AS GOD IS MY JUDGE
����������������������� A powerful will may cure where a doubt will end in failure.
����������� McGuire felt no pain.� It was good to lie down where it was warm and dry.� He had a fuzzy memory of someone waking him up, moving him or putting him in a car.� There had been a lot of light, and he was very tired so he kept his eyes closed.� There were voices�gruff ones calling him names, kind ones holding him up, soft, feminine ones sounding like angels.� And smells�cigarettes, urine and more; perfume that spoke to his memory.� He tried to embrace it with his mind, savor the sweetness, analyze its familiarity, but it drifted away�like the dream that eluded him night after night.
����������� He had never thought much about death, just assumed that when his time came, he would go to sleep, and that would be it.� Possibly, this was his time. �God knows, he had prayed for it often enough, but now he wasn't sure.� Something was pulling him up, lifting him out of the well�a voice? the perfume?� His eyelids were heavy, but he forced them open.� If he was dead and this was heaven, he was looking into the face of an angel.
����������� It was a miserable night out�the first cold snap of Fall�damp, windy, a good night to be inside.� The emergency room had seen several people for minor injuries from fender-benders on the wet roads.� There were the usual respiratory infections that should have been treated in a doctor's office before getting to the pneumonia stage.� One man with a heart attack couldn't be revived after he had gone into ventricular fibrillation and cardiac arrest
����������� "Hey, Shannon, there's a man here named McGuire.� Maybe you're related," the Triage Nurse, Harriett Browning, called through the connecting door to the nurses' station at DC General Hospital Emergency Room.
����������� It was ten-thirty, and Shannon McGuire was reviewing her charts to be sure they were complete before she got off at eleven.� This was her third week as a full-fledged Registered Nurse.� She was losing some of the anxiety she felt in the beginning but none of her enthusiasm for her work.
����������� "Shannon, are you coming?" Harriett called out.
����������� "Okay," Shannon replied with a trace of annoyance in her voice.� She had no relatives named McGuire.� Her parents were dead, and she had not known her grandparents except for Grandfather McGuire who had disappeared when she was a child.� The aunt who raised her was her mother's sister, not a McGuire.
����������� She walked into the adjoining room and saw a disheveled old man slouched forward in a wheelchair parked next to the nurse's small desk.� Harriett handed the clipboard to her without a glance.� Shannon looked at it and froze.� The usual high color of her cheeks drained to white, her hands started to shake, and a low moan came from deep within her throat.
����������� Harriett looked up.� She immediately stood, placed her arm around Shannon, and guided her to a chair behind her desk.� "What's wrong?� You're as white as a sheet."
����������� "That name...� My grandfather...� I thought he was dead."� Tears streamed down her cheeks.� "He was such a sweet man; he always made me laugh."
����������� Harriett reached for a box of tissues from which Shannon took two and dried her eyes.� "You don't think this could be him, do you?" Harriett asked, looking at the old man slumped in the chair apparently oblivious to their conversation.
����������� Shannon regained her composure.� "What a rotten trick, seeing that name was like seeing a ghost."
����������� "Isn't your grandfather dead?"
����������� "I thought so; he disappeared after my parents' death.� We never heard from him, and that was more than sixteen years ago."
����������� A feeble cough rattled in the old man's chest.� Harriett said, "I'd better get him to the back so he can be checked.� I don't want him to die out here."� She wheeled him through the double doors, leaving Shannon sitting at the desk.� That has to be him, she thought.� She dried her eyes and walked hurriedly to the room in which Harriett had left the old man.
����������� Jeff Lassiter put aside the Journal of Emergency Medicine he had been holding on his lap while he watched the fourth quarter of Monday Night Football.� He slowly pushed the chair away from the desk and dropped his feet from their perch on the desk.� They made a dull thud as his cowboy boots struck the tile floor.� He stood up, unfolding his six-foot-seven frame.� He pushed his jeans down over the top of his boots, pulled his scrub shirt over the silver belt-buckle, and reached for his white coat.� All of this seemed to be in slow motion�his only speed except when he was on the basketball court, and even there his motions were so fluid and graceful you didn't realize he was outrunning the point guard.� A broken leg kept him out of the NBA when he was an All-American forward at the University of North Carolina so he concentrated on his studies and got into medical school.
