|Unit of Instruction||VLT and iReady Reading|
|Learning Targets and Learning Criteria|
Submerged Chapters 27-28
Medical responsibilities had actually become my lifesaver. I couldn’t do anything to help those who were sick on land, but I was doing everything I could to help those down here. Ethan and I threw ourselves into watching procedure holograms, familiarizing ourselves with pharmacy protocols and which drugs we should prescribe for different presentations. We practiced stitching on fish filets.
When it came to suturing, another word for stitching, I had it over Ethan in the beginning, but his competitive nature pushed us into contests, and he was soon as good as I was or better. The cool thing was the Navy had provided new, experimental, pain-free patches called Hevador Epidermis Semiconductor Circuits that blocked feeling on the skin. Instead of having to inject Zynefercain or Lidocaine, which hurt like a bee sting when they were injected, you placed a Hevador patch over a patient’s skin and voila: no pain. This allowed us to easily suture cuts with no pain or stress for the patient. Dad told me he didn’t know of any vet or human doctor who had even heard of such a thing up on Terra Firma.
“Vi, you’re dealing with medical technology of the future. These are protocols we’ve never even imagined possible.” I heard longing in his voice. For the millionth time, I wished that Dad had been forced to stay down here like Liam had, that he hadn’t taken the helicopter to Atlanta. “Imagine a device that relieves pain by just placing it over the skin. Have you used one yet?”
One of Liam’s fellow kitchen helpers was our trial run the very next day. Hannah, aged ten, had cut her index finger while dicing chicken, and Chef Sal knew it would need stitches. Hannah came to us with a kitchen towel wrapped around her hand and a distrusting look on her face. She was trying to be brave, but she was terrified of needles. Her mom, Angela, came with her, and she was concerned.
“Have you put in stitches before?” the mother asked. “I don’t mean to be rude.”
I don’t blame you. I’d feel the same way if it was Liam.
I nodded. “Yes, I’ve sutured many times. I’ll do my best.” She didn’t need to know that my patients had been dogs, cats, and an occasional ferret. I didn’t feel offended. She was this kid’s mother, and she was looking out for her child. “And, I don’t think you’re rude at all.”
“Hey, Hannah. I’m Violet. This is Ethan.”
“Yeah, I know.” She held her arms tight by her sides.
“We’re going to fix you up, and you won’t feel a thing. I’ve got a magic patch I’m going to put over your skin. No needles, okay?”
She still looked wary.
“Check this out. The patch is actually thinner than your own skin, but wait till you see what it can do.”
I cut an oval out of the middle and wrapped the patch over Hannah’s finger. It was activated as soon as it touched skin, so it worked instantly. I gently poked Hannah’s finger near the cut.
“Do you feel anything?”
She giggled. “No.”
In the name of all that is holy, thank you.
Ethan washed the cut and draped Hannah’s hand with an eye sheet to keep the surrounding area clean. It was my turn up to bat. I was nervous, but I took deep breaths to steady my hands. While I sutured with the curved needle, Ethan flirted and teased with Hannah to keep her from watching what I was doing. It was astonishing to push a needle through skin that felt no pain but had not been an anesthetized.
Push through both sides of the wound. Up. Cross threads. Pull through. Close skin. Knot and cut.
I repeated the process seven times, trying to keep an even depth and length. I concentrated so hard I felt sweat beads on my forehead.
When I finished, Hannah’s mother breathed a loud sigh of relief.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to doubt you. I was worried this was going to be an ordeal for Hannah. I can’t thank you enough. I’m Angela, by the way. I’m the barber here.”
It was my turn to let out a long sigh when they left. “Thank goodness you’re here, Ethan.”
“Thank goodness the Navy has access to futuristic medical inventions—even experimental ones.”
I was riding high, but I knew there would be times when I would make mistakes or not know what to do.
Just breathe, Violet. Enjoy the moment and breathe.
That afternoon, surprise, surprise. Ferndandez called. Ethan put her up on the big screen. It was thrilling to see her.
“Are you home? Are you with your sisters?”
“I got here last night.”
“What?” She’d been gone a week. She read the shock in my voice.
“Chica, there are no words to tell you how bad it is up here. Interstates are clogged with cars. They’re practically parking lots. There are no busses or planes or trains. Rental cars are all gone. People are either sick, helping the sick, burying the sick, or trying to get to their families. It’s a long way to New York from Florida.”
“How did you do it?”
“It was brutal. Captain Jasper and the team had cars for us, and I got a little Toyota, which is good, right? Gas is hard to come by, so I had to plan carefully. If you stop, even for a minute, someone runs up begging for a ride, tries to take your stuff, or worse.”
“One guy threatened me with a crowbar. He actually tried to take the car from me.”
“What did you do?”
“I showed him how convincing I could be with a baseball bat.”
Ethan and I waited for her to go on.
“I had to push on. Take off-roads. Sleep in the car. Get food wherever I could. I paid $50 a gallon for gas four days ago. I finally ran out of fuel in Virginia, and there was none to be found—anywhere. I was bummed to have to abandon the car, but what could I do, right?”
“What did you do?”
