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Chapter 9: Roy, Part 2

Doc Brackett and I walked the short distance from his office back to Treatment 3. I wanted to see Johnny, but I knew I just really couldn't handle seeing him in pain any more than I already had. I knew my limits, and I'd reached them. I hesitated at the door.

"Doc?"

Brackett looked inquiringly at me.

"Can you do me a favor? If the ortho guy isn't gonna knock him out to set his leg, can you get me outta there?" I felt like a wimp and a jerk for asking that, but I just couldn't do it. Not after putting Johnny through splinting his leg, not after the ambulance trip. No more.

"Yeah, Roy. I'll kick you out. That's a promise." Brackett smiled and opened the door.

"All right if we come in, Geoff?" he asked the orthopod. "Roy, this is Dr. Henry, the orthopedist."

"Sure, I'm just looking at the pictures now," said the orthopedist. "Okay, so you must be the partner," he said, eyeing my turnout gear.

"Yeah, tha's him arigh" slurred Johnny, hoarsely. "'s my buddy. 'sup, Roy?"

"Hey, Junior." I didn't really know what to say. "You doing better?"

"Oh, yah, loss ber. Loss." He pointed at Brackett. "He gamey morphine. Lossa morphine." He stared into space, eyes glazed.

"How much did you give him?" I whispered to Brackett.

"Only ten milligrams, but it looks like it hit him pretty hard."

"I'll say." I wandered over to where the orthopedist was looking at the x-rays.

"Okay, did you do the splinting here. Mr., ah..."

"DeSoto, Roy DeSoto," I filled in for him. I had a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach. Did I screw that up too? "Yeah, I did," I admitted. "Is it okay?"

"Well, it's not just okay. Your splint job was, well, beyond perfect. See here," he pointed to a spot on the x-ray, "at the distal edge of the fracture? By supporting underneath there with the sandbags the way you did, you prevented any movement that might've let that end of the bone come out too."

Needless to say, I was greatly relieved by his pronouncement. "Thanks, Doc, that's a load off." I glanced over at Johnny, who was winning the staring contest with the ceiling. "So, uh, what now?" Not very intelligent, but he got the point.

"Well, I would like to try to avoid surgery and hardware, so I'm going to reduce it, put on a temporary cast with some mild traction, and see how it is after a couple of days," he said, still looking at the x-rays.

I paused, wondering how to phrase this. "Um, will you be able to make him, uh, comfortable, when you do that?"

"Oh, good heavens, I wouldn't do that when he was awake! I'll sedate him heavily – for all intents and purposes, he'll be unaware of what's going on, okay?"

I felt like the weight of Engine 51 had been lifted from my shoulders. "Okay," I agreed. I went back over to Johnny.

"Oh, hey, Roy! When'd you ge' here? Ya know wha'?"

"What, partner?"

"My leg is broke." Man, he was really out of it.

"Yeah, it is, Johnny. I was there, remember? I brought you in in the ambulance."

"No, don' member nuthin'." His eyes looked through me for a moment, then focused again. "Oh, no, I saida bad word, din' I," he said in dismay. "Sorry, man, sorry." He disappeared again for a couple of seconds. "Lotta cussin'. Sorry."

"Yeah, well, quit apologizing, all right?" Though it was the understatement of the century. "Your only job now is to heal up."

He laughed. "Yer gonna ge' Brice!"

I groaned inwardly. He was probably right.

"Well, let's cross that bridge when we come to it, all right?" But he was probably right.

Doctor Henry came back over from the light boxes on the far side of the room.

"Mr. Gage?"

Johnny was still chuckling to himself. "Who, me?" he pointed to himself.

"Mr. Gage, we're going to set that leg now. I will be sedating you heavily for this procedure, so you shouldn't be aware of what's going on, and you won't remember anything. Would you like me to explain how this will work?"

Johnny waved him off. "Naw, seen it, jus' do it. Geddit over wih."

"Okay. I'll be giving you diazepam, which will sedate you and relax your muscles, to make it easier to get the ends of the bones where they belong. You should be a lot more comfortable after the bones are set."

"Tha's good. Goddam leg fuckin' hurss." He looked my way, and covered his mouth. "Oopssorrypal."

"Mr. DeSoto, would you care to assist me and Dr. Brackett? We could use another set of hands."

I must've turned an interesting shade, 'cause Brackett rescued me. "Geoff, I think Roy's had enough for today. I'll grab some orderlies – Saunders and Jensen oughta be about right."

Whew. I was relieved – even though Johnny would be out cold, I just didn't think I wanted to be there.

