A story about a saint in surgical garb...
|How To Save a Life
"Doctor Greystone, would you mind telling me what the FUCK it is you think you're doing?!"
"Mr. Porter is coding, Doctor Kendrick, either help me or leave me alone."
"Mr. Porter is already dead, Doctor Greystone, there's nothing more you can do for him. Shut it down and get your ass over to the next patient!"
"...Yes... ma'am." The bitterness in her acceptance gave way to tears as Doctor Greystone walked away, leaving Mr. Porter to flatline.
Katelyn Greystone stood, glancing at her newest patient's chart, sizing up the symptoms.
"Miss Jackson, we're going to run some tests to be absolutely certain, but my initial diagnosis... it looks like hepatitis."
"Thank you, Doctor..." Miss Jackson said, "I trust you to treat whatever it ends up being to the best of your ability." Katelyn offered a sad smile.
"I promise you, I'll do everything I can." As she walked away, Katelyn's smile crumbled and she fought the urge to cry. This was one of the hardest parts of her job, having to tell the patient that they had contracted something the doctors might not be able to fix. The urge was further repressed by Doctor Kendrick rounding the corner and stopping in front of her.
"Ah, Jessica Rabbit, I'm so glad I found you, the patient in room 302 needs a surgical consult, take Doctor Caine with you. Thanks, Doll." As Doctor Kendrick started to walk away, Katelyn turned to look at her.
"Dempsey." Doctor Kendrick stopped and turned around.
"The patient in room 302, his name is Derek Dempsey. You'd know that if you cared at all about your patients." Doctor Kendrick stalked calmly back toward Katelyn.
"Katey, let me ask you something. Do you know what has two thumbs and doesn't give a rat's ass what you think?" She jerked her thumbs toward herself. "Doctor Faith Kendrick, Chief of Medicine at Saint Luke's Hospital. I thought we'd met?" Doctor Kendrick spun on her heel and walked brusquely away. Katelyn just sighed and headed off to find Doctor Caine, the hospital's chief surgeon.
"'The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness, for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen." Katelyn finished her prayer, then glanced up to see the entire surgical team waiting impatiently.
"If you're ready, can we begin, Doctor Greystone?"
"Y-yes, whenever you're ready, Doctor Caine." It wasn't a particularly difficult surgery, a routine appendectomy, but Katelyn always prayed before a procedure, much to the disdain of almost everyone in the room. Always one to pick at her (and not always in a friendly fashion), Doctor Caine spoke up.
"Doctor Greystone," he said as he made the first incision, "Do you feel that your job here is pointless?"
"I'm not sure I take your meaning, Doctor Caine."
"Your incessant babbling about 'God' and 'Jesus' does not go unnoticed in the OR, doctor. So, if this Jesus of yours is such a magnificent healer, as you claim he is, what purpose do you then serve?" Katelyn was slightly caught off guard, but recovered quickly.
"Well, sir, I believe that Jesus works His healing power through me, and through all of us, really. We are His surgical instruments."
"Doctor Greystone, you really shouldn't make me laugh while I have a scalpel in my hand. Make yourself useful and hand me a clamp."
"Miss Jackson, I'm afraid it's worse than we initially thought." All of the residents had gone home for the evening, save for those on call, leaving Dr. Kendrick alone with most of the patients.
"Don't sugarcoat it, Doctor. What's wrong with me?" Under normal circumstances, Doctor Kendrick would've been gruff and almost irritable, but with none of the residents around to see her, she let her guard down.
"Miss Jackson, your tests came back positive for liver cancer... and it's spreading quickly." The young woman lying in the bed held her hand to her mouth and began to cry. Doctor Kendrick moved to sit next to her, holding her close. She hadn't realized it at first, but as she looked into Miss Jackson's eyes, she realized that she had begun to cry as well. With a look of determination settling into her features and her voice wavering slightly, Doctor Kendrick held Miss Jackson's gaze.
"I swear to whatever god exists above, Miss Jackson, we are going to do everything in our power to get you through this." Smiling slightly despite the tears, Miss Jackson squeezed Doctor Kendrick's hand.
"Thank you. I'll pray for both of us, Faith. I can see you're going to need it as well." Doctor Kendrick chuckled softly as she glanced down.
"Save your breath, praying for me. I'm too far gone, all I can do now is try to help those still here to live a little more comfortably."
"No one is too far gone, doctor. I'm proof of that. I'd say living proof, but, well..." The two women shared a brief laugh despite the circumstances and Doctor Kendrick rose from the bed.