She smiled. “What didn’t I do. It’s going to sound like I’m making this up, but I swear it’s the truth. I rode in the back of a pickup with a load of hay and two mud-covered dogs on backwoods dirt roads. Then a guy on a motorcycle took me as far as Tappahannock. I couldn’t find anyone with wheels, and the ferry wasn’t running, so the only fisherman out that day agreed to take me across the Chesapeake. It was really nice for him to take me because of the gas shortage, so in return I gave him medical care for his legs. He’s diabetic, and they were a mess.
“Then I walked to Pocomoke City, Maryland. The fisherman’s sister owns a bed and breakfast there. She’s not taking any guests, but he called and set it up. She let me stay there, and it’s a good thing because I was dead on my feet. She fed me a big dinner, and I crashed for the night. That’s the only real cooked meal I’ve had since I left OSCAR.”
“Did you leave the next morning?”
“Way before sunup. The team who met us on Terra Firma in Florida had several boxes of shoes for us to choose from. I found a pair of hiking books my size, and that’s what I’ve worn ever since. I walked all day until dark. The fisherman’s sister had given me a sleeping bag, a back pack, and a bunch of food. I slept in the woods.”
“Was it creepy?”
“Yeah it was, so I crawled behind some bushes and slept with the baseball bat next to me. Two days later, I met an older guy who was also walking to the city. New York, I mean. I shared some food with him, and we walked together for two more days. That was cool because when we stopped for water or bathroom breaks, we could watch each other’s stuff. He was a great guy named Raul, 67-years-old, and trying to make it home to his grandchildren in the Bronx. Then last night, about an hour after dark, I finally made it home.”
“What did your sisters say? Were they excited?”
“Oh my goodness, Chica! They were all over me. My aunt couldn’t believe it, either. She prayed and cried and sang all night long. My little sisters asked me a thousand questions.”
“Are they…?” I wanted to be careful not to say the wrong thing.
“So far, no one has shown any signs. Amelia has a cold, but that’s all.”
I was relieved for her. I wish I had gotten to spend more time with Fernandez while she was still at Oscar.
“I miss you. We all miss you.” Then I remembered. “Hey, did you know that Boylston abandoned us?”
Her tone turned bitter. “Yeah, I saw him when we all came ashore. The captain asked how he could abandon 137 people with no doctor. Boylston said he wanted to be with his wife. I felt like slashing his tires, and I would have, too, but then I realized I had done the same thing: abandoned you all. We’re all in a pretty desperate situation here.” She put her hair up in a ponytail while we talked. “That’s why I’m calling because I realize that Boylston’s leaving has really left you in a bad situation. I’m so sorry, Chica. I never meant for you to have to do everything.”
“Yeah, it took me several days to agree to take over. I didn’t want to do it. Well, you know that. You had to drag me in here.” I paused, remembering my conversation with Julian and Dr. Nyaga.
I had so much to tell Fernandez, to ask, to show her, but one of her little sisters came and stood by her side. Fernandez brushed a strand of long, black hair out of her eyes.
She was about ten, and she looked just like Fernandez.
“This is Amelia. She’s the little one.” Fernandez pulled her sister to her. “Are you going to sleep in my bed tonight? We’re going watch You Tube videos and laugh, right?”
My eyes moistened. How long did they have to be together? A few weeks? A few months?
“Hey. I didn’t mean to change the subject. How are you doing in Medical?”
Oh yeah. Medical. Hello.
“Okay, actually. Ethan Roggenkamp is helping me. We’ve been learning all the equipment and devices.”
“That’s good. Seeing patients?”
“Yeah. At least six a day.”
“Are you able to handle it?”
“Nice. I knew you were a natural for this. We can always do a conference call if you have a serious case, and you can’t get a doctor on the line. I’ll try to talk you through it.”
A Serious case: my worst fear.
“Who keeps in touch with you guys? Matisse is still manning the Communications Center at OSCAR Terra Firma, right?
“Funny you should mention that. The answer is no. Samantha Matisse died of the virus, and her staff left to go home to their families. The LC stayed for a few days and spoke with Julian Fenley and Dr. Nyaga several times a day, but she’s gone now, too. The lines of communication are open, but no one’s there that I know of.”
“Wow. Unbelievable. What about Captain Jasper?”
“He met with us as a group several times. He met with Julian and Persennia more times before he finally went home. He wanted to be with his wife and family and spend time with them before—”
Silence. I reminded myself to be careful with what I said.
“You can’t blame him,” Fernandez said. “It’s hard to know what to do. No one’s ever faced a situation like this before.”
“True,” I said. Dad had made the decision for me and Liam, and I was glad. I wouldn’t have known which was the right thing for us to do: go home to be together and risk dying from the virus or stay here at OSCAR. People everywhere were facing complicated life decisions.
“I better go,” she said. “These jelly beans all want my attention.”
I wanted to say something more, something important, and I didn’t know if I would have another chance. “Hey Fernandez.” Tears welled again. My throat closed. I wanted to tell her. What? That I looked up to her? That she was my role model? That I was happy she made it home? That I hoped she and her sisters wouldn’t die from this virus? Tears spilled down my cheeks. Stupidly, I just rubbed my heart. I was trying to say something, and I couldn’t. So instead, I cried and I patted my chest like an idiot.
“I know, Chica. I know.”