Sorry for not posting anything for the last few weeks. I’ve had to deal with a couple of medical issues that weren’t very pleasant. – Tom
Chapter 2 – Summons From a Far
The ride to the hospital was all too short. As Brad pulled into his parking spot his cell phone, which was on the seat next to his thigh, started to vibrate and chime. On the display, the message is short and to the point. “Report to administrators office ASAP“. Brad read the message then turned his cell phone towards Milly. Milly who was still chuckling from the ride read the text message on Brads phone then she stopped chuckling almost immediately.
“Sounds like you’ve been a bad boy. The dragon lady wants to see you. I’ve never met her but I hear she’s a no-nonsense lady. She apparently eats residents like you for breakfast, and picks her teeth with the bones.”
Brad took a deep breath and tried to look relaxed.
“I doubt our fearless leader is quite as fearsome as you’ve described, but I must admit part of what you said does have a kernel of truth. I do think she’s female”.
As Brad opened the drivers’ side car door Milly reached out and lightly touched his hand.
“What do you think is going on? Please text me when the meeting is over.”
Brad moved around the rear of the car.
“OK, will do. But I’ve been a good boy. I can’t think of any reason why she’d want to see me.”
He started thinking as he held the car door open for Milly.
“Great, now I feel like I’ve ordered to the principal’s office.” he thought as Milly exited the car. “If she eats me alive you get MJ.”
The dragon lady, a nickname the staff gave her, waited in her office. She made sure her red pantsuit had as few wrinkles in it as possible. She tried sitting behind her desk. Uncomfortable she tried leaning against the front of the desk and picked up a book pretending to read it. With all this preening it was obvious she was nervous and wanted to make a good impression. The intercom on her desk buzzed. “Dr. Foster to see you.” The dragon lady waited a few seconds then answered the intercom. “Send Dr. Foster in please.”
Brad entered. “You wanted to see me?” he asked.
“Please have a seat.”
She pointed to a chair directly in front of her desk. She then walked slowly to the front of her desk. She leaned against the desk and tried to appear relaxed.
“Firstly let me preface this conversation by saying I do not like surprises. But I got a beauty yesterday evening when I was having dinner at home”
As she spoke she moved behind the desk and sat down.
“Last night I got a call from the administrator of our sister hospital in Scotland. To make a long story short he caught wind of some rather impressive knitting done by you Dr. Foster. Apparently, a former patient of yours went for in for a checkup and the x-rays revealed some interesting sutures. So interesting I have to hear about it from across the pond. The upshot of the entire conversation is Highland Central wants you to go over to Scotland to show them the procedure you used. They also want you to bring along a doctor from pediatric medicine so they can use this procedure on children. This is the very first request from I’ve had from them and I would like to see if we can start a regular exchange going. Highland Central wants you and your pediatric assistant over there for two months. They are making a big thing out of this and are going out of their way to make you feel comfortable so during the flight over so you’re going first class. We Scots aren’t tight-fisted all the time. I haven’t said yes or no to this. I wanted to talk to you first. Are you interested?”
Brad thought quickly. “Just what is the name of the administrator at Highland Central?”
“Fergus MacTaggert is a great doctor. When I was in medical school in Scotland I learned a great deal about him. Aside from being a great doctor, he’s a wonderful human being. But he’s also a wee bit of a prankster. Do you golf?”
“Rarely. My back doesn’t care for it.”
The dragon lady continued.
“Well if you two make it to a course he’ll try and convince you the water hazards have alligators. He’s also a bit of dirty old man. At least that’s the impression I got. When I was a student and had a question I had to go up to his desk. He usually sat at his desk. He also pretended to be hard of hearing. So I had to lean down to his ear which afforded him a clear line of sight to my breasts.”
Brads level of curiosity got the best of him.
“I would like to ask you a personal question. I’m sure you’re aware of the nickname some of the staff have for you -”
“Does this have anything to do with Dragon Lady garbage I’ve been hearing?”
“Yes, it does.”
