I hope everyone has a great weekend. I won't be posting chapters over the weekend, but I will be posting all next week. It looks as if the release date of COVERT REICH needs a few extra days. I don't want to put anything out to readers until I am 100% confidant it's the best book I can do. I hope you are enjoying the chapters that I have been posting. Keep in mind that I will be running a little contest next week for those who read the blog. I'll post a handful of questions from this week's blogs and the reader(s) who get the most answers correct will receive a copy of COVERT REICH.
Another reminder: A.K. Alexander books on sale for .99 for Kindle this week through Tuesday. DADDY'S HOME reached #1 in ALL Kindle book sales this past summer in the U.K. and remained in the top 10 for two months. http://www.amazon.com/Daddys-Home-ebook/dp/B004FN2B1O/ref=pd_rhf_gw_cpp_tab0_p_t_1 I hope you will give one of the books a try. My personal favorite is THE CARTEL. http://www.amazon.com/The-Cartel-ebook/dp/B004PLNH64/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_4
“Clear!” Brightman ordered again. Lupe gave no response.
Kelly continued to watch the fetal monitor. “Pierce, we have to get this baby out now. There are no more options left. She’s gone. We’re wasting time.”
“Clear!” Brightman ignored her, acting as if he hadn’t heard a word she’d said.
The baby’s heart rate continued dropping. “Damn it, Pierce, call it or they’ll both be dead!” The helpless feeling she had seconds before was replaced with anger. Adrenaline coursed through her and lit every nerve on edge. Screw this guy!
“I’ll call it when I’m goddamn ready!” Brightman shouted.
She was hit by a surreal of out-of-body moment where she felt oddly detached from the scene unfolding in front of her—white walls, blue curtains, silver instruments, dead mother, dying infant, a frantic medical staff trying to fix the situation. Dr. Brightman was good. Kelly knew this. But she could see he was fighting a losing battle, and she hadn’t lost hers yet. She could save the baby if he would let her.
“Get the hell out of my way, Brightman, and call this patient’s time of death, or I will be the first in line to file a law suit against you.”
Brightman looked at her, took survey of the room, and then stared down at the girl on the gurney. Three seconds later he glanced at the clock and wiped his forehead with the back of his arm. “Time of death, sixteen hundred hours. The baby is all yours, Dr. Morales. And good luck.” He swore under his breath and slipped away behind one of the curtains, off to file his report.
The charge nurse from labor and delivery and the two nurses from the neo-natal intensive care unit waited for the Kelly’s next call. With their help, she went to work with quick and determined efficiency. “Sponge,” she said and wiped down the mother’s stomach with a mixture of alcohol and iodine. “Scalpel.” With proficient hands, she opened up Lupe’s abdomen, retrieving the baby within minutes. A girl. The doctor suctioned the infant’s mouth and nose clear.
The tiny infant resembled an extraterrestrial being, with her transparent skin and spindly limbs. A nurse placed the baby on a radiant warmer. Three others gathered around, gently drying her with warm towels. “Let’s get a heel stick stat and into the incubator immediately,” Kelly said. “This one is going to need to oxygen, among other things, I’m sure. Get her weight and length. What do we have?” She noted the baby’s weight on the scale as a nurse took the blood sample and hurried off. “3.2 pounds and 16.53 inches. She’s a little one.”
Kelly took the baby’s APGAR score to check how well she was doing after her traumatic birth. The score rated the infant’s breathing, heart rate, muscle tone, reflexes, and skin color. At only four, it was not good. She’d take it again in a few minutes to see if things improved.
Kelly and Eric Sorensen, the NICU nurse in charge, transferred the baby to the intensive care nursery. As they rolled the warmer down the hospital hallway, a lab technician came running after them. “I have the mom’s initial blood work back. Here you go.”
