Disclaimer: This story was written for enjoyment only. I don't own anything related to the ER television series.
Author's Note: This is my take on what might have happened in "The Lost." between the time they found Luka until the time when Carter sends him home on the medical transport plane.
"Is he alive?" Gillian's urgent voice called out from behind him in the dark, dank shelter as he leaned over the prostrate form of his missing friend.
Carter's two fingers pressed against the dry skin of Luka's throat. The warmth of his flesh providing him with an answer, though he dared yet to believe in the reliability of the thready pulse that coursed beneath his finger tips.
Gillian's anxious voice sounded once again breaking into his utter disbelief. "Is he alive?"
"Ah . . . God!" Carter muttered tightly as he quickly moved his hand away from Luka's throat to roll his friend onto his back and further access his condition.
"John?" Gillian questioned unable to keep away the emotion that choked her voice.
"Yes! Yes!" Carter responded in irritated urgency as he continued his cursory examination of the Croatian doctor before turning stunned eyes toward Gillian and shouting. "The bag, Gillian! Get the medical bag from the truck!"
Carter didn't need to repeat this request a second time as the French Canadian nurse rushed out of the makeshift quarters surrounding them to retrieve the medical supplies Carter needed.
Staring down once again in utter disbelief at his unmoving friend, tears began to well in Carter's eyes for here before him lay Luka Kovac, the man he had believed dead, the friend, whom he had traveled half way around the world for to retrieve his remains. But he was alive! Luka was alive, though right now he was in a pretty sorry state.
As Carter's mind went over these astonishing facts, another voice broke into his brief revery.
Carter turned to find the young rebel fighter, who had accompanied them back on this journey from the ruins of the school after they made their grizzly discovery that Luka was not among the littered dead left there to rot . He seemed to be inquiring now about the supposed priest's condition.
"Le pretre?" The young man asked again.
Carter stared wordlessly at the young soldier as his eyes moved toward the deadly weapon he still held within his arms. Turning dazed eyes back toward his face, Carter did his best to convey that the priest, Luka, still lived. His efforts proved useless as the boy before him looked on in total confusion until another voice within the dwelling spoke up in French to address the rebel.
Carter's gaze shifted to take in Chance's mother as she conversed with the young man before him, her fluent words unrecognizable to the doctor from Chicago but their tone clearly unmistakable as she started out in explanation before turning to words of admonishment while allowing her anger to take full rein as if in no fear of the weapon he still carried with him. Carter's heart began to pound quickly within his chest at a rate rapid enough to almost rival Luka's, while he stood in witness of the scene playing out in front of him, until the young rebel began to back away from the caustic words uttered against him, before turning aside and deciding to take leave of the enclosure surrounding them. Carter watched his reluctant departure before turning relieved eyes back toward the resilient woman now in front of him.
"Thank you . . . " He muttered briefly until the woman's increased concern spurred his attentions to return back to the ailing doctor beside him.
"Doctor?" Chance's mother's questioned, her dark eyes betraying the growing worry she felt toward the man, who had risked his own life to save her daughter's.
"He's alive!" Carter answered, though his words went misunderstood by the woman in front of him. "He lives!" Carter persisted as growing frustration at the missed communication between them continued until at last he moved his hands toward Luka as if to signal in primitive sign language what he was trying to so desperately convey. His efforts proved unnecessary as Gillian rushed back into their shelter with Debbie quickly upon her heels carrying the medical supplies he had sought.
Whisking the bag away from her, Carter rummaged through its contents immediately retrieving the stethoscope and blood pressure cuff before turning back to take Luka's vitals. Instantly he ignored any outward distraction, while he began to work over his ill friend as he listened to Luka's heart and lungs before moving to measure his pressure. As he continued to check over Luka, he called out his findings to those around him as if he was back at County running a case and surrounded by a team of welcome professionals.
