What a Mess
by Judith Freudenthal
1996

The emergency room was full of activity as it was a stormy night. The kind of night that caused accidents.

The exterior doors burst open, paramedics rushing their latest client into the hands of the very capable medical professionals inside.

"What do we have here?" A nurse asked as she saw the badly battered body of a middle aged man before her.

"We're not exactly sure. Someone found him in an alley, stripped of his money and identification," the paramedic said as he quoted the patient's vital signs to the nurse.

"We'll take it from here."

The gurney was moved over to an empty examination bed and the patient was very carefully transferred.

The nurse cut off the patient's clothing so a full examination could be performed.

A man in his early fifties approached the bed, stethesope around his neck, the round metal end tucked into the pocket of his labcoat.

The nurse filled him in on what little she knew as the doctor began his examination.

"Order x-rays of his head, neck and spine," the doctor noted upon seeing the cervical collar and backboard.

He checked the man's brown eyes and found both to be responsive. He examined the nasty gash above the left eye that curved around the outside of the socket and saw that it would require stitches. He noted the various already darkening bruises on the man's face as well as several smaller cuts and scratches. He methodically worked his way down the patient's body looking for any life threatening injuries. He checked the patient for any broken ribs or signs of internal bleeding. He checked both arms and shoulders for breaks before moving on to the pelvis and legs. He noted the dehydration of the man before him and wondered exactly what had happened to him.

"I want x-rays of his right arm and left leg."

Upon finding nothing life-threatening he went back to the gash on the patient's face. He pushed the longish light brown, though presently blood coated, bangs out of the way as he cleaned the gash and surrounding area. He closed the wound with seven steristrips on the forehead part, and five going down the side of his face near the outer edge of the eye socket. He cleaned off the rest of the minor injuries on the man's face that had probably been rather attractive before all the injuries, and that would likely be so again, after they had healed.

The x-ray machine was moved into place and the requested shots were taken. All that could be done now was to wait for the film to be developed.

The few scratches on his hands were treated.

The doctor was concerned that the man had not yet regained consciousness.

A moment later the middle aged man's eyes began to flutter then opened.

"Doctor."

"Hi there."

The man searched the surroundings to determine where he was. Pain clearly showed in his brown eyes, at least the one that wasn't swollen nearly shut. He felt the restraints preventing him from moving and began to panic.

"Take it easy. We have to make sure that there is no damage to your spine before we can allow you to move. Do you remember what happened?"

"I don't remember." The pain caused by every breath caused him to stop.

The x-rays came back and the doctor took a good look at them. The patient had a broken wrist two cracked ribs but nothing else seemed to be broken.

"I want you to let me know if you can feel this." The doctor ran the pointed yet blunt end of an instrument down one of the patient's feet.

"I can feel it."

The doctor repeated the procedure with the other foot and was pleased when the patient again felt it.

The doctor removed the patient's restraint's but wanted to leave the collar in place for the time being. There was no noticible injury to require it, but he hoped it would keept the patient from moving around too much. He looked like the active impatient type.

The doctor taped a gauze bandage over the sutured cut around his left eye and forehead before he put a temporary splint on his injured leg, that ran from midthigh to the bottom of his foot. He was trying to give the injured and swollen knee and ankle a chance to heal without much movement.

The orthopedic department moved in and gave him a strong painkiller before setting his broken wrist and encasing it in plaster to allow it to heal properly. The cast went about halfway up his forearm.

The cracked ribs were taped to prevent too much movement,and possibly finishing the break and puncturing a lung.

The patient was moved to his room and settled in the bed before being sedated.

Back in the emergency room a man in his mid fifties, balding and a little on the chubby side entered the ER in a near panicked state.

"Excuse me I'm looking for a friend of mine. I heard he was brought in here a little while ago. He has light brown hair, brown eyes and is about 6'4". He has an athletic build."

"I treated him. He was a mess. He's in room 1504."

His friend hesitated, unsure if he wanted to see how bad his friend looked, but opened the door anyways. When he caught a glimpse of his friend he nearly passed out from shock.

The man was asleep and fit the doctor's description - a real mess. Oxygen tubing ran across his bruised face and the iv line ran into the back of his uninjured hand. His graying friend noted the black eye, dark and nasty looking bruise on his jaw and lower lip, and the one by his unbandaged temple. He saw the large bandage covering the gash, and slightly obscuring his eye. It was the cervical collar that scared him and made him wonder if there was any spinal damage.

