Time is not at all what it seems. It does not flow in only one direction, and the future
exists simultaneously with the past.
Ellen Barnes yanked the page from the fax machine and raced down the narrow corridor that led to the doctors’ quarters. For courtesy’s sake, she rapped once on the door, then burst into the dark room.
“Elizabeth,” she barked. “Pile-up on I-40 at the 25-mile marker. RCC says they have a
thirteen-year-old male, critical --”
Stretched across the bed, the young resident stirred.
“Doctor Stewart!” Ellen snapped, flipping on the light to illuminate the dark room.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart sat up. “A thirteen-year-old?”
The flight nurse focused on the report. “Well, so far we’ve got a DOA, two non-critical, and the boy’s being extricated right now. They say they’ll have him out by the time we get there.”
The clock said 1:55 a.m. Elizabeth had been asleep a mere forty minutes. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and struggled to focus.
The only sound was the rain assaulting the single window of the cramped, unadorned room. This was her second twenty-four-hour shift this week at Memphis Hospital Wing, an air medivac unit serving the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Unit, the only level-one trauma unit for two hundred miles in any direction.
Obviously Medivac services had gotten a call and patched through to the “red phone” that set the medical team’s life in motion. Hospital Wing’s policy was that no flights could depart with ceilings below or forecasted below five hundred feet. If administration made the decision to make a flight, and then couldn’t make it to the scene because of weather or, even worse, they picked up the patient and couldn’t make it back to the trauma unit, a critical patient would have little chance of survival. The conditions on this night were marginal at best.
From its berth in the nearby hangar, the piercing whine of the jet engine rattled the walls as the chopper blades spooled up to full rpm. Elizabeth stood up, pulled her shirt on over her head, and dropped her crucifix inside. She double knotted her scrubs and reached for the door. Her heart skipped a beat. She tripped the light, and she and Ellen sprinted down the cinder-block hallway and into the hangar.
The smell of jet fuel was intoxicating, sending adrenaline coursing through Elizabeth’s veins. She and Ellen grabbed their headsets and mounted the maroon and gray A-Star.
Elizabeth was a good fit for the disaster business, with a stint in Desert Storm and two years at the MED under her belt. Ellen was also a seasoned medical pro, serving three plus years in the ER and with LeBonheur’s Pedi-flight. They made a tough team who never cracked, no matter how intense the pressure.
“You two buckled in back there?” the pilot buzzed in.
“We’re in. Let’s roll!”
Elizabeth was sorry to see that Al Burnett was their pilot. Nothing but a hotshot chopper jockey, she thought. Worst of all, Burnett was a good old boy who still didn’t take women seriously. He was always pulling more “G’s” than necessary on takeoffs and showing off with other stupid stunts.
“Med Com, Wing Six is airborne,” Burnett chirped into his headset.
He canted the helicopter into the pitch-black sky. Clearing the stretch of power lines that draped the north end of the tarmac, the chopper with its weary crew climbed out over the hazy city.
“You’re not gonna hurl, are ya, Doc?” Burnett asked. His mouth formed an obnoxious grin.
Elizabeth shot him an icy glare.
“Well, whatever you do, Doc, don’t think about greasy pork chops.”
Ellen shook her head. It was clear his adolescent humor irked her as much as it did Elizabeth. Of course, she also was prone to take Elizabeth’s side. In this day and age girls had to stick together, especially in this business.
Elizabeth hated to admit it, but Hotshot reminded her of her twin brother, Tom, and the days when they were both smart-aleck adolescents with no intentions of growing up. The two of them had the benefit of good looks: identical features, coal black hair, and chocolate-brown eyes. Also inherently intelligent, Elizabeth had made the most of her blessings.
Tom was a different story. Although he was by far the more personable of the two, sadly, he had spent most of his life looking through the bottom of a bottle. And now . . . well, now things were even worse. Tom’s condition was deteriorating.
