Category Archives: hospital

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Take My Breath Away

Gravity battles centrifugal force as she maneuvers the small sports car around the sharp curve in the road. The speedometer tops 110 miles per hour as her foot grinds the gas pedal even further into the floor. But her mind is moving even faster than the car; scattered thoughts twirl like a hurricane inside her brain. The tiny beads of perspiration which cover her forehead belie the chill of tiny goose bumps rising on her arms. Her antenna is attuned to every little nuance inside of the automobile although the eerie unattached feeling which is insidiously engulfing her mind invokes an atmosphere of surrealism. She stares blankly ahead, eyes unflinching, with only one sentence turning over and over in her mind; “Please God, let him be alright.”


“Mrs. Rhoades, your son has been involved in an accident.” The sinister words cut through the numb chant, threatening to break her frozen resolve. Her pulse was racing as she anxiously anticipated the words that would follow. “Thrown from his motorcycle…” Her knuckles had turned blue as her fingers clutched the phone tighter, waiting. “…critical condition…”  Those words had ground her world slowly to a halt, her oblivious co-workers had suddenly seemed to freeze: the sounds of the keyboards tap, tap, tap… the ringing of the phones, the buzzing of the voices.  All faded into a sluggish distant groan, somewhere faraway. “MercyHospital Emergency Room,” the unattached voice on the other end echoed.


Where is her coat? She glances briefly around the interior of the car, not finding it. However she is thankful for the brief momentary diversion of sweet normalcy in her thoughts. At least she has her presence of mind. Her brain is still functioning. Breathe deeply, in and out.  Just breathe. Minutes drag like eternity as she circles the parking lot searching desperately for a parking space. As she plunges the car into an empty space she comes too near to the car in the next space and cannot open her door. She thrusts the gear switch forward into park and her fist accidentally hits the radio button.


Jessica Simpson blares out “Take my breath away”, literally taking her breath away as she is taken aback to another night nearly eighteen years ago when Berlin sang that same song; it was the night that her son was conceived. She was powerless to the seductively exotic demeanor and captivating dark looks of the Spanish pre-med student. Three months of breathless romance had left her temporarily oblivious to her fiancé, who was off at N.Y.U. Her mind races over that night as she jams the car into reverse and then propels it back into the empty parking space. She is momentarily haunted by the deep brown eyes which her son inherited along with the small sexy mole on his right cheek, in almost the same identical spot as his father’s.


She feels she is going crazy as she allows the words to shroud her “Turning and returning to some secret place inside.” Two enchanting weeks later, her fiancé’ had returned and she ended the affair. She had married, moved to New York with Randy and had never seen her Latin lover again. Guilt had prevented her from revealing to him that he had a son, and guilt had in turn eaten her alive like a cancer for the rest of her life. But how could she have told him? She had felt obligated to Randy; after all they had been high school sweethearts. She had never again seen the man who had taught her the meaning of true love. She had heard that he had went on to become a very successful surgeon or something…Her thoughts jerk back to the present hellish nightmare as she turns off the ignition, terminating the song as well as her brief sojourn into the past.


 The harsh yet mysteriously comforting sterile smells of alcohol and iodine hit her sharply in the face and seem to swallow her up as she rushes into the hospital emergency room; That’s just a front, she thinks fleetingly. That intense smell merely covers up the real smells of sickness and …She shakes her head fiercely, pushing the dreaded word resolutely from her mind. No. God, please let him be alright. Please. Please. Please. She repeats for the millionth time.


“May I help you?” a stiff elderly nurse inquires.


Yes, they called me. My son was brought in. Trevor Rhoades,” her shaky voice sounds strangely foreign, as if it belongs to someone else.


The nurse’s face seems to soften knowingly at the sound of the name, the corners of her lined mouth turning down in a feeble attempt at a smile. “Yes we have him. Are you alone, dear?” Her voice is suddenly like melted butter which is somehow ominous. ‘Oh no, she is trying to prepare me for the worst.’, Rachel thinks.


“Where is he? Can I see him?” She breathlessly pushes past the nurse, who grabs Rachel’s arm in a firm grip, a contradiction to the old woman’s frail looking demeanor.


“Hold on, honey. Is there no one else with you?” Rachel shakes her head. “Maybe you’d like to wait for your husband…?”


