Under the Knife

“So why are you calling me?”  I asked, trying to juggle my cell phone and the steering wheel simultaneously, nearly sideswiping a BMW in the process.

“You’re the only person I know who’s received death threats.”

I sighed and tried to switch the phone to the other ear only to switch back realizing that I needed my right hand to shift gears.  “Dan, that’s touching really it is, but a few notes on my front door from a balding overweight middle-aged distraught father hardly constitutes a serious threat to my safety.  But if you think this guy is serious, and it sounds to me like he is, you need to call the cops.”

I could almost hear the gears turning in her head.  Is it worse to face Neil or to let a psychopath kill me in my bed? They were saying.

She didn’t say anything.

“Ok, well I just got to Laura’s and I have to get Gus settled before I get to the hospital for my shift that starts in ten minutes so I’ve got to go.  I’ll call you when I get off ok?”

Danielle sighed and hung up.

I dropped my four-year-old son off at my sister’s and made it to work with two minutes to spare.  Of course, I had to spend the first five minutes that I was at work changing my clothes.  The policy at St Mary’s Children’s Hospital, just like any other hospital in the US, is that personnel must wear the hospital’s freshly laundered scrubs in the OR.  Then when I got to the front desk and saw my assignment I couldn’t help but drag my feet a little more.  And then I had to do a full ten minute scrub since it was my first case of the day.  As a consequence I didn’t get in to let Sandy go home until nearly 7:30.  Her shift ended at 7:00.  She wasn’t very happy with me.

“We’re about half through with this hemiepiphysiodesis,” she said.  “They’ve got the plate in on the right leg and they’re just finishing it up.  They still have to do the left.”

“OK, great. Sorry I was late.”  I offered.

“Yeah, whatever,” she grumbled as she pulled off her gown and gloves.

“Have a good night,” I called to her back as she pushed through the door on her way out.

And now to avoid the doctor I thought.

“Emery,” Dr Jack Rossini greeted me.  “I haven’t seen you in a while.”

“Yeah, hi Dr. Rossini, how are you doing?”  The use of the honorific and last name rather than his first name was a deliberate attempt to put space between Jack and myself.

He raised one eyebrow at me.

Doctor Jack Rossini was tall and dark and very, very good looking.  He and I had gone out a few times the previous spring.  It was a relationship that probably wasn’t a very good idea anyway and while it hadn’t exactly ended badly, when we drifted apart as summer started I didn’t put a lot of effort into staying together.  And then came August…

Jack was still watching me.  Ummm. Do I have all the suture that I need? I turned my back to him and checked the back table, scanning for anything that should be there and wasn’t, anything to keep me busy, and facing away from the doctors.

As a surgical tech it’s my job to set up for surgery.  I round up any instrumentation that may be needed.  I set up for the operation and pass the instruments to the doctors when they…

“Scalpel,” the resident said.

I lifted a knife off the mayo stand positioned over the patient and carefully placed it in his hand.

He finished with the knife and held it out to give back to me.  Dr. Rossini must have felt my hesitation because he looked up form the incision.

“What are you trying to do, stab her?” he barked at the resident.

“Just set it on the mayo,” I said. Generally, I hate it when the doctors put things back on the mayo, preferring that they either hand the instrument back or set it on the drapes.  The exceptions are sharps: knives and needles.  I don’t trust a distracted doctor to give those back to me without stabbing me and they tend to get a little annoyed when they stab themselves with something left on the drape.

Jack had turned his attention back to the patient and I turned mine fully to the back table, rather than just pretending that I had.  In the next few minutes they were going to need a drill and some screws as well as an 8-plate.

I avoided Jack’s gaze for the rest of the case, it was a short one but that still required a fair amount of maneuvering to accomplish.  He pulled off his gown and gloves as I handed the last suture to the resident and he was dictating into the phone as I cleaned up my back table and pulled the sheets off the operating table.  The nurse and anesthesiologist wheeled the patient out of the room towards post-op.  I turned around, Oh hell, I thought.  Jack and I were alone in the room.