"Get some rest, Miss Jackson. I'll send Doctor Greystone to check on you bright and early. Don't tell her I told you this, but... Katey's the best resident on my staff."
"Your secret's safe with me, Doctor Kendrick."
As the sun crested the horizon outside the windows of Saint Luke's Hospital, Doctor Katelyn Greystone walked into her first patient's room.
"Morning, Miss Jackson. How did you sleep?"
"Doctor Greystone, I'm dying. So all in all, I'd say I slept like a baby."
"That's... good, I think." Miss Jackson just offered a sad smile.
"Do you believe in Jesus Christ, Doctor Greystone?"
"That's how I sleep so peacefully, Katelyn. Yes, there is cancer tearing my body apart, but I know where I'm going."
"Well, we're going to see what we can do about keeping you here for a while longer, Miss Jackson. I don't think Jesus will mind if you're a little late to the party." Katelyn smiled and gave her patient a wink.
"I don't suppose He would. Imagine the testimony!"
"Very true, Miss Jackson. Very true."
"Gotta go, Miss Jackson, I hear Satan calling..."
"Oh, you give that poor young lady a break, doctor. She's trying so hard."
"Yeah, okay..." Katelyn turned to leave and walked up to Doctor Kendrick.
"And what can I do for you today, Lucifer... I mean... Doctor Kendrick."
"First, you can show me some respect. While you were at home doing whatever it is you wastes of space do at night, I was here dealing with the sick and dying, which, I remind you, I don't have to do after six o'clock, but I do anyway because if I don't, none of you sorry excuses for residents will. Second, you can check in on your patient in 302, and when you've done that, come find me and I'll give you some other meaningless task to do. Or is that too much for your tiny brain to comprehend, Miss Rabbit?!"
"I'll get right on it..." Katelyn walked away as Doctor Kendrick glanced at Miss Jackson's room. The young woman had fallen asleep again and Doctor Kendrick couldn't help but feel a twinge of sadness as she thought about her fate. She knew that there was little to be done for Miss Jackson, other than to make her transition as painless as possible. And yet... something about her attitude gave Doctor Kendrick something she hadn't felt in a long time herself.
"Chief of Medicine..." Katelyn muttered to herself, "More like Chief of Hell... Stop it, Katelyn, what would Jesus say? Relax. Mr. Dempsey needs you right now." She stepped into the patient's room with a smile lighting her face.
"Good morning, Mr. Dempsey. How are you feeling?"
"Much better, thank you. Still quite sore, but better."
"That's excellent, Mr. Dempsey!"
"Please, call me Derek."
"Alright, Derek. Um... would you mind if I prayed for you?"
"Not at all, Doctor," Dempsey said as he returned her smile. Encouraged, Katelyn bowed her head and continued.
"Father, we thank you for the healing in Derek's body, and we thank you for guiding Doctor Caine's hand in surgery, and for letting your healing power flow through us and be of use to your children on this earth. We ask that you continue to heal Derek's body, and that he experience no complications from surgery. In Jesus' name, Amen."
"That was lovely, doctor."
"Please, call me Katey," she said, grinning. "I'll be around to check on you later, Derek."
"Thank you, Katey."
As the day wound down and Katelyn was getting ready to leave for the night, her danger sense prickled and she stopped a fraction of a second before her name was shrieked from the other side of the nurse's station.
"Yes, Doctor Kendrick, how may I serve you?" She asked, turning around.
"Tell me you didn't order more tests to be run on Mr. Black?! What could you possibly be looking for?! He's got Achalasia, open and shut, leave it alone!"
"I... think you're wrong..."
"I'm sorry, one more time. Did you just say you think that I'm wrong?!"
"Y-yes... I did. I think we should make certain it isn't cancer before we just write it off."
"Listen, Jessica Rabbit, I thought that I was clear about this before, but since you obviously can't get it through your thick fucking skull, I'll say it again: I don't give a SHIT what you think!! I'm the Chief of Medicine here for a reason, and you're just a fucking resident. My diagnosis is final, let it go!!"
"Yes, Doctor Kendrick... can I go now?"
"Greystone, if you're still standing here when I get to a count of three, my foot is gonna go so far up your ass you'll be able to taste my toenail polish." Katelyn took that as her cue and walked away, trying not to let the tears fall.
Katelyn sat on the couch in her apartment, thinking about the day. Every time she tried to focus on the positive, though, Doctor Kendrick's voice was right there, yelling at her for no good reason. She couldn't stand it anymore. She decided to go to Doctor Kendrick's house and give her a piece of her mind. She rehearsed her speech the entire way to Doctor Kendrick's apartment, the whole way to the door. She knocked, not quite gently but not too loudly, so as not to disturb the neighbors.
