LONG DISTANCE-CLOSE CALLS

AJM

 

With his brief case in one hand and a carry-on in the other, Kelly Brackett shuffled impatiently through the jet way and into the terminal.

 

‘Doc?”  Harked an unexpected, familiar voice.  A swell of relief passed over him as he made eye contact with his friend, John Gage still in uniform, waving his keys, waiting by a row of empty seats.  “Over here.”

 

“Any news?”  Kel braced himself.

 

“Huh-uh…last I heard they were hoping to stabilize her enough to get her to surgery.”  The tall lanky man measured his words carefully, as he picked up the hurried pace of his anxious friend.  Kel sighed and closed his eyes in mid-stride.  That wasn’t the report he had been praying for the past solid four hours when he had received the message that Dixie had summoned the paramedics to her aid. 

 

Thank God someone had the common sense to call me.’

 

‘I figured it was the right thing to do…but it wasn’t easy! You know Dixie --” Johnny held the door and offered to take Kel’s bag. 

 

‘Thanks. Johnny.”   Kel welcomed the assistance.  ‘—And yes…I know Dixie …”  Contrary,  “Especially when she has her mind made up about something.”  Stubborn, Bullheaded.  God help us if we ever decide to--

 

‘And she certainly had her mind made up about her condition.  She was bound and determined that she had an appendicitis and nobody was to bother you with something ‘so trivial’….”    Johnny held his hand out to allow Kel entrance to the escalators. ‘Nurse Dixie...’

 

Nurse Dixie and I have had that… ‘discussion’  on numerous past occasions as well.”

 

 They rushed down the moving stairs and out the glass doors.  ‘I’m parked right over here.  They let me stay close when I told them it was an emergency.” 

 

They quickly crossed the road, threw the bags in the back of Johnny’s sport utility, and sped off.

 

** 

 

Once on the freeway, Johnny opened the frequency on his radio.

 

‘Rampart this is paramedic John Gage…how do you read?”

 

Kel offered Johnny a quick but waning smile, amazed at the young man’s dedication, and resourcefulness.

 

‘We read you Johnny…’  Came the comforting voice of Dr. Joe Early.

 

‘Doc, I have Doctor Brackett with me… any word?”  Johnny offered the microphone to Kel . 

 

‘Well… we barely got her stable enough to send her to surgery….we finally got her pressure in the nineties.  She’s still oozing from somewhere…her last hemoglobin was seven. ‘   Joe lied for his friend’s sake…the actual value was 5.9 which was close enough to six which was almost seven, which sounded a bit more compatible with life. 

 

‘Seven…?   What-”    He responded to Joe’s surprise. 

 

“Sorry I didn’t have better news for you, Pal.  Stay on this frequency, if I hear anything I’ll let you know.”

 

‘Thanks Joe.”

 

‘Sure, Kel.’

 

Kel replaced the microphone on the receiver requiring repeated attempts with his now trembling hands.  ‘Hemoglobin of seven?!

 

 What the hell happened--- ?!”   He grimaced in confusion and brought a hand to his aching forehead.  Please God….Anything  you want from me…its yours….anything for Dix!   Kel begged, feeling the pull of the accelerator as Johnny lunged into the passing lane.

Johnny knew that the only comfort he could deliver to either of them was an immediate arrival to Rampart.

 

**

 

Barely waiting for the automatic double doors to open, Kel pressed through the busy entrance and made his way to the elevator, as Johnny parked the vehicle.   Having heard little else from Joe, and judging by the activity level in the corridors, Kel guessed that little news would be available from any one in the Emergency Room.    Just as the elevator doors opened, Joe rushed around the corner, in scrubs that had replaced his bloodied shirt and pants, sipping from a Styrofoam cup of coffee, acknowledging Kel’s presence.  He confirmed.  ‘Sorry, Kel …we haven’t heard anything.”

 

“I didn’t think so. Looks like you guys are pretty busy.”

 

‘It’s starting to slow down.’  Joe shook his head in reverence to Murphy’s Law and sipped.  “I’ll ride up with you.’

 

‘What happened--?”  Kel selected the ‘2’ button.

