“Zero-three, forty-seven.” I wrote as I spoke. “3:47
a.m. Time of death.” Geeze, almost four a.m., hell of a
way to spend Christmas.
My pen wrote, “Cardiac arrest secondary to heroin overdose
and alcohol, polytrauma and rape. Consistent with drug
induced kidnapping, rape, beating and murder.” I sure could
use something more green and red, alcoholic, sweet or maybe
fragrant right now.
What a pity, she must have been about seventeen to nineteen
years old, difficult to estimate, her facial features were
so mutilated. She wasn’t a drug user, no needle tracks on
her arms or legs. A single injection in the right hip, the
mark was jagged. She must have struggled, the injection
site being ripped in all three dimensions. I would do the
Doctor thing, photograph and record the severe bruising on
her arms and legs. The bruising, a result from violent
hands that held her down, as she kicked.
The rape, so violent her flesh was torn.
Cuts and bruises so severe she probably couldn’t see out of
her right eye, when it did happen.
“Merciful God. I sure hope the heroin had kicked in before
they started in on her.” Probably a pretty, naive, young
college girl caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Even my years with the Army Air Corps in Vietnam had not
prepared me for the wanton, vicious violence of the
She was brought in at twenty-two thirty-four hours; I
thought she would make it. We got fluids in her arms,
oxygen, epinephrine and atropine. Her blood work looked
good. The surgery we performed was successful; we got her
bleeding under control and started supportive fluid and
respiratory therapies. We admitted Jane Doe #2 to Intensive
Care, third North, 342.
Only four hours later, “Code Blue, ICU!... Code Blue, ICU,"
rang through the hallways. I dashed from the emergency
department to the third floor.
She was convulsing when I arrived. She stiffened and
relaxed. The heart monitor settled down from the current
generated by the seizure and indicated that she had started
to fibrillate. The crash cart arrived. Two ampules I.V.
bicarb, we readied the epinephrine for chest puncture and
fired up the paddles to 340 watt - seconds. “Clear!” The
power slammed into her chest. The frail body leapt off the
bed and landed like a sack of flour.
Hopefully, the tiny sino-atrial node would wake up, fire,
exciting the other nerve fibers of the heart and resume
normal sinus rhythm.
“Clear!” The same.
“Clear!” The line was flat, not a hint that the little node
was getting our message. “Start CPR!”
The node didn’t wake up; the heroin had put it to sleep.
She had been living on borrowed time while we worked on
her. Work on her we did. After fifty-five minutes, we had
done our best. The medicines, the naso-gastric tube, the
gases, the I.V.s, all that we knew, we threw at her. But
the node would not awaken and finally her brain grew tired
and the erratic peaks on the monitor turned into smaller
wavy lines, drifting off, becoming flat.
took off my gloves. Talc covered fingers scribed,
“Zero-three, forty-seven. Time of death.” I filled out
the certificate, recommending the police do their
investigation immediately. Attempt to find a family,
perhaps we could use her organs, perhaps the corneas.
“Lets get a type and HLA started so we may find her a
recipient in case her relatives allow us to remove her
organs. Pack her in ice, and put her in the cold room.
Maybe they’ll be able to identify her and locate the family
in time.” I filled out the orders in her chart and handed
it to the Head Nurse.
stepped to the restroom and washed my hands, scrubbing to
the elbows, as if trying to wash her off my mind. “I’m
finished here tonight, give me a call at home if I need to
left the nurse’s station and rounded the corner to go down
the stairs to the Emergency Department. I noticed that the
door to Room 342 was slightly open.
halted and walked toward the room to close the door, sealing
it from onlookers. I noticed that there was someone in
there that wasn’t wearing a white uniform. I peeked my head
in. It was a woman, leaning over the bed, her hands on the
shoulders of the deceased.
“Excuse me,” I asked politely, “but you shouldn’t be in
“Yes, I should,” she softly spoke, “A mistake has been
“We tried our best. Leave the patient alone.”
Her hands massaged the girl’s shoulders through the fabric
covering her body, deeply, with pressure and purpose. 'You
just said “leave the patient,' not 'leave the deceased'...
even you can feel it. But you don’t know what to do.”
I took a step toward her, “I feel sorry. But still you
mustn’t be here. We did everything possible.” The idea to
call Security flashed across my mind and then disappeared.
Curiously, I didn’t feel fear for the woman.
“You don’t have what it takes.“
was still speaking softly, as if I felt there was no need to
create alarm. “We used the entire body of medicine. Now.
Please. Please leave the room.”
Her hand left the girl’s right shoulder and pulled down the
shroud. The hand paused and then the fingers
separated, touching the eyelids. With a gentle, smooth
motion, she opened them. She looked deeply into the dull,
rolled back eyes of the girl, shaking her head in pity as
she gazed into the eyes, “Using stones and spears to repair
something much larger than any body of medicine.”
began to feel the heat of alarm, the woman was now touching
the body. I walked authoritatively, stopping adjacent to
her. “I tried, we all tried.” My voice grew louder and
sterner, “You really must leave so we can attend her.”
“It’s healing, Doctor, not medicine.” She removed her hand
from the girl’s shoulder and gently pushed my chest.
The scalding heat of her hand I could feel as her palm
penetrated through my flesh and into my chest. I felt
vaguely dull and confused. I was paralyzed. My mind could
see and hear things going on in the room, but I was in a
dream state. The reality was confused with ghosts reaching
out of my mind.
The dream, swimming in a dream.
was washing my arms again and wondered if I had plenty of
soap. There may not be enough left over to wash my hair. I
had to wash it off, all of it so that I could live with it.
