A Place Of Healing – 31

She smiled at him.

“For now.”

He returned her smile.

“Good, because I’ve got work to do. I have a case conference with Alison Hughes tomorrow morning. Superwoman, as I call her, but only behind her back.” He glanced at her notebook. “And you haven’t finished devising more torture for your class!”

Andrew had a meeting and case conference every week with Alison Hughes after surgery. His last patient of the morning was just leaving when he saw Alison’s rather battered Land-Rover sweep to a halt. She needed an all-terrain vehicle to negotiate some of the farm tracks and steep hills of Skerrabost.

Her car might be battered and muddy but, as always, she was crisp in her dark blue uniform. She carried a thick file. Whenever he saw Alison, Andrew thought that if British film makers ever wanted a stereotype of a district nurse, here she was.

Andrew made instant coffee and they sat at a table to discuss the business of keeping the folk of Skerrabost alive and well. They both had a series of vaccinations to arrange.

Alison had several patients who needed dressings changed or checked on a regular basis and Andrew dealt with the varied range of human illness and concerns.

Generally the people of Skerrabost were healthy, possibly because of clean, bracing air and a good diet of fresh fish and vegetables, but both Andrew and Alison agreed that the situation on the island was not ideal.

“It seems that’s all NHS Scotland can fund at the moment,” Alison said.

“I’ve got one or two ideas about that,” Andrew said. “I’ll not say anything more until I’ve made a few more enquiries, but the island does need another doctor. Now, what’s the main event this week?”

Alison opened a file.

“Mrs Conlon. Her baby’s a little overdue so I’m sure it will be this week.”

Andrew glanced at the file.

“Everything seems fine. It’s her second, I see. She has a girl of two.” He closed the file. “And she’s carrying on the Skerrabost tradition of having a home birth.”

“Yes,” Alison said. “They do like the idea of their children being born in the house where they were born, and their parents and grandparents. They always feel they are a proper islander if they are born here.”

Andrew nodded.

“How many islanders have you brought into the world, Alison?”

Alison stood up.

“More than I care to remember, Doctor Shelley. Now, don’t you get me remembering my age, you dreadful man. By the way, before I forget, have you had any further report on that eye problem of Mrs Latimer’s?”

“No, but that’s due this week, I think,” Andrew replied.

                                             * * * *

The week proceeded normally, Andrew conducting his surgeries. It was in Drumnagar on the Thursday afternoon when he got a phone call from Alison Hughes.

“Hello, Doctor Shelley. I’m in a pickle. I’m on the Shaw family farm. One of the sons is in quite a bad way. He was driving a tractor on a steep bank, the tractor toppled and he’s got crush injuries. I’ve administered morphine and I’ve called for the air ambulance.”

“Do you want me to come?”

“No, but you’ll need to go to Mrs Conlon. Her hubby phoned to say she’s gone into labour. Hopefully it should be straightforward.”

“No worries, Alison. I’m on my way.”

As he drove to the Conlons’ small sheep farm he reflected again on the thin medical cover available on Skerrabost. You couldn’t bank on medical emergencies happening one at a time!

He’d cheerily said no worries to Alison but actually Andrew felt a little uneasy. In the past, as a medical student, he’d always been with an experienced midwife. He’d never actually flown solo, as it were, but he knew that there was nothing in Mrs Conlon’s condition or her medical history to suggest problems.

When he arrived at the low, stone farmhouse he was warmly and anxiously welcomed by Mrs Conlon’s mother, holding a little girl in her arms, and Stuart Conlon, who shook Andrew’s hand and almost crushed every bone in it.

“It’s good to see you, Doctor. I think you’re just in time. Would you like a cup of tea? Or, no, perhaps not.”

Andrew tried to smile reassuringly at husband and mother.

“Perhaps later, Mr Conlon. But I would like to scrub my hands.”

The small bedroom was dominated by a big double bed. Sunlight streamed in from two small windows.

Mrs Conlon, panting a little, managed a smile.

“Hello, Doctor, I was expecting Nurse Hughes, but it’s nice to see you.”

“Thank you. Are we nearly there, do you think?”

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!