 

“It’s a long story and I don’t know all the details, Kel.  Acute on set of lower right abdominal pain…she sure presented with signs of appendicitis…but she was so …deathly pale—.”

 

A long story, any detail of which Kel was clueless.  The one person who was supposed to be the closest to her…knew absolutely nothing. “What’s the story on the hemoglobin?  Either she’s been bleeding for some time or something big blew--”

 

Joe nodded.  ‘Jack will find out for us.”  Hopefully in time.

 

Kel let out a nervous sigh and didn’t look any too healthy either.  Long distance commuting as a consultant had been fine at first, but was beginning to take its toll.  There were obvious wear and tear issues that had concerned Dixie ever since Kel began with the ‘Group’  a year and a half ago…

 

 

“So what do you think about Trauma  Consultants?”  Kel brought the last of the dishes over to the sink

Dixie shrugged.  “Well…the benefits and salary are hard to argue with…”   She spoke over the running tap.

‘But…?

‘The obvious draw back is…you’d be gone for long periods of time.’
”I could come home on the weekends…and call every night.’…

 “So there goes the salary advantage…’  Dixie sighed and nodded.  Kel  sensed her deep reservations.

“Not by a long shot.”  Kel reminded her.

“I know.” Dixie agreed wistfully, watching the mound of suds rise in the sink.

‘You’re right.  It’s no way to conduct a relationship…I’ll tell Harper ‘no’  .

‘Now hold on…there are definite benefits to consider here…besides salary and the perks…’  Dixie stated.

“It would take some of the heat off of you at the hospital…And on your weeks off --should you so desire-- we could spend them together?” He snuggled in close, his face and chin burrowing in her hair to access the nape of her neck and perhaps place a kiss.

Should I desire…?   Dixie thought, flinching her shoulder and head together thwarting Kel’s tickling advances.  Then playfully she turned and smiled wiping a large pile of soapsuds on his cheek.

He wiped the suds on his shoulder, took the T-towel and began drying dishes, leaning into her field of vision.  “If we decide that I should take this position, it would only be for a trial period of whatever we decide.  I don’t enjoy being away from you.’

She brought her sudsy wet hands to his face and determinably looked him in the eye.  “You listen to me.  I love you, Kelly Brackett whether you’re a physician at Rampart  or a physician with a consulting group or a cowboy in Cheyenne.   This is an opportunity for advancement for you—“

“—us—“

‘For us.”  She accepted his correction  “The pay is better, the benefits are better…you and I both know I can hold my own at Rampart…regardless of the gossips, administration …whomever!!  I can hold my own here as well.  So…if you think for one minute you’re going to rely on me for an excuse to back out of the opportunity of a life time…think again!”  Her wet hands made their way through his thick wavy hair ushering a lasting kiss to his lips. Eventually, he began nuzzling her collar loose, while reaching his hands around her waist to work he shirttail free.  Stealthily, he excavated a large dollop of suds and dropped it down the crevice existing between her back and waste band of her jeans.  The application foamed and crackled, as it meandered leisurely down the skin of her lower back. Startled in response to the tickling of the lavish lather on her flesh, Dixie arched her back, pressing her front firmly into Kel’s delighted frame and her back, against the counter.

Mmmm.  Talk about a rock and a hard place…. Dixie thought.

She bit her lips and smiled at her silent pun.   Deciding there were worse predicaments to be wedged against, she happily succumbed to the sturdy arms of her condition.  And Kel?  Well, he wasn’t about to budge.

They finished the dishes the next morning. 

 

**

 

The second floor light illuminated with the soft dinging of the counter bell.   Joe overcame his temptation to escort his friend through the OR corridors with which, even in his distant state, Kel could find his way blindfolded, and decided to return to the Emergency Room to manage the residual turmoil.

 

“Keep me posted, huh?”

 

Kel never heard him.

 

**

 

Kel shivered beneath the layer of scrubs over his clothes.  He’d never minded the cold of the Operating Room before; always preferring cooler stimulating temperatures to excessive heat.  However, standing braced against the tile wall of the hallway, he came to the realization, that it wasn’t the temperature but more likely, the anxiety of the unknown that was generating the fine tremors just below his skin.

