The first person in the room died. He was the only one who ever did– he was there for a whole week, though no one expected him to make it beyond the first 24 hours. “Closed head injury”. More sterile than “brain pulverized by colliding with a blunt instrument at 160kmph.” The wall was, of course, stationary.
Natalie thought it strange that they had even brought him up to the 37th floor. A& E (Accident and Emergency) was conveniently situated above the City Morgue which had moved into the basement of the new hospital.
Natalie had not seen the next person – she had been on nights that week and the woman was admitted shortly after the morning changeover. It was peritonitis – her appendix had burst on the OT the day before and so it would have been surprising if she had made it through the day. It was likely that they were out of space in the Surgical ICU and had to “prioritize” – hence the move to Surgical 3. Poor soul, she probably went straight down to the basement, even though there was a strange rumour going round the staff canteen that she had discharged herself just before the evening shift had come in. Natalie could not believe it.
Natalie had a grudging respect for the surgeons, even though other nurses thought them arrogant and pulled faces behind their backs. Too hoity-toity for the likes of us, wouldn’t give you a second glance – unless you’re game for a quick grope in the scrubs room. Natalie owed her life to a surgeon – aggressive ovarian cancer. She was lucky that they had caught it early, if you can call it ‘luck’ when they had removed all hope of motherhood. But she had feared far worse – that’s the thing about medical training – you know too much for your own good. Her mother had told her to ‘have faith’ – but Natalie had more faith in the cold steel that pared away the tumour than some benign deity.
The hospital had been built with a grant from a wealthy benefactor – the new Warren Buffet, they were calling him: he had donated 45 floors of state-of-the art technology. Natalie had been fortunate to get a job there – the pay was good even though the shifts were the dreaded ‘continental’ 12-hours-on-24-hours-off that messed with your metabolism. Maybe that was why she felt so exhausted – she could hardly drag herself out of bed in the mornings these days and today she been retching again by the time she got off the subway. Tom had been asking her if the pay was really worth it – but it wasn’t just the pay – she felt kind of calm when she got up here on the ward.
Rooms 1-8 were 4-bed wards – half male and half female but Room 9 was a bit of an anomaly in the busy hospital– a private suite with two rooms and an adjoining bathroom. Its design was apparently specified by the benefactor. Maybe the side room was so that family could stay close by in critical circumstances – but then it was odd that the room itself was not even ‘Hi-Care’. Considering all the other high-tech gadgets in the hospital, it had no bells and whistles at all. And the other thing that was strange about it was that no one ever stayed there very long, although the people who came and went in the adjoining room seemed oddly familiar – Natalie began to think that they were not family at all. Perhaps they were voluntary workers from some charity like the Hospice, who stayed with people who had no family or who were about to peg? Except that no one ever had pegged in 3739 – not since the first bloke who’d totalled his car and miraculously hung on until his family arrived from Australia. Most of them had gone home remarkably quickly. There were even one or two who’d been ‘misdiagnosed’ – lucky that – to come in with liver cancer and go home with nothing more than gall stones or indigestion – probably those stupid radiologists over at Memorial General.
The thing was that 3739 changed occupants often – so it was a good place to catch your breath or even a few minutes’ kip when the rest of the ward was quiet. Natalie felt herself increasingly drawn to spend more and more time there. She had not thought too much about the fatigue, but the puking bothered her. It roused the icy fear that had gripped her chest ever since the first call from the gynae’s office. She kept telling herself it was nothing but when the bloating started she knew it was time to get some blood tests. She hadn’t even told Tom – it wasn’t real if she didn’t tell him – not yet, not until she got the results.
3739 was often empty but Natalie was surprised today:
Where’s Mrs Jones?
Discharged – can you believe it – and her looking so yellow only two days ago?
Do you need a hand with the sheets then?
Yeah, if you’ve got the time – they’re sending over a really bad Cardiac case – triple bypass – it was touch and go in theatre….
So why are they sending him here? Shouldn’t he be in Cardiac ICU?
Don’t ask me – that’s what matron said – family specially requested it.
Well that’s their problem then – you mind if I take lunch early – I have to pop down to the 5th floor?
Natalie’s stomach churned in the waiting room and she was afraid she might vomit again. She just hoped she wouldn’t see anyone she knew – it was hard enough to hold it all together without someone asking if she was sick.
The doctor’s face was blank but her eyes smiled kindly as she looked up from the pathology report.
Oh no, thought Natalie, she is trying to break it to me gently.
It’s not good is it? She whispered
That depends on what you were expecting to hear, my dear – congratulations, you’re pregnant.