"He's tachy and hypotensive. BP 90 over 60," He finished as his hand released the bulb allowing the cuff to dangle from Luka's arm while his focus shifted toward the young doctor's face to briefly note the bruises and contusions as he used his forefinger and thumb to check the doctor's pupils before resting his palm against the Croatian's fevered brow. "His eyes are sunken . . . his skin tight . . . dehydration . . . " Carter confirmed. "He's definitely feverish and his temp seems to be rising which could account for his unconscious state." Moving his hands down toward his patient's torso, Carter began to palpate Luka's abdomen as he turned his attention once again back toward Gillian beside him. Motioning with his head toward Chance's mother, he demanded. "Ask her how long he's been like this! What his symptoms have been . . . "
Gillian immediately turned to the woman beside her and translated what Carter had bidden. As the two women conversed in French, Carter ascertained that both Luka's spleen and liver were enlarged. He'd need to wait until they moved the young doctor out from these darkened confines to the light of day to ascertain if his eyes and skin appeared jaundiced. Gillian's voice cut into his thoughts.
"He's been sick for a few weeks . . . Fever, chills, nausea, diarrhea . . . She said they've been here for almost two . . . There's been little food, but when clean water was available, she's tried to get him to drink some, though at times he had trouble keeping it down."
Quickly assimilating her words, Carter only questioned anxiously. "When was he last conscious?" Not speaking any further as he moved his stethoscope to listen once again to Luka's breath sounds effectively blocking out the distraction of Gillian's translations as he completed his task.
"His lungs sound fairly clear." He commented to no one in particular before Gillian interrupted his thoughts once again as she replied desperately.
"She can't be sure . . . a day . . . a day and half, but when he was last conscious he was disoriented...not aware of his current surroundings."
"We need to get him out of here!" Carter bit out. "We need to do blood work . . . run tests . . . "
"We will, John!" Gillian answered "When we get him back to Kisangani!"
"We need to get him out of here now!" Carter insisted as the possibilities of liver or renal failure plagued his mind, while he quickly began packing up the medical equipment he had just been using.
"What are you suggesting?" Debbie, who up till now had remained a silent observer, spoke out.
Turning distracted eyes toward the blonde Red Cross worker, Carter repeated emphatically. "That we need to get him out of here now! He needs meds! He needs IV fluids!"
"He'll get them in Kisangani, John." Gillian supplied.
"Which is why he needs to leave now!" Carter insisted.
"Listen, John . . . " Debbie began. "We'll get your friend back to Kisangani as soon as possible, but we can't just up and leave with him now . . . there are others still in need of our assistance. I can't take the truck back with just one patient, no matter how serious your friend's condition is!"
Carter turned opposing eyes toward their driver as if to argue his point, but she did not back down or allow him a turn to speak as she adamantly continued on. "Look around you! Dr. Kovac is not the only one suffering! This is not the States, John! I'm sorry, but we can't offer preferential treatment! We're taking back the ones in the most need . . . as many as we can fit . . . your friend included!"
Moving frustrated brown eyes to take in the sight of an ailing Chance and her mother before moving them to fully observe the proof of the devastation surrounding them through the open flap of their enclosure, Carter admitted that he had no right to argue his point. Looking toward Gillian, he handed her the stethoscope that only moments before had hung around his neck and stated quietly. "Stay with him. Keep a check on his vitals as I help Debbie triage and load the others. If there is any change . . . if he starts to deteriorate any further come and get me!"
"Yes, John," Gillian had barely time to answer, while she watched the departing back of the American doctor as he quickly followed Debbie out of the structure housing them to offer his aid to the others in need. Finally allowing herself a moment to show her emotions, the young nurse turned toward the man beside her, whom she had so recently come to care for. "Luka . . . " She uttered as she moved a hand forward to gently caress his stubble- ridden cheek before easing it upward to brush back his now filthy hair. "Luka . . . " She breathed again.
It was nearly two hours later before Carter found himself in the back of Debbie's truck filled chocker block with patients on their way back to the clinic in Kisangani. His eyes moved to take in the obvious suffering of those surrounding him, so many of their faces listless, devoid of any hope. Shifting his gaze further, he encountered Chance cradled within her mother's arms as the two rode together on this last length of their journey. The young girl's mother returned the doctor's searching stare and her brief statement took him by surprise as she repeated words back to him that he had spoken to her only hours before.
