Home > Surprise Delivery(12)

Surprise Delivery(12)
Author: R.R. Banks

“All I'm saying,” Bri continues, “is to not close yourself off to the possibility. Life comes at you fast and everything can change in a heartbeat. And sometimes, you let your brain get in the way and make things more complicated than they have to be.”

I shrug. “And sometimes, my brain keeps me from getting hurt.”

Bri puts her coffee mug down and takes my hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. She gives me a soft, gentle smile.

“Getting hurt is just a part of life,” she says. “You'll never experience the great and amazing things life has to offer if you play it safe all the time. You'll miss out on so much if you spend more time trying to avoid getting hurt than you do letting yourself actually feel. And you'll definitely cheat yourself out of experiencing what real love feels like if you guard your heart as closely as you tend to.”

I understand what she's saying, but I've spent a good portion of my life learning to close myself off to people. Learning to guard and protect myself and my heart. In a way, I grew up learning some of the same lessons Duncan did – just for different reasons. And that's not something I can unlearn after spending one evening with somebody. More than that, I don't know that it's something I should unlearn.

“I just want to see you happy,” Bri says. “I want to see you let yourself be cared for and loved.”

“I know, and I appreciate that. And, when the time is right, it'll happen.”

“I hope so,” she says, squeezing my hand a little harder. “You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be loved and treated like a queen.”

I pull her to me and wrap my arms around her, giving Sabrina a tight hug. I know she wants the best for me, and I love her for that. Just as I want the best in life for her. Maybe one day, I'll be able to get out of my own way long enough to find somebody special – somebody, who will treat me like the queen Bri thinks I deserve to be treated like. Until then, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing.

And what I'm doing is trying to find a way to better my life. To better myself. Not for anybody else – I need to do this for me.



The impact of the bomb, or missile, or whatever the hell they're firing out there, cracks like thunder and shakes the very floor beneath my feet. The overhead light sways wildly from the force of the impact and the chatter of automatic gunfire echoes loudly.

“Sounds like the fighting's getting closer,” Sandra – my assisting nurse – says, a nervous tremor in her voice.

I look up at her and grin – not that she can see it from behind my surgical mask. “You're not getting scared, are you?”

“You'd be a fool not to be scared,” she says, chuckling nervously.

I guess I'm a fool, then. I've been in Syria for a few weeks now, and the fighting has been constant. The chaotic sounds of explosions and gunfire lull me to sleep every night and provide me with a wake-up call every morning. And of course, the stream of people needing emergency surgery because of the fighting is endless. Some can be helped, others can't. Though I dare say I've saved more lives than I've lost. Stick a feather in my cap.

It’s terrifying, in a way, but the rush I get from being in the middle of all this – it can't be described. Call it sick or perverse, but I came here wanting to feel alive again and this place has given me that in spades. The hospital we work at – which is supposedly a safe, neutral site that's not supposed to be targeted by either side – has been inadvertently hit by gunfire and some of those rockets have gotten damn close. Every single day, I've had the specter of death hanging over my head every hour of every day and it fills me with a thrill I've never known in my life.

The conditions are pretty terrible and the equipment we have to work with is outdated and rudimentary. It makes me think of that old show M*A*S*H – I used to watch reruns of it when I was younger. Working in a hospital like this – well, calling it a hospital might be a generous description – is what it reminds me of.

Personally, I believe it's made me a better surgeon. Rather than relying on machines and robotics to assist me with procedures, I've had to go back to basics and actually apply all of the knowledge I’ve accumulated throughout my career. I've had to be creative and bold. Daring, even. I've had to take risks I'd never dream of taking at my hospital back in New York.

To be honest, being able to save somebody's life working in conditions this adverse is far more gratifying than anything I've experienced back home. And this is exactly why I got into medicine in the first place – to save lives and help people.

“How are his vitals?” I ask.

“Holding steady,” she reports.

