Chapter 5: Epidemic

Two days passed, and Michaela was feeling the pangs of separation. Being away from her baby was more difficult than she had imagined. She knew that Maggie was in good hands with Charlotte, but her arms ached to hold her and comfort her.

The clinic was filled with patients now, some worse off than others. Sully was on hand to help administer the fever tea. The quinine had long since run out, and the death toll had risen to five. Loren was in the clear and resting comfortably at home. Jake Slicker had come down with the influenza and was teetering near death when he suddenly took a turn for the better.

Michaela had run herself ragged. She was exhausted, not having slept and on top of that, she was running a mild fever. She had taken a bit of the fever tea, and now Sully was keeping a close eye on her.

Maude Bray was going back and forth between caring for Loren at home and tending to the ill at the clinic. Grace, who had claimed to have had the grippe as a child and had gotten over it, was also lending a hand. Michaela felt grateful to have the help, but she knew that given the medicines she had at the moment, it was in God's hands now.

At the moment, she sat at the bedside of a little boy who was doing much better than he had been just the night before. She was sponging off his forehead, and in between cooling him, she dabbed at her own forehead, knowing that it was only a matter of time before she collapsed from exhaustion.

The silence in the clinic was only interrupted by the tap of feet against the floorboards as her helpers tended to the sick, or the coughs and moans of the patients. However, a new sound filled the air, and Michaela moved to the window to look out into the street. A wagon was barreling into town, and Michaela could firmly pick out Matthew Cooper as the driver. In that moment, her heart stopped, and her stomach leapt into her throat.

"Maggie," she murmured. Her legs, weak and weary, nearly buckled under her as she rushed down the stairs, but she kept her composure long enough to rush out into the street as Matthew pulled the team to a halt.

"In the back of the wagon was Colleen holding baby Hanna."

"Where's Maggie?"

"She's fine! Ma's with her. Hanna's burnin' up, Dr. Mike!" Colleen handed over the crying baby to Michaela, who gently cradled her in her arms. At that moment, Sully came rushing out, recognizing his daughter's cries.

"Hanna!"

"She's got it, doesn't she?" Colleen asked, tears in her eyes. Michaela said nothing, but the look on her face said it all. She rushed into the clinic with Sully following closely behind her.

Michaela ran cool water over the screaming baby, trying to lower her temperature. She was warm to the touch, red faced.

"She was alright last night," Matthew offered.

"She woke up cryin'," Colleen said softly. "That's when he headed into town."

"She's…she's gonna be alright, isn't she, Dr. Mike?"

"You two shouldn't be here."

"We're fine," Colleen urged. "As long as we're here, we're gonna stay and help." She tugged on Matthew's arm. "We've been exposed, and neither one of us is feelin' sick. We're fine, Dr. Mike." Colleen and Matthew cleared out, and Michaela and Sully were left downstairs with the baby. Sully was silent, standing behind Michaela, frozen at the thought of losing his daughter.

"Sully, could you bring me that cloth please?" No answer. "Sully!" A moment later, he handed her a dry towel. She wrapped the baby in it.

"What're you doin'?"

"We need to begin administering the tea. We'll give it to her through a feeding bottle, and hopefully her fever will break within a couple of hours." She handed Hanna over to Sully before going over to one of the cabinets. She fetched a bottle and poured a few ounces of the tea into it. When she gave the bottle to Sully to try and feed it to her, the baby fought it, fussing at the bitter taste.

"It's alright, sweet girl," Sully murmured, kissing the top of his daughter's head. "It's gonna make you feel better. Just drink, please. Do it for your Pa, ok?" Hanna continued to fuss, but soon, she gave up the fight and began to drink from the bottle. Michaela watched over Sully with concern, knowing he was doing everything he could to keep himself together for Hanna.

"Sully," she murmured, "I'll be back. I need to give Mr. Jacobi his next dose." Sully only nodded, but as Michaela turned to go, he reached out and took her hand. She startled, but she didn't pull away.

"Thank you."

"No need to thank me. If it wasn't for Cloud Dancing's herbs…"

"Thank you for bein' here…for bein' here for me. It means a lot." Michaela gave him a slight smile and she nodded her head.

"I'll be just upstairs if you need me. I think she's going to be alright, Sully. She's drinking. That's a good sign."

By the end of the week, most of the patients had gone home. Four more had passed away, but Hanna Sully wasn't one of them. She was thriving. The epidemic was clearing up, and there hadn't been any new cases in two days. Hanna was a happy, giggly baby again, and she and Sully had been staying with Loren at the mercantile so that Maude could stay at the clinic and help out more. But now, only a few patients remained at the clinic, and they seemed to be improving by the hour.

"Hello Miss Hanna," Michaela smiled, bringing the sweet little baby into her arms. She missed her own daughter very much, but it was a comfort to know that very soon, she would be reunited with her.

"She doin' alright?"

"She's perfect," Michaela replied, kissing the baby's chubby cheeks. "Her appetite's back, her fever's gone."

"Ya took good care of her."

"I didn't have much opportunity," Michaela said with a slight grin. "You wouldn't leave her side for a moment." Sully chuckled.

"True. But thank you. If you hadn't been here…"

"You'd have gone to Cloud Dancing. And Hanna would be fine."

"But Loren wouldn't. Hanna wouldn't have her grandpa. Thank you for savin' his life." Their gazes met for a moment, and Michaela felt her cheeks growing hot. But it was just then that a knock came to the clinic door.

"Excuse me," she whispered, heading over to greet her visitor. It was Horace Bing.

"Dr. Mike…stage is comin' in tomorrow. I wired and let 'em know folks is getting better, and they said they'd start sending freight through again. Thought I'd let ya know. I know you got some supplies you were waitin' on."

"Thank you Horace. Yes, I sent for a few things from home. As soon as they're here, I'll have more resources available to me to better help my patients."

"Well, you done a real good job, Dr. Mike. If it wasn't for you, a lot more folks might not be here right now. Sure is a good thing you came to Colorado Springs when ya did." He tipped his hat and headed off. Michaela turned and saw Sully standing, watching her from across the room.

"He's right, ya know. Sure is good to have you here."