Saturday, February 12, 2005

Pecaw's Gift / Chapter 5 Dreamsville

Life Flight’s rotors buzzed in his head like the noise a sea shell makes for children pretending to hear the ocean. A drifting endless roar that is not frightening but hits a hollow place in the middle of your stomach. It reaches in and grabs at you, pulls at you and won’t let you leave. Sinclair could not make out his dream. He reasoned that he must be having a real humdinger, like the ones he used to have.

He would be standing at his cash register in the hardware department of Montgomery Ward. A customer would want this or that, but just as he would begin to ring up the sale it would occur to him that he wasn’t wearing any clothing. Rather than miss out on the sale he would pull the bed sheets up around him and complete the deal.

His eyes were open, fixed straight ahead, but nothing looked familiar. He could make out a group of masked people all huddled over him, as if he were at a football game for off duty doctors and nurses. The idea was amusing and he was enjoying his dream. A flash of light here and there; nothing that made sense. He could not feel his body; but his mind was hard at work. The fall had done some nerve damage. He’d lost a great deal of blood. The cold ground had reduced his temperature critically. He strained to see the damage to his legs.

“Get him intubated.”

“More light, I need more light! Get that suction over here; yes right there.” Why was this hospital so dark? Sinclair could see a reflection in the glasses of the nurse directly over him. He had practiced the technique of eye glass watching at the dentist’s office. The image was blurred by the movement of the helicopter but he was able to see them setting his leg in some kind of inflatable plastic splint. Strange how it reassured him of his still being in control of things. A worried look came upon him as he thought of how to tell Bev of his injury. He did not want her to drive to the hospital while she was upset. Then he relaxed a little knowing that the Department would send a unit to pick her up. He wondered if it would be his old partner; yes, they would send Bob.

Sinclair had once worked an extra job after having been in a good fight near the end of his regular shift. It was back when he was working Central Patrol Evening Shift. His shirt was covered with blood; not his own, but it would look bad to show up at the extra job. Customers at the bowling alley would not find it conducive to a friendly night at the lanes. Bev had raced to him with a fresh shirt and given him a big hug of relief when she was sure he had not been injured; still wiping a tear from her cheek. This would not be easy.

“Pressures dropping.”, was all he heard as his eyes closed again. The ocean’s noise in his ears brought images of the Tower at Jones Beach on Long Island. He and his brother would sit in the back seat of the family car trying to be the first person to see the Tower, the winner would have an imaginary feather in his cap. The sea mist made it hard to pick out; the bright sun made him squint. “I see the Tower”, his brother’s voice triumphed in his ear. “I win!” Sure enough there it was; a red brick obelisk which seemed to float in the air off in the distance. The road was bleached white concrete with tar filled cracks.

The closer they got to the beach the more beautiful the drive became. There were pink and purple petunias along both sides of the road and just as the car would make it to the parking lot he could see the edge of the ocean. The water was never gentle, less forbidding at times, but never gentle. The massive thick gray waves rolled in shaped like liquid whales and became indistinguishable from the sky at times. Tall lifeguard chairs; like giants, their feet stuck in the sand, kept watch over the endless stretch of beach. He climbed one just to see the view but the Lifeguard had yelled at him to get down. He remembered the boardwalk with its wide handrails varnished to a high gloss finish and ice cream that came in funny rectangular wrappers. Gulls drifting along currents of air searching for careless small fish would not turn down a free piece of bread. Everyone would stroll along the weathered elevated decks late into the night when only the edge of the breakers crashing onto shore could be seen. The light from the boardwalk reached out and invited her tireless partner to dance. A band played
music from the Forties as each wave pounded relentlessly onto shore. He could not see the ocean; but it was there all the same, set against the darkness of the night sky. He wanted to stay there, listening to the waves; but the noise was no longer there.

The flight had lasted only a short while. He saw only parts of reality as the emergency team rushed him into the building.

“Team Red to Room Four, Team Red to Room Four!”, the speakers mumbled; Sinclair was raced down the hall into Shock Room Four. Sinclair could hear all the conversation but could not move. He was not dead but it would be hard to prove at the moment. There were wires hooked up to every part of his body, and where there weren’t wires there were tubes. The nurse with the glasses had taken off his gun belt, cut his blue trousers off along with his under garments. Another doctor had cut off the remains of his light blue shirt. All these were gathered up as they hit the floor and carefully placed into a plastic trash bag so that nothing would be accidentally thrown out. The cardiac monitor blasted a piercing alert tone across the room as the waveform went flat on the screen.

“Cardiac arrest; shock him at two hundred joules.”

“Stand clear!”, as the Doctor placed the paddles to his chest. A jolt of electricity lifted him off the table and the monitor ceased its screaming.

“Naked to the world and to hell with modesty”, must be the sign on the other side of the door. Sinclair would have blushed if he could have seen himself in front of all these people.

