Wednesday: 10:45 p.m.
Feeling lost, Jessica stood at the doors of the emergency room waiting for an ambulance to deliver a pregnant woman in premature labor. It was the same place she had worked for the last 11 years, but tonight it had a menacing aura. Jess glanced behind her. Who would be there behind her back? She wished Jill would come back to the front.
Jill was in the room getting out equipment and turning on the baby warmer. Jill was rather alarmed how pale Jessica looked, and her hair was ratty and oily. She didn’t want to say anything for fear Jess would become upset and want to go home. The nurse on call would have to come in.
A grumpy nurse on call who would be of little help and a big pain. These nurses that worked in ER on a routine basis on another shift would suddenly not know where anything was mostly out of groggy exhaustion. A situation that was workable would become impossible, if Jess left so, Jill had eagerly volunteered to do a little leg work figuring Jessica could use some time to pull herself together. She just wasn’t herself.
Jill spoke as she approached Jessica. She had seen Jess jump earlier when an evening staffer had dropped a sterile pack. Panic had been etched across Jessica’s face. Jill didn’t want to see that again. “It’s a nice night.”
A small smile lit Jessica’s face and a few of her frown lines disappeared. Jessica took a deep breath looking at the sky. The stars were there as usual. “Yes, it is a nice night.”
“How’s Ashley doing?” asks Jill.
“Not too good. The babysitter told her about her mom being taken to jail, and it wasn’t known when I would get home.” Jessica shook her head. “Ashley wouldn’t let go of me all evening, and she cried when I left for work. It broke my heart. I would like to kill my babysitter but she’s too hard to replace. It would be more than I could handle right now.”
“What replacing the babysitter before or after killing her?” Jill laughed.
“Oh wow. Really commit a crime. Then I would have so many rights I wouldn’t know what to do with them all. This morning I felt like I didn’t have any, and I’m innocent.” Jessica just shook her head.
Dr. Silverman came up behind and put his arm around Jess making her jump. He hugged her to him. “Well, if it isn’t one of the top ten of America’s Most Wanted.”
Jessica rolled her eyes. “Is that what is being said about me?”
“Not exactly. Actually, most are griping about Bob, our great security guard, and the stunt he pulled this morning. No one believes that you had anything to do with the drug robbery. Or that you would know the guy. He just didn’t seem your type.” Dr. Silverman and Jill laughed and Jess managed a smile.
“Did they read you your rights?” asked Dr. Silverman.
“No. They just grilled me about old boyfriends, and just maybe I had something to do with it. A prosecuting attorney came and talked to me and he asked me questions about the man’s description more than anything. No one even told me not to leave town. The prosecutor told me not to worry about anything. I wasn’t in trouble. Still I’m having a little trouble putting it all behind me and relaxing. I feel like I was assaulted twice.”
“Yeah, I can believe that,” Jill said.
The conversation broke off as the ambulance arrived. The paramedics came rushing in with the patient overflowing the gurney with her bulging belly that wanted to flop her from side to side. She was huge. The paramedic at the foot of the cart started talking over the woman’s moaning. “This is Carol Turner, 36 weeks pregnant, if you hadn’t noticed. Contractions started about 4 hours ago, and her husband tried to bring her in, but she couldn’t stand, says that she’s been having trouble with swelling in her feet, hands, and face in the last week. Her obstetrician is Dr. Baker. Husband, uhm, Danny is right behind us.” They spun on down the hall to the room set up for the delivery.
Jess stayed behind and directed the father to registration, and then followed in the others footsteps.
“Here we go on three. Three,” said Jill to coordinate the lifting of the patient onto the delivery table. Paramedics were quick to strip the gurney and throw the linens into the hamper. They were on their way out in seconds.
“Why did you do it?” asked the older paramedic.
Puzzled for a moment, Jess’s face turned bright red when she realized he was referring to the robbery. “I didn’t do it.” She turned her back to them trying to keep her head up and her back straight. She didn’t want to give the paramedics any indication of how bad he had made her feel. Jess took a deep breath and shrugged her humiliation off. She grabbed the sterile receiving blanket and got ready to take the baby from Dr. Silverman.
The nurse anesthetist, Peter Newton, appeared at the head of the bed. He told Carol what he was doing as he put an oxygen mask on, just to help her and her baby along. He put EKG patches on and a monitor to read the oxygen level in the blood. All the while Jill was helping Carol put her legs up in the stirrups with her own set of instructions for the patient. Jessica stood behind Dr. Silverman, who was already on a rolling stool ready to exam and possibly catch the newborn. Jill stepped away and Dr. Silverman rolled into place as the baby was crowning.
Dr. Silverman told Carol, “The baby’s head is showing down here and will be out in a moment.” Carol moaned and pushed involuntarily as nature intended tearing her vaginal opening as the baby propelled forward. Dr. Silverman’s hands guided the infant out and paused. He clamped and cut the umbilical cord. He turned back to Jessica, and placed the baby in Jess’s arms and began to inspected the infant.
The infant’s forehead cut off about one inch above the eyes and there was nothing further. The skull wasn’t complete. The hair and scalp lay conversely over the brain, or the lack of the brain. Anencephalic. The baby was anencephalic. There was no functioning brain material. Before Dr. Silverman let the baby boy go, he flipped his finger against its heel. A faint mewing sound escaped as the baby took in a breath and let it out. The infant’s back arched in spasm.
“Stimulate him, would you, Jess?” Dr. Silverman turned back to the patient and told Jill, “Page Dr. Martin. He’s still signed in. Oh, and have the operator find Dr. Baker, please.” He finished delivering the placenta and examined the woman’s torn opening.
Jess covered the little boy up and placed him on the infant warmer. She flipped his heel again. The baby soundlessly took in a shallow breath, not even giving out the strange cry. “Response less than it was,” she said in a low voice hoping the sounds of the monitors would cover her words and keep them from the mother.
Dr. Silverman started stitching Carol up. He nodded to Jess and said, “Keep trying.” Jessica turned back to the infant and continued to clean him off. She was surprised. The infant wasn’t going to make it no matter what. She replied, “Okay.”
Jill dialed the operator and found out that Dr. Baker was still signed in. The operator would page him for them. She said, “Dr. Baker is still in the building. The operator will find him.”
Dr. Silverman looked up over the patient to Peter. “How is she doing?”
“I gave her some versed,” said Peter.
“Good. I needed that.” He said with a small smile. He turned to Jill again. “Page Dr. Martin again, we need him to handle this. He can answer all the parents questions. I can’t. He finished the suturing and Jill helped him take the woman’s legs out of stirrups. He came up beside the warmer and flipped the heel again, hard. The limp form didn’t respond. He said, “Now all we have to worry about is who comes through the door first? The father or Dr. Martin?”
Holding their breath, they collectively turned to the door. The door slowly swung open.