"Go away..." came the reply from within.
"Doctor Kendrick, open up, we need to talk, right now!"
"I said 'go away!!'" Katelyn shifted her weight onto her other foot.
"Not until you open this door." Silence followed, then,
"...Get in here, make it quick." Katelyn opened the door and stepped into the apartment to find Doctor Kendrick sitting on the couch, a glass of Jack Daniel's in her hand and an empty bottle on the table.
"What do you want, Doctor Greystone? I'm not in the fucking mood for stupid questions..." Katelyn found the sight before her slightly unsettling, but continued with her speech anyway.
"Doctor Kendrick, I'm tired of you disrespecting me in front of my patients. I work just as hard, if not harder than you do, and I went to medical school just like you did, I keep up on current medical practices exactly as you do, so if I feel like I need to comfort one patient more than another, or if I want to order tests to maybe, just maybe, catch a patient's cancer before it spreads, then dammit, I'm gonna do it, and if you don't like it, you can fire me, but just know that you'll be losing the best doctor in your entire friggin' hospital!!" Doctor Kendrick stared at her, not betraying the emotions behind her eyes.
"Are you done?"
"I think I've made my point..." Doctor Kendrick took a deep breath and downed the last of her whiskey.
"Tell me, Katelyn, just what do you gain by praying to your 'god?'"
"What good does praying do you, Doctor?! It's a pretty simple fuckin' question!"
"I... it's... the Lord hears those who pray earnestly and his healing is granted through answers to prayer."
"Is that so?" Doctor Kendrick said derisively, "If that's the case, what the fuck good are we?! It might interest you to know that I lost three goddamn patients tonight after you left, so tell me again how your fuckin' god HEALS PEOPLE!!" At this, Doctor Kendrick hurled her empty glass against the wall and began to cry, catching Katelyn completely off guard. She had expected a full on confrontation, not this psychotic breakdown. "Oh, but wait, Doctor Know-It-All, there's more! As it turns out, you were right..."
"Mr. Black. Your tests came back and it turns out he's got throat cancer, so, one more time, what the fuck good are your prayers, Doctor Greystone?!" Katelyn was stunned. She had never seen Doctor Kendrick in such a state before.
"I, uh... I don't know what to say..."
"Just say you were right, gloat, take the fuckin' credit, Katey!! The great, infallible Doctor Faith Kendrick made a goddamn rookie mistake!!" An idea struck Katelyn.
"Doctor Kendrick... Faith... there's this really neat thing called forgiveness. It's not too late to accept it..."
"Katey, if you try to sell me on that Jesus garbage, I'll put your head through the tv without a second thought."
"What do you have against God?! For crying out loud, your name is 'Faith' isn't it? Doesn't that make you even a little curious?!"
"You really wanna know?! Okay, you asked for it. God doesn't exist, Greystone. He's a figment of your imagination that you use to feel better about your life, and so you don't have to face the fact that we're all gonna be worm food when we inevitably die! There is no afterlife, there are no pearly gates and there sure as FUCK is no such thing as happily ever after. God. Is. Not. Real."
"...What if I could change your mind?"
"Good luck, Greystone. I'm a lost cause. You might as well save your breath for someone that still has a fuckin' chance." Doctor Kendrick said with a laugh.
"Challenge accepted, ma'am. Get dressed, you're staying with me tonight."
"Look, Katey, contrary to what I constantly tell you, I actually do like you, but you need to know that I'm not gay. Regardless of what Nurse Callahan thinks."
"I know you're not, I'm not either, quit stalling, let's go. The guest bed at my apartment is more comfortable than my own." Doctor Kendrick sighed.
"And just why am I coming with you?"
"Because I want you to see my life outside of Saint Luke's. You'll see why God IS real."
"You've completely lost your mind... but what the fuck, I've got nothing to lose."
"You'll thank me for this someday," Katelyn said with a smile.
"I very highly doubt that..."
Five in the morning came way to quickly for Doctor Kendrick. The alarm clock went off in Katelyn's room and it woke them both up. Moments later, a knock came on the guest room door and Katelyn walked in, all smiles and cheerfulness.
"Good morning, Sally Sunshine! Up and at em, let's get ready for work."
"You're insane. We don't clock in til eight. Why do you need three fucking hours to get ready and go four blocks?"
"Come with me, you'll see." Katelyn walked into the living room with Doctor Kendrick in tow. She sat cross legged on the floor and closed her eyes.
"What are you doing? Don't you need the shower?"
