Chapter 20. Bedside Manner
Kaylee exited the elevator car and followed the signs on the signs to the locked ICU doors, Kaylee picked up the phone on the wall and held it to her ear.
‟May I help you.” The voice was impersonal, professional and disinterested as if it answered the request for entry a hundredth time this shift.
‟Kaylee Gra… Harte to see Tom Harte.”
The lock buzzed and she pulled the heavy fire-rated door open and walked in to the nurses station.
The tall, redheaded nurse with a badge of ‟Michelle, RN, BSN, MSN” stood up and smiled.
‟You are looking for Mister Harte? The Doctor is in with him now.”
‟Thank you.” Kaylee nodded and smiled and followed Michelle who led her to room ‟E” where through the partly closed drape, through the door she could see a body that lay covered in tubes and wires.
The smells of disinfectant were everywhere, and although the nurses station was cool, the breeze that wafted out of the ICU room was quite warm, tubes ran to Tom’s uninjured arm, an oxygen tube ran from the wall ending in a forked pair of small tubes going into his nostrils.
“Please wait here for a few minutes, Missus Harte, the doctor is with your husband now.” Michelle said. “I’m sorry to have to make you wait, the doctor went in and sat down.”
“No worries, Michelle. I will wait here, thank you.”
The right arm was laying in gauze that had already stained a red and the doctor was touching the copper-colored fingers with a stainless steel stylus.
‟Yeah, I feel that.” Tom croaked out.
‟Good, can you move them?” The doctor asked.
A moment passed, and the fingers moved almost imperceptibly, but definite movement.
‟Good.” The Doctor just noticed them as Kaylee stood outside the door. “OH! You’re his wife?”
‟Tom has spoken a lot about you, how do you do? I’m Doctor Tribbing, I led the team to repair the wound in Mister Harte’s arm.” The Doctor pulled the drape open to allow her in and then fully around and obscured the world outside the door. “That was my fault, I didn’t let anyone know I came back here to double-check Tom’s wound.”
‟Kaylee!” Tom’s voice was hoarse and creaky. ‟Hi.”
‟He will sound like that for a few hours, he just got out of surgery, there was a bit of damage and we reattached his tendons without difficulty.” The Doctor nodded then adding. “He may have some nerve damage we are watching for.”
‟Report is he dropped some heavy glass object, a broken section of glass hit his forearm and cut a large defect into his arm.”
‟How deep?” Kaylee ’s eyes grew wide.
‟Well,”The Doctor said as he flipped through the chart. ‟Through the soft tissues and the radial bone. It was like being hit by a large scalpel. We had some cleanup to do with glass splinters, but the damage was otherwise clean on his forearm, no breaks, the glass cut through the bone, we did an external fixation— this is why you see this Erector set construction here on his arm. The soft-tissues were similarly cut, but it was, as I said, like a scalpel had done it.”
‟He said he was carrying a glass table top that broke when he fell and Mister Harte ended underneath it all with this wound.” Again, Tom gave a weak nod. “So we have some chance of a crush injury as well, but it is not obvious at the moment.”
‟Oh my god.” Kaylee held her hand to her mouth. “Will he be okay?”
‟Yes, he lost a lot of blood, but we fixed the leaks. He said he had to crawl out from under it to get help.” The doctor looked at Tom who nodded.
‟What he said.” Tom croaked again, then went quiet as his eyes closed.
‟He will be in and out for a bit. I prescribed him some pretty potent pain relief. He woke up in good deal of pain after the surgery.” Doctor Tribbing said. “An object hit his hand with considerable force before the glass cut his arm.”
‟He is okay now?” Kaylee repeated herself, her mind spinning.
‟Time will tell for sure, but the prognosis is good.” The Doctor nodded to himself, the smile ran away from his face when a tone in his jacket pocket sounded, the doctor opened the cover and looked at the screen of the flip-phone. ‟I’m sorry, but I must go. He will become more alert in a little while.”
“Michelle!” The doctor turned and called across the hallway.