“My husband and I are divorced.” She hears the anger in her voice, knowing not where it comes from, “He is in New York. My son and I just moved back…” Her voice breaks helplessly, “Please, I have to see my son. Where is he?” She looks searchingly past the older woman down the long white and black checkered corridor surrounded by doors on either side, some closed and others slightly ajar. She hears faint moaning and muffled crying from behind those knowing doors, sounds of pain and fear.


“Come along, then. The Doctor is with him now and they are preparing him for surgery.” She speaks in the rapid tone of a seasoned nurse who has become a professional at combating time and fate. “I’m afraid he has suffered a traumatic head injury …” She pauses as she pushes the magical button on the wall which swings open the huge intimidating double doors. “He is in intensive care, right this way. Doctor Rodriguez will explain to you more. He is the surgeon who is going to operate on your son.”


“Operate?” She echoes feebly, her mind attempting to register this rapid onslaught of information. But, even before she has time to think or speak, the nurse has opened the door to a glaringly white room and she follows her inside. She blinks at the extreme brightness as she enters the room and her pulse races as her eyes land on the outline of her son lying on a stretcher in the middle of the room. There are doctors and nurses in white all around him along with numerous tubes and massive machines.


Before she can make her way across the floor to her son, a tall dark man steps in front of her, blocking her view, and extends his latex-gloved hand. “Hello, Mrs. Rhoades. I am Dr. Rodriguez, head of neurosurgery. Before you see your son, I would just like to assure you that he is in the best of hands and we will do everything possible for him. He is in critical condition and it is imperative that we operate as soon as possible.” His familiar enunciation sends shivers up her spine and she abruptly looks up at the doctor, forcing herself to speak.


“But, what happened? They said he was in an accident…is he going to be alright?” Her voice becomes strangled by the lump in her throat. She gazes into the dark brown eyes and seizes the instant flicker of recognition. Her eyes travel down the right side of his cheek to rest on the small dark mole. The trembling inside of her now has taken control of all of her muscles, and she begins to visibly shake from head to toe. The room starts to spin like a merry-go-round and she cannot seem to catch her breath, which is like dry sand cutting through her throat. The words turn round and round in her mind “Watching in slow motion as you turn around and say ‘Take my breath away’…”


“My son…you don’t understand…” she sobs breathlessly, as she falls helplessly into him, her hot tears against his white coat. Her voice whispers hoarsely into his ear “Enrique”…the name somehow rolls off of her parched tongue. She looks up into his searching dark eyes, pleading “Please save my son…”


His strong hands gently grasp her body to him in a long ago familiarity that defies the hands of time. “I understand,” he says evenly in a voice meant only for her ears. “Rachel, I know,” his deep voice soothingly strokes her.


Their eyes lock in a knowing embrace; words are no longer necessary. The nauseating feeling is replaced by a warm and downy cloud as she spirals into sublime oblivion in his exonerating arms, the words wrapping around her soul;

Never hesitating to become the fated ones…

Through the hourglass I saw you,

In time you slipped away.

When the mirror crashed I called you,

And turned to hear you say

‘If only for today I am unafraid’…

Take my breath away…

Sharon Lynn Van Meter

Copyright 2004




The Hosptial

I wasn’t looking forward to working the graveyard shift again and was dragging my feet. I’d been on the ward for over a year and loved babies, but it could get a little monotonous sometimes. I was stationed with the head nurse, old lady Crotchet and our only male nurse, Jenderlaps; why in the hell would a man want to be a nurse? Geeeez. Me? I was the token Hispanic. My credentials sure hadn’t landed me the gig; I’d slid through nursing school by the seat of my minority-laced pants. I’d dubbed this place “Our Lady of the Worthless Miracle,” but for some strange reason, I had a feeling something was about to go down tonight. I stuffed my crap on the bottom shelf of the blue-white checked cubicle and did a quick once over.

The scene around me was pure chaos. Doc Killjoy and the resident, Doc Dubiouse, stood inside the adjoining cubicle huddled over a patients chart; their faces grave. The attending pediatrician, Dr. Lousitup and the Anesthesiologist, Dr. Heven, were rushing a newborn to NICU. A lady appeared out of nowhere. She asked breathlessly, “Is that the Hewitt baby?” Dr. Lousitup muttered something, hauling-ass down the hall with the incubator.

