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Authors: Lurlene McDaniel

Kathleen's Story

BOOK: Kathleen's Story
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AMONG FRIENDS,
Caroline B. Cooney

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET.
Judy Blume

THE SECOND SUMMER OF THE SISTERHOOD
Ann Brashares

CUBA 15,
Nancy Osa

THE ACORN PEOPLE,
Ron Jones

REBEL ANGELS,
Libba Bray

GIRLS IN LOVE,
Jacqueline Wilson

You’ll want to read these inspiring books by Lurlene McDaniel

Angels in Pink
Kathleen’s Story
Raina’s Story
Holly’s Story

One Last Wish Novels

Mourning Song
A Time to Die
Mother, Help Me Live
Someone Dies, Someone Lives
Sixteen and Dying
Let Him Live
The Legacy: Making Wishes Come True
Please Don’t Die
She Died Too Young
All the Days of Her Life
A Season for Goodbye
Reach for Tomorrow

Other Fiction

Briana’s Gift
Letting Go of Lisa
Hit and Run
The Time Capsule
Garden of Angels
A Rose for Melinda
Telling Christina Goodbye
How Do I Love Thee: Three Stories
To Live Again
Angel of Mercy
Angel of Hope
Starry, Starry Night: Three Holiday Stories
The Girl Death Left Behind
Angels Watching Over Me
Lifted Up by Angels
Until Angels Close My Eyes
I’ll Be Seeing You
Saving Jessica
Don’t Die, My Love
Too Young to Die
Goodbye Doesn’t Mean Forever
Somewhere Between Life and Death
Time to Let Go
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
When Happily Ever After Ends
Baby Alicia is Dying

From every ending comes a new beginning…

This book is lovingly dedicated
to Jedidiah McDaniel
.

I would like to express my gratitude to
Jan Hamilton Powell and Mickey Milita
of Erlanger Medical Center, Baroness Campus
,
for their invaluable help in shaping this series
.

Angels in Pink Volunteer’s Creed

I will pass through this life but once.
If there is any kindness I can show, any good that I
can do, any comfort that I can offer, let me do it
now, for one day I will be gone and what
will remain is the memory of what I did for others.

one

“A
RE WE READY
?” Raina St. James asked. She looked expectantly at her two friends.

“I’m ready,” Holly Harrison answered.
More than ready
, she thought. Anything to get herself out of the house and away from her parents’ eagle eyes, especially her father’s. His will was impossible to bend, his mind impossible to change. He treated her like she was twelve instead of sixteen, so yes, she was ready for Raina’s project.

“I’m ready too,” Kathleen McKensie said, knowing it was a lie. She wanted to say,
I don’t even want to be here
, but she didn’t have the guts. This summer project was totally Raina’s idea, but because she’d let her two friends talk her into it, she had no one to blame but herself for agreeing to join them.

They climbed out of Raina’s car and she locked the doors with the electronic key. “This is going to be a great summer,” Raina said. “Trust me.”

“Don’t we always?” Holly said.

The three of them, friends since sixth grade, had just finished their sophomore year at Cummings High in Tampa, Florida, where they were practically inseparable. But it was Raina who led them—not in a bossy way, but by sheer force of personality and persuasion. Once Raina set her mind on something, it came to pass, and from the moment she’d started talking about Parker-Sloan General Hospital’s summer volunteer program after the Christmas break, Kathleen had known she’d cave and join Raina and Holly as a volunteer. However, now that the day was really upon them, Kathleen was wishing she’d voiced her objections when she’d had the chance. For starters, being a volunteer would consume her entire summer. And then, of course, she had to consider her mother, whom she decided not to think about at the moment.

Kathleen followed Raina and Holly through the parking garage to the elevator. It was only eight on a Saturday morning, but already heat was starting to build. By noon, it would be in the high eighties. They should have been heading to the pool at Raina’s townhome complex for some sun worship instead of to volunteer orientation at the hospital.

“What floor?” Holly asked once the elevator door slid open and they stepped inside.

Raina said, “Third.”

Holly pushed the button and the elevator
rose. “This place is the size of a small city. I’ll never find my way around.”

“Sure you will,” Raina countered. “I’ll help both of you.” Raina’s mother was head of nursing at Parker-Sloan, so Raina knew plenty about the layout of the giant hospital complex, which easily covered two city blocks. She was fascinated by the world of medicine and today she was starting as a teen volunteer, fulfilling a dream she’d had for years, and having her two best friends with her made it even more special.