“Ahh!” Ellen screamed as the helicopter swerved side to side, slamming her into Elizabeth.
“Hang on,” Burnett yelled.
From a thousand feet in the air and looking east toward the horizon, the westbound traffic on I-40 looked much like the final scene of the movie Field of Dreams. Headlights from hundreds of cars and trucks stretched as far as the eye could see, seemingly all the way to Nashville, some two hundred miles to the east. Even the two lanes on the eastbound side had slowed to a crawl while the rubberneckers satisfied their morbid curiosity.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol had already marked a landing zone with flares and positioned a trooper to guide them in. Blue lights from a half dozen state trooper cars reflecting off the wet Plexiglas danced vertically up the windshield, and the tall grass rippled violently beneath them as the struts contacted the ground and spread their stance.
Elizabeth flung open the door, and she and Ellen dashed toward the ambulance gurney, pure adrenaline pulsing through their veins. The scene was horrific. The twisted mass of metal, broken glass, and smoldering rubber instantly reminded Elizabeth of the decimation she’d witnessed in Kuwait. It was a memory often recalled, but rarely by choice.
“Vitals?” Ellen asked the EMT.
“B.P. sixty over forty, pulse one hundred, respiration weak. Fractured right tibia . . . ah ... right femur.Severe internal trauma, as far as we can tell. I’ve got him on a line of straight saline.”
Glancing at his watch, the EMT added, “He’s thirty-five minutes into golden hour, and he’s comatose.”
Golden hour. The first hour after a traumatic accident and the most critical time for the victim. This young patient only had twenty-five minutes left to have the maximum chance of survival.
“We’ve gotta get this kid airborne now!” Elizabeth’s voice was frantic.
Ellen readied the ship while Elizabeth and the paramedic wheeled the critical patient toward the helicopter, their gurney crunching over gravel and shards of broken glass. A highway patrolman hurried alongside, holding the IV and shielding the boy’s face from the pelting rain. He shoved his Stetson down hard as they neared the chopper.
Hurriedly they loaded the gurney, and the highway patrolman slid the door shut behind them with a clap. Catapulting into the rainy night sky, the helicopter with its crew and critical cargo disappeared into the blackness forty minutes into the golden hour.
Two minutes later lightening was flashing from every conceivable direction, and they were dropping violently within the bowels of a storm, yawing as much as thirty degrees to either side. The motion slammed Elizabeth and Ellen about the cabin like a pair of rag dolls. Everything that was loose clanked and clattered across the floor. Only the victim, who was strapped tightly to the stretcher secured to the floor, remained stable.
A minute into the wild ride, Ellen nudged Elizabeth and yelled over the unearthly din. “I’m getting sick. Can you take over?”
Elizabeth took the BVM bag, never missing a beat, while Ellen hurried to find something to throw up in. She turned her back to Elizabeth and gave up dinner.
“Memphis Approach, Wing Six is inbound to the trauma unit. Four souls aboard.”
Souls. Why does Burnett always use that term?
“Wing Six stand by . . . ah, we have an amendment to your route. Advise when ready to copy.”
Burnett pulled a pen from his sleeve. “Wing six, go ahead.”
A change of course, Elizabeth thought. Not good.
Ellen wiped away a thin stream of blood that trickled from the corner of the boy’s lacerated lip and took the bag from Elizabeth, who settled back into her seat and pulled out a tattered pocket Testament. She placed her hand on the boy’s chest and began a silent prayer.
“Doctor!” Ellen shouted. “We’re flat line!”
“Prep him for defib. He’ll never make it, not without damage,” Elizabeth added. Ellen pulled the contacts from the Life Pack defibrillator while Elizabeth ripped open the boy’s shirt. She squeezed the last of the contents from the tube onto the contact pad and spread the gel.
The shock jolted the boy’s body. His eyes winced - then nothing.
“Do it again! Set two hundred and clear!”
