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A Beautiful Day to Save Lives

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Dora had just fallen asleep. Hospitals were a noisy place and even when you had your own room. As a place of rest, it was surprising how many people interrupted a patient throughout the night. From nurses, doctors, porters she had been woken umpteen times and she was drained but her wishes were not to be as the door opened quietly and she rolled over to find her favourite doctor walking in. He looked tired, but beautiful nevertheless. His hair was perfectly styled and his smile was beaming. Over the months she had been trapped in this godforsaken hospital he had been her only source of joy. He kept a smile on her face through the treatments. He made her laugh. And throughout everything, he actually treated her as a person and not just a bed number or a patient.

‘Hey,’ he said, coming in and sitting on the edge of her bed as she pushed herself up on the bed.
‘Hi,’ she said with a yawn.
‘Rough night?’ he asked.
‘Yeah, you lot are like vultures,’ she said, making him laugh.
‘True,’ he said, ‘but like vultures, we’re always looking for the next good thing.’
‘Wait you’re gonna eat me?’ she chuckled.
‘Har har,’ he said, rolling his eyes as he pulled a thick wad of papers out of his lab coat pocket and placed it upon her bed covers. Her fingers sifted over the papers, picking them up and scanning over the title of what appeared to be an article.


‘What is this?’ she asked. Even just scanning the title made her head hurt. It was too early for a study session.
‘It’s an answer,’ he said with confidence that made her heart flutter. She wanted to believe him. She did but all of her other options hadn’t worked so far and her hope was waning but there was something about Derek that made her want to hang on.
‘What do you mean?’ she said, watching the light behind his eyes as he went on to explain.
‘Microsurgery has been used in many things and in some brain surgeries before now-’
‘But not on my type of tumour I’m guessing,’ she said.
‘No, not your type of tumour at least not until recently. You see these studies, these surgeries are your type of tumour. And they’ve worked Dora, they’ve worked,’ he said with an excitement she was struggling to find.
‘So what are you saying? I can have surgery and that’s it?’
‘Well no, there’s a lot of things to consider first of course but I think we should suggest it to Hawke,’ he said, clasping her hand in both of his. They were large yet nimble and engulfed her thin slender one. His excitement was palpable and Dora could feel her hopes rising the longer he held her hand.

It was no secret she and her doctor were friends. Whether his colleagues knew how much she liked him was another story. But when he was alone with her like this she felt as if somewhere her feelings were reciprocated. Until her finger danced across the cool metal band on his ring finger and she was snapped back to her senses with crushing pace. His eyes searched her face for a moment as she pulled back and nodded, handing him his papers back.

‘If you think there’s a shot,’ she said quietly, dropping her gaze and trying to ignore the feeling of her heart being squeezed in her chest. Derek mumbled something as he climbed up off the bed and she looked up just as he said, ‘see you at rounds?’

Dora nodded.

And then he was gone. She flopped back on the bed and closed her eyes. The last picture in her mind was Derek’s beaming smile.

Then she was awake again. Trying to come to her senses as the door to her room flung open and the lights came on allowing a dozen people to file in. Her attending came in, barely paying attention to her in her bed as the gaggle of interns, residents and students toddled in behind him. Her eyes immediately roved the crowd searching for Derek. Against her will, her heart fluttered in her chest.

‘Okay, who wants to present?’ said Dr Hawke, her attending physician. He was an older gentleman with a heavily wrinkled face and a large nose that held onto his glasses by the end of it. He was clever but cold, lacking any warmth towards his patients even if he was a good doctor.
‘I will,’ an eager brown-haired girl said as she stepped forward clutching her chart. Dr Hawke didn’t say anything and instead just peered over his glasses at her. ‘Okay, um Theodora Monroe-‘
‘Dora, how many times,’ the girl grumbled from her bed. Derek suppressed a smirk from behind the couple of doctors he was standing at the back of.
‘Dora,’ the doctor corrected slightly dejected after being interrupted, ‘25. Presented with headaches and slurred speech. MRI showed a stage 3 glioblastoma around the medulla and down onto the brain stem. Treatment has included radiotherapy and oral chemotherapy. The patient is currently not fit for discharge due to symptoms from both and-‘
‘No reduction in this stupid tumour. I’ve been here for 68 days. We do this every day. No, there are no changes in my scans. Yes, I’ve had my blood taken this morning. Yes, I’m still vomiting and no I haven’t eaten. That’s what this handy drip is for right?’