“Gee, thanks,” Kathleen said with an edge of sarcasm. Although Kathleen understood Raina’s fascination, she was
not
attracted to medicine. No way. And she secretly thought that Raina wouldn’t be either if she had a sick mother at home as Kathleen did. As for Holly, Kathleen knew she’d do anything to escape her strict parents. That fact, and the fact that Raina was dating Holly’s brother, Hunter, made Holly more agreeable to Raina’s wishes.

“What are friends for?” Raina said, flashing a perky smile. The elevator stopped and the girls stepped into a hallway. “The auditorium is this way,” Raina said, pointing left.

As they rounded a corner, Kathleen saw a line of teens filing through open double wooden doors—mostly girls, but some boys too. Inside the doors, stadium-style seats with flip-up writing desks made a sharp downward descent. At the
bottom were a desk and a blackboard that stretched across the wall. A man and woman were watching the group file in and waving them toward the front. “Don’t be shy,” the man called. “Come on down.”

“Looks like we’re not the only volunteers who signed up,” Holly said over her shoulder.

“Told you so,” Raina said. “This is one of the best places in the city to spend a summer. Plus, don’t forget, if we make it through this program, we can sign up to be year-round volunteers and earn credits toward graduation.”

“Which is better than another science class,” Holly said.

“But no money,” Kathleen added pointedly. She’d given up a part-time job in a clothing boutique because of the program.

“Hence the term ‘volunteer,’” Raina said, not a bit apologetic about Kathleen’s job loss.

“Well, I think it’s going to be fun.” Holly took a seat along with her friends.

“And so will you, Kathleen.” Raina gave her friend a patronizing pat that almost made Kathleen get up and leave. She might have too, if the man standing at the front of the room hadn’t started talking.

“Welcome, summer volunteers, to our Pink Angels program orientation. I’m Mark Powell, director of volunteers at Parker-Sloan, and this is Connie Vasquez, volunteer coordinator.” He
nodded at the slim young dark-haired woman standing next to him. Connie waved. “All of you have passed the preliminary part of our Angels program in that first set of paperwork you submitted in April. Today”—he paused for dramatic effect—“more paperwork.” He grinned, and Connie held up several thick file folders while the audience groaned.

“But after we fill out the forms and go over some rules,” Connie added, “we’ll break into small groups and take a tour of the hospital and the various floors and departments where you’ll be used as volunteers. We’ll meet here afterward for free pizza.”

The audience applauded.

“One of the things in your packet is a form that asks for your shirt sizes, because all of you will be issued special shirts that will instantly identify you as an Angel volunteer to our staff and personnel,” Connie said.

“Read the sheet about our dress code carefully, because there’s no wiggle room there,” Mark added. “The term ‘Pink Angels’ came from the pink shirts that our volunteers started wearing in the 1970s.” He held up a pale pink polo shirt. “Then somewhere along the way, boys asked to join our program—nursing is a noble profession,” he inserted with a grin. “So we added navy blue shirts. The guys just didn’t feel comfortable in pink.”

“You got
that
right,” a guy called from a back row, making everyone laugh.

Mark held up his hands. “Now we mix the two shirt colors, so it doesn’t matter what color you wear, but one must be worn
at all times
that you’re on duty,” he said. “Khaki or black slacks or skirts paired with the shirts is our uniform.”

“I look lousy in a skirt,” the same male voice said, causing another ripple of laughter.

“Who’s the comedian?” Mark asked, craning his neck.

“That would be me, Carson Kiefer.” A hand waved from the back.

Kathleen turned to see a good-looking boy with black hair and a flashy grin.

“Ah,” Mark said with a nod, “Dr. Kiefer’s son. Your father told me you’d be joining our program this summer.”

The way he said it made Kathleen think there was more to the story of Carson’s admittance to the program than was being said.

“I promised,” Carson said with a snappy salute. “So here I am, signed, sealed and hog-tied.”

Mark rocked back on his heels and cleared his throat. “Well then, Connie, pass out the packets and let’s get started.”

After forty minutes of listening to Mark and Connie talk about the program, the rules and their expectations for the volunteers, Kathleen
felt her head start to swim. When it was time to break into small groups, two assistants joined Mark and Connie, and the volunteers were asked to count off, then gather with the others of their same number for their tours. Kathleen found herself in Mark’s group along with ten others, including the irrepressible Carson. He caught her eye and winked. She averted her gaze.
Show-off
.