Ellen confirmed. Again, no response.
“Memphis Approach, Wing Six out of one thousand for point five. We have an in-flight emergency. Patient has arrested. Request direct trauma unit.”
Now the rain was deafening. It pounded the aircraft violently as Elizabeth braced herself against the door, her hands, slick with sweat, slipping off the cool, metal door handle. She glanced at Ellen, whose face paled with terror as an opaque sheet of water wrapped its glossy fingers around the windshield and streamed past the windows on both sides.
Every flash of the strobes reflecting off the clouds froze their movements. Elizabeth blinked hard and wiped the fog from her window. She saw nothing but a dark canopy of dense blackness on all sides.
Then suddenly an aura of light appeared through the cloud layer below. A few seconds more and they were free from the maelstrom.
“We’re out!” Burnett buzzed. He wiped the sweat from his brow.
The helicopter clattered in and pulled into a hover as Burnett quickly brought the rotor blades to flat pitch. They hit hard on the wet asphalt.
Two large male nurses in surgical greens ran to the chopper as Ellen swung out the portable stretcher, and Elizabeth pulled the release pin. “Go, go, go!”
While Ellen stayed behind with the ship to head back to base, the team and their critical cargo raced toward the E.R., down painted brick hallways littered with people who had been shot, stabbed, beaten - the typical after-midnight crowd at the MED. Tragic as they were, these people were only a blur. Elizabeth glanced at the clock by the elevator. It read 2:43 a.m. - a little less than an hour since Ellen had first awakened her.
Seconds later the gurney punched through the stainless steel doors into Shock Trauma One. It was already vibrant with activity.
Team leader Dr. Vincent Busak pried open one of the boy’s eyes. “We’ve got to open this boy up!” he barked. He donned his glasses and snapped on his gloves.
Elizabeth stood by the table but mentally shrank into the background, staring fixedly. This situation was not unlike so many she had been in before. Patients came and went, died and survived; yet this one seemed . . . strangely personal. What was it about this boy that seemed to touch her soul? She really didn’t know.
Father, I lift this boy up to you. He’s so young, he doesn’t deserve this. Please Jesus, please help him.
Self-consciously brushing away tears, she looked at the child and saw, for the first time, a most beautiful pair of hazel eyes return her gaze. A lopsided grin etched the boy’s swollen face, and his lips quivered to speak.
Elizabeth gasped and the room fell silent. Tendrils of hope pervaded her senses as she reached for his hand. And then, as with so many others, the boy’s eyes rolled back and half closed. She turned to Dr. Busak and read the conclusion in his eyes.
“I’m sorry, Doctor. So much time had passed . . . ”
Elizabeth’s throat tightened to a knot. A stony silence permeated the room while one team member somberly unhooked the monitor and pulled a sheet over the boy’s swollen face. She clenched her eyes shut. Golden hour had passed.
“Time of death . . . 2:51 a.m.,” Busak said, glancing at the clock on the back wall. “Do we have a name?”
“It just came in,” a nurse said, her voice flat. “Rogers - Brandon R.” She signed off the paperwork and hung the report on the foot of the bed.
Elizabeth heaved a deep breath and reflected on the past hour. Was there anything she would have done differently? Anything she could have done that might have made a difference? Lost in thought, she glanced down and noticed her pocket testament on the floor. She picked it up, tempted to run her fingers across the blood stains on the gold-leaf edges. She thought about another man whose blood had stained those same pages and wondered why He hadn’t heard her plea.
Quest for the Nail Prints
Quest for the Nail Prints
Copyright © 2011 by Don Furr.
Published by Sheaf House Publishers, LLC. Requests for information should be addressed to:
Sheaf House Publishers, LLC
3641 Hwy 47 N
Charlotte, TN 37036
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any
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for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2010938344
Cover design: Chris Morey, Ciras Imaging, and Demetria Hazelgrove, Exhibit A, Inc.
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