We are all trying to escape. Some of us seek freedom from physical barriers, while others wish to shed mental or psychological limitations. But escape cannot be allowed to become the end in itself, merely...and I choose that word carefully...a connection to a new road leading way from disaster and towards something better. How much better is always an unknown.
In any case the plan is this: After an introductory chapter written in first person, there will be a series of chapters dealing with a series of characters confronting different issues. Some may be successful, while others may not. I have no idea about who and what. There is no plan for an "ending." In any case, here is the introduction to one character.
Bethany Trimble, known to her friends as Patti for reasons that no longer mattered, assuming they ever did in the first place, considered her entire life a failure. From her earliest memories she always wanted to become a nurse. As a child she might have been dazzled by the aura of altruistic goodness that formed a glowing halo over the practitioners of the profession, but there was a more practical aspect of her adoration too. She was strongly attracted to the idea of healing, and ash she studied biology and chemistry in high school the mysteries of medicine began to come alive, living and breathing in her mind.
She continued in college, acquiring top grades and an unrivaled reputation for excellence. Then, in the summer of her junior year, the edifice she had labored so diligently to construct collapsed, a house of card scattered by a hurricane.
She’d been accepted as an intern at her local children’s hospital, and the first two weeks were wonderful as she spent her time in orthopedics. The broken bones were easily re-assembled, with doctors creating artistic masterpieces from fiberglass and vivid colors. Though perhaps groggy from pain medications, the children quickly recovered and invariably viewed their casts as a badge of honor; a worthy reward for their suffering and a fitting appendage to display to their friends and siblings. Then everything changed.
Although it was not necessarily planned in advance Patti was assigned to oncology, where the issues were much more serious and the outcomes less certain. After spending a goodly portion of her first day bonding with a nine-year-old girl named Beverly, the department head advised her, perhaps a bit too realistically, of the girl’s prognosis.
“We will do all we can, but in two weeks she will be dead.” Patti immediately broke into tears. Intellectually she knew that not everyone was saved, that the miracles of medical care didn’t always deliver success, but somehow she’d always associated death with old people…those who had led long, fulfilled lives. Death was not for children who had barely started that journey.
The following morning she managed to pull herself together, at least to a point where she could go through the motions that went with her position. By carefully dodging a couple of nurse calls she avoided confronting Beverly in person, though a part of her wanted to see the child again. Patti actually believed that a doctor’s request for her to observe a surgical procedure provided an easy excuse to further avoid that ward. In that assumption she was wrong, and she would quickly discover that it was anything but an escape.
When she arrived in the surgical theatre the patient was already sleeping quietly, the body draped so that on the abdomen…the surgical site…was visible. The hair was hidden under a surgical cap, and the face obscured by the anesthesiologist’s mask and tubes so Patti was uncertain of both the age and sex of the patient. Since she wasn’t expected to actually do anything, Patti was free to observe, and even with a limited ability to get close up, she was tall enough to see the procedure as it developed.
After some discussions between the surgeon and the team, the doctor accepted the scalpel, set the blade on the skin and drew a thin line across the skin. Slowly the blood released began to define the line as the gentle hands of the surgeon opened widened the opening, closing the bleeding arteries as he made subsequent cuts deeper into the body. Patti had never seen the process before, but dealt rather well with her first exposure to blood and gore.
Eventually the surgeon had opened a sizable space held open by clamps, working through the layers of muscle that supported the organs held inside. Then, when he reached the peritoneum – the membrane that enclosed the organs themselves, he paused and spoke with the team, considering what they might find. He made it clear that what came next was unknown, that they might find nothing…or a complete disaster. With that said, he picked up the scalpel again.
Patti had no idea what to expect. Regardless of her studies, she’s seen only pictures and drawings of the inside of a human, and those were almost invariably clean, neat, and carefully cropped to show small, controlled segments. She’d seen a few pictures of cancers or tumors, but even they were clean and abstract. They almost never visually connected the disease with a body, and never with a person. Tumors never had a personality.
As the doctor slowly retracted the membrane the entire team went quiet. They’d all been there, and seen that. The entire abdomen was filled, a sea of warts ranging in color from black to angry red. The doctor lifted the membrane slightly, looking around the opening towards all sides, and then, with a sigh, he laid it neatly back in place, taking a deep breath and then asking for a suture. There was nothing more that needed to be done.
Patti assumed that the cancer was inoperable, though no one actually said so. Again she was faced with the certainty of a young life cut far too short though she had never met this patient. As she turned away, trying hard to objectively consider the implications of what she’d witnessed. Death had suddenly become a significant part of her life, and she began to understand that death was as much an integral part of her chosen profession as life, invading at will and almost always triumphant. As she stripped off the surgical scrubs she continued her own analysis, weighing all the things she knew against all the things she’d always assumed, finding conflict after conflict when reality struck her illusions. Doubts she had never experiences now seemed to rule her existence, and nothing was remotely what she’d thought it was. By chance, as she stepped into the corridor, the doors at the far end of the hallway opened and Patti saw the gurney pushed by two of the OR nurses, headed towards the recovery room. As she stepped to one side to allow them to pass she glanced down, not because she wanted to but because it was just pure human nature. With the surgical cap gone, and the masks and tubes no longer necessary, she discovered the gently sleeping owner of that ravaged abdomen was Beverly.