Kelly took the reports. “Thank you..” Once inside the unit, the baby was placed inside an incubator, likely her home for the next several days, if not longer. Eric began hooking up the monitors and leads onto the infant. There was a lot to be done: blood gas, chest x-ray, continuous cardiorespiratory monitoring, feeding tube…and a lot to watch for: apnea, anemia, jaundice, respiratory distress, underdeveloped lungs, infection. The list was endless. But Kelly could tackle all of that. She took a step back and opened the mom’s file, figuring she would find Lupe had some kind of drug in her system. What else could explain the scene back in the ER? The more Kelly knew, the better she could help the baby.
“I don’t believe it,” she muttered, shaking her head.
“What?” Eric asked, glancing over at her.
“Inconclusive for any kind of narcotics or alcohol. Nothing apparent in the mother’s system to indicate she was using.” She shrugged. “According to these preliminary reports they are inconclusive as to whether she was using any drug, legal or illegal, in her system. I was so sure. I mean, I have no idea what happened on that table in there. Obviously we have to wait for an autopsy report, but I don’t know what to think. These test results say we are probably dealing with a perfectly healthy sixteen-year-old girl who, for no explicable reason, completely crashed on us.”
“I don’t know what to say, but I need some help here, Doc. I’m having a hard time getting this IV started on her,” Eric said.
Kelly focused back on the baby, scanning her body. The poor thing let out a fragile cry, similar to a puppy’s whimper, as Kelly found a vein on the top of her head and inserted the tiny catheter. God, please help me save her.
The baby girl was hooked up to numerous monitoring sensors in order to regulate heat, oxygen, and carbon monoxide levels as well as her heart and breathing rates. “Okay, I’ll get the tube in, and then let’s get this little one a dose of surfactant,” Kelly told Eric. The baby’s underdeveloped lungs hadn’t had enough time to produce their own surfactant, but thank God Kelly could give it to her. Machines and drugs could do pretty damn well, sometimes almost as well as a mother’s own uterus.
Kelly expertly threaded a tube through the baby’s nose, down the back of her throat, and into her trachea. Eric then connected the tube to the respirator and started the machine, regulating the flow of air, oxygen, and air pressure in and out of the lungs. “Thank you,” Kelly said to Eric, who smiled back at her.
He had a great smile—perfect white teeth and dimples to boot. His grey-blue eyes matched the surgical gowns he wore. His black hair and superb physique caused many women to take second and third looks because the guy could easily have been a Calvin Klein underwear model. It was a shame he was gay. At least for all of those swooning women, anyway.
Eric was fairly private about his sexual preference. The only reason Kelly even knew was because of an embarrassing incident that had occurred at last year’s holiday party. Kelly had gotten a bit smashed and made a complete fool out of herself, telling Eric how hot he was, etc, etc. Frankly, this was pretty out of character for her, but after too many frozen margaritas... And then he’d told her he was gay, and she was mortified. When Monday rolled around, she could hardly look him in the eye.
At lunch time he’d sweetly taken her by the hand and said, “C’mon, Doc, let’s get something to eat.”
Over turkey sandwiches and Diet Cokes, she tried to apologize.
“For what? Are you serious?! First of all, I am flattered.” He leaned in closer, flashing his adorable smile. “Second, if I wasn’t gay, I’d do you in a heartbeat. I actually gave it some serious thought the other night. You looked good enough to eat in that red dress and I momentarily toyed with the idea of giving it a try. Maybe you could have converted me.” He’d winked at her, and they both burst out laughing, causing heads to turn in the cafeteria. From that day forward, their friendship was permanently cemented and they had one another’s backs come hell or high water.
There is no one Kelly would rather have by her side as she tried to help this nameless baby stay alive.
“She is a very sick little girl, isn’t she, Doc?” Eric asked, placing soft cotton bandages over the infant’s eyes, shielding her from the Bilirubin lights.