"Waitaminnit," complained Johnny, "you can't kickim ou', 'm too scared!"

"It's all right, Johnny, I'll stay till you're out, how 'bout that."

"Thassokay." He suddenly looked like he had an important thought. "Uh-oh, Roy, bucket!"

I grabbed a basin just in time.

"Shih."

I got him some water to rinse his mouth out.

Johnny was quiet while the orthopod and the nurse got the equipment and supplies ready, but then he piped up again.

"Roy, don' fergeh Dissie's party." He frowned. "I'm gon' be late."

The party. Well, I had forgotten it. Wasn't exactly foremost in my mind. I'd have to see if I could foist it off on 10s, or 8s – I really wasn't in the mood.

"No, Johnny, I won't forget. Dixie'll have her party."

"'kay, buh don' teller. Sprise!" He closed his eyes for just a minute – probably dozed off – but then, just as suddenly, he was back again. "Roy, you pull me outta there?"

"No, Cap and Marco did."

"Oh. Tell 'em thangz." He faded out again, then back in. "Scared, Roy. Don' go."

"I won't."

Doc Henry was ready. Two burly orderlies had been summoned by the nurse. "Mr. Gage, I'm going to give you something that's going to make you very sleepy. Don't fight it, okay? In an hour or so you'll wake up, and you'll have a cast on that leg, and you'll be feeling a lot better, okay?"

"Ever ya say, doc. Le's jus' do it." He closed his eyes as the diazepam came on board, and they stayed closed.

"Mr. Gage?" asked the Doc, a minute or so later. "I think he's out; Mr. DeSoto, why don't you try."

"Johnny?" Nothing. "ROLL CALL!" Still nothing. I turned to the Doc. "Yep, he's out."

The nurse, who'd appeared along with the orderlies, checked his vitals. "Pulse 55, BP 110/65, respirations 8."

I frowned. He was really down deep.

"Okay, that's uh, a bit deeper than I was going for," said Dr. Henry. "I don't like this so much. Nurse, intubate, and get him on a vent for now. We'll take it out as soon as he starts to fight it."

"Uh, doc, I'm gonna wait outside for this part. Can you let me know when you're done?" I wasn't normally squeamish – you can't be, in my job – but I just really didn't want to hear the sounds that bones make when they're being set. Not when they're the bones of someone I know.

"Geoff, if you don't need me, I'll head out too," said Brackett. Was he getting freaked out too?

"Okay, Kel. I'll look for you, Mr. DeSoto, when we're done here."

"Thanks, Doc. I'll be around." The two of us left Johnny in the hands of Dr. Henry – and two huge orderlies – and headed back into the hallway.

"Hm," said Brackett, "I'll make a note in his chart that depressant drugs seem to hit him awfully hard."

"I guess maybe that's why he doesn't hardly drink at all," I replied. "But I also wouldn't be surprised if they wear off fast, too – I mean, look how he eats." It was unbelievable, really, how he could plow through a huge meal, then claim to be starved two hours later.

"Well, we'll keep an eye on him." said Brackett. "But, for now, I'd better get back to work. And you, Roy, you should find the couch in the staff lounge and take a real break."

So I did. I didn't even bother with my turnout coat – just lay down on the couch, and as soon as my eyes were closed, I was asleep.


It seemed like only seconds later when someone was shaking my shoulder. "Roy? Roy, wake up, man."

For a minute I couldn't figure out where I was; then it all came back in a rush. "Chet, what's going on? Any news on Johnny?"

"Well, seein' as how I just got here, I was hopin' you could tell me. I just brought the squad in; the other guys are on their way."

"Huh, did we get stood down?"

"Yeah, Riley stood us down when Johnny got hurt – didn't you know?"

It hadn't really occurred to me. I guess I was thinking about other things. But not about IV's, apparently. And then I remembered my promise to Johnny – the party.

"Chet, I promised Johnny – we have to make sure that party still happens."

"Relax, friend; Chester B. Kelly is on top of things. I called Pete from B-shift as soon as I got here, and they're on it. He's rounding up the guys to come over here right now. So don't worry about a thing." He paused. "Or are there things we should be worrying about? You're looking dire, DeSoto, and I don't like it. Spit it out – what's up with Gage?"

I sighed heavily. I didn't really want to confide in Chet. Not that I had anything against him; it was just that he could be a bit, well, insensitive at times. "He was pretty loopy when I saw him – real doped up. It's pretty bad, but the ortho doc thinks he won't have to do surgery. They're setting his leg right now – or they were, when I came in here."