“When I was born my parents named me Druk. It means thunder dragon. At my last job, I was Lady Macbeth. But that sort of worked because my last name is Macbeth. Can I ask a favor of you?”
“By all means” Brad replied.
“When we’re in a group I appreciate it if you called me Dr. Macbeth. When it’s just you and me please call me Dru. Druk doesn’t sound at all feminine, and I haven’t a clue what my parents were thinking.”
“And I’d really appreciate if you’d call me Brad. I hate the formal name, Bradley. Every time I hear it I think of a dusty old encyclopedia.”
“You have a deal, Brad. And before I forget I’d like to meet your choice for your pediatric assistant. And if you really want to irritate Fergus all you have to do is call him Fergie or pretend to forget his name and call him Angus. Drives him mad.”
“What does Angus mean actually mean?”
Dru put her hand to her chin pondering the question.
“That’s a good question. It’s a very old name. Angus is the Anglicized version of two words, one Irish and the other Scottish Gaelic. The words mean “one” and “choice”. In Scottish Gaelic, it’s spelled Aonghas.”
Just then Brad’s phone rang with a text message from Milly. “What’s going on?. I’m dying to find out” was all it said.
When Brad finished reading the message he looked up to see Dru holding her hand up. “I know. Duty calls. Now scoot. You have a choice to make, and I’d like it by the end of the week. Hope to see you soon .” Her hand had changed to a finger which pointed directly at her office door. Brad opened the door and exited. As soon as he closed the door he texted Milly.
“Still here. Still employed. Big news. Can we talk tonight?”. No answer.
At the same time, Brad was talking with Dr. Dru Macbeth Milly was experiencing one the worst days of her young career. One of her patients was a ten-year-old boy with Leukemia. He had been in remission for two years, and it looked like he was going to live. Now the tables had suddenly turned. A bone marrow transplant was out of the question, chemotherapy and radiation treatments had stopped working, and his white blood cell count was skyrocketing to almost unheard of levels. When Milly walked into the pediatrics wing she picked up his chart at the nurses’ station. She glanced at the lab report. It had one word on it. Terminal.
“Damn and blast!” she muttered quietly.
She did her best to compose herself for one of the worst types of patient-doctor conversations a doctor could have. Then she walked over to his bed.
“How are you feeling today Robbie?” she asked.
“I think you already know the answer. The radiation doesn’t seem to be working, the chemo stopped doing anything ages ago, so am I going to die?” asked Robbie.
“What makes you think that?” asked Milly.
“Let’s see. I’m as bald as a billiard ball, I have more bruises than you have hair, and I feel lousier than I ever have before. So am I going to die?”
“There are labs all over the world working on what you have.”
“Why can’t you doctors ever give a straight answer?”
“There’s always a chance a transplant might do the trick.”
“Look Doc. It’s my life and I think I deserve an honest answer. Am I going to die?”
A nurse wearing pink scrubs rushed over from the nurse’s station.
“Can’t you see you that asking that question over and over is tearing Dr. Shine up? This doctor has worked very, very, hard for you.”
Milly turned to the nurse.
“Thank you for intervening. Please return to the nurse’s station where you and I are going to have a nice chat.” As soon as she stopped talking Robbie started up again. He was determined to get an answer.
“It’s a very simple question with an equally simple yes or no answer. Am I going to die?”
Milly could no longer dodge, weave, and avoid answering the precocious ten-year-old.
“You’re right. It is a very simple question and the answer is you are dying. I’m dying. Your mom and dad are dying. Are you satisfied?”
Robbie curled up into the fetal position and started to cry. He never expected an honest answer. And he wasn’t prepared.
Milly was holding his chart so hard her fingers hurt. But she had another matter to attend to. She had to discipline a nurse. She walked towards the nurse’s station.
“Don’t you ever do that in front of me again! That boy is my patient and it was my responsibility to tell him he was about to die. Not yours! I want to thank for intervening but only a doctor is allowed by law to tell a patient they’re about to die. Do that again and I’ll have you in front of your unions’ disciplinary committee.”
The nurse spoke up.
“I was only trying to help Dr. Shine.” Milly gripped the nurse’s arm and looked her right in the eyes.
