Time was Dr. Joe Aker's worst enemy lately. It seemed every day had been difficult this week, but today had been particularly cruel. He'd kept his next patient waiting in the exam room for nearly two hours, the longest of all. He read the name on the manila folder, tucked in the chart cradle on the wall…
With a slight shake of the head, he took the chart and thumbed it open, wondering why she'd come in for a checkup when Dr. Graham had been handling her case since her release from the hospital several months ago.
Pregnancy. LMP. 8/01/87.
Pregnancy? Joe frowned. The information couldn't be right. Dr. Graham should've told her that her body needed a year to recover from the shooting. Her right lung especially needed time to heal. All sorts of questions rattled through Joe's mind, questions that doctors didn't usually ask. But Julie was a special case. He'd been friends with her since med-school. He'd even taken her on a couple of dates, before Steve Maitland snatched her away.
Steve can't be the baby's father. Why would she go back to Steve?
He turned the exam room's door handle and gave it a shove. There sat Julie, clothed in a mint green gown, that gorgeous blonde hair of hers cascading over her shoulders. She no longer looked weak and fragile like the woman he'd discharged from the hospital in late June. She was beautiful, full of color and life, and not just her own life.
Joe closed the door behind himself and gave her a onceover, muttering. "I think I have the wrong patient's chart. It says here that you're expecting."
Julie smiled. "No, that's mine."
He laid the chart on the little shelf protruding from the wall then sat on a rolling stool.
"Is Dr. Graham aware of your… condition?"
"I haven't been to see him in a while," she confessed. "I feel fine. I mean other than the morning sickness. And I really didn't intend to make this appointment this early. I would've waited until my twelfth week like patients normally do, except Donovan's overly concerned."
"Donovan?" His being responsible for Julie's condition brought feelings of shock and relief.
"Yes, we're back together."
Joe looked at the chart and did the calculation in his head again. She was ten and a half weeks along, and not showing in the least. He opened a drawer under the ledge, pulled out a colorful paper wheel chart which calculated pregnancy due dates.
"I'm due May the 8th," Julie said before he lined up the numbers correctly.
"Let me do my job, lady." The numbers reflected what she'd stated and Joe wrote them down. "This pregnancy was unplanned, correct?"
Julie shrugged her shoulders. "I'm not concerned about that, neither is Donovan. We're both a little concerned because I miscarried before. I mean—"
"We never determined what caused that, did we?"
She shook her head again.
"How far did you make it when that happened?"
"A couple months. It could've had to do with the toxin I was working with at the time." She smoothed her hair away from her eyes.
"Are you working now?"
She gave a semi-nod. "As much as I can cope with the nausea. I discovered I'm a better biochemist in the afternoon than in the morning."
Morning sickness shouldn't be your only concern, Joe thought removing the stethoscope from his neck. "I'm a little concerned about your timing. If you and Donovan would've waited a year, given yourself adequate time to recover from your injury. Carrying a child to term will put an awful strain on your lung."
"I feel fine."
He held the steth to her chest. "Deep breath." He repeated the gesture several times, listening to the difference between the left and the right lung, and noted that the right lung didn't sound as though it were filling to capacity. Scar tissue, he reminded himself and noted if it weren't for her delicate condition, he'd want to see an x-ray to determine exactly how much healing took place these past four and a half months, and how much remained.
"Your breathing's still a little shallow on the right side." He placed the stethoscope on her back and listened carefully. The results were more of the same.
When he stepped around to face Julie again she had a look of annoyance on her face.
"I'd like to know how my child is doing. That's why I came. Remember?"
"I'm sorry. I just need to know you're in peak condition to handle the next seven and a half months or so. That's what you and Donovan should be concerned with."
"Then there's no risk of miscarriage? I mean I am almost 12 weeks. The risk subsides, by the second trimester. Doesn't it?"
"Yes and we can order an ultrasound to be certain. But I am most concerned about your physical well-being. I can't say that you carrying this baby to term is a decision that should be taken lightly."
She glared at him. "Well, I'm not having an abortion, if that's what you're implying!"
"It should be considered, Julie, for your own sake. You and Donovan can try again next year, when I'm certain you've had sufficient time to recuperate from your injury."
He watched her eyes fill with tears and her mouth twist with anger as she said, "There's nothing wrong with this baby. I'm not having an abortion."
"Then I strongly recommend you find an OBGYN who specializes in high risk pregnancies. Do you know Dr. Kaylee Straussberg? She's in the Med Center complex with Dr. Graham." He handed her a tissue to wipe her eyes.
"I'll have my secretary set you up an appointment for next month. I'll examine you in the meantime; make sure everything seems normal with the baby." He propped up the head area of the exam table. "I'll need you to lie back."