Next it moved down to the broken wrist laying elevated on a couple of pillows. His gaze continued to move down his friend's body seeing the splinted leg also propped up to help ease the swelling. He wondered what hidden injuries there were. He had noticed the signs of dehydration.

"What did you get yourself into this time, Mac?" He said as he felt for his best friend. He made a mental wager with himself that Mac would want to be up and trying to resume a normal life within 3 days, and that was being generous, knowing it would be more like two days. He left, knowing that Mac would be in no shape or mood to talk or likely have any visitors.

Two days later Pete stopped by again to see how Mac was doing.

Pete knocked on the door and heard "Enter."

Pete entered noticed that the oxygen and cervical collar were gone and relaxed. He had found out the full details of Mac's injuries.

"Hi. How are you?" He could see that Mac was already climbing the walls.

"Just fine," Mac said sarcastically.

"You look like hell. I've seen dead people who've looked better," Pete said with a grin.

"Thanks," again the sarcasm, but a small grin was there as well.

"What happened?"

"Which part?"

"Both."

"I was knocked out and found myself locked in a room about the size of a closet. When I wouldn't give them the information they made sure I had nothing to eat or drink. After a few days they got impatient and decided to see how much pain I could tolerate in one session. When I still didn't talk they dumped me in an alley. The next thing I remember was waking up in the ER."

Pete could see the painkillers making Mac a little out of it.

"I guess I won't be in to work for a few days."

"I would say a few weeks. I don't want you back before you ribs, bruises and leg have healed. If you do come back prematurely you'll be riding a desk until everything heals and you get a clean bill of health."

"Peeete," Mac whined.

"No. That's the deal. Take it easy. Rest, watch movies, whatever."

Three days later Mac was released. The only remaining evidence of his beating were the fading bruises, the steri-strips covering the healing gash, the mending ribs and the cast on his wrist. His knee and ankle were a little tender but were fine otherwise, the splint having been removed.

Pete drove him home and got him settled on the couch before he left.

Mac was tired and flipped on the tv and vcr to watch the cowboy movie he had left in there the before his problematic assignment. Before he knew it he was asleep.

He slept the entire day and most of the night. When he awoke he was hungry but did not feel like moving. He knew he needed food so he forced himself off the couch and felt a stab of pain shoot through his ribs. It was the worst part. The rest he could handle.

He spent the next few days catching up on his westerns, reading and computer work. Not to mention getting plenty of sleep. Pete brought him a few things to eat every time he stopped by. Pete saw that he was climbing the walls and knew that if he allowed him back to work too soon he would only reinjure himself.

By the middle of the next week Mac was 95% healed in all areas but his wrist, that would take another month.

Mac showed up at Pete's office to work. Pete wasn't sure if Mac should be there or not so he devised a little test. He dropped some papers on the floor.

"Mac, did you happen to see the Hansen file?"

"Yea, you just knocked if off your desk."

"Could you please get it for me?"

Mac had an idea what Pete was trying to do and had no choice but to go along with it. "Sure." Mac picked up the papers ignoring the small pain when he moved. It was more than a dull ache but not quite a shooting pain. He handed the papers to Pete, being sure to keep any sign of pain out of his eyes.

"How are you doing?"

"Fine. I'm ready to come back to work. I've met all your requirements." He stood by the window so Pete could see that the bruises had all healed and the only evidence of the gash was the thin pink scar.

Pete wasn't sure what to believe, but knew it had been long enough and gave in, trusting Mac's instincts.

"I don't have anything for you right now. I wasn't sure when you'd be in. Unless you want a obscenely easy job."

"What kind of job?" Mac asked hesitantly.

"A babysitting job. Keeping an eye on a VIP's 5 year old son during the father's meetings."

"I don't think I'm ready for that, just yet."

Pete knew Mac rarely turned down any projects having to do with children.

"Mac, are you ribs still sore?"

"Just a tiny bit. It wouldn't do to have someone crashing into me as kids have a way of doing."

"Go home. I'll call you as soon as I get an assignment for you." He saw Mac's doubting look. "I promise."

The end

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