I used to see it all the time working at the hospital, but I didn’t think I’d ever have to identify it anywhere else: she wasn’t on her meds, and she needed them.
I had seen her a few times on her shifts around the ER, but I’d never had much more than passing conversations with her. That didn’t stop me from thinking that she was gorgeous, and driving myself crazy thinking about what to say to her if I had the chance, but I’d never gotten up the courage to tell her how I felt. Not that it would’ve mattered anyway, because I doubt she would’ve given me the time of day if it hadn’t been for that night.
Against my better judgment, I’d gone out after work to have a few drinks and blow off steam at the local club, and I’ll admit that I overindulged. I started to feel a little nauseous and was getting ready to call it a night when I saw her walk in with her friends. Immediately, my heart started racing, but a few drinks had given me the motivation to stick around and see if she’d come to the bar. Maybe now’s my chance to strike up a good conversation with her and we can get to know each other, I thought.
The only issue was her friends that she’d come in with. I’d seen them before, too, they were all on the same shift rotation at the hospital, all from the same sorority in nursing school, but they weren’t like her. I had seen enough of them to know that they were all bitchy, self-obsessed brats who’d gotten into the field for the wrong reasons. I’d caught bits and pieces of their snide comments about patients, their insensitivity to people who were suffering or dying, and the complete lack of focus on anything other than the potential of bagging a rich doctor. Needless to say, I wasn’t enthusiastic about dealing with them as a group.
I stuck to my seat at the bar, sneaking glances at her when I could. I watched her put away a few drinks, turn away a few guys coming to hit on her, laugh with her friends a bit, and when they went out to dance, she hung back by herself. I knew that was my window, but my nerves were getting the best of me. I almost chickened out and walked away, but something kept me there. She looked up, glanced around the room, and looked back down at her drink, and it was just enough for me to notice that something was off. The way she responded to the room, the indifference she had to the light and sound that pulsed through the bar, the glazed-over look she had… she was missing something she needed.
I kept looking at her friends to do something to help her, but they didn’t notice. They were too busy thinking about themselves to care about her well-being, and I knew I had to step in. I summoned up my courage, trying not to make it obvious that I noticed something was wrong, and I approached her at the bar. In her state, I figured she wouldn’t even recognize me, but when I first got her attention, she smiled a hazy smile, and I could tell that she at least knew who I was. She was worse off than I thought, to the point that she looked like she was about to pass out, and she started leaning against me for support. I asked if she needed to leave, and she gave me a meek, half-conscious nod. I shot a quick look at her friends, who still had no idea the state she was in, and thought it better to just walk her out. I threw her bag over my shoulder and helped guide her to the door. As we passed the exit, the bouncer gave me an odd look with her practically draped across me, but I rolled with it and remarked that she’d had a few too many, and his attention went elsewhere.
By the time we got to the car, she looked like she was in bad shape, and I started to get really worried about her. She was fading in and out on the ride home, and by the time we got to my house, she was almost completely unconscious. I carried her inside, settled her into the guest bed, and grabbed her some water and a trash can in case she got sick. The thought of having her here had crossed my mind before, but it had obviously been different; this was about making sure she was going to be ok.
That’s why I made my next decision, which I’ll admit may have crossed a line: I went into her bag and found her driver’s license. I signed in with remote access to the hospital’s record system using our department’s administrator credentials, ran her ID information, and up popped her medical records. Yes, this could’ve gotten me in deep shit, and I admit that it was a major invasion of privacy, but I needed to make sure that if she got medicine, that it wasn’t going to make her worse than she already was. I jotted down a quick note and bolted out the door to the hospital.
Getting the meds she needed out of our pharmacy had been quick and painless, and I hustled home to make sure that I got to her in time. Again, I know I could’ve gotten into deep shit doing this, but I did it to take care of her, and I figured that was enough to justify fudging a few records. When I got home, she was exactly where I’d left her, and I nudged her awake with some medicine and a glass of water. She swallowed both down without question and went right back to sleep. I was worried that the meds and the alcohol might have a bad reaction, so I decided to stay up that night and keep an eye on her.
Thinking about how long she might be out for, I texted my counterpart on night shift and told him I wouldn’t be in to relieve him in the morning. He was reasonably pissed, but I figured he could tough it out. I never took days off, and it was only one more day until he and I went on our breaks for the other shift anyway, so I told him that it was a personal circumstance and that he owed me. I didn’t want to let anyone know anything more than that, because rumors about me and her would spread like wildfire, so I kept it under wraps.