 

Dixie was in Rm Fifteen,  ‘the Jungle’.  Just about every surgeon hated working in that small room that crowded even the most minor cases.  But, out of the busy seventeen -Rm OR suite which inherited the caseload fallout from the Emergency Room’s relentless night, the officiating OR personnel delegated Dixie to Rm Fifteen because there was a couple of big trauma cases that had arrived just ahead of her. 

 

He stood outside the door, took a few deep breaths and opened the heavy door.  A rush of air greeted him along with the attention of the eight people around the procedure table.  The only exposed recognizable feature about Dixie was her pale left hand extended, secured and strapped to a padded arm board.   Her head was wrapped to prevent heat loss, eyes taped closed and a breathing tube secured to her tape-distorted lips and cheeks .   He saw several liter IV bags of saline hanging, blood infusing with the assistance of a pressure bag for rapid delivery.   The red numbers of the brand new state of the art monitors reading 86/56, HR 116 … sinus.  

 

Jack Blade glanced up to Kel, shook his head and simply blocked Kel’s entrance with a resounding  ‘No!”

 

Any other response from the surgeon he had worked frequently over the drapes with would have surprised him.  Kel nodded in acknowledgement and turned to exit.

 

‘Look, I think we’ve finally got the bleeding under control…she had a belly full…of old clots …no wonder she was having’ pain!  How long was she having pain?”  He glanced up and then returned to the open abdomen.

 

I don’t know.” 

 

Not  understanding  the source of uncertainty in Kel’s voice,  he  encouraged him on out the door.  “I’ll be out in a while, Kel.  But it’s going to be a while.”  He advised with encouragement and smiling eyes.   “Now, go find your side kick and a cup of coffee.” 

You’re operating on my side kick.

 

 The heavy door closed behind him as the surgeon continued with his work.

 

**

 

I don’t know.”  He mocked himself.

 

A belly full….of blood…”No wonder she was having pain…”  Kel thought aloud.  For how long…?   I don’t know.  The words haunted him.  Days.?  Weeks?  It would be like Dix to not say anything to rock the boat.  Kel blankly took the coffee from Johnny’s hand and walked over to the couch and sat.

 

 ‘Thanks Johnny.’

 

“Doc.”  Johnny said .  ‘I know what you’re doing’. “

 

Kel finally looked up. 

 

“You can’t blame yourself.”

 

“Where does a pup like you get the authority to tell me what I should and shouldn’t do.”  He responded in appreciation.

 

A grateful half grin accompanied the paramedic’s stern  thoughts.  ‘I thought maybe I’d stick my neck out…’

 

Kel returned with a nod of acknowledgement as Johnny continued

 

‘Seriously, Doc.  Dixie’s… a big girl. She chose to keep things under wraps.”


’Yes …to spare my delicate feelings---.’

 

‘Maybe.  But…do you mean to tell me if she thought for one second something was seriously wrong that you wouldn’t be the first to know?”

 

‘Hence the call to the paramedics…’  Kel retorted wryly.  “I wasn’t around to be the first to know.”

 

‘You and I both know…. at that point she knew something needed to be done…she knew she needed help but didn’t need to alarm you….’

 

A figure passing the machines attracted their glances.

 

“--So they have her stabilized…that’s a relief.!”  Joe interrupted the discourse.  .

 

“How’d you find out--?” 

 

“Saw Rachel coming in.  She really seems to like it down here.  You know she’s getting married?”  Joe threw out to dissipate Kel’s guilt that Joe knew was the primary source of his tension at this point.

 

“That’s nice.”  He took a sip from his cup, barely comprehending what Joe had just said, still deep in thought. 

 

‘Still thinking’ about ol’ 5-2 in there on the table.”

 

“Yeah.  You know …she’s lucky to be alive?’”

 

‘Yep.”  Joe followed Kel’s line of thinking, and encouraged it.

 

‘She could have died and I’d have been off somewhere---I should here for her.’

 

‘You couldn’t have known--.”  He sighed turning to look at the scrubbed figure standing in the doorway holding his cap in his hand and Dixie’s chart in his hand.

 

‘Jack?”   Kel stood and turned toward the surgeon with slurry of thoughts rushing through his head one by one passing through his lips.  ‘ Can I see her?”