“Blood pressure Okay, get him to OR.” The immediate crisis passed; quickly they wheeled Sinclair up to the operating room on the second floor where the remaining emergency repairs could be preformed in a less frantic environment. They fixed his two broken legs; the right leg had to be reinforced with a steel plate and there were several chrome pins protruding from his thigh holding it all together. An intercranial pressure monitoring screw was implanted near the front of his skull to accurately measure fluid changes and drain off excess pressure. The hope was that Sinclair’s brain stem and cervical spine had not been injured. An arterial line was
inserted in his wrist to add needed whole blood. Three units of blood had been transfused and there were bags of normal saline along with Lactated Ringers dripping at various rates to rejuvenate Sinclair’s battle worn body. The surgeons had done all they could for the time being; it would be up to Sinclair and God to pull through the next few hours.

Cape Canaveral and Surgical ICU look much the same; very “high tech”. Each patient had a control station with several screens all hooked up to wires and monitors. There were red and yellow lights, bells and buzzers to alert the Nurse of any major change that needed attention. A place where there is no daytime, no nighttime, only a time to live or die. The stretcher bed was positioned carefully and each monitor was hooked into the master control circuit. He had an oximeter attached to the lobe of his ear to insure his blood was carrying the proper amount of oxygen through his vessels. The Doctors went over him one more time; poking and prodding different parts of his body and jotting down meaningless scrawls. Just for a second, one of them lifted Sinclair’s eyelids.

“Pupils fixed, no movement.”, a less hopeful voice followed, “Keep a close watch on him; especially the CSF pressure and oxygen levels. If the pressure increases more than 5 mm or the oxygen levels drop to below eighty five percent, I want to be notified immediately.”

“Yes Sir, anything else?”

“I want another full set of tests run; CBC, SMA 7, enzymes and arterial blood gases”, his voice tapered off as he turned to leave the room.

Bev was outside in the hallway waiting for a chance to go in with him. She had thrown on a sweater and jeans the moment Bob had come for her. The kids were quickly put up with the neighbor across the street. She wanted to get to the hospital as soon as possible. There were dried tracks where tears had run down her cheeks. She sat in the hall outside the ICU area on the edge of a white plastic and chrome chair; instinctively running a brush through the dark brown and gray strands. It was hard to tell who had caused the most gray, Sinclair or the children.

The news media had found their way down to grab the story. Each one of them trying to cash in on the misery of the moment. Two officers formed a line in an attempt to keep them away from Bev.

“I understand that your husband may be paralyzed for life; how will this affect your family?”, holding a microphone high above his head as a blinding flood light from the mini-cam unit bombarded Bev and a group of officers who were standing in the shadows behind her.

“Is it true that your husband had only six years to go before retirement?”, as if he were already dead.

“Can you give us any information on what your plans are?”

“The Department will be handing out an official statement in the Press Room just down the hall in five minutes. All of your questions will be taken at that time.” The Chief’s public relations officer escorted the flock of human vultures down the hall. A stream of fresh tears made their way down Bev’s cheeks as she bent over to grab another fresh Kleenex. She wondered to herself if she could hold it all together. She felt the emptiness inside as it traveled down her legs. It had been two hours since she had first found out, and still she had not been allowed in to see Sinclair. All of her worst thoughts about the job were running wild in her mind.

They had gone to see a cop movie, “The New Centurions”, a long time ago. She was afraid for him then and had squeezed his hand during most of the movie. Bev was angry for his having lied about the dangers in his work. On the way out of the movie she became moody and would not talk to him. It took the best part of the night to talk it out into the open. Bev wasn’t really angry with him, it was just that she loved him so much that she couldn’t bear the thought of not having him. Lots of wives have left for greener fields because they could not take being home alone at night. The phone might ring or a police car could roll into the drive way in the early morning.

The door to Sinclair’s room opened and a small army of doctors made their way into the hall. Doctor Gwyne, the one in charge, looked over to where Bev was sitting and motioned to her that he would be with her in a few moments. He continued his instructions to the rest of the team and then walked over to Bev.

“Mrs. Dosilmeyer”, I'm going to let you in to see your husband for just a few moments. Don’t let all the wires and tubes bother you. We have him on a respirator until he stabilizes. He’s going to be all right.” Bev looked keenly into his eyes for a clue. She could not tell how much was the truth or how much was being kept from her. The doctor was a good card player and would not tip his hand. The door handle was there in front of her, but she could not seem to move it. The darkness behind the door frightened her. She wanted to run away, back home and pretend that it was only a bad dream. Just then she felt an arm on her shoulder. She looked up and saw Officer MacDougal.

“Mrs. Dosilmeyer, my name’s Mac. I was with your husband earlier. He took a pretty bad fall but he’s tough and will do okay”. MacDougal opened the door and led Bev into the room and made sure that she was seated in a chair next to the hospital bed before leaving.

“I have his Sam Brown in the trunk of my car; I’ll run down and get it now.” On his way out the door MacDougal had to stop and wipe away a few tears before meeting the rest of the officers.

“Sinclair . . . I know you can’t hear me now.” ( but he could ). “I love you and don't know how to tell you just now”. She reached under the covers and found his hand. His face was swollen and his eyes were black and blue. A clear plastic tube disappeared down his throat, held in place with a patch of adhesive tape. She didn’t want to talk for a few moments as she felt a swelling in her throat; the tears poured freely.

“I’m not gonna’ build that house in Colorado without you.” The sound of her own words scolding him seemed to make her feel better. She held his hand, lightly rubbing the knuckle between his index and middle finger. It had always made him feel better.