Olivia’s stuck in that meeting, but she wants you to switch over to the E.R. line. They need the reports from last night.”
Lindsey groans. “Trauma Jock?”
“No, I think it was Aufhauser’s night on.” With a thumb’s-up, Gayle gives a push of her feet and rolls backwards into her own cubicle.
Lindsey switches dictation channels and cranks out the reports on a minor accident, with some contusions and a broken arm, a six-year-old admitted for observation of possible appendicitis, a homeless man with the D.T.’s. Aufhauser is easy to transcribe, speaks clearly and cuts to the chase.
Then there’s a pop and static, and a new voice comes on the line. “Bennerton here.”
There’s a sinking in her gut as the backup neurosurgeon rattles off the patient ID, date and time of motor vehicle accident. All she can see is the face of Mrs. Montague in the hospital cafeteria as she sits not drinking her coffee, eyes blanked-out windows. On coma watch.
Lindsey takes a deep breath, backs up the recording to catch the patient name. Bennerton’s reciting so fast, she can’t nail it and has to try a third time. Finally she gets it: Kevin Spieler, age 20, motorcycle accident, head trauma.
Cold dread settles in the pit of her stomach. She’s not sure of the last name. Doesn’t want to be sure.
Her fingers keep typing on auto-pilot. Patient a student, leaving restaurant server job at one a.m., lost control of motorcycle and impacted head-on into a cement abutment. The familiar phrases float up from her robotically clicking fingertips: Cranial fracture… fluid pressure buildup… emergency neurosurgery… EEG activity irregular… family consent—
“Uhn.” Lindsey’s hands jerk upwards, off the keyboard, pushing her back, away. But it’s finally penetrated beyond denial. Nausea rising in her throat, she stands, takes a deep breath, moves shakily to the stack of new admitting forms to verify the name.
Kevin Spieler. And under parents: Robert and Marcia Spieler, 1228 Gardenia Lane.
Rob and Marci, best friends of Lindsey’s sister Joanie. She closes her eyes, seeing the crowd at last summer’s 50th birthday barbecue for Dan. Kevin always a fixture in these extended-family affairs, his lanky height and curly mop of dark hair as he galloped Fran’s grandkids around on his back, laughing.
Somehow she’s back at her keyboard, finishing the surgery report with grim determination. Maybe they’ve called in another consultant, and they need the report. She finishes it, sends it to the printer, hurries over to pull it out and attach it to the admittance sheet. Her body efficiently going through the motions, she looks up the Intensive Care location and starts out the door, numbly noting that Olivia isn’t back yet.
She halts, turns back to tell Gayle she’s running the report up herself. “They need it Stat,” she lies. Usually the records clerk waits for a pile of transcribed reports, takes them around to add to the charts at the nursing desks.
Gayle looks up, the start of another grin fading as she sees Lindsey. “Are you okay?” She pulls off her headset.
Lindsey fans herself with the paper, faking another hot flash. “Yeah. But I think I’ll take a break after I deliver this.”
“Maybe you better lie down in the break room. You look kind of green.”
“Maybe I will.” Lindsey hurries off to the stairwell, grips the rail and takes some deep breaths. Then launches toward the third floor, hurrying and hoping it’s not too late to hurry.
She passes the long windows of the ICU rooms, beds surrounded by tangles of wires, fluid lines, portable monitors all clustered around sheeted shapes barely recognizable as people beneath all the attachments and bandages. At the nursing desk, she hands over the report to a nurse she doesn’t recognize.
“How’s he doing?” she asks as he pulls out the metal chart cover, inserts the emergency surgery report into an already thick collection of color-coded lab and EEG reports.
The nurse looks up, tall guy folded into a short chair, squinting behind wire-rimmed glasses. “Too soon to tell, looks like. Why?”
Lindsey manages a shrug. “It’s just—such a young kid. Seems like a shame.” She takes a breath. “If there are any other consultants coming in on it, and you need any other reports transcribed Stat, just let us know in Medical Records.”
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