“There has been a mistake.” She whispered to the girl, “Do
not let him take you...”
her head toward me, but never finished, “As for you, just
could see the buzzards circling gracefully and soon found
myself with them. I flapped my arms in swimming motions as
I left the Earth. Circling over the bed, I watched myself,
the woman and the girl. Watching me stand there with my
eyes open and mouth open made me see how silly I really
looked. I thought the woman should close my eyes, lest
they dry out and become painful. I could not feel my eyes.
“Feel my hands, and look at me, it was a mistake.” Her
massive hands grew to large dimension and absorbed
themselves into the girl. Reminding me of a faith healer
in the tropics massaging through the flesh, removing a bit
of wire or chicken liver pieces in the magic of healing. I
laughed a little at the woman, what a charlatan!Everyone
knows that trick with the fake rubber thumb. How much money
could a charlatan healer make using a fake thumb?
felt the need to wash, but there wasn’t enough soap to get
it all off. The need to absolve.
The woman whispered to the girl, “That’s right, leave the
reaper. Leave him behind. Come to me.” Her hands formed
around the girl, much like holding the hands in prayer.
The lifeless form inside the cupped palms, pulsing with the
was suddenly immersed in a pool of bodies, inside of a
prison, with high brick walls and barbed wire. I didn’t
know why I was in the prison, but I was... we all were.
There were dead bodies, swimming in a pool of blood and
bile. I recognized each one, including the Vietcong we
treated. All past patients turned deceased.
The woman said, “Heal, my daughter.”
The patients turned deceased, pleaded with me to help them,
but I already had. I was out of any more medicine to give
them. I had no more. They could feel that, but still they
called for it... “Doctor!... Doctor!... Medic!...
Anybody! Please!... Help me!”
felt the need to wash myself of them. I waded through the
grueling mass of rotted flesh, and the stench. I could not
breathe, much as if wheezing through an asthma attack.
Heaving, choking, wishing for death.
asked a guard, “Where’s the hose?” I choked, nearly
drowning in my fluid.
“You need a wash, you are so vile.” The guards began
spraying us with fire hoses. The pain! I cried out,
“Leave me alone!”
“Hush,” she said, “I have much work to do. Heal, little
one. It is only a mistake.”
hollered over the thrashing of the water, “Did I make the
He screamed at me, “You Goddamned right! You maggot! Here!
You use the hose.”
yanked the hose from the prison guard, forcing its stream on
my face, hair and beard. I tried to wash it all off, but
the prisoners were angry and overpowered the guard. They
took my soap. Hence, I had to wash with no soap at all. I
was not refreshed.
had mowed them down so much as grass with my scythe. But
they clung to me, and I had to wash again to get them off,
all of it off.
The girl, in the comforting uterus of the healing woman,
began to open her eyes. She spoke,” Thank you.”
was curious as to how that happened. The woman cradled the
girl, “Once healed, is as if it never happened, medicine
just makes one take more medicine.”
The woman turned to me and raised her hands, “Come to me.”
The prison vanished, and I was in a tailspin above my body.
My hair was unwashed, my hands were dirty with the bodies of
those whose lives were slain before me.
And the dream dreamed on.
The radio was loud at my temples, “Captain Huxley, You have
to pull out of it.”
began spinning faster into the vortex of the tornado. I
could hear her, but my arms were trying to hold me into the
air by swimming.
“Captain, Push forward and Pull to level!” The headphones
in my helmet were unmistakable as the screaming A10 fighter
wove into the air, spiral after spiral of plume, much like
hemp. The vibration of the hundred million dollar chunk of
flying steel as it spiraled, panicked me a little.
“Hit your after-burners! Gain power! Then Pull level and
right turn!” I couldn’t move, the bodies of those I’d slain
held me fast. “Dammit! Captain! Pull up!”
My arms pushed the throttle and pulled back on the flaps.
The engines hurled and so did I. I felt the gravity
stalling me. Holding me, caressing me in its grip. Red
blood cells slammed into the walls of the vessels in my
brain. I visualized black coming in from the sides. Black
telescoped until all I could see was Earth, the size of a
pea, spinning in deep space.
My fighter came screeching into the hospital. Warnings
flashed and signaled that my descent was too steep and
moving into a civilian area. I pulled back the throttle,
went right on the ailerons, but the wall of the hospital
came too quick. I slammed the plane through the fifth,
fourth and third floors. I could no longer cleanse myself
of the affliction. I rode her all the way in, kissing the
windshield with my helmet.
My ejection came too late and I found myself standing
beside the bed of Jane Doe #2. My body was still there,
eyes open, my mouth was still hanging open, looking pretty
stupid. The girl had awakened, but was a bit questioning as
to why a fighter pilot in full battle gear was in her room.
The woman turned to me, her attention no longer on the young
girl, “Come to yourself...” Her hands directed themselves
toward my fatigues. “You will both be spared.”
My eyes blinked once; I felt no pain. But I could feel the
tiredness in my arms and legs after a hard day at surgery.
I found myself wishing for sleep.
As I was standing, she reached out toward the window... "I
must go now...”
“Hey! Doctor Huxley? Are you OK?”
blinked once, twice, and for a fraction of a second, did not
know where I was. I was near the nursing station, pouring
coffee. “Yeah! Hey! We made it! Merry Christmas
everybody!” I yawned and stretched, looking at the clock as
I poured, “Time of death.... Zero-three, forty-seven.
Another drained, dead pot.” I emptied the last drops of
the pot into my cup. I waggled the empty coffee pot toward
the Head Nurse, “How many of these do you think we kill in
“I don’t know. But I’ll bet it’s a lot on a slow night like
tonight. Merry Christmas, Doctor.” She slipped the chart
into the revolving file. I began to wash out the pot.
Copyright © 2010 Peter Hughes