Throughout the night, I would feel her head every now and then to make sure she wasn’t running a fever, I’d put a hand on her back to gauge her breathing, and I’d take her pulse on her neck. Thankfully, they were all normal, but I checked dutifully all night anyway. Nothing was going to happen to her on my watch, and even as I faded off to sleep, I kept checking. Being tired was getting the better of me, and I let my hands linger a bit as I checked her vitals. I felt her smooth, soft hair brush my hands as I checked for a fever. I enjoyed the gentle curve of her slim shoulders as I checked her breathing. My fingers brushed the smooth skin of her neck when I checked her pulse. As much as her safety was my chief concern, I had to admit, I enjoyed being next to her. She was so beautiful, and I never thought I’d be able to be that close to her. I nodded off to sleep just thinking about how, in spite of circumstances, I was really lucky.
I don’t remember lying down, but when I woke up, I was next to her in bed. It was the nicest sight I’d woken up to in a while, and I took a second to cherish it before I quietly got up and got myself together. She was out like a light, and stayed that way for a while after I woke up. The poor thing was probably rebounding from going without her medicine, and she eventually came around in the early afternoon. I’d just come back into the room when she opened her eyes and blinked sleepily at me. She asked all of the normal questions of someone coming back around from a night they couldn’t remember, and I did my best to explain what happened. She seemed skeptical at first, but I told her about how I’d noticed the condition she was in and I knew I had to help. She told me that she still wasn’t feeling good and moved to get up, but she rocked backward onto the bed, still woozy. I helped ease her back down and brought in some food and water. I made sure to dilute her medicine in the water so that she’d get it on time, and so that I wouldn’t have to explain that I’d rooted through her medical records. That could be a conversation for a more stable time.
I sat with her while she ate, and as she began to regain some of her composure, steady tears began to stream down her cheeks. I was crushed seeing her crying, and I did my best to make her feel better about the situation. On top of the shock to her system, I’m sure she was embarrassed that a guy who was basically a stranger to her had ended up having to take care of her when her friends weren’t watching her back. I tried to think of comforting things to say but came up mostly empty. Through sniffles and teary eyes, she asked if she could use the shower. I rustled up a set of comfortable clothes from my drawers for her to change in to, and I helped her up and held her steady down the hallway to the shower.
When we got to the bathroom, the tears got worse, and she started to wretch over the toilet. I held her hair as she coughed painfully, and she told me that she felt worse after getting up and walking. I hoped that a shower would help her, and I gathered up some extra shower supplies. As much as I knew it would be somewhat of an invasion of her privacy, I knew that I couldn’t leave her alone behind a locked door in her state, so I reluctantly told her that I thought it was a good idea for me to sit in the bathroom while she showered to make sure that she didn’t pass out while she was inside. I couldn’t meet her gaze after I said it, and I’m sure I was visibly blushing at the idea, but I think she sensed that it wasn’t for an ulterior motive and reluctantly agreed. She stepped inside and began tossing out articles of clothing before cutting the water on.
I could hear her tears continue as she was in the shower, a hopeless noise that cut to the core. Eventually, though, I heard another noise through the sound of the water splashing. It sounded like something cracking off the walls, and I sprung up to make sure that she wasn’t going to fall. I called her name softly, and before I could catch myself, something heavy and hard swung through the curtain and connected flush with the right side of my face. I stumbled backward and managed to balance myself on the sink, feeling around the upper part of my eye with my free hand. I could feel the blood already, and before I had a chance to take stock of what happened, the curtain flew open.
She stood beneath the still-running water gripping a small ceramic shelf, installed in the shower for holding soaps and the like. She had the thing in a white-knuckled grip, her fingers bleeding from breaking it off at the tile, and she stared at me with a panicked, wild-eyed expression. It reminded me of our of our shock trauma patients who’d woken up from a coma after three days, only to find out that he was having a reaction to the medicine they’d been giving him during his whole hospital stay. He’d started pulling away equipment, getting violently combative with the staff, and it took half the medical team and a handful of security officers to hold him long enough to get him back under control. Now here I stood, by myself, while a beautiful woman, naked and hostile, was reacting the same way in my bathroom.
I wanted to say something to help keep her calm, but the words never left my mouth. She leapt from the shower and took another swing with the shelf, and then another. I was able to guard myself from the first one, but the second connected solidly as I went to shield myself, and I felt a finger break. Still, I knew I couldn’t hurt her, so I did my best to duck down, wrestle at her legs and turn her off balance. She fell to a half-seated position, and I scrambled for my medical bag secreted away in the bathroom closet. I dumped it, cracking open my field kit just in time to feel another strong impact, this time along my upper back, sending a bolt of pain down the length of my spine. I knew that I couldn’t hesitate anymore, and I grabbed a small syringe of sedative from the pile. I cracked the cap off as quickly as I could, and turned as she struck me again in the shoulder. The needle struck home into her thigh, and as I pressed the plunger down, I left it in place and wrapped my arms around her, hoping that the sedative would act quickly.
