Duffy slumped against the reception desk and viewed the waiting area. Spread out across several of the chairs at the back of the room was an unpleasant smelling bundle of old clothes that occasionally flinched or grunted to prove it was alive, but apart from him the place was empty.
“I’m bored” She moaned.
Susie, the receptionist, looked up from her magazine and stared at the young nurse as though she was completely insane.
“You won’t be saying that later when things kick of. It’s just that not many people are having accidents at ten past eight on a Tuesday morning. You’ll be grateful of these lulls when you’ve been here a bit longer!” She replied knowingly.
“I’m not here for long though am I? Yesterday all I seemed to do was clean abscesses out and make tea for people…” Duffy traced imaginary patterns out on the desk as she spoke.
“They’re just giving you the rubbish jobs ‘cause you’re new”.
“I don’t even know why Charlie bothered to ask me down here, it’s hardly like we’ve been rushed off our feet, is it?”
Susie sighed, “That’s why you should always come prepared with reading material,” She said in an unnecessarily conspiratorial tone, whilst pointing to her glossy fashion magazine, “Just don’t let Ewart or Charlie see!”
Charlie put the phone down and swivelled round from the desk so he could survey the cubicle area. Only three of the curtains were drawn and even as he noted that one of them opened to reveal Martin and a middle aged man with a slight limp.
“OK Mr Hamilton, just remember to take the painkillers and keep the out-patients appointment and you’ll be fine. Just don’t do it again eh?” Mr Hamilton nodded meekly and shuffled off into the reception area. Martin came toward Charlie and perched on the edge of the admin. desk.
“Poor sod” He commented, in a tone that didn’t suggest much sympathy at all.
“He’s been waiting half the night to come in here after doing something very silly in the pursuit of pleasure, shall we say…” Martin replied, failing pathetically to stop himself from laughing.
“I don’t think I want to know” Charlie replied with a grimace, “I’ve only just had breakfast. Anyway at least that’s one down, only two more to go”
“Patients. Only Mrs Saunders, who's waiting to go up to Cardiology, and Mr Peterson left now.” Charlie said indicating the two remaining closed-curtained cubicles.
“Nice quiet day then!”
Suddenly the radio crackled into life.
“That’s your fault, that is! You’ve bloody jinxed it!” Charlie rolled his eyes and pointed an accusatory finger at Martin, before reaching over to pick up the radio receiver.
Charlie strode into the reception area with a glum expression, “Just thought I’d warn you, there’s been an RTA on bypass, pretty messy by all accounts. We've got at least two ambulances on their way to us, so it’s action stations everybody!” Susie nodded and started busying herself with fresh patient cards, whilst Duffy suddenly snapped to attention.
“What do you want me to do?” She asked enthusiastically.
“Get on to Cardiology about Mrs Saunders, tell them we need the bed cleared stat. And don’t let them fob you off!” He shouted as he turned and disappeared in the direction of the crash room.
“Don’t let ‘em fob you off indeed!” She muttered miserably, feeling that was exactly what he’d done to her.
“Where d’you want this one then?” Came the unmistakable Welsh bark of Andrew Ponting, one of the ambulance men who regularly graced the doors of Holby General.
Ewart looked around the already full crash room, “Megan, take Mr Hulme to one of the cubicle’s, and get on to theatre about this poor chap...” he indicated the man in front of him. He turned to face Ponting as Megan hurried about doing what she’d been told, “You can put him over there.”
Ewart advanced across the crowded room to the new patient.
“This is Gary Price. Crush injuries to both legs, had to wait for the fire crew to cut him free, in and out of consciousness…” Ponting continued as Ewart, joined by Martin started to examine Price’s injuries.
“Right we’ll take it from here, thank you”. Ewart said to dismiss Ponting.
“My pleasure, but I’d like my trolley back…”
Out of the corner of his eye Ewart saw the door, that led from crash into the department proper, tentatively open to reveal Duffy struggling to push an empty trolley through the doorway.
“Just in time, over here!” He called to her and she carefully wheeled it through the mass of medics to where Ewart indicated.
Martin took hold of Price’s shoulders; “Everybody got a bit? On my count, 1…2…3!”
In perfect unison the four of them lifted their patient off the ambulance trolley and onto the hospital one, allowing Ponting to retrieved his equipment and exit the room to the sound of Charlie, who was dealing with another patient, shouting, “And don’t come back!”
Duffy looked down at the patient in front of her. She’d never been squeamish, far from it in fact, but the sight of the two mangled limbs, bright red blood oozing from their gaping wounds, torn tissue and splintered bone was enough to make her feel nauseous. She bit down hard on her bottom lip and tried to swallow the feeling away. All around her she could hear the doctors and nurses relaying orders and information to each other. It didn’t quite feel real though; it was only the sickening stench of blood, smoke and petrol mixed together, a smell like nothing she’d ever imagined before, that was a constant reminder that it wasn’t some terrible nightmare.
She tried her best not to look at the injuries, and instead kept her eyes on the monitor, telling Ewart how the patient was progressing as and when he needed it. Every now and then she glanced down at the man’s face, grey from the smoke but unnaturally white underneath. He couldn’t have been much older than she was herself.
The piercing bleep of the heart monitor summoned her attention.
“He’s in VF” Martin stated.
“Get the defibrillator – charging – stand clear” As Ewart pressed the paddles onto Price’s chest his whole body jolted with the electricity.
Duffy glanced up at the monitor again, “Still in VF” She said far more assertively than she felt.
“Again – charging – everyone clear?” Another jolt but the monitor didn’t change.
“Nothing” She said quietly.
“He’s lost too much blood Ewart…”
“Push through another litre of O neg” He directed Martin, then turning back to the patient, “Come on boy, make some effort! Charging again – clear!”
The monitor showed no signs of the result they all wanted.
“Ewart!” Charlie shouted, “Need you over here!”
“Hang on!” He called back, focusing on the monitor himself and shaking his head. He pushed past Duffy and checked Price’s eyes; “Pupils fixed and dilated. I think he’s gone. Everyone agree?”
Martin nodded; Duffy just stood and trembled.
“Time of death: oh – eight – forty – seven.” He announced solemnly, before turning to see what Charlie wanted.
Martin pulled a sheet over Price’s head, “First death?”
Duffy nodded, clutching the edge of the trolley for some much-needed support.
“Go take a break. Go on…”
“But…?” she pointed shakily to the mass of activity still going on around them.
“You’ll be of no help the state you’re in. Get yourself some hot, sweet tea and have a sit down”.
She felt she should argue, stay and make herself useful; it was what she’d been trained to do, but she knew he was right. She couldn’t think straight, and thinking straight was an integral part of being a good nurse. Martin hadn’t waited for her to respond, she saw him helping out with another patient. Already back in the thick of it without a second thought for the poor bloke who’d just died.
She took a couple of unsteady steps around the side of the bed, then bolted for the door.
Go to Part Six