‘Okay I think that’s enough, Ortiz,’ Dr Hawke said to the eager doctor who was scowling at Dora’s outburst, ‘Dora how are the headaches?’
‘Still there,’ she said as he gestured for one of them to examine her. Derek darted out in front and produced a pen torch from his pocket as he started their daily routine of her neuro examination. As always, her vision went blurry under the bright light but Derek was there with a hand on the back of her elbow keeping her upright.
‘Lab results?’ Dr Hawke said.
‘Urea and Creatinine are still raised. Potassium is now stable. Sodium and Magnesium are almost within range. Infection markers are still high but on a downward trend after switching antibiotics as per microbiology. Chest X-ray shows whiteout indicative of a chest infection probably due to initial overload.’
‘Okay, slow intravenous fluids. Extra antiemetics. Repeat blood tests and chest X-ray in the morning and-‘
‘Surgery,’ Derek said from where he was sitting on the bed. Dr Hawke eyed him suspiciously and then he said, ‘excuse me?’

‘Dr Hawke, I’ve been reading up on microsurgeries and glioblastomas and the findings of some researchers supports their usage,’ he said, standing and procuring the pages from his coat once more. The doctor snatched them out of his hands and skimmed through them. Everyone watched the doctor with bated breath as his eyes roved over the notes.
‘…and where does it mention tumours around the medulla and brainstem, Dr Shepherd?’
‘Well It’s only been used in frontal lobe tumours-‘
‘Which is an easier place to get to and considering the branching of this tumour-‘
‘But it could be tried? Just because it’s not been done before doesn’t mean it couldn’t be tried on other tumours,’ Derek argued.
‘Derek said it could work,’ Dora said.
‘Derek seems to have led you wrong Ms Monroe. This type of surgery is useful for sure but with your type of cancer, I doubt we would be able to get all of it and the part of the brain it affects is at risk we go in at all. Which is why I never suggested it,’ he said sternly. The tension was palpable. Dora said nothing but she dropped her gaze hoping that the tears that had formed despite herself would dissipate before anyone saw them.

‘Carry on the plan as ordered. Let me know of her lab results and we’ll re-review in the morning….and Dr Shepherd?’ her attending said as he started to lead the group out of the room. Derek looked at him pointedly as he continued, ‘maybe you should spend the day in the pit…to remind you of the work we actually do here instead of researching the things we don’t.’

Derek said nothing as the troop disappeared out of the room. He didn’t follow either. Instead, he perched on the end of the bed where Dora had now composed herself. She watched him as he rubbed his eyes and sighed, turning to her and saying, ‘I’m really sorry Dora.’
‘Don’t be,’ she said, her jaw set.
‘No, I shouldn’t have told you before I knew it was certain that Dr Hawke would agree. But he’s wrong we just need to convince-’
‘What another surgeon? Let you do it? It’s not an option Derek-’
‘But it could be. I’ve seen-’
‘Minimal research. My tumour won’t wait that long. I’ll be dead before then and if the only reason you’re striving for it is so that you look good and can show off that you’re some kind of neuro god then forget it. I don’t want any part of it,’ she said, flopping back on the bed.

‘Look,’ he sighed, reaching a handout and placing it on top of the covers where her thigh was, ‘I know you’re frustrated and I know it seems like it’s not going to happen but it could. We could push for another doctor to look at your case and it’s not so I can say I’m some sort of great surgeon. It’s so you can get rid of that stupid tumour-’
‘What?’ he said seemingly confused by her question.
‘Why do you care so much that I live? I’m just a patient. Some patient with an inoperable tumour that shouldn’t matter to you. I’m not a relative of yours. I’m not a friend. I’m not your wife. Why do you care?’ she sneered. Derek tensed and looked away before turning his gaze back to her and smiling.

‘Because you are my patient. And my friend….to tell you the truth you’ve been one of the only friends I’ve had recently. And even if you leave this hospital and never see one another again I don’t care because you’re young. And funny. And pretty. And vibrant. And you deserve to live the rest of your life…’ he said standing up. The tears that Dora had quelled now stung her eyes and spilt over against her will. Derek smiled sadly before he leaned down and pressed a kiss to the top of her head, his hand dancing down her cheek for a moment before it disappeared quickly as he headed to the door. Just before he exited he turned and said, ‘besides it’s a beautiful day to save lives don’t you think?’