I nod and continue working on the patient’s leg. The damage from the shrapnel thrown by the IED was extensive. When they rolled him in, I really didn't think we were going to be able to save the leg. He's just a kid – no more than fourteen or fifteen – and got caught up in the middle of something, not of his making. He'd been walking through one of the city's open-air markets when a bomb went off. The death toll is staggering. The sheer number of patients coming in bloody and broken is surreal.

But seeing this innocent kid laying there in a pool of his own blood, barely clinging to life, bothered me in ways most of my trauma patients don't. In ways, I've never experienced before. New York is a tough town, sure, but my education and training there didn't prepare me for anything like this.

Not that this is the first kid I've seen rolled into my operating theater in bad shape. He's just the latest.

“I don't know that we're going to be able to save the leg, Doctor Clyburne,” Sandra says.

“Watch me.”

I'm not one who backs down from a challenge, nor am I one who accepts defeat or failure. Yes, there are times when you just have to throw in the towel. There are times when nothing can be done to stave off the inevitable. But, until I explore and exhaust every single avenue open to me, I refuse to accept the inevitable.

As far as I'm concerned, a kid this age shouldn't have to gimp around on one leg simply because it's more expedient for me to give up and move on to the next patient, than it is to put in a little extra time to see if I can fix it.

“Doctor –”

I look up at Sandra. I haven't worked with her all that often yet, but I know she's a good nurse. Smart, efficient, and really knows her shit. I know she thinks we're wasting time – especially given the backlog of people who need help out there. But this is my operating theater and I'm the one in charge. I appreciate all she does and her professionalism, but my personal feeling is that she's sometimes too quick to cut her losses and move on.

“I've got this, Sandra,” I say.

“We have more patients waiting –”

“We've triaged everybody and those still waiting have been stabilized,” I tell her.

“I know, but –”

“Look,” I snap. “My operating theater, my rules. I'm not giving up just yet, so if you don't like it and want to tap out, just make sure you find somebody to replace you in here.”

“Of course,” she says. “I'm sorry, Doctor Clyburne, I didn't mean to –”

“It's fine,” I grumble. “Just clamp that off and be ready to give me what I call for without question or hesitation – this is going to get a little bit tricky.”

“Yes, Doctor.”

Good. With the status quo restored, I get back to doing what I do – which is saving not just this kid's life, but his leg as well.

“I – I have to apologize, Doctor Clyburne.”

I look up as I'm pulling off my gown and tossing it into the receptacle to see Sandra walk into the locker room, the door swinging shut behind her. Stepping over to the sink, I start to wash up, my surgical shift done for the day. I still have some follow up with patients to do, but the rest of the night is mine to do with as I please.

Not that the nightlife around here is anything to write home about – not unless getting shot or blown up is your idea of a good time.

“It's fine, Sandra,” I say. “I understand why you felt like we should move on.”

“Well, I was wrong,” she says. “The work you did on that boy's leg – it was masterful. Amazing.”

“We don't know yet if it will hold,” I reply. “He could still very well lose it.”

“I'm pretty sure he doesn't have to worry about that,” she says. “You fixed it. I didn't think it was possible, but you did it.”

I shrug and dry off my hands. All I want is to go back to my quarters, have a drink, and relax. Maybe I'll read a book, or maybe I'll just sleep. I've been on my feet for the last twelve hours and need some downtime.

“I'm not one who gives up very easily,” I say.

“I can see that,” she replies. “Honestly, I'm sorry I questioned you in front of –”

I hold up my hand to stop her. “Don't worry about it,” I tell her. “No harm done. All that matters, is that our patient gets better. Have a good evening.”

Before she can reply, I walk out of the locker room and head down the corridor toward my room. We're being housed in a formerly abandoned apartment building that's been repurposed for us and is attached to the small medical compound. There's a large, thick wall that surrounds the whole campus meant to keep us safe, but kind of looks more like we're being kept in a prison. It's only two stories and doesn't have a lot of amenities, but I've got a bed to lay down on at night and a shower that has hot water – most of the time – so I'm making do. Although, I wouldn't mind a more comfortable mattress and some softer pillows.

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