“I realize that, and I thank you. But you almost helped yourself to the unemployment line. You almost said, what you, as a nurse, cannot say. By law, you are forbidden to ever give a terminal diagnosis. Do you understand what I’m trying to say?”
“I think so.” Milly let her arm drop to her side. The nurse noticed Milly’s eyes were watery and puffy.
“Go to med school and become the best doctor you can possibly be.” She then put her head right beside the nurse’s ear and whispered: “There are too few women doctors at this hospital, and we need more, a lot more.”
After talking with the nurse Milly put the patient’s chart back in the chart rack. She took her phone out and saw that Brad had texted her. She couldn’t help but wonder what the “big news” was all about. But her mind was also on Robbie and of all the things he’d miss. But she also thought about her own conduct. She couldn’t help but wonder if she could have dealt with the situation better, in a more professional manner. Maybe Brad might be able to help. She texted him with a very a simplistic message.
“Help. Need your counsel. Can we meet?” was all it said.
Brad was in the doctors’ lounge on the sixth floor when his phone started to vibrate. He looked at the display with a puzzled expression.
“What does she mean” thought Brad.
He sat in a chair to type out his response – one letter at a time. Some of his colleagues could send a lengthy response by simply using their thumbs. Brad couldn’t. His thumbs were far too big, so he had to type his response using his index finger, one letter at a time.
“What’s wrong and where are you?” was all he typed.
Almost immediately the answer came. Brad surmised Milly was a fast typist.
“Pediatrics wing (4th floor), Doctors lounge. I feel lousy.” Brad rocketed through the lounge door. When he got to the staircase he was able to jump most of the stairs. He landed with a resounding thump which ricocheted all over. Anyone else using the stairs must surely be wondering what is making such an unearthly noise. Only a couple of minutes passed between Milly sending her plea for help, and Brad walking into the doctors’ lounge on the fourth floor.
His face was a little flushed.
“Got your message. I came as quick as I could” said, Brad.
“I know. I heard. I’m pretty sure the rest of the hospital heard you coming too.”
“Was I that loud?” he asked in complete surprise.
“Let’s just say don’t quit your day job and to scratch cat burglar off your bucket list. Let’s go to the veranda where we can talk with a little more privacy.”
The two walked towards the doctors’ lounge veranda. They passed through a doorway that separated the lounge from the veranda. Few people used it because of the wind. When they got there Milly recounted the days’ events and promptly grabbed onto Brad’s shoulders. She quickly went to pieces and started crying. Milly started hugging Brad and used him to stay upright. As she hugged Brad she spoke.
“I handled the whole thing so unprofessionally. The kid had a right to know he was going to die, and I tried to put off telling him for as long as I could. I’m a damn doctor, not a stupid diplomat.”
Brad felt her tears on his lab coat. He wasn’t quite sure what to do so he gently rocked her in his arms.
“Milly, I’m going to say something and I want you to listen very closely to every word. Almost every medical doctor goes through what you went through. It’s a trial by fire. There’s no right way to tell a person they’re going to die. And there’s wrong way either. It all depends on the circumstances. It sounds like Robbie wasn’t prepared properly. Next time you have to tell somebody they’re going to die, and there will be another, do it a little more gently. Do it privately. The kid may be totally unprepared. Let them cry if they want to. And if you want to cry let ‘er rip. That way the kid will see their doctor is a human being and that you’re hurting too. Maybe not in the same way but when you think about it pain is pain. I’ll take you home, and I want you to dissect this entire experience one sentence at a time. Ask yourself what worked and what didn’t. Try and figure out why Robbie was so angry. When somebody is hurting they come to us we do our best to help them. But-“
“Do you think I should involve that patient more in their recovery?” she asked.
“Damn you’re quick! That’s exactly what I think too. I think if we involve the patient in every step of their recovery they’ll be more prepared mentally when things work out or don’t work out. Now, as your neighbor, and president of the cheer up Milly fan club, may I take you out to dinner. I promise you no hanky-panky, slight of hand, or anything else of that sort.”
