A Place Of Healing – 09

Why had Andrew put himself in this situation? In the suburbs of London no-one was ever more than 15 minutes from a hospital equipped to deal with matters of life and death as a matter of course. And he had left that to be a general practitioner on a Scottish island being lashed by the worst storm in 50 years!

He had come to Skerrabost seeking peace and solace, but instead found himself caught up in a storm that threatened to overwhelm him. And Wing Commander Ferguson was waiting for Andrew’s decision. It was a question of life and death; of the lives of the air crew, the life of the girl. Of his future.

“Hello, Doctor, are you there?”

“Yes, I’m here.”

“So what do you want me to do?”

The little hallway where Andrew stood was lit for a fraction of a second by a vivid flash of lightning. Andrew closed his eyes for a second, but the blue light was still there.

“Send the helicopter as soon as it’s reasonably safe to do so.”

Andrew could actually hear the sigh of relief from Ferguson.

“That’s the right decision, Doctor. A difficult decision, but the right one, the sensible one. Look, phone me and let me know how things develop. Good luck.”

There was a click and Andrew was alone. He looked up. Mr and Mrs Barton stood in the doorway, their eyes appealing. Mrs Barton’s hand fingered a small silver cross at her throat.

Not for the first time Andrew thought that it was easier to be ill oneself than watch the illness of a child.

“The helicopter can’t come yet, but it will as soon as it’s at all possible.”

Mrs Barton’s eyes were fixed on him, the cross still between finger and thumb.

Andrew went on.

“Sarah needs an operation before her appendix bursts. That is definite. How far off it is from bursting I don’t know. It could be half an hour; it could be three or four hours. I just don’t know,” he finished lamely.

Mr Barton cleared his throat.

“If it bursts?”

“That’s very dangerous. It would poison her system. She could die.”

The wind rattled the windows as though trying to get in.

“Can you do it, Doctor? Can you do the operation?”

He took a breath.

“Mr and Mrs Barton, I have never done an appendectomy. I’m a G.P., not a surgeon. I know in theory how to do it. If you authorise me, I will do it.” His mouth was dry. “Or we can wait for the helicopter and get Sarah to hospital.”

The sudden crack of thunder made them all jump. Mrs Barton spoke, looking into Andrew’s eyes.

“If it was your child, Doctor, what would you do?”

There was a flash of lightning. He resigned himself.

“We’ll need to get Sarah to my surgery. There are some forms for you to sign. But first I need to make another phone call.”

Andrew knew he would need all the help and experience he could get and there would be no-one better to help him than Alison Hughes. He’d met Alison a couple of days after arriving on Skerrabost when she had called on him at his surgery. She’d been District Nurse on the island for the last eight years.

He could hear her phone ringing.

“Hello,” she said.

“Hello, Alison. It’s Andrew Shelley. I’m sorry to disturb you but I need to do an emergency appendectomy on a young girl, Sarah Barton. Will you assist?”

There was a brief silence.

“I’ll be at the surgery as soon as I can.”

“Thank you, Alison, but take care. It’s so stormy . . .”

There was a click and the line went dead.

In the howling blackness Mr Barton carried Sarah into the back of Andrew’s car. Mrs Barton joined Andrew in the front.

As he started the engine Andrew looked at the house.

“Are there any more children, Mrs Barton?”

“No. We have just Sarah.”

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!