life and death

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Dreams are the things that have motivated me to continue working towards my goals. I am a focused man and I remember from a very early age my mom telling me that I would help make a difference in the world one day, I just needed to keep dreaming and stay focused. For as long as I can remember, I have dreamt about what it would feel like to save lives. [A1] The doctors of the world were essentially mortal versions of God. They saved lives just by simply placing their hands onto patients, often performing procedures that, if done wrong, could kill them their patients instantly. From a very young age, I loved adrenaline, I loved power, and I loved helping people., thus I knew that I wanted to become a doctor and save lives. Now, after practicing medicine for 25 years now[A2] , I am living my dream as a head surgeon in Chicago’s ER a throu and I am in awe everyday. I love what I do and, quite honestly, I’m damn good at it as after 25 years, no one has died on my operation table.

Chicago taught me that strength is more than the muscles that are on your body, but the height of which you hold your head when you witness the death of your childhood friend, or something painful such as that. I am meticulous in nature and hardworking by trade, but it is the city of Chicago and my family that have helped me get away from the depths of this city.

A typical day in my household is: wake up and kiss my baby girl, call my mother to make sure that she remember that it was the start of a new week and that she needed to refill her medication, and call my dad to check on him as well. I love my family; they’re all you’ve got.

I developed a strong affinity towards medicine early in life. I found one of my best friends shot and on the ground, his eyes rolling to the back of his head as I scrambled for something to help stop the blood. That moment was filled with fear and uncertainty, but so much adrenaline ran throughout my body that night that I was numb. During that moment, I promised myself that I would get out of this place and help the ones that I love by becoming one of the best surgeons in the city.

The city of Chicago is thriving with bustling traffic, tourists 365 days out of the year, and lights that fill the city. It is greatly diverse in its population and the cultures within the city are without a doubt what give Chicago its flare. [A3] I work at one of the biggest teaching hospitals in Chicago and I am met with different life- or- death situations every shift.

Today felt like any other day. It was busy and people were being transported from all over and were rushed into the ER every 30 minutes.

“Dr. Nathan we’ve got a gunshot wound coming in in about three minutes. I’ll prepare the room and provide the proper sterile equipment for the procedure.” The nurse spoke to me with fervor in her eyes and a very stern voice.

Working as the head surgeon inside such a prestigious institution has its stressful moments, but after practicing for what’s going on 25 years, I have seen and lived through many life and death situations. Back in 2000, along with three of the biggest names in medicine, I helped save a man’s life that was suffering from a very rare disease that had been a complete mystery for months.

Immediately, I could here the sirens and quick footsteps approaching me. The paramedics rushed to room 8 with the stretcher as I followed.

“47 year old gunshot wound found in the South side of Chicago bleeding from the left upper rib area. Let’s get him off the stretcher and transferred onto the bed. One, two three.” I watched as the nurse successfully got the man over to the bed. The room was ready and all I needed to do was make a quick assessment of the situation. I walked over and before I could even blink twice, I realized that I knew him. His name was Luke [A4] and he was a friend of mine.

We grew up together in the South Side of Chicago when everything was violent and threatening to any minority man who had dreams to get out and make something of themselves.  He was my best friend until we grew apart in high school. He got connected with the wrong crowd and I was so focused on fulfilling my dream of leaving the South Side that I took a different path.[A5] 

Allow me to explain the deep friendship that is Luke and Nathan[A6] . Luke was my best friend since we were young. I met him while a few of our other friends were playing kickball on [A7] the yard and we grew tighter as the years went on. Things only began to get strained when we went to high school and Luke got mixed up with the wrong crowd. Ultimately, what really tore our friendship apart was when I got accepted into University of Chicago’s medical school. Luke called me a sellout and said that I was trading the life that we all grew up with for a new one surrounded by the fancy cars and fancy wives[A8] .

We were inseparable. My family took Luke under their wings after the death of his grandma and they treated him like one of their own[A9] . Luke was by my side during family vacations with barbeques and football games[A10] . Summers were the best with him. Waking up early to catch the sun and go play with other neighborhood friends at the pool. He and I were brothers, not by blood, but by just about everything else. [A11] Then Luke began hanging around the wrong crowd and smoking weed and things turned for the worse as far as our families go[A12] . My mother, a Christian woman who refused to allow her son hang around the wrong people no matter how close they became with our family, refused to allow him to our family gatherings. Looking into his very panicked eyes reminded me of the first time that his dad took him for the night. I remember the very look that he pierced me with the moment the car doors closed and they drove away. The same exact look that he was giving me then, on the gurney, thatis look of sheer panic and fear that he would never find his way back to me, made me forget about all of the stresses that came along with the idea of saving his life [A13]  that overwhelmed me. I had to do everything in my power to save his life. He was my friend, my brother, my family. and I couldn’t lose him.