She shot over to my station. “I’m Ms. Van Buren. They just took my daughter in for an emergency C-Section. How is she? Was that the baby? ”

Nurse Crotchet downed a shot of plain black adrenaline and disappeared through the double doors of the OR.

Mrs. Van Buren was a petite, soft-spoken blonde, probably in her mid-forties; she looked tired. “Why did they perform the C-Section so soon? The doctor last night said they had to wait at LEAST eight hours after the second steroid shot before they could even THINK about taking the baby!”

I glanced over at Doc. Killjoy and Doc. Dubiouse and they just turned their friggin’ backs to me. She focused on them; I was merely the vehicle. Nurse Crotchet returned, announcing the daughter was doing fine. Ms. Van Buren’s son-in-law, Mr. Hewitt, followed; His face belied her words.

Doc Lousitup scurried up, explaining that the baby’s lungs were very small for twenty five weeks. Mrs. Van Buren asked if they could “administer respiratory assistance.” He said they couldn’t because the lungs were so small. She couldn’t understand the logic in that, but all he said was he’d “work on the baby for the next hour.”

Then Mrs. Hewitt was wheeled from OR, poles and tubes dangling everywhere. She sure looked messed up and kept on asking for her baby. After they went into her room, Nurse Crotchet said she was assigning me as her floor nurse; that witch hated me from day one.

Dr. Lousitup returned, summoning Mr. Hewitt and Mrs. Van Buren. Using almost the proper amount of respect, he explained that since the baby’s heartbeat had stayed at twenty five, they’d decided to “terminate resuscitation efforts.” They had “called it;” the baby was dead. They’d only worked on her for twenty minutes; I couldn’t believe it! I looked at Nurse Crotchet. Her mouth was hanging wide open, just like mine.

I followed them back to the room. He was big as a line-backer, but Mr. Hewitt wept like a little boy as he held his wife’s hand, “Baby, she didn’t make it.”

Mrs. Hewitt’s pretty face was all scrunched up; her petite body trembled. She flailed her arms, jerking loose her IV. “I want my baby! Why can’t I have my baby?”

Mrs. Van Buren tried to calm her down, but could hardly speak. She turned and ran from the room, meeting Doc. Killjoy outside the door.

She stared at him, wide-eyed; her voice shaking, “Why did you operate? The baby’s heartbeat was normal before. You were supposed to wait for that steroid shot…”

“Do you think I like getting up and coming here at four in the morning to perform a C-Section?” Doc blurted.

Mrs. Van Buren, “So did she have Placenta Abruption?”

“I don’t know, did she?” He said.

“I was standing in the examining room six weeks ago when you told her she did!” She accused. “You drew us a diagram, for God’s sake!”

Standard hospital procedure was to “allow a deceased baby to stay with the mother if the mother so desired.” I could easily understand why Mrs. Hewitt did not “desire” this and so I was sure surprised when Mrs. Van Buren took me aside and asked to see her “granddaughter.” She was taken to the empty room next to her daughter’s. I went along with Nurse Crotchet to get the baby and bring her to the room.

One lone rocking chair sat in the middle of that big, empty room and in it sat Mrs. Van Buren, her nose red and her eyes swollen the size of enchiladas. She was so petite, I thought she’d disappear in that big chair, but she carefully took the bundle from Nurse Crotchet. She gently unwrapped the blanket and there she was; a beautiful miniature doll dressed in a lavender dress, bonnet and booties.  “She’s perfect,” She breathed.

I held my breath; I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. I felt it was going through all of our minds; just thirty minutes ago this little baby had been alive, just like us. It was hard to explain something like that, even more hard to understand. Mrs. Van Buren brushed her lips across the tiny, little face. She held the teeny-weeny fingers in her hands, and then removed the booties, counting each little toe. She took the bonnet off and I saw the dark shiny wisp of hair. She cuddled the baby, whispered, and rocked.  I guess she forgot we were even there and we quietly slipped out of the room, gently closing the door.

“She’s saying goodbye. Somebody had to do it.” Nurse Crotchet sniffed gruffly. It was the first time I ever saw her cry.

I thought about the last few years I’d struggled in nursing school and about Doc Killjoy and Doc Lousitup with all of their medical degrees. Suddenly, they didn’t seem so superior anymore. I nodded at Jenderlaps with new respect as I followed Nurse Crotchet back to the station. And I held my head a little higher.

Sharon Lynn Van Meter

Copyright 2009