Disclaimer: I don't own Third Watch, or the characters thereof. This is just for fun.
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NYPD sergeant Maritza Cruz was dying, she had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia just two weeks earlier, but the disease was worsening rapidly, and she was running out of time.
Maritza didn't want to subject herself to the treatment; the idea of having toxic drugs pumped into her body, losing her hair, being sick, and probably dying anyway, it wasn't for her. Maritza thought she could handle her illness all by herself.
But as Maritza's condition deteriorated, and she realised that it would not be long before her time would be up, Maritza realised that she was not ready, she did not want to die.
Cruz was working on a string of robberies; she was in interrogation with a suspect when in a moment everything changed. The suspect suddenly pushed his chair back, a look of disgust on his face, "Aww damn, girl that's nasty!" He exclaimed.
It was only then that Maritza realised that blood was seeping from her gums; she quickly excused herself from the room, and not before she grabbed a tissue to attempt to stem the bleeding, Maritza ducked outside to call her doctor, this had scared her more than she cared to admit.
It seemed that it was time for Maritza to face her illness.
The haematologist, Dr Martinelli met Maritza in the outer office, "Sergeant Cruz, come in." The physician didn't want to waste any time.
Maritza followed Dr Martinelli into his consulting room.
They had barely sat down before the haematologist said, "Maritza, you cannot continue to ignore your condition. If you elect to forego treatment, it's a death sentence."
"It's a death sentence either way, right?" Cruz tried to keep her voice steady.
"It doesn't have to be," Dr Martinelli said firmly, "The odds aren't excellent, but you are young and in otherwise good health. With treatment I think you have a very good chance of remission. But we need to admit you to the hospital, today."
"My people are waiting for me out on a stake out, I can't be admitted today."
"You need to start treatment tomorrow, for that to happen we need to admit you today."
"I have court tomorrow. Can't it wait just one more week? I can clear my schedule by then."
"You need to cancel court; you cannot wait until next week. You are out of time."
After much argument, Maritza agreed to be admitted to the hospital; Dr Martinelli had a nurse escort her upstairs to the oncology/ haematology ward. As they walked past the outpatient chemotherapy unit and then through the ward, Maritza couldn't help but be frightened by the sight of all the people that they passed, people who all had one thing in common, cancer.
Officer Manny Santiago, Maritza's second in charge, was sitting in his car, watching their target, but as more time passed his attention turned to the fact that his sergeant still had not returned from her supposed dental appointment.
Maritza was shown into a single room at the end of a long hallway, the nurse handed her a standard issue hospital gown, and pointed her towards the room's ensuite to change. "If you could please get changed into this, then we can get your admission paperwork sorted out, and get you settled in."
Maritza took the gown silently, and went to change.
Just as Maritza went to close the door, the nurse asked her, "Is there anyone that you would like us to call for you?"
"No, there's no one," Maritza said shortly, closing the ensuite door.
Dr Martinelli ordered an array of blood tests, a bone marrow biopsy, and a lumbar puncture, he also arranged for a surgeon to take Maritza to the OR that afternoon to have a PICC line put in her right arm to give easy access for the chemotherapy and an ommaya port placed under her scalp, also to facilitate the treatment.
Numbly, Maritza consented to the procedures, there was some doubt expressed by the nursing staff as to whether Cruz had fully realised what the latter procedure entailed. To place the reservoir it was necessary to put Maritza under a general anaesthetic, shave a small section of hair from the top of her head, cut open her scalp, drill a burr hole through her skull, and finally inserting the catheter deep into the ventricles of her brain, before setting the attached reservoir in place and suturing the skin closed.
By the evening Maritza was feeling thoroughly sore and sorry, she was trying to fall asleep when Dr Martinelli finally came in to speak with her about the treatment he had planned.
Maritza startled awake, sensing someone in the room, she looked up to see her doctor standing at the foot of her hospital bed.
"I'm sorry to wake you Maritza, and to have not been up any earlier, I have had back to back appointments all afternoon. The nurses said that you handled all the procedures this afternoon like a pro."
Maritza shifted, trying to get comfortable, as she told the doctor, "Wasn't too bad."
"That is good to hear," Dr Martinelli replied, before telling Maritza, "I've spoken to the pathologist who reviewed your lab studies from today. I have looked at the treatment options, and I have found a chemotherapy regimen, hyper-CVAD, it's a combination regimen of several drugs, cyclophosphamide, vincristine, doxorubicin, methotrexate, cytarabine, and dexamethasone, I think that in combination with cranio-spinal radiation therapy it is a solid first attempt to achieve remission of your disease. You can ask the nurses any questions you may have about the treatment."
"I've got a question... How long will I be here?"
"In all likelihood you will need to stay in the hospital for the duration of the chemotherapy induction phase."
"And how long is that?"
"Four to eight weeks. This is not a simple treatment, in the coming weeks it will almost completely destroy your immune system, your blood cell and platelet counts need to be monitored very closely. As well as the treatment, we will most likely need to give you blood transfusions, platelets, and various medications such as G-CSF, a growth factor to help your body to repair and protect itself. I am not going to lie to you, this treatment will make you feel very sick for awhile. But for now it is best that you try to get some sleep. Are you sure that there's no one you would like us to call for you?"
The next morning, shortly before eight am, a nurse came into Maritza's room, pushing in front of her a large trolley laden with supplies, patients usually came to know it as the 'chemo cart'.
"Good morning, Maritza," The nurse, Carla greeted Cruz, who was just waking up. "I'm here to start your morning cyclophosphamide infusion."
Maritza lifted her arm out from under the blankets, without even looking up, she gave the nurse access to her PICC line.
Carla worked quietly, cleaning one port of the PICC line, before hanging an IV bag on the stand beside Maritza's bed, and connecting the bag to Maritza's line, she also gave Maritza an anti-emetic injection into her line, started a line of saline to help Maritza remain hydrated, and started a third IV bag running in, this one was mesna, a drug to prevent damage to the kidneys that could be caused by the cyclophosphamide. The nurse gave Maritza a gentle pat on the shoulder as she told her, "Okay Maritza, that's all there is to it. We'll let this run in over the next couple of hours, then I'll come back and unhook you, so just take it easy, and if you need anything just press the buzzer."
Cruz slept through until the first infusion was nearly finished, she woke up feeling a bit nauseated, but nothing too bad. She looked up at the two nearly empty IV bags with dismay, this was her life now, and she hated it.
Maritza sat up slowly, she felt a little dizzy, she gently swung her legs over the side of the bed, as ill as she was feeling, it still felt good to be upright. After waiting a minute, Maritza stood up, she grabbed the IV pole, and using that as support, Maritza walked slowly over to the chair where her belongings had been left the day before, she wanted to check her phone, she knew that the precinct must be looking for her by now.
Maritza had turned her phone off before she had gone into her appointment with the haematologist, when she turned the phone back on, messages and missed calls started to pop up.
Cruz didn't even bother listening to the messages, she shuffled back over to the bed, phone in hand. Once she was again seated on the edge of the bed, Maritza dialled the number for the fifty-fifth precinct.
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