"Thank you." She uttered while gazing down at her now recovering daughter.
Carter was speechless and believing that the young American doctor had not heard her, she reiterated them once again. "Thank you."
Carter's dark, enigmatic eyes met with those of the Congonese mother briefly, a slight smile trembling upon his lips in acknowledgment before he diverted his brooding gaze toward his ill friend. Luka lay with his head upon Gillian's lap. He was still unconscious. His condition changing precious little since they first found him only hours prior, except when the glaring light of the African sun revealed the proof needed to indicate that Luka was indeed jaundiced as Carter had earlier suspected. Carter looked on as Gillian continued to stroke the fevered man's brow and hair while she spoke gentle words of encouragement to the incognizant doctor. Though thankful that he had found Luka alive, he could not let go of the sense of urgency that dwelled within the pit of his stomach over the state of Kovac's continued deteriorating health.
Their arrival in Kisangani was marked with chaos as members of the Alliance of Medicine met the approaching truck and began to unload the many ailing occupants. Carter's and Gillian's attendance among the crowd was barely noticed by the overworked staff until the two struggled together to load Luka's supine form onto one of the awaiting stretchers. Charles, who had been helping to clear others from the truck's bed, halted his actions momentarily, while he uttered. "Kovac . . . but he was killed?"
"No, no!" Gillian affirmed as the man moved to assist Carter with Luka's weight. "He is alive! It was a mistake!" Immediately Luka was ushered along with the others into the clinic before them.
Angelique instantly looked up from the patient she was working over to take in the sight of this most recent influx of casualties. Noting Carter and Gillian among their ranks she was about to speak up when she was interrupted by the sight of Luka upon the stretcher between Charles and John. Registering her confusion, Carter called out to inform those surrounding him. "He's alive! It wasn't his body among the dead. It was someone else. We found him at a refuge camp many miles away. He's in bad shape! High fever, dehydration . . . I'll need to run tests."
Quickly overcoming her momentary astonishment, Angelique was already refocused upon the patient she was working over and she hurriedly called over her shoulder that the scope, slides, hypos and syringes were all where they had left them only days prior.
Carter's own disbelief was brief as he suddenly realized that he, himself, would be responsible for the tasks of many back at County General, while he and Charles transferred Luka's inert form onto an awaiting gurney before he rushed toward the room that held the equipment he would be using.
An hour later, Carter rubbed weary eyes as he stared once again through the lense at the slide he had prepared. He was not familiar with malaria and he had asked Angelique to confirm his diagnosis. Not wanting to be difficult, but tied up herself with other patients, the Indian doctor informed Carter that she'd get to it as soon as time allowed her. Finally finding a moment to spare, she approached the increasingly frustrated doctor, brushing him aside as she spent the few precious seconds needed to make her diagnosis.
"Well the good news is that it's malaria . . . " She began.
Carter stared back at her, incredulous of her glib reply. "Good news?" He countered.
"Yes," Angelique confirmed as she readied to return to the patients awaiting her assistance. "It's P. vivax, the uncomplicated strain, not P. falciparum. Start him on an IV with quinine."
"Shouldn't we be using pyrimethamine-sulphadoxine or mefloquine instead?" Carter inquired warily.
"Sheesh, John!" Angelique replied hastily unable to contain either her frustration or disbelief at his analysis. " Do you think we keep drugs like that in stock here? They're considerably more expensive than the routine treatment. This is not your State side hospital, Dr. Carter."
Not allowing his disapproval or his reluctance to show, John replied. "Yes, but what about resistance?...I've read that can be quite common with the standard drug treatment."
"We'll tackle that problem if it arises, Dr. Carter." Angelique countered. "Don't go borrowing trouble, John. You'll find plenty of it afoot on your own here."
"Still I'm worried about his liver function and his renal output, not to mention his blood count is low and the strain dehydration has placed upon him."