"I will. But God comes first."
"Right, I forgot, you gotta talk to your invisible cloud man."
"If you want to shower first, go ahead. I'll probably be finishing up til you get done."
"You're gonna be here doing this for a half an hour?!"
"If not longer. Depends on how I'm lead to pray."
"...I'll be back." Katelyn just nodded as Doctor Kendrick walked away.
As Doctor Kendrick stood under the scalding hot water, her thoughts were plagued by the oddity of Doctor Greystone's experiment. Why was this so important to her? What did she really expect to happen? What did she hope to gain from this? This wasn't going to bring her patients back to life. It wouldn't magically make Mr. Black's cancer disappear. It wouldn't make her "see the light" if that's what she was after. Doctor Kendrick toweled her hair off and got dressed, heading back for the living room.
"Your turn. I assume you have coffee here somewhere?"
"In the kitchen, next to the refrigerator," Katelyn said as she walked toward the shower. Doctor Kendrick stretched and felt the bones in her spine crack as she approached the coffee maker. She picked up the coffee, examining it.
"Volcanica Coffee... even her drinks are fanatically devoted to imaginary men..." She shook her head as she started making a pot and sat at the kitchen table. As she waited for the coffee to finish, a sound floated into the kitchen. She soon recognized Katelyn's voice, flowing from the shower. She'd never known Katelyn to sing, but as she listened, she couldn't help being drawn in.
"Lord, I lift my friend to you, my best friend in the world, I know she means much more to you..."
'It's just a song...' Doctor Kendrick thought, 'There's no way, of all the people in the world, I'm her best friend...'
"...I want so much to help her, but this is something she has to do... Lord, I lift my friend up to you..." Doctor Kendrick was captivated. When Katelyn walked into the kitchen, she looked up at her from the table, John 3:16 coffee mug in hand.
"You may have missed your calling, Katelyn."
"Oh? How so?"
"Well, you're barely a passable doctor, but you're a decent singer..."
"...I'm gonna choose to take that as a compliment, so thank you," she smiled. Doctor Kendrick watched her pour a cup of coffee and strut toward the table, reminding her why she often called Katelyn 'Jessica Rabbit.' She sat down to drink it, still smiling.
"Why are you so cheery? It's still only six-thirty in the fucking morning. Most normal people are still asleep by now."
"God woke me up today, I have another chance to be His healing conduit."
"Your alarm clock woke us both up today."
"Physically, yes, but spiritually, it was God. And guess what? He woke you up too."
"Oh, I'm sure my cold, black spirit is just SO glad to be awake at this hour." Katelyn just smiled as she sipped her coffee. They finished their drink in companionable silence, then headed for Saint Luke's.
Doctor Kendrick kept a close eye on Katelyn all day, watching her move from patient to patient, diagnosis to diagnosis, without ever losing her sense of hope and her bright smile. People were wasting away and dying around her and she remained upbeat and positive. Ten minutes before the end of her shift, all hell broke loose.
"So, what do you think, Doctor Kend--" she was cut off by the insistent beeping of a nearby heart monitor. Both of them raced toward the sound.
"Crash cart, stat!!" Katelyn yelled to the nearest nurse. As they started to work, a look of determination came over Doctor Kendrick's face.
"Stay with me, Miss Jackson, we're gonna get you through this." Katelyn could tell that she had a hard time believing her own words. She'd seen too many people die in the exact same situation to maintain any hope of success. Just as she expected, Miss Jackson's heart monitor began to flatline. Katelyn watched as Doctor Kendrick fired up the defibrillators. Try as she might, though, Miss Jackson was gone. Doctor Kendrick put her head on her forearms, leaning against the rail of the bed. When she looked up at Katelyn, there were tear streaks on her face.
"Where's your precious god now, Greystone?"
The morning light shown on Katelyn and Doctor Kendrick two days later as they stood, dressed in black to say their final goodbyes to Miss Jackson.
"Katey, I've been thinking about what you said..." Doctor Kendrick whispered, leaning in closer so as not to disturb the reverend's eulogy. "About the healing conduit. We failed trying to save Miss... Theresa... but... she's not in pain anymore..."
"You're exactly right, Faith. Don't be discouraged. Sometimes the best gift God can give is to completely take the pain away and bring us home."
"I hope you're right... I'm trusting you, Greystone. Don't make me look stupid." Katelyn smiled slightly, trying to hide her relief.
"You won't, I promise." As they walked up to the casket, Katelyn laid a rose on it and looked skyward, letting her smile spread.
"I guess Jesus didn't want you to be late to the party after all."