Blood and Breath: Account from C-Wing

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
You hold the heart in your hand, and the pressure's on. In this sanitary area you are God and fool all at once. Before you know it it's been five fucking hours with a group of people that you have come to hate and love and utterly not care about. all the while life is there in your hand, barely fluttering.

*Found in Bordertown Publication*

Submitted: April 06, 2015

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Submitted: April 06, 2015

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These halls stink of a bleach and Virex mixture. This combination is not a typical one in any hospital, but it seems that some newbie janitor didn’t get the memo. I don’t have patience for stupid mix ups and the people behind them, especially one that create vile stenches. I won’t take the time to know their name. I wouldn’t even if they hadn’t fucked this up.

I’ve spent most of my day in the operating room to escape the scent. At least the smell of cauterized flesh is sweet, like the mixture of tar and fescue recovering from Arizona heat in a rain storm. It almost makes you want to barf; the type of smell that is so pungent it gives you a headache. I read somewhere that the country folks that lived downwind from Auschwitz reported that same experience. They said it was not a thing you’d seek out, but not something you’d avoid.

These cleaners are a different story. They fill up the air here, and make my walk from the back of the first floor to the parking lot almost unbearable. It smells like C-diff, like someone smeared their shit all up and down these horrid cheery walls. Maybe they finger painted little poo images and hid them behind the pictures as a joke, every wilted purple tulip concealing a sickly surprise. How wonderful. At any rate the smell is all I can think about for now.

In fact the odor is so bad that I barely notice the hand that grabs my shoulder. It’s not until its owner greets me with a slurred version of my name that I glance backwards for a moment. My manager Kelly grins at me from a couple steps behind. She always has a soft look about her, but tonight she looks much more dopy than usual.

“Hey Kelly,” I address her informally for the first time, “You headed home?” She shakes her head no, saving the breath of a verbal answer to skip a step and catch up with my pace. It is still so surprising that she is my boss. She can’t be much older than I am, and yet she is so into her element. She could replace the surgeon I bet. She’s just that good.

“Nah, I’m headed to the caf for a coffee. I think I’m gonna crash here tonight. No reason to drive if you gotta be back tomorrow, you know.”

“Yeah, I think I’d be in bigger trouble if I didn’t come home at all.” I half-joke. She forces a little giggle before putting on her serious face. I can see that her eyes are red in the florescent gleam of the lights. She must be really tired, or maybe she feels like me.

“You did a good job, you know. I wanted to tell you that. It’s hard, maybe the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but eventually it becomes just part of the job. Hopefully tomorrow this place will have a better atmosphere entirely.”

“Thanks.” I say, and she breaks off to heads through the cafeteria door without a goodbye. We’ll see each other soon enough, so why would she bother with that type of salutation, even if it leaves the conversation floating helplessly like a bubble in a blood vein. I guess her approval just isn’t enough to put my soul at ease. But regardless of my ethereal state all I have right now is the physical things I know.

 I know I feel shitty, and at 4:37 in the morning I’m not in the mood to be positive about it. My legs hurt. My hands have blisters from holding the retractor for two hours. Organs start to weigh a fuck ton at that rate, and no backward salad scooper is going to help. It’s all man power from there. What a way to end a twenty-three hour shift, damn. I mean I had that patient. I had her fucking heart in my hand.

I did just what the surgeon said, but it wasn’t enough was it? That incompetent bastered couldn’t piece together a puzzle let alone stitch a graft to someone’s right ventricle. There must have been enough blood to fill a football. We even introduced factor Seven, but it didn’t help.

The anesthesiologist assured me the patient had a long life. Yeah, easy enough to excuse it, but he didn’t have to shave her pussy before going into surgery. He didn’t put in her IV, and hear her faithful tongue talk about god. He didn’t see her being wheeled away from her grandchildren strapped to a table. I was there, though, point A to B. I watched as he put her to sleep, and god took her away. Long life, sure, I hope it was a good one.

Kelly says it gets easier to watch them go, and she’s probably right. Hell our two trauma cases lived so two out of three can’t be too bad. It still bothers me that our regular case was the one that passed. All the schooling in the world couldn’t prepare me for this. It isn’t T.V. It isn’t a book or a movie. This is real, and it’s hard. Gambling with life is a stone’s game. In this industry you either learn to distance yourself, or you lose.

When I make it to the exit the automatic doors are shut off. It’s like putting salt in a wound. I have to pry them with my tired fingers to head out into a morning so early it’s midnight-dark. The December air carries a slight hint of Virex, carving it into sinuses with a razor sharp chill. That’s a type of salutation I could have done without.

I spend the next moments jogging to my car, scraping the frost off the windshield, and hoping that when I get home everyone will be asleep. The last thing I need is twenty questions about where I’ve been, and why I have to leave with the sunrise. They don’t realize I miss my friends and family, but there is always someone who needs me more: in matter-of-death kind of way. I turn the key and tap my toe onto the gas.

 Nights like tonight are always the hardest.


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