"Don't go borrowing trouble, John." Angelique reiterated before motioning toward the med cabinet. "You'll find what you need in there." Noting her fellow doctor's frustration, she finished with. "John, it's not that I don't care about Luka's plight. I want to see him get better just like the rest of you, but he's one of many that I'll be treating this night . . . this week. We do what we can, John, with what we have available."
"But what if it's not enough?" Carter argued.
"Then we lose them," Angelique stated briefly, before finishing with. "But we save the lives of those we can."
"That's not good enough!" Carter shouted. "I haven't gone through the hell of finding him only to lose him again! It's just not good enough, Angelique!"
"I'm sorry, John." Angelique retorted contritely. "But it's the best that we can do here . . . I have patients waiting." And turning, the dark-haired doctor headed back toward the direction from which she came.
"Any change?" Carter asked as he drew alongside Gillian, who kept a quiet vigil beside Luka's bed. After starting Luka on an IV of quinine along with replacing his one of saline, the American doctor had left his friend in the Canadian nurse's care while he aided the other patients in want of medical attention. Finally finding a moment to return to Kovac's side, he was relieved to find Luka showing some signs of improvement and that Gillian had used some of this time alone with him to clean the ailing doctor up some.
"No . . . " Gillian answered. "Though he seems to be resting more comfortably."
"I guess we can't ask for more than that . . . " Carter began while rubbing bleary, blood shot eyes, before dragging a weary hand through his disheveled hair.
"Any improvement in his renal output?"
"Minimal." Gillian responded while trying to stifle a yawn.
Carter tried to school the worried look that took hold of his features. Sufficient time had not elapsed to rule out renal failure. What was it that Angelique had said? 'They'd have to wait and see. Don't go borrowing trouble.' Frustration caused Carter to curl his hands into fists at his side as his thoughts moved back toward home where such a wait would not prove to be so crucial. Turning his thoughts back to Gillian, he noticed the nurse's increased weariness.
"If you don't mind staying with him a little while further, I'll be back to relieve you shortly."
"I don't mind," The Canadian nurse responded as her hand moved up to brush back the fall of Luka's hair from his forehead.
"No, of course not," Carter whispered to himself as he turned and moved off with more determination.
Hours later, Carter stirred awake on the metal folding chair he sat upon next to Luka's bed. Stretching his back, the young doctor tried to work loose a kink that had settled in his neck and left shoulder from the awkward position he had assumed. Checking his watch, he was surprised to find the hour nearly approaching dawn. A dim light illuminated the ward that Luka was now settled in. Every so often the groan from a nearby patient filled the air around him. Trying once again to find a more comfortable position, Carter finally resigned himself to the fact that a return to much needed rest would probably prove elusive to him. Shifting once again uncomfortably upon the hard metal of the chair beneath him, Carter's weary eyes took in the area surrounding him. He was surprised when his gaze alighted on a book resting upon the metal cabinet beside Luka's bed. Reaching toward it and turning over the cover, he was stunned to find it was none other than a copy of Gideon's Bible that filled so many night stands in hotel rooms back at home. A slightly amused smile filtered across his features as his thoughts turned toward the oxymoron of the location of such a Text in such a God forsaken area. Despair plagued the people of this nation riddled by civil war. Death and destruction were their constant companions as people... children died daily from its violence, malnourishment and disease long thought to be eradicated back in his homeland. How contrarious it was to find this Book that offered the promise of everlasting peace and hope amidst a land devoid of such sentiments.
Without thinking, Carter drew the book further toward himself and began flipping through its whisper thin pages. He, himself, had been a stranger of recent to its words. He had been raised as many other privileged boys of his time attending Sunday services with his grandparents, but as he reached adulthood, he found himself an infrequent visitor to the house of the Lord. Mindlessly he continued to turn the pages before him until he came upon the Gospel of Luke . . . not seeking out any passage in particular his eyes were suddenly drawn to the once familiar parable of the prodigal son. As his tired eyes moved over the small print, he was suddenly reacquainted with its ageless text until at last he finished the final paragraph.