 

Jack waved him to sit back down.  ‘She’s doing’ okay.  We’ve stopped the bleeding…her hemoglobin is finally on the upswing…last one was…7.5 .   Anesthesia thinks they should be able to extubate her…but she’s spending the night in ICU.’

 

‘What’d you find--?”


Jack looked at Joe…then to Kel.  “A ruptured ectopic…”

 

‘Ruptured ectopic?!   You mean she’s---?”

 

‘Well, she was.”    

 

Kel looked at a not altogether surprised Dr. Joe.  Briefly a wave of sweet surprise blushed over his features, then sorrowful resignation. 

 

“We…uh…had to take the right ‘tube and ovary.   I don’t know what your chances of conceiving again are...we’ll just have to wait and see. I’m sorry Kel. ”  The surgeon humbly looked at the others there, then to Kel.   ‘ The good news is, barring anything unforeseen, Dixie should do well, and there were no other complications.”

 

‘Thanks Jack.”  He said blankly.  Overwhelmed by the flight of different thoughts rushing through his head, again the primary surfaced.  “I need to see her.’

 

“I know.  I’ll make sure Dean and Marty know you’re waiting here.’

 

‘Thanks again.”

 

‘Sure.”

 

 It was unusual to see this man in such disarray…but given the love he had for the woman who was struggling in the operating room right now, it wasn’t surprising.  Kel knew Dix would win this physical battle and the subsequent emotional one but became increasingly distraught that it was because of him that she ever had to engage into it at all... 

 

A ruptured ectopic pregnancy…there would have been nothing you could have changed about losing the pregnancy but….if only you had been there with her…maybe…?

 His mind fought against his imagination…what it  might have been like to hear ‘the news’ from Dixie…  It would’ve been nothing formal…just…special.  In fact, he would have probably suspected as much given her probable change in behavioral patterns and …  mood swings.  The topic would have probably surfaced when he arrived home late for a special dinner she had fought hard against noxious smells and stimulation to prepare.

‘Why?!!”  She blurted upon seeing him enter the kitchen..

Knowing the probable origin and apparent level of her frustration, Kel refrained from his usual urge to ravage her.  Simply sliding in behind her and slipping his arms around her waist he explained…”Dix …”  He calmed her. “That’s why I called… to let you know that I’d be held up. ‘

“Well dinner is a disaster, now!”  She braced both hands against the counter still holding a stirring stick.  Uncharacteristically, tears would begin to form and she might begin to sob…

“Why didn’t you say something?  I could’ve cancelled the meeting…?”

He felt her tense.  Releasing her from his embrace he glanced to the pots on the stove and curiously peered in them one by one…everything seemed okay, looked and smelled okay…but nothing was okay. In fact it hadn’t been for the past week or so.   She had been a wellspring of emotion, crying at the drop of …anything. Hmmm. 

‘I’m sorry that I have you walking on eggshells, Kel. “

‘It’s okay.’  Sensing there was little interest in the meal on her part, he reduced the heat on the burner and the oven, returned to her and held her.  “You haven’t been feeling well.”

She shook her head with a slight scowl, confirming his observation.  “Lousy. I have a lousy headache.”

‘Come on.  I don’t know that dinner has been ruined.  In fact, it looks great, but…I think it can wait.”  He suggested sensing the situation bore more than surface tension.   ‘ Let’s go sit down.”

She gave in to the gentle persuasion of his arm around her shoulder, as they walked out of the kitchen and over to the sofa.  ‘The air is a little fresher out here.’  Kel alluded to her discomfort with his usual charm.  She knew that he knew something was up but was waiting for her to inform him.  If she weren’t so miserable she would once again be enchanted.   

As many times as she had rehearsed in her mind this ‘moment of truth’ she was at a loss for words, even where to begin.  “Kel…’  His playful anticipation caused her to fall in love with him all over again right then and there.  Dixie shook her head.  ‘Kelly Brackett, I love  you.’

‘I love you too, Dixie McCall Brackett.”  He often teased her with that name even though when they were married she gladly took his last name to be hers, Kelly had always enjoyed her maiden name and used it affectionately--especially on occasions benefiting from a little added charm where her Irish temper might need smoothing.