He walked out to answer the text he received and she sat next to Tom.
‟Hey. You came!” Tom sounded surprised.
‟Yes, I have been here for a few minutes, you talked to me already.”
‟Oh. I don’t remember.” Tom said. “You sure? I know everyone who comes in and out.”
He sounded sharp, but he faded quickly. A blink of an eye that did not open again.
‟It’s the drugs, like when we got married.”
Tom tried to laugh, then groaned. ‟Ouch.”
‟What is wrong?” Kaylee stood and kissed him on the forehead. “Are you in pain?”
‟My throat is sore, like they ran a pipe-cleaner coated with broken glass down it.”
‟Are you sick?” She stroked his nose. “No kisses for you if you are.”
From the doorway, a nurse walked in, different from the one that greeted her. He was heavyset and goatee going grey at the edges, ‟Randy, RNIII, MSN” On his badge.
‟I’m his nurse for the next few hours. Tom has done well during the surgery.” Randy said with a smile. “I hear you are doing well, Mister Harte.”
‟Why is Tom’s throat sore?”
‟When he was in surgery, they put a tube down his throat, it’s not unusual to have that discomfort.” Randy said. Soft-spoken, quick to smile, he had years of caring and seemed to enjoy his job of caring for the sick and injured.
‟How long will his throat be sore?” Kaylee stroked Tom’s good arm.
‟A few hours to a couple of days. His vocal cords got an unusual bit of abuse today. Some ice chips if he wants.” Randy nodded at Tom. “It will go away after a bit.”
‟Ice chips, yeah. Please.” Tom rasped out.
‟You bet, Mr. Harte.”
‟Tom, please. Mr. Harte is my dad. Admiral Harrison Harte. He will be on his way,” Tom winced as he spoke.”Him, you better call him Mister, mister.”
Randy laughed at the wordplay from a recovering patient, just out of post-op.
‟It’s you came back to this room faster than normal.” Randy said when he returned with a plastic cup of ground up ice.
‟I was tired of being in there, I told them I wanted to come back. The nurses in there were telling me that I had to spend time there until I was awake. So, I started singing, “Oh the cow kicked nelly in the belly in the barn” song- I tried to get a singalong with the other patients. They shoved me out pretty fast then.” Tom gave a weak smile.
Kaylee covered her laugh with her hand.
‟Oh, Tom! You didn’t.” She covered her face. “Oh gawd. You are worse when drugged.”
She turned to Randy. “Is it too late to claim I don’t know him? He is embarrassing me.”
‟Tom, you are one of a kind.” Randy shook his head and silently exited the room.
‟I did.” Tom said, smiling. ‟All kinds of messed up being in there and in pain. And flippin’ COLD, I don’t know why they have such cold oxygen going on a mask to wake you up.”
“Ugh..that hurt to say.” He grimaced.
‟Tom, you have to hush and suck on ice for now.”
‟I’d rather suck on your lips in a kiss.”
‟TOM!” Kaylee looked around, but no one was close enough to hear. ‟You are… seriously, bad.”
‟Punish me when I get home.”
‟Soon, how long will you be in here?”
‟I don’t know. What day is this now?” He took a small spoon full of ice. “\I feel like I have been in here for a month, already.”
A tap on the door.
‟Mister Harte?” It was a phlebotomy tech looking to draw Tom’s blood.
‟Over there, the pretty dark-haired one.”
This made the blood-draw tech to look between the two people in the room.
‟I heard about you.” The tech laughed. “Sorry, you can’t fool me.”
‟Made you pause though.”
Even with his arm almost cut off, Tom tried for laughs.
Kaylee looked out the window while she sat and thought while Tom flinched and said ‟Ow.” every time the tech touched him.
*A little boy in a grown body.* Kaylee shook her head and laughed again.
Later when she arranged for an overstuffed chair in so she could sleep next to Tom, she began to think twice about things. She hated to admit it to herself, but the truth of it all, he earned her respect. For good or bad, she had grown fond of him.