A Relationship Beckons: The Emergency Room (#2)
To read this serialized blog of A Relationship Beckons from the beginning, click Crisis Averted #1 on the sidebar.
The Emergency Room
The paramedics wheeled Peter who was resting on the collapsible gurney straight past the crowded waiting area into the emergency room proper. He was lying against the angled backrest trying to absorb the myriad of colors, sounds and activity surrounding him. His nose and mouth were covered by a clear, green face mask connected to tubing that snaked to an oxygen tank lying beside him. The boy had been talking incessantly since being placed inside the back of the large rig and seemingly had reveled at the special attention and the siren-screeching ride. “I can’t wait to tell Stephen that I got to ride in an amboo-lance,” he’d bragged to Caroline as she caught up to the stretcher as they off-loaded Peter from the ambulance.
Caroline had followed the medical transport in her Escalade to Tidewater Regional Medical Center in Newport News. Now, she walked just behind the pair of first responders keeping pace with her hand resting on the angled backrest. A young woman in green scrubs standing behind the counter at the circular nurse’s station saw the quartet approaching and pointed to an open, glass-walled room.
“Put him in room three,” she instructed.
The pretty nurse followed everyone into the treatment room and greeted her young patient. “And who do we have here?”
The reply was muffled and hollow through the oxygen mask. “I’m Peter. Peter Clivio.”
“Are you Mom?”
Caroline nodded, a relieved smile creeping over her face. She adjusted her large purse against her shoulder and pushed out a weak, “Yes.
The nurse turned her attention back to the boy. “My name is Gretchen. I’m one of the nurses who will be taking care of you today.”
The paramedics had lowered one side rail of the gurney and pushed it against the hospital bed. Gretchen asked Peter to scoot onto his new bed. She disconnected his oxygen tube from the O2 tank and reattached it to the hook-up in the wall. The paramedics recited a quick report of the boy’s vital signs and Gretchen wished them a good day. Caroline thanked the two young, athletic looking men as they gathered up their gear.
Gretchen rolled a tall, medical monitor on a wheeled pole to the bedside and proceeded to place a pulse oximeter on the middle finger of Peter’s right hand and a small blood pressure cuff over his bicep. She calmly explained what she was doing in a soothing, unhurried voice. Peter still breathed somewhat heavily. Each breath briefly fogged his mask.
Gretchen noticed Peter’s hands trembling.
The nurse asked Caroline what had happened. Caroline relayed the episode of Peter’s asthma attack in the car and her frantic rush to the only place she could think to go quickly, the pharmacy in the northern stretches of Newport News and the heroic pharmacist who’d administered the albuterol puffs into her son’s lungs.
When she turned her attention back to Peter, Caroline took measure of this twenty-something angel who now captivated her son. She was about five-six with sparkly, ocean blue eyes that were striking beneath the silken, blonde hair pulled into a ponytail.
Her ex-husband Luca had taken Caroline to Italy three years before their divorce to Nerano, a small town on the western coast about three hours south of Rome on the Sorrentine Peninsula, a stone’s throw from Sorrento and a short drive to the Amalfi Coast and Positano. From their villa, they enjoyed a spectacular view of the Isle of Capri and the three Faraglioni in the Tyrrhenian Sea. She remembered the boat trip over to the island for a romantic lunch with Luca. Of course, that had been during better times–much better times.
She recalled marveling at the rich cerulean water as they circled the island in a charted boat. It was the bluest water she’d ever seen. Gretchen’s eyes held that same hue now over the pleated surgical mask as they darted between the instruments she was manipulating and her son who seemed taken by her natural beauty.
“–need this, Mrs. Clivio,” Gretchen said, holding out an unused blue mask to Caroline.
Caroline took the mask and replied, “It’s Miss Clivio.” She had divorced Luca a year ago. Though she was no longer married to the man, she’d kept his name for Peter’s sake. However, the moniker of “Mrs.” was one she refused to wear.
Gretchen nodded, acknowledging the correction. “Peter’s doing fine. His vital signs all look good. His breathing is a little labored but I think he will be okay. He’s trembling a little, probably due to the albuterol. The doctor will be in to see him in just a few minutes.” Gretchen slipped out of the room.
It was then that an older, portly woman about Caroline’s height hastily entered the room. “Mon dieu! Is he okay?”
Caroline stood, leaving her purse on the chair. “Hi, Mom.” The women hugged. When they separated, Caroline looked her mother in the eye. “He’s fine. He had an attack. The pharmacist at the store gave him some albuterol. We brought him here just to be cautious.”
Though, she carried her years well, the ravages of time and raising four children had begun to take their toll. Her jowly face and liver-spotted skin added years to Nora Martel’s appearance. The hazel eyes still bespoke a sharp mind and the ability of critical analysis that came with sixty-five years of life’s trials and tribulations.