 He smiled in eagerness. He too was falling in love again.  Here it comes…

 She knew this was taking too long but for some reason couldn’t find a logical place to begin…hormones! “How was work?”  Profound, Dix.  She smiled and rolled her eyes, congratulating herself.

 

His shoulders slumped in disappointment.  Forget it. Let me help…  He tenderly leaned over to lay his head on her shoulder and reached up guiding her chin to his, waiting for her bright blue eyes to sparkle down into his.  When they did, he softly asked. “Are we gonna have a baby?”

 

Dixie nodded in reserved but joyful affirmation.  To the best of her ability she fought against her quivering chin and spoke.  “I …think so, yes.” She bit her bottom lip and sniffed.

His smile widened, as he gently pulled her onto him with enthusiasm and smothered her with affectionate kisses. “I’m sorry, Dix. I got caught up in the excitement and forgot that you weren’t feeling well.’

“Me too.”  She beamed with a wet voice still sniffing.

He dabbed her tears with his handkerchief.

“Here.”  He stood. 

‘Kel what are you--?”

“Can I get you anything?”  He asked while pulling the ottoman around and gently placed her feet upon it.  Walking around to her neck and back he began to rub, enjoying the contact as much as the one receiving the massage.

Mmmm…, not right now.  Maybe later we can go to the grocery store and grab some tomato juice. “

‘Tomato juice?!’  He grimaced in surprise.

She nodded.  He nodded.

Oh you poor thing….  He reached down to kiss her cheek. 

“You know.”  The tension was lessening. She reached up to enjoy the firmness of these arms. ‘You don’t… have to baby me.”

He grinned.  ‘‘Maybe it’s not you I’m babying….”

 

A ruptured ectopic pregnancy….

 

“How come her hemoglobin dropped so far so fast …?’

 

‘My guess is. …and knowing your wife …I’d guess that Dixie’s been having discomfort for a long time…”  A few more details and reassurances were discussed. 

 

Joe interjected.  ‘I think she suspected something was up …she’s been increasingly edgy lately.   She was having pain…and  getting pretty pale…I was trying to get her to have Varnon take a look at her but…”

 

‘Why didn’t she say something to me?”   I should have been here…I could have picked this up sooner…maybe gotten her to an OB-gyn physician…

 

The answer was obvious.  She didn’t want to worry him.  They spend precious little time together on the phone, there were too many other ‘important things to talk about other than my aches and pains’.   He could hear her say.  Kel dropped his head humiliated.  ‘I …didn’t even realize that she was...that we were  pregnant…” 

 

‘Dix may not have either.”  Joe knew full well, Kel was headed into the realm of self-blame.  It was part of the controlling nature he hadn’t quite learned to contain.  “Look, Kel.  Don’t do this to yourself….there’s nothing you could have done about an ectopic pregnancy…even if you both were aware of her condition…the symptoms would be the same as a normal pregnancy… you know that.”   Although, the elder physician felt very strongly that Kel belonged at home and had expressed his thoughts on the matter to both on several occasions, this was neither the time nor place to chastise or express his feelings.  If necessary, Joe would pick-up the conversation at a later time in an attempt to perhaps persuade Kel to change his mind about Trauma Consultants.

 

‘I want to see her.” 

 

Jack nodded in agreement…’Just as soon as anesthesia gets her ready, they’ll bring her right by here…”  He pointed needlessly and reassured Kel.  “She’s  okay…and she’s gonna be okay……..are you?” 

 

Kel looked to Joe and John.  The same question seemed to come from them as well.  “Yeah…thanks Jack.”

 

“No problem.’  He waved on his way out the door.

 

Expelling an exhausted sigh, Kel plopped down again, allowing the leather couch to absorb his weight.   He wanted to keep an eye on the doorway.  

 

**

 

As they waited,  fatigue settled into his synapses allowing his thoughts to wander again ….

 

“….Marcus McCall Brackett…Mmmm. “I think I like it coming from your lips better.” He kissed them before crawling under the covers and rolling onto his bare belly, hugging his pillow.  Dixie laid her book over her ever protruding abdomen and placed her left hand over her other favorite baby’s bottom and patted it..

