A Place Of Healing – 10

They carried Sarah into Andrew’s examination room, her father laying her on the couch. The pain in her side was now a dull throb. Andrew had quickly laid clean white sheets beneath her. In the corner of the room was a small sterilisation cabinet. He placed two unused scalpels, clamps, kidney dish, needle and thread in the unit and closed the door. A pale blue light flicked on and a low buzz indicated the unit was working.

Mr and Mrs Barton were at Sarah’s side.

“Not to worry, dear,” Mrs Barton said. “Doctor Shelley is going to put things right.”

Mr Barton stood, his arms by his side, his fists clenched, staring at his daughter as though engraving her image on his brain.

The door opened and a small, stocky woman in her early fifties wearing a bright orange cagoule stepped into the room. She quickly discarded the wet cagoule to reveal the blue uniform of a nurse.

She saw Andrew looking at her.

“A nurse should always look like a nurse,” she said crisply. “I’m not one for running around in a tracksuit or jeans.”

Just the sight of Alison Hughes made Andrew happier then he had been for the last half hour.

“Thanks for coming so quickly.” He nodded at Sarah. “This is Sarah Barton.”

“Ah, yes, Sarah Barton. Fell off a wall about five or six years ago and broke her arm. Am I right?”

Sarah nodded and gave a little smile.

Andrew took off his jacket and began to roll up his shirt sleeves to the elbow.

“Now, Sarah, in a few minutes Nurse is going to give you an injection in your arm. When she does I want you to look at the clock there on the wall, and you can tell yourself that in ten minutes it will all be over.”

A voice in his head seemed to add “one way or the other”.

There was a great roll of thunder and the surgery lights flickered. Not lightning, the lights. What if they went out? All he had was the torch Cassie had put in his bag.

Well, at least there would be someone to hold it now. Someone with a steady hand.

But an operation he’d never performed – by the light of a torch? Pray God, no.

The quiet buzz of the sterilisation unit stopped. The lights flickered. Get it done.

“Now, Mr and Mrs Barton, if you’ll go and sit in the waiting-room.”

Mother, father and child embraced, then the door closed and Andrew and Nurse Hughes were left with their patient.

His hands and arms thoroughly scrubbed, Andrew watched Nurse Hughes take up the syringe. Sarah would be anaesthetised for about fifteen minutes. He wouldn’t fetch the tray of instruments or put on his face mask until she was unconscious.

He smiled at her pinched, pale face, as Nurse dabbed at her arm with a swab of cotton wool and injected the contents of the syringe. She didn’t wince.

“Good,” Andrew said. “Now, look at the clock, Sarah. A quarter to midnight and then tomorrow is another day.”

“Someone said that in an old film I watched with Mum,” Sarah said. “I think it was . . .”

Her eyes closed.

“‘Gone With The Wind’,” Nurse Hughes said softly.

They put on face masks and caps and Andrew took the tray from the cabinet. With a red pencil he drew a vertical line on his patient’s stomach. Too short?

He added another half inch and glanced at Alison. She nodded.

He’d used a scalpel as a student but he had never cut into a living person’s body. He bent forward feeling pinpricks of sweat on his brow. In the films a pretty nurse would gently be dabbing a towel at his forehead with wide, adoring eyes. Well, he’d rather have a no-nonsense District Nurse any day.

The depth of the cut was vital. Too shallow and he’d need to cut again. Too deep and the keen blade could slice the swollen organ, releasing its deadly poison into her body.

As the point of the blade touched the soft white skin the lights blinked. There was a tiny bubble of pink blood. Do it!

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!