Disclaimer: I don't own Third Watch, or the characters thereof. This is just for fun.

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Chapter Four

At last, after seven weeks in hospital, Maritza Cruz was allowed to go home; she would still have to go to the hospital five days a week for radiotherapy appointments, and also to the outpatient chemotherapy unit frequently to have her chemotherapy regimen administered.

She was still very weak, but Maritza wanted to go back to work, as the gang war surrounding the precinct continued as the police struggled to regain control of the streets.

After being at home for only one night, Maritza got dressed in her long cargo pants and a black tank top, she put on a wig she had purchased that was very similar to her natural hair, she pulled on her jacket and boots, and she drove to the corner of King and Arthur.

Maritza saw the police precinct surrounded by scaffolding and construction materials, she walked past the damaged building, over to the firehouse come temporary precinct.

There had been a couple of desks set up on the ground floor to serve as a reception of sorts for the police; Lieutenant Swersky had just finished morning roll call, and he was at the desk answering phones when he saw Maritza. "Sergeant Cruz? What are you doing here?" The surprise was clear in his voice, the last time he'd seen Maritza she hadn't even been able to lift her head.

Maritza kept her head high, "I want to get back to work."

Swersky nodded thoughtfully, "Come upstairs, we'll talk."

After some persuading, Maritza was allowed to return to work on modified duties, not that she would obey the supposed limitations.

Maritza had finished the first chemotherapy induction, which consisted of higher doses of the drugs, so as it was expected that the side effects would not be as severe, the lieutenant decided that she was okay to do desk work. This was done under the proviso that Maritza work solely in the precinct, no field work, but she was allowed to resume command of the anti-crime unit.

As Maritza walked upstairs to the area that had been given to the anti-crime unit, she tried to prepare herself for the response she knew her return would bring, especially since they knew that she'd been in hospital.

It was everything she expected.

The entire anti-crime unit were sitting at their assigned desks, when Maritza entered the area, they all dropped what they were doing. There were 'oh my god's, 'what the hell's, and an assortment of other exclamations as the officers caught sight of their sergeant.

No one was more surprised than Manny, he quickly stood, and crossed the ground between himself and Cruz. "Serge, what're you doing here? You're meant to be on sick leave. Have you spoken to the lieutenant about this?"

"He's cleared me to come back part time."

They stood together in silence, unsure of what to say, until Manny broke the ice, "It's real good to see you out of that hospital, serge."

"Okay, let's get back to work. West, I'll need you to bring me up to speed on all our current cases."

Six months after starting treatment, Maritza was just days away from finishing the worst of the chemotherapy; the next cycles would be less intensive, aimed at maintaining the leukaemia's remission.

They were now back in the retrofitted police precinct, all repairs having been recently completely.

Maritza was walking down the stairs alongside her partner, anti-crime were going on a raid that night, and they were heading out to meet the rest of the team.

Maritza started feeling dizzy and nauseated, almost as though she was detaching from the world around her, then she felt herself falling.

Santiago had no time to respond as he watched his sergeant collapse on the stairs, before she went into convulsions, he had no time to catch her or to break her fall. "Maritza!" Manny exclaimed in horror as he saw his boss' body going into convulsions, Maritza was also bleeding profusely from where she had hit her head on the edge of the stair, and her wig had fallen off, revealing her completely bald head.

Someone must have called an ambulance, as just minutes later Carlos and Grace pushed through the crowd of officers that had gathered around Maritza and Santiago.

Maritza had stopped seizing for a minute, but had since started again, Manny was trying to support her head, preventing further injury, her blood covered his pants.
"What's going on here?" Carlos asked Manny as he and Grace laid out their gear.

Manny was panicked, "One minute we were talking, then she just fell, started shaking, she's hit her head. She's having chemotherapy for acute leukaemia."

"Alright, we'll help her. How long has she been seizing for?"

"It was about a minute the first time, then it stopped for awhile, but it started again."

"Alright," Carlos replied, before telling Grace, "Let's get her on the backboard, start an IV, we'll go ahead and try four milligrams of lorazepam slow IV push. Put her on ten litres oxygen by mask to be safe."

"She has a PICC line in her right arm."

"Thanks," Grace said briefly, looking to Manny, before she cut up the sleeve of Maritza's jacket to quickly access her line, so that she could hook up a bag of saline, and push the lorazepam.

"Is she okay?" Manny asked with concern; no sooner had he spoken than Maritza's body finally started to relax.

Lieutenant Swersky ordered Manny to ride with Cruz in the ambulance to the hospital, he mostly knew the treatments she was having, and so he was the obvious choice.

As he sat in the back of the ambulance, watching as Grace worked on his partner, Manny could hardly believe that the unconscious, thin, ill woman lying on that gurney was the same woman that he'd met just eighteen months earlier, the woman who had been so confident and self-assured.

Dr Martinelli met Maritza's ambulance as it pulled up at the hospital, by then Maritza was waking up, but still very groggy. The doctor helped Grace and Carlos lower the gurney, before they took Maritza inside, as Manny followed close behind.

They made the mistake of taking her through the emergency department, a very dangerous place for someone who was immunosuppressed.

The seizure was a side effect of the intrathecal chemotherapy, the drugs had irritated Maritza's central nervous system, but as Maritza had finished the intensive chemotherapy, Dr Martinelli told her that it was unlikely to happen again.

She needed several stitches in the back of her head, and as a precaution the doctor admitted Maritza to the ward, just for a few days of observation, but all things considered it wasn't too bad.

It was the night before Maritza was due to be released, when she woke up feeling feverish and weak. She could barely turn on her side, as she started throwing up.
It was over an hour before a nurse came around to check on Maritza, and found her collapsed, unconscious on the floor. The nurse hit the emergency button before going to Maritza's side to check on her.

Maritza was rushed to the intensive care unit, her body was being ravaged by an infection. The doctor started her on powerful antibiotics and medications to stabilise her blood pressure, but she was very ill, the ICU team were forced to intubate her, and place her on a ventilator to breathe for her.

The nurses called the precinct, knowing that their patient was a police sergeant, and that given her condition she might not make it through the night; there was no next of kin listed in her chart, and no one deserves to die alone.

It was just after midnight, and the third watch were preparing to go home for the night, when the call came in. Swersky first notified Manny, knowing that he and Maritza were close, then he went into the locker room to inform the officers, and to suggest that anyone who wanted to should go to the hospital to be with her.

Eleven officers from the precinct, including Santiago, Monroe, and Bosco went to the hospital, and over the following seventy-two hours in pairs they took turns sitting with their fallen colleague.

The End