Thankfully, she dropped the shelf to the floor, and as the sedative took effect, I held her in my arms as she trembled and sobbed deeply. I told her that she was going to be ok, and she cried that something was wrong, gasping in breaths and mumbling about not feeling the way she should. It was absolutely heartbreaking, and I had to choke back tears of my own while I wrapped her in a towel and waited for her to fade out. Within a few minutes, she was asleep, and as I carried her back to the bedroom, my mind raced. Had I screwed up her dosage? I knew the medicine would work with her system, but she’d gotten very hostile, very quickly, and I needed to make sure that wasn’t going to happen again. After all, it was going to be difficult enough explaining the new shiner around my right eye, much less that a naked, tranquilized co-worker had given it to me. I knew I’d have to try again to get things under control, and after she was settled back in to bed, I diligently went back and studied her medical records again.
Unfortunately, my efforts to help largely went in vain, and my struggle ended up carrying into the next day. She’d woken up several times, each time either fighting with me, cursing and spitting, or begging for help. She was worse off than I thought, and I’d ended up having to sedate her twice after the initial dosage. Any more than that could affect the function of her heart, so, out of options, I applied a set of medical restraints to keep her there. This time, I did cry, choking back tears at the idea that even though this was for the best, I didn’t want to do this to someone I cared about. I kept reassuring myself, though, that it was for the greater good. One way or another, I was going to make this right, and I was going to make absolutely sure that she was going to be ok.
It’s been almost a week now. I’ve been diligently caring for her while I try to get the balance of her medicine right, making sure that I help where I can. The poor girl’s beautiful wrists and ankles are starting to get torn up from pulling at the restraints, and I’m doing my best to keep their dressings fresh. I’m also having to change her bedpan regularly, after she’d asked to get up at one and use the bathroom and scratched me across the face before scrambling to the front door and screaming for help. The only thing that stopped her from running out into the street half-naked was the deadbolt, but luckily I was able to get a hold of her and back settle her back into bed with the restraints on.
She’s starting to refuse food when she wakes up, cursing and spitting it back at me, telling me that I’m a monster for what I’m doing, but I know it’s not actually her talking. She’s got such a burden on her shoulders, and she’s been brave through all of it. Things are better with the gag on now, and I tell her all the time how she’s going to get through it. I think we’re coming around, because now when I give her a gentle kiss on her forehead, or I tell her that this is the start of a better life for her, I can see her hopeful tears start, and I brush them away from her soft cheeks.
Things otherwise have been hectic. Some uncomfortable questions are swirling around work about where my new injuries came from, and I just told everyone they were from a bike accident. The nosier people pried about not coming to the hospital to get treated, but I just recycled the same stupid joke about not wanting to spend any more time at work than I had to, and people laughed and wrote it off.
The more intrusive questions are about her, and I do my best to maintain a low profile on them, but they’ve really started to strike a nerve. A pair of detectives came by, interrupting an entire medical staff to ask questions about where she was, and the whole thing became very invasive. Of course they asked her stupid, bitchy friends, who all cried about how “awful” it was, but I saw through the falseness of it. They only cared about themselves; they lived on the sympathy from being friends with a missing person, and they fawned in the attention it got them. They were the worst kind of mourners, the people who soak up the corners of heartbreak and feign that same pain, hoping that they will come out looking better in the process.
It filled me with a deep, physical disgust, and I felt no sympathy. In fact, it reaffirmed that she couldn’t trust these people, and I made a vow to myself that she wouldn’t have to deal with them anymore. I’d managed to get a quiet word in with one of her friends while she was helping transport a corpse to the morgue, and as I watched the blood drain from the scalpel wound in her neck, I reassured her that she could use this time to get closer to her patients. The hospital will now be down one cruel insensitive nurse, who now occupies morgue drawer 8-E, labeled in internal records as a Jane Doe with airborne bio-hazards. Soon the medical examiner’s office will remove her altogether from our lives.
Her parents proved no better. I shook my head in disgust watching their press conference, pleading for the safe return of their little girl. I could see right through the crocodile tears that they were only interested in the acclaim from all of this coverage. They might be fooling everyone else talking about how much they love and care about her, but they could never understand what she needs. They’re going to regret using their poor, sweet daughter like that. No one can help her the way that I can now, and no one is going to take her away from me.
Credit: La Tortugadel Muerte