Kelly nodded. “I’m going to do my damndest to see she makes it. Right now, I’m just concerned with stabilizing her.” She frowned. “I don’t know what to think with the reports. From everything I saw in that ER room and seeing how sick this baby is, I would have assumed there were narcotics involved. I would expect to see some withdrawal signs in this one’s early weeks, but…well, now I don’t know.”
“What?” Kelly asked.
“You heard about the other cases from last week, right?” Eric asked. They happened while you were off.”
Kelly frowned. “I had heard that a couple of maternity patients passed away, but haven’t had much of a chance to get the full scoop. What happened?”
“I worked both cases. I mean our team was called in for the infant but neither baby survived. They were stillborn. They had heartbeats on them up until a few moments before delivery, but once the mothers died there wasn’t enough time to save them,” Eric replied.
“Who were the attending OB’s and who was on for NICU those days?”
“Dr. Pearson was on both of the cases for NICU. Brightman was the attending OB for both as well.” Eric shrugged as he adjusted an IV. “It seems a little weird. Kind of coincidental, don’t you think?”
“I hear you. I think I’ll track Pearson down and see if he can enlighten me a bit. Something tells me that Brightman may not want to talk to me for awhile after our little showdown in the ER.”
“You may have to wait a while to speak with Dr. Pearson. I heard he left on vacation the day after the second baby died. Rumor is he was pretty distraught. He may have even been forced by the chief to take some time off while all of this was looked at. Someone said he took off for the Mediterranean.”
Kelly sighed. “Interesting…I suppose I could go and see what I might be able to pry from Brightman about the mothers and now what he thinks about this latest patient. He has to think it’s strange as well. God, but I really don’t know if I want to deal with him. Maybe I’ll go down and see Hamilton instead,” she said, referring to the chief pathologist and the only other man in the hospital corridors besides Eric to catch her attention. “Maybe he has some ideas. He can at least tell me what he found in those other women’s autopsies.”
“He might. Not a bad idea. But before you go, why don’t you take a load off and rest some? You look beat. What time is your shift over?”
“God, I don’t know.” Kelly ran her hands through her hair. “I don’t think I care anymore. I feel like I live here. Any time off I typically spend sleeping.”
“You need a life,” Eric said.
“I probably do.” She wiped the perspiration from her forehead.
“Go grab something to drink, take a few. I’ve got things here. I think she’s as stable as we are going to get her for now. I’ll page you if I need you.”
Kelly scrunched up her nose and shook her head. “Mhhm, I don’t know. I don’t want to leave her yet.”
“You can’t keep twenty-four hour vigil, Doc. Get a cup of coffee, think, and breathe for a minute. Regroup and come back. You can’t go very far, so if something goes wrong, I’ll have your ass back here in minutes. I insist.” Eric crossed his arms and gave her one of his no-nonsense looks. He’d make an awesome parent. He had the expression down pat.
“Fine. But page me if anything happens. I don’t care how minor. I mean, even if her lead comes off, page me. Promise?”
“Cross my heart.”
Eric was right to send her away. A lot of what they called “the waiting game” was starting now. There would likely be many stressful, difficult moments before they could envision a healthy future for Baby Salazar, and Kelly simply couldn’t be here for every single second. She needed to take a break and recharge to keep her head clear in case something else went wrong.
Kelly walked out the double doors of the NICU and stopped in front of the elevator. She decided to head down to the morgue first to see if she could speak with Dr. Hamilton. Curiosity had gotten the best of her, and her instincts screamed there was something peculiar about Lupe’s death.
The doors to the elevator opened, and she stepped inside. Kelly took her hair out of its elastic band, ran her fingers through, and pulled it back again, hoping she looked somewhat presentable. A quick glance in the mirrored button panel told her she looked like hell. Sleep was in order. When was the last time she’d had a good night’s sleep? Even when she had time for sleep, Kelly had a tough time turning her brain off. In the scheme of things, sleep didn’t matter as much as the lives of her little patients. Sleep could wait. What she really wanted right now were some answers.