translated for himself. The elderly woman took a deep breath and unclenched her fists as Mike rolled the gurney away.
Seemed Dr. Ramírez was more than a tough professional. She cared for her patients, understood what they needed. That was the kind of doctor he wanted to be, the kind he would be if he could get the money together to go back to med school.
Because he'd been in foster care, the state had paid college and medical school tuition. During four years of college and one of medical school, he'd roomed with four guys in a cheap apartment and worked part-time to make it through. But with the extra money he needed to rent the house, buy food and cover whatever expenses came up until his mother and little brother could get on their feet, he had to work full-time. No way he could go to medical school and support them, which he had to do. After his father had deserted them almost twenty years earlier, Mike was pretty much the head of the family.
He'd considered other options but couldn't afford the time off and the seven-hundred-dollar fee for paramedic training. With overtime, he'd make more as an orderly than teaching high school, plus he'd be in a hospital. All that made the decision to be an orderly easy.
By seven the next morning, he was so worn-out he moved in a fog. This was hard work, but he loved the feel of the hospital, the certainty that amid the commotion, all the patients would be helped, that he was doing good, meaningful, healing work.
The sight of Dr. Ramírez added a lot to that positive feeling. After all, he could appreciate the view, if only from a distance. At this moment and maybe for several years, with the mess that was his life, all he could enjoy was the view.
A week after his first day in the E.R., the phone rang in the small house Mike rented. When he answered, his younger brother, Tim, said in a shaky voice, "I had an accident, but it wasn't my fault."
Mike held the telephone tightly. "Are you all right?" Tim cleared his throat and spoke without the quiver. "Yeah, I'm fine. It was minor."
Knowing Tim, a minor accident meant the car still had most of the tires and not all the glass was broken. "And you're really okay?"
"The paramedics checked me over. No problems."
"Where are you? How will you get home?"
"The cops'll bring me. Talk to you then." Tim hung up. Mike disconnected the phone, put it on the end table, and dropped onto the sofa. He was glad Tim was okay. Mike whispered a quick, "Thank you, God, for taking care of Tim."
Sometimes Mike wondered if God ever got anything done while watching over Tim.
Even with a minor accident, the insurance company would total the car which meant he wouldn't get enough money to buy another anytime soon.
Mike hadn't been in a fix like this since he was eighteen. Of course, this time he wouldn't take a gun and hold up a convenience store, which showed he had learned something over the past six years. And this time most of the problems weren't his. He'd inherited them from other people.
Thank goodness the wreck hadn't happened last week when he'd moved from his apartment to this rental house. Now, for the first time in eight years, he'd be living with his family: his eighteen-year-old brother, who'd just been released from the state foster care system, and their mother, who was getting out of prison where she'd served time for fraud. He wouldn't want the living arrangements any other way, but it was still a big change.
He leaned back and put his feet up on a cardboard box marked Kitchen. He was supposed to take his cousin Francie to the doctor in an hour and the hospital had called and asked him to come in early for his shift. In a few days, he had to meet his mother's bus and get her settled in the house.
But he had no car.
No, he hadn't caused most of these problems, but he couldn't shift them to his much-loved but equally scatterbrained mother or his absentminded and immature younger brother.
He couldn't lean on Francie. She had enough to deal with, what with the baby coming, fixing up her house and finding time to be with her husband. Besides, he owed her big-time. She'd put her life on hold for him, taken the rap for him when he'd been young and almost irredeemably stupid.
No, he couldn't toss this on Francie, which left him in charge. Not a prospect that filled him with joy.
When the phone rang again, he picked it up and hoped it wasn't more bad news. "Hey."
"How's it going?" Francie asked.
"Tim wrecked my car."
"How is he?"
"He says he's fine, but I can't take you to the doctor's office. No car."
"I'll pick you up. After you bring me home, you can use my car as long as you need it."
"Francie, should you be driving? Didn't you say your doctor had some concerns?"
"The doctor hasn't told me to stop driving. Besides, if you have my car, I can't drive."
Ignoring the interruption, Francie said, "You have to have a car. Brandon will agree with me. If it makes you feel better, you can be my chauffeur, take me anywhere I want to go," she said in her don't-argue voice. "See you in twenty minutes."
After Mike hung up the phone, he went to the window to watch for the cop car bringing Tim home.
When the police arrived, he moved to the front door and held it open for Tim. "Let me look at you," Mike said as his brother sauntered inside, bravado showing in his swagger.
"This time it wasn't my fault." When Tim stumbled a little and put his hand on the wall to steady himself, he lost a lot of his macho attitude. "It really wasn't, Mike."
Tim was tall with dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. Two years of lifting weights had put some muscle on him. Now he had wide shoulders with an even wider chip perched there.
As he scrutinized Tim, Mike saw several facial lacerations and a couple of bruises beginning to form. "Let me check you out."
"The paramedics cleared me. Why do you have to, Mike? You're not a doctor."
Mike drew in a breath at the painful reminder that no, he wasn't a doctor and wasn't likely to be one. "Just go along with me. Let me practice on you."
Tim shrugged then winced at the pain the movement brought. "Well, okay. If it makes you happy." With a grimace, he pulled the T-shirt over his head.
"How did it happen?" Mike ran his fingers down Tim's ribs, feeling for any knots or abnormalities and watching his brother's reaction.
"I was driving along Guadalupe and this other car didn't even slow down, ran right into the front of your car. The police said it was the other guy's fault. Ouch. What are you doing?"
"Almost through." Mike's hands brushed over a discolored diagonal line across Tim's chest. "Glad you were wearing your seat belt."
"For once." Tim nodded. "Guess I must have been listening to you."
"Also, for once." Mike looked into Tim's eyes. "You look okay, but you're going to be sore. Put some ice on your face."
"Yeah, sure." He limped off.
Mike shook his head and hoped Tim would grow up before he did any real damage to himself or someone else.