‘It has a nice ring to it….and if she’s a girl…we could call her Markie McCall Brackett…’  She marked her book, set it on the bedside stand and reached for the light switch.

“Markie…I like that.”  He propped his head and experimented.  “Markie…eat your vegetables.  Markie…clean your room!”

Dixie chimed in…”Markie…get off the phone…Markie Brackett…where have you been?!”  Dixie took a quick little gasp and placed both hands over her abdomen. Kel tuned his head in alarm. To his comfort she announced. “Judging from the amount of kicking going on, I’d say she’s either very excited or very rebellious.”

“Kicking?”  His eyes brightened.

“Yeah..here…feel.’  She took his hand and placed it over the activity. 

Kel beamed feeling the gentle knock and was for a moment speechless, having just been introduced to his daughter…or son.

“She’s not rebellious…just.. very Irish.” Kel informed Dixie very proudly.

 They laughed in contentment.  ‘Markie...’    hey..how ‘bout Kellie Marcus Brackett?”  She turned on her left side, propped her head with her elbow and rubbed her husband’s naked back.

“If it’s a girl or boy?’ His head fell naturally into the softness of the pillow, his hand still palpating the occasional tap. 

‘Could be either…we could still call him Markie…Marcus” 

“I think we should keep the name McCall that way we could call him Mac.”

“Mac Brackett?!”  Dixie grimaced.  Kel smiled.  “Must you be such …a cowboy?“  She kissed what she could reach of his hair.

 He felt her pull away. “Hey where are you going?”

‘To get some lotion …your skin’s dry.”

‘I’ll get it.  You two just relax.’  He slid from between the sheets and returned with the bottle.  ‘Markie…”

‘We don’t have to decide right now…we still have some time.” She unscrewed the lid and slathered a handful of rosy smelling lotion all over his back.

After it was rubbed in completely, Kel returned the kindness massaging her back gently with his firm hand.  ‘I’m glad you’re finally feeling better.’  He kissed her smiling cheek.

‘Yeah.  Me too.”

Markie…?  Mac…? Elsinor…?

 

**

Out of all the years in medicine there were the marathon call s with uphill finishes, there were red-eye flights…and then there was this…  He sat in her room with his feet propped on the wastebasket, waiting for her to awaken or sleep to come.  Doubtful either was going to happen any time soon.  She was stable but deathly pale.

 

“Go home, Kel.. shower and change…she won’t remember anything about tonight.  Come back fresh in the morning.” Joe encouraged. The voice of reason had spoken.

 

‘I can’t.”  Kel knew Joe was talking sensibly and was right but deep down he couldn’t justify leaving her…again. They had just suffered a loss—a baby-- together and he needed to be the one to tell her.  He crossed his feet and waited...and thought.

 

Both had a special place in their heart for children, but given their strong personalities, dedication to their careers, and stages in life, never considered themselves ‘parent material.’  Kel remembered discussions with his father, who would kid him about his son’s duty to provide him with grandchildren.  The words of Neal Brackett spoke to Kel’s objections as if he were standing right there in the hospital room….

 

‘You may not think you want or need or could love a child…”

“It’s not that, Dad, being a parent takes a special person.  I’m just not cut out to be—“

His father looked across the table from him, smiled and shook his head. ‘It doesn’t necessarily take a special person to be a parent, Kel.  God has a way of taking the most average person and turning them into the most nurturing individual….those same special people you were referring to,  were simply average and ordinary people who have been touched by the very special  experience of  a new life completely dependent upon them…its more than just a physical miracle…and I can’t explain it any better… whenever you hold your baby in your arms for the first time…or have your child run into your arms…something changes…something begins…well you just know….”

Know what?  Kel had always wondered. Now, he was beginning to understand that Neal Brackett wisely left the thought unfinished for Kel to later complete with his own response should he so chose.

 

Escorted by the riveting memory, Kel’s thoughts drifted between the realms of what had transpired the past twelve hours and what may have been, had he been …around…. the thoughts that had been blocked or blotted out before, now had found a pathway to the surface.

