Authors: Mary Connealy
A pilot talked into his radio. Little of it made sense to Jeanie, but she was sure information was forwarded to the hospital so they’d know what to prepare for when the helicopter landed.
The part of Jeanie’s mind that wasn’t occupied with praying marveled at the well-oiled machine of the paramedic team.
The two people working over Michael mostly blocked him from her sight, but once in a while she’d catch a glimpse of Michael’s ashen face, streaked with blood. She wanted to ask them to wipe the blood away but kept her mouth shut.
Once she saw Michael’s eyes flicker open. They seemed to be clear. Shayla asked him questions, too quietly for Jeanie to hear them over the steady throb of the helicopter’s rotors. Michael’s deep voice added to the hum of sound and activity.
She did hear Michael say, “Jeanie,” once.
The female EMT turned and smiled. “She’s here. She’s worried sick about you.”
Michael’s eyes fluttered, and Jeanie could tell he tried to turn. But his head was held steady.
“Just lie still. I told her to stay put in her seat, too. We’ll be landing in a few minutes.”
Shayla turned to Jeanie. “I’m feeling pretty good about spinal injuries. His fingers and toes are moving fine. We’ll do a thorough exam, of course, and we won’t remove his neck-stabilizing gear until we’re sure. And we have to examine him for internal injuries. If he has any, that could mean surgery.”
Jeanie felt tears burn her eyes at the hopeful news.
“He’s definitely got a broken arm, and since he was unconscious, he’s likely got a concussion. Plus the cut on his head is nasty.”
The woman’s voice started to sound like it was far away. The little roaring cabin seemed to get darker and her vision tunneled.
Shayla suddenly knelt at Jeanie’s side, adjusting her seat belt and shoving Jeanie’s head down between her waterlogged knees. Jeanie didn’t know why the woman attacked her, but she was too shaky to care.
The next thing Jeanie knew, she was being helped off the air ambulance by Shayla and a stranger, and Michael was rolling away from her with two other attendants.
“You fainted.” Shayla kept an arm around Jeanie’s waist, even though Jeanie felt much steadier now, with the helicopter on the ground and hope that Michael would be okay. “We’ll leave your clothes with you. Your hands are covered in blood, so once you’re steady, you’ll need to wash up and change your clothes. The hospital might let you use a shower if you’re going to have a long wait.”
Jeanie looked and saw crimson fingers. Shayla was right. Dried blood filled every crease and crevice on the front and back of both hands.
Jeanie couldn’t think clearly enough to wash up right now, so she found herself settled in a chair in the emergency ward waiting room with a clipboard in her lap and orders to fill out forms. Doing the mundane paperwork kept her from losing her mind while she sat there.
Praying steadily, an hour passed. Then another. Then she found a Bible tucked in a magazine rack. She started reading her strength verses, groping for courage.
Buffy showed up and charged her way across the waiting room to Jeanie’s side. Jeanie rose to meet her, and Buffy pulled her into a hug. “Have you heard anything?”
“No, he’s with the doctor now.”
“Look, this might be him.”
The two of them rushed toward the doctor coming from a room down a long corridor. The man glanced down at Jeanie’s hands, still coated in blood. “Are you Mrs. Davidson?”
“Yes, how’s Michael?”
Buffy put a supporting arm around Jeanie.
“He’s going to be all right.” The doctor looked exhausted. “We’ve admitted him for the night. His right humerus is fractured in two locations. He has a mild concussion, but an MRI shows no evidence of a subdural hematoma. The scalp laceration needed suturing. He’s got multiple abrasions and contusions, but other than that, he’s going to be fine. His fracture requires a pin, so we’re prepping him for surgery.”
“Surgery?” That was nearly the only thing the man said that made sense.
Buffy tightened her arm around Jeanie’s shoulders and whispered, “Broken arm, bump on the head, cuts and bruises, stitches. Nothing serious.”
The doctor gave Buffy a tired smile and nodded. “That’s exactly right. Broken arm, head bump, cuts, bruises, and stitches. His arm will heal faster with surgery, and your husband assured us he preferred speed. Double fractures are difficult to set under the best circumstances.”
“He talked to you?”
