There was a small room for families next to the nursing station. I walked in behind a tall, well-dressed woman. She tried to pour some coffee, but her hands were shaking.
“Let me get this,” I said, taking the cup from her. “Cream? Sugar?”
I made sure the lid was on tight. As she reached for the cup the sleeve on her left arm rode up. There was a deep purple bruise above her wrist. She wrapped both hands around the cup, went back to a patient room, and stood outside the door.
Orderlies in green scrubs rushed by her pushing another machine. They were building a medical circus tent around the man on the hospital bed on the other side of the glass wall. High flying bags of I.V. fluids swung from stainless steel poles. Cardiac monitor lights blinked blood pressure, oxygen levels, and heart rate. Doctors came and went. Occasionally one would stop, whisper, and nod his head at the tall woman’s questions.
I felt a hand on my shoulder. “Your wife is doing fine, Mr. Bodie.” Nurse Mancuso had been with Carol since she’d come back from surgery. “Do you know how I know that she’s okay, other than the fact that I am the best cardiac recovery nurse in the world?”
“Tell me your secret, Dot.” I’d liked Dorothy Mancuso, a non-nonsense retired Army nurse, from the moment I’d seen her pushing my wife’s gurney into her recovery room. She was holding Carol’s hand and telling her how well she looked.
“Look into your wife’s room. What do you see?”
“Right, a few machines and not one damned doctor in sight. They know she’s doing fine.” Her eyes glanced toward the circus at the other end of the ward. “Not like that. Your wife is doing so well, mark my words, that we’ll kick her out of here in a week.”
Dot looked me up and down. “You, Mr. Bodie, you I’m not so sure of. Why don’t you go back to the hotel and get some sleep? With the drugs I gave her, she’s out for the night. Come in after breakfast. By then we’ll have moved her to her room on the cardiac floor. It’s a lot nicer than this place.”
Over the years I’d learned anything was nicer than the cardiac recovery unit of a major hospital. The patients in the fish tanks around the central core had just come back from surgery where their chests were cracked open and their hearts stopped. The CRU is cold and efficient. Everybody and every machine are focused on the task at hand, bringing the dead back to life after cardiopulmonary bypass.
Sleep sounded good. The alarm in our hotel room had gone off at 4:00 a.m. We drove to the hospital so Carol could be prepped for early surgery. She was supposed to be Dr. McIntyre’s first case but then she’d been pre-empted by what the orderly told us was a five-alarm emergency. A VIP was being rushed in.
Carol didn’t get into the O.R. until after lunch. Dr. McIntyre had called me when he was done and said it had gone well. He hoped to see me later. He did wave at me from across the CRU. McIntyre’s five-alarm emergency was the circus where the tall woman stood.
I sat at the foot of the bed and turned on the television. BREAKING NEWS.
A 757 with the words “The Nazarene’s Ministry” had landed that morning. A gurney was rushed off the plane followed by the tall woman. They cut to Dr. McIntyre standing at a lectern with the St. John’s Medical Center plaque. The Reverend James Hunt had suffered a massive heart attack. In addition to a quadruple bypass, McIntyre’s team of doctors had replaced a mitral valve and fixed an aneurism in his aorta. That explained the dozens of television vans around the hospital.
A reporter asked about the prognosis. McIntyre said that because of the level of damage to the heart muscle the next week or two would be critical. He held up his hands. No more questions. He had another patient waiting. Carol.
I told myself I’d just lie on the pillow for a second before I turned off the late news, took a shower, and got into my pajamas.
The next thing I knew Al Roker was talking about a tornado in Alabama. This time I did get up. I did turn off the TV. I did shower. I called the hospital. Dot was right. Carol was being moved to her room on the cardiac floor. No need to rush in.
I had sampled the delights of the hospital’s cafeteria while waiting for Carol’s surgery to begin. When I had told Dot of my experience, she said to go across the street to the Silver Goose.