 

A ruptured ectopic pregnancy….you mean she’s….I didn’t even know she was pregnant…she was…pregnant...an ectopic  pregnancy…you mean she’s….pregnant?  She was… pregnant…

 

Finally.  After seven hours in Labor and Delivery Dixie’s labor had advanced to the stage of pushing. Kel had seen her sick.  He had seen her injured and he had been acquainted with the loneliness and fear of her absence.  But there was always an element of sharing the load.  He could comfort her, prescribe for her, make her feel better.  But not now.  This was a time when she had to do the work and bear the pain, for both of them.  Kel found the unfairness overly disarming, seeing her sweat and watching her confront the pain.

The pregnancy had reached the third trimester smoothly, until in the eighth month she developed mild pre-eclampsia which advanced to the point at which Dr. Byron George  made the decision to induce labor as soon as the baby was mature enough..

Joe had popped his head in from time to time for a reality check….for which everybody was grateful.

“Okay, okay.  Once more!’  The obstetrician assisted.

‘Okay, Dix…again!”  Kel encouraged, Dixie who breathed wearily and heavily in exhaustion.  She grabbed the wash cloth meant to cool her forehead, but now lukewarm, and  threw it somewhere.  “I think I’m pushing out a house1!  I don’t think I can--.’

‘C’mon Honey, you can do it..  You’re almost there. It’s almost over. On three…ready?’

“Okay , okay….”  She sighed once more praying for the strength to come to complete this seemingly endless task.  Kel watched her cheeks blush and her eyes close as she clenched his hands and focused her efforts. 

‘Good Dix…head’s out.  Another good  one Dix.” Coached Dr. George

She squeezed Kel’s hand again  and gave another push. 

“Ittttttt’s a girl…and by the sounds of things she’s very happy to be here …” Announced Dr. George.

‘You did it!”  Kel laughed and kissed her hand.

“We did it.”  Dixie reminded him as she gave a warm tired smile.

‘No…you did Honey.’  He grinned widely. ‘….and I’m so proud of you…”   He glanced over beneath the lighted hood of the warmer, seeing the occasional pink extremity reaching up behind a couple of admiring nurses busily cleaning, assessing and finger printing his new little girl.  “…of both of you…”

“Well, we couldn’t have done it without you.”  She placed a trembling warm hand to his cheek.

He grabbed it and kissed it.  We both know better, Dix…but thanks.  ‘I love you so much.”

“I love you too.”  She closed her eyes, as her head flopped back in the pillow, he kissed her on her forehead once more with lips wet with both Dixie’s sweat and his tears.

Sally happily placed the baby in Dixie’s arms…for the first few moments he couldn’t take his eyes off of Dixie’s loving expression…

“Oh look!’  She hoarsely cried.  ‘She’s beautiful, Kel.” He knew she would be a wonderful Mom.  By the looks of things, she knew it too. Her close inspection and coddling went beyond any learned technique. His wife was holding his baby. Briefly he placed his fore head on Dixie’s shoulder and offered a silent prayer of thanks for the love that opened the channel through which this new life entered and for the Hand that had planted her there and nudged her safely through the portal.  I owe you another one, God. For a healthy  family  He couldn’t close his eyes. 

He was in awe…

 ’Okay, it’s time you’ve said ‘hello’ to daddy…Daddy, it’s your turn.  It’s your turn, Kel….Kel?”   His arms were still a little shaky from both fatigue and excitement but he opened them eagerly, ready to accept the gentle wiggling weight of his new six pound twelve ounce little girl.

 

 ‘Kel’

 

  At last….

 

 

**

‘Kel?”   A feeble voice spoke above the monitors.

 

‘Hi.”    He startled awake and smiled as widely as his fatigue would permit. ‘Yeah,  I’m here...finally.”

 

He smiled.  She smiled.

 

‘You want some ice?’

 

“Please.”  She asked hoarsely in relief. 

 

“Are you having much pain.?

 

“I  …no, not really.’   She drew in a deep breath as Kel grabbed the cup of ice and a plastic spoon.

 

‘I told them not to bother y---“ 

 

 “Yeah, well lucky for you and me people don’t take orders from despondent nurses in excruciating pain.  Kel shoved a spoonful of ice into her mouth.