Milly began to smile. Not a broad smile. She was just glad someone cared about her.
“Do I detect an ulterior motive Dr. Foster?”
“Of course you should. I want to put a smile on your face. Plus I hate to eat alone. We can gab about the meeting I had with the dragon lady.”
“And all I have to do is go out to dinner with you?”
“I’ll drive you home, pick you up before we go to the restaurant, and drive you home. It’s that easy.”
“What, you’re not going to mad passionate love to me?”
“I’m not that kind of guy. Besides that comes much, much later.” Milly giggled then started to laugh. Brad smiled.
“You had me at may I take you out to dinner.”
“Great. Reservations are for eight PM. I don’t think you’ll regret it for a second.”
Milly was was quiet for a while, bit her lip, then looked upwards at Brads face.
“You were pretty sure I was going to say yes weren’t you?”
“Let’s just say I was really hoping you’d say yes. Plus if you didn’t say yes I’d look like an idiot talking to myself about the dragon lady.”
“Well, we can’t have that, can we? But you behave yourself. I’ve got a stun gun in my purse”
“I’m as harmless as a puppy.”
“And puppies sometimes have to be disciplined with a rolled up newspaper.”
Brad paused to think about the idea of a doctor with a stun gun.
“And I’d appreciate it if you put a needle and thread in your purse. You’ll need it tonight. The purpose is entirely medical”
Milly started to slowly walk away from Brad and towards the lounge door. Something was going on. And she didn’t like being in the dark.
Brad was true to his word. After the meeting on the veranda, Brad drove her home. And there wasn’t the slightest bit of hanky panky. As Milly dressed in semi-formal attire she looked at her purse. She was trying to decide if she should take her stun gun. After a great deal of hemming and hawing, she decided not to take it and took it out her purse. She had to admit it felt kind of nice knowing there was a person who cared.
At seven-thirty there was a knock at the door.
Milly looked through the apartment door peephole and saw it was Brad.
When Milly opened the door Brad stood in the hall holding a long rectangular box partially hidden behind his back.
“Beware of Doctors bearing gifts,” said Brad. “Consider it a housewarming gift, only in this case maybe we should call it an apartment warming gift.”
Milly took what was obviously a box of flowers and placed it on the kitchen table. Milly read the card that came with the flowers “To Dr. Milly Shine. Thank you.”
Milly read the card then read it again then turned to Brad with a look of total bewilderment.
“I don’t understand this. Thank you for what?”
“Well, the answers quite simple. Thank you for being my neighbor, thank you for feeling you could call on me, and to thank you for trusting me enough to take the stun gun out of your purse.”
“How did you know I took it out?” asked Milly.
“It has a very specific shape and makes a very specific bulge in your purse.”
“You are really are observant you know that. I’m glad I moved in. So thank you for the compliments and the flowers.” She gave Brad a very unexpected peck on the cheek. “We still have half an hour. Care for a drink?”
“Since I’m driving I don’t think I better. And it might be a good idea if you didn’t either. You haven’t passed the final test.”
“What do you mean?”
“It has to do with that meeting I had with the dragon lady. I think its fair to say you’ve made the final cut.”
“I can’t stand it any more. If you don’t start telling me about the meeting you had this morning with the dragon lady this dinner is off”. She crossed her arms to emphasize her verbal ultimatum.
“OK, here is the very abridged version. I did a bypass on some fellow from Scotland. He went in for a check-up at our sister hospital in Scotland. They got in touch with dragon lady and they asked me to come to Scotland to show them the procedure I did. And they want to use this same procedure on kids. Hence the request for a person from pediatrics. I want you to come with me, but I still need to see you sew.”
“So that’s why you asked me to put a needle and thread in my purse. But we’re going out to dinner. I still don’t follow.”
“We’re going to a restaurant that serves roast beef. If you can put a knot into roast beef I’ll be able to assess your surgical skills.”
Brad saw her smile widen, and her eyes come alive with excitement.
“England and Scotland?”
“Maybe Wales too if word gets around”
“YES!” Milly fist pumped the air.