Mark led them around the administrative floors first, explaining vital clerical duties that some volunteers would be assigned. That sounded safe to Kathleen—pushing paper and files would keep her away from sick people. As they walked, Mark said, “Lots of variety for you volunteers. Different departments will fill out request forms for your services, so you could be filing one day and distributing food trays on another. The nursing staff will use you a lot to transport patients to other parts of the hospital, for tests, treatments and discharge. All of you will be trained to move patients on stretchers and in wheelchairs.”

Kathleen realized she was way ahead of the curve when it came to wheelchair transporting.

“Parker-Sloan manages about four thousand volunteers a week, both adults and teens. We’re proud of our program and the people in it,” Mark said when the group had been herded into the elevator and was heading toward the upper floors. “We really depend on our volunteers to free up
staff for patient care. You’re doing an important job.”

Beside her, Kathleen heard Carson say, “Rah, rah,” under his breath. She glanced at him and he flashed a sexy smile. She felt her cheeks color and quickly looked away.

The doors opened and Mark led them into a brightly painted hallway. “This is the children’s wing. Most volunteers love pulling this assignment best.”

The group followed Mark into a light-filled room lined with bookshelves and desks holding three computer terminals. An area rug dotted with beanbags and floor pillows faced a television set that was showing a cartoon with the sound turned down low. Several children were sitting at pint-size painted tables, along with several adults. The kids wore hospital-issue gowns and pj’s in bright colors and cartoon prints. “The playroom,” Mark said. The children didn’t look sick to Kathleen. One boy had an arm in a sling. Another was propped up in a wheelchair, reading a book. Others were coloring or working puzzles. A small group were doing supervised finger painting.

“How’s it going, Judy?” Mark asked one of the women.

“Fine. This your newest crop?”

“Handpicked,” Mark said.

Judy greeted them. Kathleen heard several of
the girls murmur about how cute the kids were and how much they wanted to work on this floor. Except for occasionally babysitting the Thomas baby in her neighborhood, Kathleen hadn’t spent much time around children, so she hoped she’d be assigned elsewhere.

“Your eyes aren’t misting over,” Carson whispered in her ear. “Don’t you like kids?”

He so startled her that she stepped backward and almost fell over a chair. He grabbed her arm to steady her.

“You okay?” Mark asked as all eyes turned toward her. “Don’t need one of our volunteers breaking her leg during orientation,” he added with a smile.

The others laughed and Kathleen blushed furiously. “I’m fine.” She pulled her arm from Carson’s grasp.

“You’re welcome,” Carson said out loud, embarrassing her even more.

Back out in the hall, Kathleen scooted to the far side of the group, away from Carson, as Mark continued with his tour. “The babies are down that hall.” He pointed.

“Will those kids in the playroom be all right?” one of the girls asked.

“All the kids on this wing will get well and go home. They come through with pneumonia, dehydration, compound fractures—things like that. Most don’t stay long.”

“Aren’t we going in there?” another girl asked, gesturing at two large closed doors on the other side of the corridor.

“That’s the pediatric oncology ward,” Mark told the group. “Those kids are on chemo and range in age from five to sixteen. Many of them stay for long periods. We rarely put you summer volunteers in there because it’s a sad place to work and not everyone’s cut out for it.”

Murmurs started again. Kathleen stared at the doors. Terminal illness. She shuddered.

Mark’s tour took the better part of an hour and a half and threaded through most of the floors and wings of the giant hospital. By the time they returned to the auditorium where the orientation had begun, Kathleen felt more overwhelmed than ever by the size of the facility, and she wasn’t alone. She heard others talking about it too. During the tour, they had seen the internal medicine clinic, the labor and delivery area, the new babies’ nurseries, the medical library, intensive care units for several specialties, cardiac services, all of children’s services, radiology, the kidney dialysis units, the oncology treatment rooms, the eye clinic, the oncology research and pathology departments, the surgical and operating room areas, the trauma unit, the emergency room, the cafeteria, the gift shop, the post office and the mailrooms. Her head spun. “Everyone will be issued maps and directions,” Mark announced.
“It won’t take you long to figure out the place. Promise.”

The scent of fresh pizza drifted from the auditorium. “Time to eat. We’ll reconvene for questions,” Mark said, and invited them to help themselves to the pizza sitting in boxes on long tables and the cans of soda in large coolers. Her group didn’t need a second invitation and crowded around the tables. Kathleen went to the end of the line, waiting for her friends to return from their tours so they could eat together. She was reading some of the information in her welcome packet when she heard, “Hope you like cheese pizza.”

She looked up to see Carson standing in front of her holding out a paper plate with a slice of pizza on it. “For me?” she asked.

BOOK: Kathleen's Story
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