“We are going to intubate you get you back stable okay? Can you move your fingers for me?”[A14] 

He was slowly becoming unconscious and unresponsive. I knew I had to do something fast and I didn’t want to risk losing him.

“I need labs please! Hey Mary, can you order an X-ray and an EKG for him. We need to work on stabilizing his blood pressure! PCan you place his bed into trendelenburg position in order to help elevate his blood pressure.”[A15] 

I’ve always maintained my composure in situations like this, but the thought of harming Luke caused my hands to shake and my throat close making it very difficult for me to provide orders. I felt sweat pellets build upon my forehead and my palms grew sweaty.

Afraid for Luke’s life, the nurse shouted, “Dr. Nate, it’s not working! I think we will have to perform an emergency procedure. He’s not responding.”

“Luke, Luke! Hey! Can you tell me your birthdate? Luke, where are we? Luke! Okay, let’s do [A16] it. Sterile kit please!”

I cut through his chest with [A17] the sharp surgical knife was met with a rush of dark red blood. I had made it safely through his chest cavity and needed to break the ribs in order to gain easy access to the affected area. Within seconds, I knew that Luke was suffering from a rupture abdominal aortic aneurism[A18] . He could die instantly if we didn’t stop the blood and occlude the excesses blood flow.[A19]This was a very serious situation.

“Dr. Nate, we have about four minutes. If we don’t stop this, we will lose him.”

I had successfully reached the affected area. It was secured with my instruments and I needed to apply less pressure on the instrument and see how well he responded and if he could survive without my help. [A20] 

“His blood pressure is rising, pulse is responding better. Dr. Nate I think we are doing bett-”

Immediately his pulse dropped. His blood pressure dropped. He flat lined. [A21] 

“Luke, Luke, Luke! Stay with me. Please stay with me!”

I screamed for what felt like an hour. He wasn’t responding. I had lost my best friend. The world was silent. I was bombarded with memories of our brotherhood. My mind ventured back to when we went camping together with my family up north and he was complaining about bears and how black people don’t go camping because they just aren’t equipped for such outdoorsy endeavors. Luke made everyone smile. Feelings of regrets overwhelmed me. I wish we hadn’t stopped talking after high school. I wish we had gotten past the new transitions of our lives and continued to be friends despite the changes.

With great sorrow and hesitance, Dr. James stated, “Dr. Nate, you couldn’t saved him. This wasn’t your fault. Did you see his arms? He was a heavy drug abuser, which affected the ability of his blood to clot. This was not your fault.”

As we left the operating room, I felt a sense of emptiness. I was not confident in my ability to save lives. How would I ever get past the loss of my best friend?

I left the hospital that night and went home to an empty house [A22] and memories of Luke. My daughter greeted me with big kisses and lot of questions that I wasn’t ready for. I took off my scrubs and went into the shower. As the warm water flowed onto my skin, I fought off tears. I kept reminding myself to stay strong and to envision him with his grandma in heaven. I struggled to find sleep. I tossed and turned until I finally fell.

“No, nooooo. Don’t go!” I frantically woke up with sweat pellets falling down my forehead. For a second I thought that I had saved him. But waking up to the reality that he had died was devastating.

It took all of me to want to call the hospital to tell them that I needed some time to gather myself after this. “Okay, I’m going to do it. Wait, no I can’t! Okay… here it goes ‘hey, this is Dr. Nate, I’m going through a lot right now and I need you to understand that. I will be out of the office for a couple weeks just so I can get myself back together.”…

The doctor answered “I want you to know that you did an amazing job yesterday. You did what you had to do and you know that 90% of the people with this problem die in surgery anyway. Don’t beat up on yourself too much okay, but get help?”[A23] 

The first day of counseling was filled with fear and uncertainty. It was very different for me to be vulnerable. I was afraid to let strangers into the very intimate parts in my life, however I knew that I needed help with grieving and understanding this great loss.

As I entered the office, I could feel my palms beginning to sweat and my heartbeat increase. This was something so new to me.

“Welcome, I’m Dr. Novocovitch, I’m so happy that you’ve decided to come and visit me today,” with a big smile on her face she continued to speak with me and make me feel comfortable.

“Hey, yeah, I’ve gone through lots of things within the past couple of days and I was suffering from the experience that I had a couple of days ago. I’m finding it really difficult to want to continue practicing medicine. I am the head surgeon at the university of Chicago’s medical facility and for the 25 years that I have been a surgeon, this has never happened.” Providing her with such important information was difficult for me because now I didn’t have control of the information.

She replied, “I cannot say that I completely understand this situation, but I have dealt with grief and extreme pain, as well as guilt. I advise that you come and take about a week to come and spend some time talking with me, can you do that?”

The thought of coming to speak with her everyday for a week made me feel as if I was mentally unstable and needed this more than I had originally imagined.