����������� He crossed the hall, punched a code, the double doors opened, and he strolled through.� The new nurse was leaning over an elderly man lying on the examining table.� Jeff had come to respect her competence; her good looks and dedication were apparent from day one.� Were it not for the slight rise and fall of the patient's chest, he would appear ready for the morgue.� "What do we have?" Jeff asked.
����������� Shannon was taking the old man's blood pressure and nodded toward the table on which the chart rested.� Her long auburn hair had come loose and hung down on one side below the small nurse's cap.
����������� Jeff picked up the chart and read: "Brought in by the police, had been sleeping beneath an overpass, looked about dead, no ID, blood pressure = 80/30, temp = 103.4, pulse = 96 - weak, respirations = 32 - shallow."�
����������� Suddenly, Jeff moved like he had just been thrown the ball in the left forecourt and was driving to the goal.� He grabbed the oxygen mask and rattled off orders, "Blood gasses, CBC and Chem Profile, portable chest�� I'll get an IV going; let's move it!"� Shannon left the room to call the lab and x-ray.
����������� "Mr. McGuire?� Mr. McGuire?!� Talk to me."� When he didn't get a response, Jeff started the IV.� The old fellow was dehydrated, but he didn't want to overload his heart.� Listening to his lungs was like hearing an orchestra out of tune�high-pitched squeaks, dissonant rattles, gurgling wheezes, and bass-like groans.� He shook his head, turned the oxygen, now being delivered by nasal canula, to eight liters per minute and prepared a solution of penicillin that he hooked piggy-back to the IV.�
����������� Shannon returned; her face was flushed.� Her hands trembled as she rechecked McGuire's blood pressure in the other arm-still dangerously low.
����������� A flurry of activity followed as the lab technician took arterial blood from the radial artery in McGuire's wrist and venous blood from his forearm.� The x-ray technician had wheeled the portable unit in.� Jeff lifted McGuire's upper body so the technician could place an x-ray cassette under his chest.� The technician clicked the machine, removed the cassette, and left the room.� Jeff completed his physical exam.
����������� The technician returned in a matter of minutes thanks to the adjacent automatic processor and stuck the x-ray on the view-box.� To Jeff it had pneumonia written all over it.� White opacities obliterated the normally black areas produced by the high radio-lucency of the aerated lung.� There could be tuberculosis underneath all that, although the apices looked relatively clear.� He turned back and looked at McGuire.� Large ulcerating tumors of the forehead and one that was eroding the left side of his nose gave his face a Halloween mask appearance�appropriate for the time of year.� The wrinkled eyelids remained closed; Jeff had only gotten a peek at his eyes when he had lifted the lids to test their pupillary reflexes.� "Let's get him to the ICU, and God help him."
����������� "May I talk to him?" Shannon asked.� Her voice was tremulous, her face tense.� Jeff stepped back.� She took McGuire's free hand in hers and leaned close.� "Gramps, it's me, Shannon, your granddaughter, Jim's girl.� Can you hear me?"� There was no response.� She looked at Jeff, "Is he going to make it?"
����������� "The odds are against it."
����������� "I don't want to lose him again," she sobbed openly.
����������� "Talk to him," Jeff said. �"Try to get through to him�he needs a reason to live as much as he needs antibiotics."
����������� "Gramps, this is Shannon.� Speak to me.� Open your eyes, please."
����������� Slowly the lids retracted, and the deep green eyes that looked up were mirror images of her own.� "Is that you, my little elf?"� The voice was as soft as a breeze, and like a wind that was spent, the eyes closed.
����������� Shannon reluctantly released his hand as an ICU nurse and orderly wheeled him out.� "Hold on, Gramps, I'll come to see you."� Her moist eyes followed them.� There could only be one Gabriel O'Shaunhessy McGuire born on May twenty-ninth, eighteen-hundred-ninety-seven.