“Yes, he was wide awake, answering all our questions rationally. He’s going to be fine.” The doctor patted Jeanie’s shoulder. “The surgery won’t take long, but it will be several hours before you can see him. I’ll send someone out to let you know when he’s done. He needs a night in the hospital, mainly due to the concussion. Barring complications, you’ll be able to take him home tomorrow morning.”
“Thank you, Doctor.”
The man left at a near run. Jeanie wondered who else was in need at this moment.
Buffy sighed. “Wow, I drove over here like a maniac. Bucky phoned and scared me to death. I thought Michael was dying.”
Buffy’s words were too much, the last straw. “I did, too.” Jeanie broke down.
Buffy held her tight and let her cry.
When Jeanie’s tears were spent, Buffy said, “We’ve got to get you cleaned up.” Buffy went and said the right thing to the nurse at the ER desk, because she came back with permission for Jeanie to shower. She bullied Jeanie into a downstairs locker room with an unfortunately placed mirror.
Jeanie was shocked to see blood streaking her face and clothes. She’d seen her hands but never noticed the rest. She pulled herself together enough to convince Buffy she could shower and dress without collapsing.
Buffy left to phone Wyatt and let him spread the word that Michael would be okay.
When Buffy returned, Jeanie was dressed and reasonably clean.
Buffy told Jeanie she’d driven Michael’s pickup to the hospital and planned to leave it. Wyatt was on his way to take Buffy home. “Now we’ve got plenty of time for supper. Let’s go.”
“Supper? What time is it?”
“About five o’clock. Sorry it took me so long to get over here.”
“It was morning last time I checked.”
Buffy hugged her again. “Can we leave the hospital for supper?”
“No, I want to be here when the surgery is over.”
“The doctor said it might be several hours before you could see him. It hasn’t been one yet. We’ve got plenty of time.”
“You need a good meal, Jeanie. I’ll bet you haven’t had a bite to eat since breakfast.” Buffy gave her a one-armed hug. “Please, the cafeteria is closed and the vending machines have green sandwiches in them. I might become violent if I have to eat those.”
Jeanie laughed and started to feel almost human again. “Well, I don’t like getting beaten up, so let’s go.”
They were back in plenty of time to meet a nurse who had news that Michael was through surgery and waking from the anesthetic.
“Only one person can see him at a time.” The nurse gave Buffy a glance.
“I’ll go.” Jeanie had a flash of irritation so strong she recognized that she was almost irrational. How dare this woman assume Buffy was Michael’s wife?
The nurse smiled, the very soul of kindness.
Jeanie got hold of herself. “You might as well go on home, Buff. I’ll sit with him tonight.”
Buffy pulled a cell phone out of her pocket and handed it to Jeanie. “Phone me if you need anything.”
Wyatt chose that moment to come into the waiting room carrying a duffel bag. “Glad Michael’s gonna be okay.” He gave Jeanie an awkward hug. “I brought him clothes to wear home.”
Jeanie nodded and slipped the phone into her pocket. “Thanks, Wyatt. Thanks, both of you. I really appreciate you coming. It helped.”
Buffy pulled her close and whispered, “You know I’m not the world’s biggest Michael fan.”
Jeanie wrinkled her brow in a mock frown. “No, I had no idea.”
Buffy smiled. “But I’m glad he’s all right.”
“Thanks.” Jeanie hurried away with the nurse.
At the recovery room door, the nurse turned to block Jeanie. “I heard you fainted on the chopper.”
Jeanie felt her cheeks heat up. “I suppose everybody knows that.”
The nurse smiled. “Sure, even your husband. I’m just warning you that there are a lot of tubes and machines, but they’re just monitors mainly. We’ll unhook them as he fully wakes up. He came through the surgery very well. We’ve got pain medicine in his IV tube, so he may not make much sense and he may not remember anything tomorrow. So don’t worry—or faint—if he’s a little … weird.” The nurse waited.
Jeanie squared her shoulders. “Okay, I’m warned. I’m ready.”
She wasn’t ready.
Michael’s face was ashen. His arm was splinted, and a white bandage wrapped his head. Scratches she hadn’t noticed before looked red and angry against his pallid face and arms.
She rushed past the nurse to his side.
The tubes and chirping machines seemed to hold him to life.
“Michael!” Her cry, though soft, sounded like grief.
Then his eyes flickered open. “Jeanie? You’re here?” His voice was faint and slurred, but he recognized her. He was making sense.