"Ah, so that's why you're in here. I would wanna miss that show, too." Chet shuddered violently.

"Well, they knocked him out pretty good – I still couldn't take it, though."

"No sir, me neither!" Chet agreed. "There's lots of reasons why I never wanna be a paramedic, and one of 'em is the ick factor, and one of 'em is yellin' people. I'll tell ya, Roy, I really felt for you this afternoon."

Yeah, so did I. "I practically got him killed, you know." Well, so much for not confiding in Chet. Where had that come from?

Chet wrinkled his nose. "Whaddaya mean? Looked to me like ya did everything you were s'posed to, not that I'd know, but..."

"Chet, I was the one that sent him upstairs to check for occupants! And then he ripped out his IV, and I forgot to replace it!"

Chet waggled a finger at me. "No way, DeSoto. Don't let Cap catch you talkin' like that. Okay, if you made a medical mistake, that's between you and Brackett. But someone had to check the top floor, and you know as well as I do that Gage always goes upstairs, even when it's his call. Plus, he's faster than anyone else – if it'd been you upstairs, and him downstairs with that old lady, guess what? You'd be dead, and we'd be planning a funeral, not a birthday party."

I hadn't thought of it that way. I hadn't really had time to think of that piece of the equation at all. It made sense, but I wasn't ready to let my guilt go. Not yet.

"Yeah, that's one way to look at it, I suppose," was all I could muster up, on such short notice.

"It's the only way," Chet retorted. "I dunno, maybe Brackett will rip you a new one for missin' the IV, but no sense in ripping a third one for yourself about who went upstairs and who stayed downstairs. All of us put our lives at risk every damned day on this job, so don't you go hogging up guilt that's not even yours to claim."

For once, Chet was actually making sense. No goofing around, no jokes – just straight talk. Didn't know he even knew how to do that.

"I guess you're right." Still not ready to stop thinking about guilt, but at least I would stop talking about it. I didn't have the juice for it, anyhow. All my energy was drained.

"C'mon, man. I'll buy you a real coffee, instead of this lounge swill." Chet put out a hand to haul me to my feet.


We returned to the ER waiting room with five "real" coffees – not that the cafeteria stuff was any better than the "lounge swill" – just in time for the rest of the crew to show up. I had to admit, the five of us in the waiting room, all in our turnout coats, were a pretty impressive sight. There was no doubt who we were, and no doubt who we were there for.

"Roy, what's the news?" asked Cap.

I filled him in as best I could. "Well, he's heavily sedated while they're setting and casting his leg, but the orthopedist should be coming out soon. They got him some pain meds right after we got in – he was pretty out of it when I saw him, but he knew where he was and what had happened. And that's all I know."

Just then, Doctor Henry came out from Treatment Three. "Mr. DeSoto? Oh, hello, gentlemen. Mr. Gage is in good shape, very good. His leg is set, he's casted, and as soon as he wakes up, I'll send him on up to the orthopedics floor."

Everyone exhaled sighs of relief. An unlikely voice spoke up first. "Can we see him?" asked Mike Stoker.

"Ah, he's still coming up out of the sedation – and I don't really know how uncomfortable he's going to be when he wakes up, so no, not yet. Later this evening would be better – say, after 6 p.m. We should have a good handle on what his pain medication needs will be by that point, okay?"

Then he looked at me, and continued. "Mr. DeSoto, I think it would be helpful for you to be there when he's waking up – unless you need to go back on duty, of course."

I looked at Captain Stanley. "Go ahead, Roy; we're stood down till 2200, and you're off the rest of the shift – no subs available."

"All right. Cap, could you call Joanne? She and the kids are planning on coming over here anyhow, for Dix's party, but she'd want to know, for sure, what happened." I felt terrible that I hadn't called already. It felt like I'd just gotten here, but when I looked at the clock on the wall, I realized it had been two hours since I brought Johnny in.

"Sure thing, Roy. Guys, let's go see what we can do to help B-shift, since we're off for now anyhow." The guys trudged off, wishing they were in my shoes, while I was wishing I were in theirs.

It wasn't that I didn't want to see Johnny – that wasn't it at all. It was just that I was drained, and tired, and used up, and didn't have anything left to give – not a thing. And I didn't know what I would do if he woke up screaming, like he did in the ambulance.

But at that point, if I needed to go negative on my reserves, that's just how it was gonna be. So, I reluctantly followed Doc Henry back to good ol' Treatment 3, to see my partner. My best friend. Who I nearly got killed today, two different ways. No matter what Chet said.

THE END.

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