“So is it really just a coincidence that I haven’t seen or worked with you,” Jack asked, “or have you been avoiding me?”  He smiled, a dimple pulling in his left cheek, sending a zing down my spine.

Before I could come up with an answer the orderlies trouped into the room to help me clean it up.  Jack immediately turned to the chart he held in his hand.  It was against hospital policy for a tech to have a relationship with a surgeon.  If the fact that we had gone out got around it probably wouldn’t have a lot of effect on him but I would almost certainly lose my job.

It was Friday night and I was working an overnight shift.  The OR at St. Mary’s children’s is staffed with a nurse and a tech 24 hours a day for any emergent cases that can’t wait even the minimum of a day that it takes to get onto the schedule.  And the night crew is generally kept busy taking out appendices and pinning elbows.  But occasionally, rarely, there are nights when there is absolutely nothing going on.  The tech and nurse have to stay and they’re not supposed to sleep.  I hate to complain about being paid to surf the internet but at the same time on nights like this when three o’clock rolls around it’s hard to keep your eyes open.

Tonight was obviously going to be one of those nights.  Jack came by the front desk a couple of times and chatted with all of five of us sitting there, none of my coworkers had any problem with that.  “He is the so hot,” Angela said eyeing his retreating figure as he headed to the dressing room to change out of his scrubs.  I just wondered if his hanging around was in the hopes of getting me alone.  I wasn’t sure but just to be safe I wasn’t leaving the front desk.

Jack eventually left and those of us still “working” sat around checking email and chatting.  Angela, Annette and Kallie left at eleven and it wasn’t more than an hour later that Kathy, the night nurse, and I ran out of conversation.  I started nodding off at about 2:30 and when the day team showed up at 7:00 I was delighted with the thought of leaving.  Now if only I had the energy to get out of the chair.

I finally heaved myself out of the gravity amplifying chair, I even changed my clothes.  As I was yawning and shuffling my way out the main entrance of the hospital I noticed a man leaning on the information desk watching the lobby.  When he saw me he straightened up and made a beeline for me.  Evasive action?  No time, no energy.  Mayday, mayday…

It was Jack, he caught my arm.  “Emery McCullah, what a surprise seeing you here.”

“No it’s not.  You knew I’d be here.  Why are you here?”

“I had patients to check on and then I thought I’d take you to breakfast.”

Food? I asked myself.  No, sleep. “Sorry Jack, I can’t,” I yawned.  “I’m supposed to pick Gus up at one and I have to get some sleep first.”

Jack didn’t look happy about it.  “Fine.”  He shot me one more look, appraising.  Then he shook his head and headed in the direction of his office.

If my brain had been fully functioning at the time I might have noticed that he gave up awfully easily.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. alison
    Aug 23, 2008 @ 06:02:26

    ok, you have my attention now.

  2. Lisa
    Aug 23, 2008 @ 10:57:33

    Awesome, awesome, awesome. I’m following that link to read your “first 9 chapters.” You’re an amazing writer.

  3. Melanie J
    Aug 24, 2008 @ 06:04:45

    I love the level of detail here. I totally buy into the realism. And Emery is a cool name.

  4. chronicler
    Aug 25, 2008 @ 11:28:33

    Emery is great. I love her character and the fact that she is a strong women who feels no need to diminish the men around her make her top notch.

  5. Karyn
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 16:28:46

    I can’t get past this first page Alison , I hovered everywhere, Big Smile. Real fast and good reading, I want to read more, tell me where to hover. Karyn

  6. Sue
    Aug 29, 2008 @ 14:30:11

    Ali I LOVE Emery~! When i grow up i want to be just like HER =)
    Keep on writing . Its grand!!

  7. Krista
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 19:09:20

    I LOVE your stories! I read the 9 chapters link and want to know WHERE IS THE REST???? I’m dying to know what happens next. You are a great writer!

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