 

‘Mmmm.  Thank-you.”  She managed a bit of disapproval.  ‘I didn’t want to bother you for a silly –ow—appendix.”  She tried to sit up.

 

“Lie back.”  He held her shoulder and gently persuaded her back against the pillow.  ‘And… Doctor...your condition was the result of a little more than a simple ‘silly’ appendicitis.”

 

Her hand moved to her right side, expecting a minor incision.  Out of natural curiosity Kel lifted her gown to inspect the dressings.  “It was?”  She crunched. 

 

‘Yep.”   Kel grimaced against the mounting goose bumps, listening to her chew the ice.   A little fluid in the drains…to be expected.  Otherwise , clean and dry dressings…nothing out of the ordinary.  If I said 5.9, I wouldn’t be referring to the height you always wanted to be…’

 

“What are you getting at?”  She chomped as he spooned some more.

 

Anemic!  He sat the ice down on her stand,  and sat at her side facing her on the bed.  “That was Dixie McCall Brackett’s hemoglobin level upon leaving the emergency room.”

 

She let out a slight pain ridden breath.  “Really?”

 

‘Really.”

 

“Well if it wasn’t my appendix, then…”  What was it?

 

His hands moved to encompass hers , gently placing a kiss on them before he informed her.  ‘A ruptured ectopic pregnancy.”

 

Her jaw dropped partially in disbelief but not completely.  ‘You’re kidding.”

 

He shook his head.

 

“You mean we--”

 

“We sure did.”  He barely choked out the words, overcome with emotion that surprised Dixie and even himself.

 

Dixie was silent.  Her eyes widened as a slight smile tried to cross her lips…then a wave of disappointment as she began to fully contemplate what just happened.  After a few silent moments, Dixie’s dehydrated body managed tears.  “Wow.”  She bit her lips.

 

Kel nodded and echoed her sentiments.  ‘Yeah…. Wow.”  His eyes sparkled with reassurance, then closed while he placed his head briefly on her shoulder and offered up a brief prayer of thanks.  I owe you another one Godfor giving Dixie back to me….for my healthy family.  Feeling her hand squeeze his, Kel lifted his face and leaned over to kiss her cool dry forehead, his lips wet with his own tears.  ‘Unfortunately he had to take your right fallopian tube and ovary…just cut our chances of conception in half…’

 

Dixie shrugged, grimaced but recovered a smile.  ‘Guess that means we’ll just have to ‘try’ twice as hard?’

 

‘Mmmm.”   Kel bit his lip and nodded in agreement.  “Sounds like a logical deduction.”  A few silent moments passed.

 

“What?”  Dixie asked.

 

‘You suspected you were pregnant didn’t you?”

 

She nodded becoming increasingly lucid.

 

‘Dix--Honey, why didn’t you say something?  Please don’t say you didn’t want to worry me.”

 

‘I couldn’t see worrying you about something that I wasn’t sure of myself.  Besides….I wanted it to see your face when I told you…to maybe make you dinner and … for it to be special for you…”   She held the words in her mouth but they were too heavy to withhold.

 “Kel, I …  I’m sorry.”

 

He closed his eyes, choking out the words.  “No., Dix.  I’m the one who’s sorry …for not being here when you needed me most…for not being around period.”   He kissed her fingers and shook his head.  “ I married you because I wanted to spend more time with you…not away from you.”

 

‘Sh.Sh.Sh. .. I know.”  She reached with her hand to touch his cheek.  He took it and kissed it.

 

“I gave Trauma Consultants my notice this morning.  I’m taking as long as it takes to get you on your feet again—‘

 

“Kel  I….’

 

“And then…I’ll finish out the rest of my six weeks.  That’ll give them plenty of time to find somebody….and. maybe come back to Rampart…where I can keep my eye on a certain ER nurse.”

 

“But why…?”

 

‘Because…”     If ever you even guess that we’re pregnant again…I want to be there from the first mood swing. ‘ Because  I love you and, if it’s okay with you, I’d like us to spend the rest of our lives together.” 

 

Dixie smiled radiantly above the pain in approval.  Yes, Doctor.  You have my permission.

 

                                                                                                  The End!

 

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