After about a week of soul-searching coming to terms with the situation that had happened, I felt like I was growing closer to coming to terms with this very difficult situation. I was on my way home to be with my baby girl and enjoy the rest of the time I had to bond with her before I decided to go back.

“Hey baby girl, I’m thinking about going back to work. How does that sound?” I waited patiently as I looked into her eyes. I was nervous because I could tell that she enjoyed having me home, but she loved what I did and was excited to hear that I was excited to get back at it again.

“Yeah dad. I think that’s a great idea. You love what you do and I know what happened to you was very difficult and I’m so glad that you decided to seek help. I love you,” she said as she smiled.

I woke up the next morning really nervous, but ready to get my day started. I left my house, coffee and hand. I decided to walk to the hospital for the first time in five years. I entered the hospital and was met with smiles form other nurses and my fellow staff members.

“Glad to see you back. We missed you so much,” the nurse stated.

“Oh hey! Yeah, I’m glad to be back!” I felt really good. I was excited to get the day started.

“Hey, we’ve got a gunshot wound coming in from the south side. It’s a girl, age 10, alert and oriented, but is showing signs of a decline in alertness!” the nurse stated.

Unsure and scared out of my mind, I thought about the look that Luke gave me just before we went into surgery. But I knew that I had a job to do and I needed to kick it into high gear for the sake of my sanity and peace of mind. I wanted to do this for Luke.

“We need a room, stat!”

Paramedics rushed to the open room and slid the child onto the bed. She had slow respirations and I knew we had to act fast or we would lose her.

“Can I get an x-ray ordered? I want to know where the bullet is! Does anyone have a list of allergies, a history, anything about this young girl?”

I had no idea of the past health history of this young girl’s life[A24] . I wasn’t aware of any blood disorders, she could bleed to death, if she had asthma, this would affect her ability to survive after the invasive procedure. I found myself growing more and more cautious,. but I was determined to save this little girl’s life.

“She was found just outside of her house, lying face down on the lawn[A25] , which may mean that she has been there for a long time. Her parents were hysterical and had visible trace marks on their arms from excessive drug use,” the nurse provided him great detail and information.

“X-ray complete and the bullet is lodged two inches to the left of her spinal cord. We’ve gotta’ go in now!”

As I went to clench the bullet with the tool, I nearly let it go, but grasped just hard enough to keep hold. I slowly weaved [A26] out of her body and dropped the bullet inside the sharps container. I had done it. Her blood pressure was stable. Her pulse was perfect. Her oxygen levels were above 90. This girl was going to live. She was going to walk.

With a great sigh of relief, I walked out of the operation room and stood for a moment. I thought about all that I had experienced, fighting desperately to fight back the tears. After losing Luke, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go on after that. But after today, I was confident that maybe I was meant to do this for the rest of my life.

“Hey Nate, can you come to the office? Someone special wants to say thank you for saving their life,”[A27]  the nurse stated.

It had been almost a month since I had lost Luke and time was still moving slowly. I missed him everyday and my ability to perform at my best as an MD was definitely affected by this.

“Hey Dr. Nate, remember the girl [A28] that you saved almost a month ago with the bullet two inches from her spine?”

I couldn’t believe my eyes, the sight of such a beautiful girl, healthy, and smiling staring me right in the eyes. She reminded me of my daughter. She was full of life.

“I hear you were the guy that saved my life. I want to say thank you!”

“No problem sweetheart, but would you believe me if I told you that you saved my life too?” This girl allowed me to believe in myself and that moved me more than she could ever know.


 [A1]I’m hungering for more detail.

 [A2]Eight years after a “young age” is a hard age to pinpoint.

 [A3]This could be more specific. Don’t just say it’s thriving; give examples of this character’s personal experience of it thriving.

 [A4]What was wrong with Luke?

 [A5]This back-story feels too fast. I wish there was more detail.

 [A6]Who is Nathan?


 [A8]Nice detail.


 [A10]Nice statement supported by detail!

 [A11]Nice line!

 [A12]What did this look like, manifested?

 [A13]What stresses?

 [A14]Nice medical details throughout this piece.

 [A15]Trimming this to model editing. I don’t think this character would be asking politely at this point.



 [A18]nice medical jargon

 [A19]Hard to tell what’s going on as someone who isn’t familiar with this situation.

 [A20]Not sure what you mean.

 [A21]What happened? Why did he die?

 [A22]What is his house like? No family?

 [A23]Who is telling him this? And didn’t he go against hospital protocol and maybe even committed malpractice? Seems to me like you’re letting him off easy.

 [A24]Wording could be better.

 [A25]Why would they tell him this?


 [A27]Who says this? Make sure to use dialog tags to indicate when who is talking.

 [A28]How young? Did you say earlier? I can’t picture her.

Submitted: April 27, 2016

© Copyright 2021 jolivb. All rights reserved.

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