Nora’s eyes shifted to Peter in the bed. His eyes were closed. The fatigue and energy he’d exerted this morning trying to breath had caught up with him. Caroline followed her mother’s gaze to her son. “He’s exhausted. But he enjoyed the ride in the ambulance. He’ll have lots to tell his friends.”
“I won’t wake him. “And his father,” Nora added. She hesitated a moment. Then in a very soft voice muttered in French, “Est-ce-que le connard sait?” Nora Martel always reverted to her native language when she was worried.
Caroline sucked in a heavy breath and closed her eyes trying to summon patience. The last thing she wanted to endure this morning was the one quality her mother had perfected, and one in which she was a virtuoso: pushing Caroline’s buttons and finding fault with just about everything she did. Caroline performed a silent five count, re-opened her eyes and expelled the air and her response. “No, mother, the asshole doesn’t know.”
“Am I going to have to see him today?”
“Mom, this is not the time…or the place,” Caroline chided.
“You know how he’ll react when he finds out,” Nora continued.
Caroline cast her gaze to the ceiling. “Not now, please,” she insisted, bringing her eyes back to Nora’s. A single tear traced its way down Caroline’s cheek. Her mother was also always the first one to confirm what Caroline was thinking…and fearing. She could read her daughter blindfolded .
In addition to being concerned about Peter, Caroline’s mind struggled with the fear of what Luca might say–or–do when he found out about this latest episode. She had pushed the worry about Luca’s reaction into a corner of her mind temporarily as she phoned her mother to tell her to meet her at the hospital. Caroline had been on her way to her mother’s when Peter took ill. The plan had been for Nora to sit with Peter while Caroline ran errands. After she had hung up and as she trailed the ambulance, Caroline had become consumed with the possibility of Luca finding out. As a result, she experimented with different reasons and rationales for why she hadn’t remembered to bring Peter’s inhaler with her. Her hands had trembled as she gripped the wheel with a white-knuckled strange hold.
Despite the fact that they were no longer married, Caroline would never be rid of Luca. They shared a son. A son Luca doted on. Luca’s Italian heritage made him quick to temper. His occupation and his affliction made him suspicious and unpredictable. He was a powder keg. The tiniest spark could set off the volcanic rage, sending him into explosive–sometimes violent–tirades.
And for a few moments, Caroline recalled the relief and gratitude she’d felt when the pharmacist had administered the breath-saving medication. She made a mental note to go back to the pharmacy sometime soon and thank the man.
Nora dug into her daughter’s eyes with her own. Caroline surmised that her mother realized that she had pushed too hard. Nora patted her arm and relented. “We’ll deal with that later.” But, Caroline knew the issue was not dead. Her mother would pursue it relentlessly.
The Doctor Departs
Their conversation was interrupted when a short but authoritative-looking man dressed in khakis, a blue shirt and red tie and cloaked in a knee length white coat entered. His stethoscope was draped horizontally around his neck. “Good morning,” he said. “I’m Dr. Hobson. Are you,” he referred to clipboard he’d retrieved from the holder outside the door. “Mrs. Clivio?”
Caroline frowned your, but chose not to correct him. “Yes,” she replied with a single nod.
“Peter experienced a breathing episode today?”
“Yes. I forgot his inhaler at home.” Caroline shot a glance at her mother whose brow crinkled deeply. “A pharmacist at the Smith’s Family Pharmacy helped me and gave him two puffs of albuterol. He called the paramedics who brought him here.”
“Let’s take a look,” the doctor said, rounding the bed. He placed a hand on Peter’s shoulder and said the boy’s name. Peter roused and blinked several times, looking up at the newest stranger. He asked Peter to lean forward and take deep breaths as he placed the stethoscope along various spots around Peter’s back. Then he listened to his heart. After several minutes, his preliminary exam complete, the doctor replaced the stethoscope laterally around his neck. “He’s breathing well. Still a little wheezy. He’ll be fine. We’re just going to watch him for an hour or so.” The doctor nodded and departed.
Caroline lowered her head, relieved. She saw the doctor’s comfortable shoes hesitate as he exited the treatment room. A shadow spilled from the hallway into her field of vision. She heard her mother’s whispered word of contempt in her ear. “Merde!” Caroline spun her head toward Nora. Nora’s eyes did not move in her daughter’s direction. Instead they were riveted on something in the doorway.
Caroline hesitated a moment, realizing Nora was staring beyond her. Caroline turned her head in the opposite direction. It was not something. It was someone. Backlight by the harsh emergency room light of the nurse’s station, Luca Clivio towered over the departing physician. The tension in his frame, the hard eyes and the repeated flexing, relaxation and re-flexing of his right hand into a fist sent a dagger of dread through Caroline.
To Be Continued
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