“Of course I’m here, honey.”
He fumbled for her hand, his arm held in a rigid cast, his fingers swollen until the skin was shiny.
She gingerly rested her palm under his fingers, afraid she’d hurt him.
The nurse moved to the far side of the bed and made notes on a clipboard as she checked machines. She glanced at Jeanie’s nervous attempt to hold Michael’s hand. “Good. Be careful. We’ll leave an IV in overnight, but the rest of these monitors can come off in about an hour. Then we’ll move him to another room for the night. You can come around to this side and sit down. We’ve got the IV in this hand, so you’ll have to be careful no matter what side you’re on.
Jeanie turned to focus on Michael and was delighted to see his eyes, still glazed from the sedative but open and watchful. She wondered how bad the concussion was. Maybe he was seeing three of her?
“How about a lil’ kiss?”
Jeanie almost laughed. He sounded drunk. And whatever faults Michael had, drinking wasn’t one of them. She kissed him. So glad he was alive and with her and in love with her.
The nurse finished her work, and Jeanie rounded the bed.
“Don’t leave me!” Michael called, his voice weak but determined.
She had his other hand before he could decide to climb out of bed and come after her. “I’m staying. Don’t worry. I just didn’t want to bump your broken arm.”
Jeanie ran one finger carefully down his cheek, which was scratched but not deeply. She doubted it would show once he got his color back. She realized he didn’t really know much of what was going on. “Yes, you have a broken arm. You’re just out of surgery.”
She spent the next hour talking with him. Anytime she stopped, he questioned her.
As he became more awake, he began fretting about his bridge, the pieces of it left on the ground. “I should’ve had help. I shouldn’t have been doing it myself. Stupid. Careless.”
She began talking again, calming him. “It was an accident. You just slipped.”
Michael frowned. “You told me to leave the old people alone. I’d have had some of them there.”
“They couldn’t have climbed down that creek bank, Michael. You know that. Having them there wouldn’t have changed a thing.”
“I might not be here. Broken arm. How am I supposed to get those cabins up with a broken arm? I’ve got reservations for cabins I don’t have built.”
Jeanie wondered if she’d need to ask the doctor for something to calm him when the door opened and a different nurse bustled in.
“How are we doing?”
Jeanie didn’t answer. She wasn’t sure how Michael was doing right now, but she knew she felt awful.
He had a mule-stubborn look on his face, as if he were planning to get out of bed and get back to work. “I’m fine. Can I get out of here tonight?”
Jeanie moved aside as the woman studied the machines and asked Michael questions. That seemed to divert him from fretting, and Jeanie breathed a sigh of relief.
By the time the nurse was through, the doctor came by on rounds. Then they moved Michael out of recovery. It was late evening before they were alone again, and either he was exhausted or some medicine had kicked in, because Michael was smiling, heavy-lidded and sweet again.
Jeanie enjoyed the calm, but she knew the storm was coming. She’d have her hands full getting him to lie still long enough to recover.
But for now, he had a sweet, groggy smile on his face, and he whispered love to her as he fell asleep.
Jeanie sat in a recliner next to his bed and dozed fitfully all night.
Michael woke early with some help from nurses checking his blood pressure. As soon as he and Jeanie were alone, he started growling. “Let’s get out of here.”
“We can’t leave until we see the doctor.” Dark circles under his eyes worried her. “Are you in pain?”
“Of course I’m in pain,” he snapped. The outburst made him drop his head back against his pillow. “My head is killing me. Can you not ask me any stupid questions for a while?”
“Do you need something for the pain?”
“Great, more questions. Go see if the doctor is around so we can get out of here.”
Jeanie hesitated, but she forced herself to stand her ground. She caught Michael’s uncasted hand. The one with the IV. “Michael!” She spoke sharply trying to cut through his temper and pain and the remnants of the sedative.
He froze and turned his eyes on her, but despite the rebellious look on his face, he paid attention.
“Honey, stop thrashing around. You’ll hurt yourself, and if the doctor doesn’t believe you’re going to be careful, he might sedate you again and keep you here another day. Now control yourself while I go get the doctor.” She watched carefully, afraid he might get up and dress and leave without waiting for the doctor—or her if she was slow. “I’ll be back in two seconds. You’d better still be in that bed.”
She left, moving at double time because she knew he’d only wait so long.