7. CHARITY HOSPITAL part III

Terri returned with a fresh bag of saline and started unhooking the nearly empty one. While she was attending to switching the bags an eager, middle-aged social worker came up behind her. “Mr. Wikstrom? I’m Florence De Julio and I’ve been working on your case”. I opened my eyes wide to take in what I hoped was some good news. “We were able to contact your brother William and he is on his way to help you”. I stared at Ms. De Julio with grateful eyes and mouthed the words “Thank you”.

She picked up on it right away and nodded. “We still haven’t reached your parents though. It appears they’re traveling. We’ve contacted the state patrol along their route and are hoping that they can be located”.

My nurse Terri had completed her task and double-checked the settings on the pump to make sure the drip was calibrated according to my prescription. “We hope to have better news soon” Florence said with a genuine smile that reassured me somewhat. “I think the doctor’s almost here for his rounds. I’ll check back with you as soon as I hear anything”.

Sure enough, I could see out of the corner of my eye a group of people in white lab coats, stethoscopes hanging from their necks, clipboards and pens ready to take notes. They stopped at the patient next to me; a young black man and looked at his chart that hung at the foot of his bed. “Gunshot victim” the lead doctor said to the group that I assumed by this time were students. “He’s not out of the woods yet?” He looked fine to me except for the restraints that tied his wrists to his bed frame and a strip of bandage around his head. He was sleeping and the doctor decided not to wake him.

Coming over to me, he didn’t consult the chart first but came forward to look me in the face. “I’m Dr. James Fontenot,” he said with a slight Cajun patois. “I conducted your spinal surgery. I’m glad to see you’re holding your own.” One of the students was already consulting the chart and handed it to him when he straightened up. I looked at his short curly blond hair and reddish mustache and thought maybe I’d seen him before. He looked a lot like the headwaiter at the Napoleon House in the French Quarter that I had come to know. “It looks like we may be able to get you off this respirator pretty soon”; he said looking up from the chart. He turned to the group of interns, “C5-6 Quadriplegia, injured almost a week ago while diving into the Mississippi River. As you can see, he’s had a tracheotomy subsequent to his spinal fusion and he was put on a ventilator because he was so weak. “ He turned and gave me his best reassuring smile. “But he’s a strong young man and I believe his diaphragm is functioning well enough now and he can start breathing on his own. We’ll finish rounds and see if we can’t turn the corner here.”

He gave me a wink and a hand on my shoulder. “I’ll see you soon pardner”. Turning around, he went to the next bed over, the interns following behind like a gaggle of baby geese.

I said a prayer of thanksgiving. It looked like I might soon be freed from the ventilator. I’d been saying a lot of prayers in my mind; free-form pleas for divine intervention and memorized devotionals from my early years at St. Margaret’s Elementary School in Seattle.

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