///His father said to him, 'Look dear son, you and I are very close, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found.///*
Carter found his throat choking with emotion, while his mind recounted the once familiar words as he equated them to the situation now before him. His brief revery was suddenly disrupted by another low moan that filled the air beside him, this one more vocal in its closeness. Turning tired eyes toward the bed beside him, Carter was rewarded with the sight of his fellow doctor stirring awake below him.
"Luka?" He called out quietly.
"Carter?" The dark-haired doctor croaked, his voice no stronger than a harsh whisper. "Where am I?" The disoriented man continued. "Did I fall asleep? Weaver will most surely have my hide . . . I should be getting back to my shift."
Carter could not contain the smile that played upon his lips, while he looked back at his struggling friend beside him as he placed a restraining hand upon his shoulder before responding.
"No, Luka, rest . . . You've completed your shift." He acknowledged.
"But my patients . . . I haven't signed off on the board."
"I'll cover for you." Carter responded. "I'll cover for you, Luka."
"Thank you . . . " The Croatian doctor retorted appreciatively as his eyes began to drift back shut. "I don't know what's wrong with me . . . I'm just so tired . . . Guess I've been putting in too many shifts . . . Wake me if you need the room, Carter," Luka finished before falling back to sleep.
"Will do . . . " Carter smirked as he watched the once again slumbering man before him . . . "Will do my friend . . . " He responded.
"Debbie . . . " Carter called out to the Red Cross worker busily hauling supplies into her truck.
Turning as she heard her name called out, the blonde woman smiled as she began to walk toward the dark-haired doctor and responded. "What can I do for you, Ritchie Rich?"
"I need to ask a favor . . . " Carter answered.
"Anything within reason . . . " Debbie glibly replied.
"I need a ride to and from the air field."
"Air field?" Debbie questioned
"Yeah," Carter replied. I've commissioned a plane to take Luka back to the States."
"Expensive!" Debbie's bright eyes grew large as if to emphasize her words.
"Yeah . . . well I needed to do something with the pocket change I've been carrying around here lately, and since you've informed me it's impolite to go around bribing the public at large, I thought what better way to spend the cash than to hire a medical transport to bring Luka back to the States."
"But you said to transport you to and from the air field . . . Aren't you going home with him?"
"Nah!" Carter answered before continuing on in explanation. "I overheard Angelique talking. With Luka out of commission, it might take them weeks to find another doctor to replace him . . . "
"But you've done your stint here, rich boy..."
"Yeah . . . but I've re-upped . . ." Carter smiled. " Told Luka I'd cover for him . . . Felt it was the least I could do."
"Least?" Debbie questioned . . . "That's saying a lot especially for a hell hole like this . . . "
"Yeah . . . The Congo definitely can't boast being a tropical paradise . . . but I'm needed here . . . It's good to feel useful . . . to save lives . . . even if many are still lost . . . I can make a difference here . . . I think Luka knew that . . . that's why he stayed so long... well beyond the time he agreed to . . . He found something here . . . I think I have too."
"Well okay then Ritchie Rich . . . just let me know the time and the place . . . and I'll be happy to chauffeur you about. It's too bad though that you have such weird tastes in music . . . Or this could have been the start of a very beautiful friendship . . . "
"Sure . . . " Carter smiled as he watched the young Red Cross worker turn around and head back toward her truck. "Sure..." He chucked once again to himself, before turning too and heading back toward the clinic from which he had came to make ready his plans for the future."
Author's note: *The Bible passage used for this story is from Luke 15: 31-32, The Parable of the Prodigal Son, from the New Living Translation Holy Bible. Please excuse any discrepancies in either medical information or foreign translations included within the story's text. I am not an expert in either field. Thank you for reading my story. It will probably be my one and only ER fan fic unless some other storyline from this season spurs me on to write one again. :) I was very moved by both season 9's "Kinsangani" episode and season 10's "The Lost" episode....hence this fan fic. :)