The Writing Life

Chapter ONe - Playing Guy

"Is this Guy Jamison?" asked Dr. Steward Ledger, as nurses used surgical gauze to mop up thickening blood around the eyes, mouth, and nose of the trauma patient.

          "It was," offered an EMT sarcastically. His thick tree-trunk form occupied the corner of the trauma bay at Wynee General Hospital. Perspiration beaded on his disproportionately large bald head. "That pretty boy face of his is pretty much gone. Ribs are a mess. Leg was crushed. Chest is nothin' but lacerations. Don’t expect he’ll be wantin’ to take off his shirt anytime soon to show his packs to the ladies ... that is, if he makes it."

          Dr. Ledger, concentrating on his patient, ignored the EMT's hardened comments.

          Minutes before, the room was placid, reposed. Briny marsh smells wafted in on the balmy night air and settled themselves in the sterile room. The nurses, Dr. Ledger, interns, and technicians yawned and quietly complained about the late hour. Francis, Wynee's orthopedic technician for the last 20-plus years, was giving a young, eager nurse an expressive summary of his latest RV road trip adventures with his wife. She smiled, but kept one eye on the double swinging doors. The group bantered back and forth about what was coming in. All they knew was that it was an automobile accident – a 911 call, versus a less life-threatening 811. Tension mounted as siren sounds neared. As soon as the double doors flung open and the patient was wheeled in, polite conversations between colleagues suddenly turned into frenzied demands. Controlled chaos ensued.

          "It was an auto ax, right?" Dr. Ledger confirmed.

          "Sure was," answered the EMT. "Tried to use a tree to stop his truck. Killed his parents in the process."

          “That’s enough from you!” bellowed Dr. Ledger at the EMT. “What the hell’s your problem? Who are you anyway? Who is this guy?” he asked a nurse.

          “New,” she answered, expressionless.

          An intern unlatched the wide red straps that held the patient to the emergency stretcher and threw them to the ground. In two swift motions, a nurse with a bulky pair of gleaming shears expertly stripped Guy of his soiled t-shirt, boxers, and jeans. Coins and bills scattered on the floor mixing thoughtlessly with splotches of blood and the discarded packaging that seconds earlier kept sterilized the gauze and needles. The smell of motor oil, vomit, sweat, and blood filled the room.

          With the clothes removed, Dr. Ledger and his staff attempted to evaluate the extent of Guy's injuries. They cleared his spine with the on-site CT.

          “Let’s move him off the board. Ready 1-2-3.”

          "Bilateral dp pulse is weak"

          "Blood pressure is 88 over 58"

          "Normal sensations."
          "Positive LOC at the site," offered a stocky blond female paramedic. "Then he gained consciousness for a few moments and was out again. We had a time prying him from the truck."

          "Can you open your eyes, Mr. Jamison?" yelled Dr. Ledger.

          No verbal response.

          “Can you hear me, Mr. Jamison?"

          Guy suddenly moaned loudly, gurgling from the blood in his throat.

          "Suction him now!"

          A few moments later, an intern stuck a needle in Guy's radial artery to measure his blood gases. The pain from the pressure elicited another moan from Guy.

          "Do you know where you are Mr. Jamison?" demanded Dr. Ledger.

          Again, no verbal response.

          "Blood in both nares."

          "Nose is broken. Left femur grossly unstable. Francis!"

          "Already on it," said a tall, graying black man. He brought out a metal brace to secure the underside of Guy's leg; he carefully wrapped wide nylon straps around the mangled flesh.

          "Breath sounds diminished on left side."

          "Oxygen saturation below 82 percent!" shouted the intern measuring blood gases.

          "Hemothorax!" yelled Dr. Ledger. "Hook up that chest tube and suction him. We need to find out where that blood’s coming from. Did someone call Dr. Vorgate? Call and wake him. We’ll need him for this leg. And call Dr. Ross just in case. Let's get a CT on him first. Could have a subdural."

          Abruptly, Guy opened widely his eyes and stared at the room full of medical experts. I don't remember this script. His eyes latched, transfixed, on the consuming brightness of overhead lighting as his brain searched for an answer as to why he could possibly be lying on a gurney in a hospital. The nerve endings connected sharply with his brain and his face contorted with pain. He struggled to draw breath from the weight of it.

          "Mr. Jamison ..." said Dr. Ledger. "Mr. Jamison, can you hear me?"

          Guy winced and closed his eyes again. His breath sucked into his gut and lingered there. What he saw in his mind's eye was a foggy movie-trailer-like version of recent events: a blonde with red lipstick ... black leather sofa ... parents in the car ... a wolf.

          "My parents," he scarcely whispered. It felt as if something thick inside his throat prevented him from speaking. He wheezed and gasped for breath. His lids opened and his eyes rolled back slightly, lashes fluttering, before he succumbed to darkness again.

          "We’re going to need to clear his airways!" said Dr. Ledger to his staff. "Don't try to talk anymore," he directed to Guy. "You've sustained major injuries and we're assessing the damage."

          "They're dead," said the EMT, coldly, staring straight into Guy's pleading eyes. A fleeting grin and then: "There's nothin' left of your parents now, Mr. Bad Boy Jamison!"

          "Out! Right now! I want you out!" roared Dr. Ledger. "No, stop! What is your name?"

          The EMT shrugged, smirked behind a wide, unkempt mustache, and sauntered out of the double doors, leaving them swinging on creaky hinges as Dr. Ledger called after him, "I will be speaking to your supervisor!"

          “Unbelievable!” he mumbled loudly to no one. “He’s done here! That was the last time he’ll ever be allowed back into this hospital!”

          Dr. Madeline Walker entered frantically through the stern metal doors; hinges screeched like faulty car brakes. She marched toward a plump nurse, holding out both her hands for sterile gloves. The nurse looked at Dr. Walker disapprovingly and then wide-eyed at Dr. Ledger. Dr. Ledger shook his head.

          Maddie ... I mean, Dr. Walker, you do not need to be in here! I want you out! We've got it under control!"

          She ignored Dr. Ledger's command. Maddie stepped toward Guy and leaned over his swollen and lacerated face. "LOC?"

          “He’s in and out,” said a nurse.

          “Guy?” Maddie whispered in his ear.

          “We’re going to have to intubate him,” said Dr. Ledger. To the nurse he directed: “Give him 100 mgs of Propofol.”

          At that moment, Guy's eyes yearned to open. He knew the voice. He gurgled, struggling for breath.

          "He was conscious a moment ago and that buffoon of an EMT told him his parents were killed," asserted Dr. Ledger, adding, "He’s in bad shape, Maddie. There's no time right now!"

          Ignoring the directive, Maddie leaned closer toward Guy. She wanted to touch his face, his hand, his arm, to give him some assurance that she was there – really there with him. But every fragment of him seemed saturated in a mixture of blood and dirt. Her eyes, welling with tears, connected with his glazed, bewildered expression. She moved her mouth near his ear: "They're gone, Moses. They're gone. I'm so sorry."

          Maddie righted herself. She stepped aside to allow Dr. Ledger to proceed.

Guy found himself looking at what seemed to be the back of thick black velvet curtains. A memory of his first school play, his parents in the audience, crept inside and lingered for a slight moment. He remembered never wanting the curtain to close ... to see his parents’ proud faces, and the admiring expressions of all the others in the audience. But this curtain closed down coffin-like, heavy, and suffocating. There was nothing. Only darkness.