On warm days, I assist Patience in going out and sitting in the sun on the porch. Despite all science has to offer, fresh air and sunshine are still the best medicine.
They named the baby Mira because she was a miracle.
Return to Work
Today I returned to my job at the CCC camp. I’d called Sheriff Hardman and asked him to leave word with Supervisor Milliken, via shortwave radio, that I wouldn’t be able to come in for two weeks because of a family emergency, but when I showed up, there was hell to pay.
“So nice of you to join us, Miss Myers,” Captain Wolfe greets me, standing with his hands on his hips on the porch of the administration building. “What was the big emergency? Your doctor have a serious relapse of muteness?” Boodean and Mrs. Ross pretend not to listen.
“Can we speak in private?” I head for the infirmary and close the door behind him.
“What is your problem?”
“What is yours? I stood up for you, helped you get this job, and then you leave for two weeks!”
“I sent a message through the sheriff that we had a medical emergency. What did you expect me to do? Leave a critically ill mother and premature baby? I figured Boodean could cope with minor problems and the doctor from Laurel would cover both camps the same way he did before I was hired.”
“Well, it wasn’t that easy. Dr. Crane quit ten days ago and went back to Ohio. It’s been a zoo around here. Four kids were almost killed in a truck accident and I’ve been going back and forth to the hospital in Torrington. I’ve been trying to help Private Boodean in the infirmary, doing my job and yours too. One night we had four men sleeping here. I had half a mind to come out and get you or just fire you right out, and I would have if I’d been in charge, but Milliken said to wait. There aren’t many other nurses in Union County.”
The captain can’t stop himself. He goes on and on. “You signed on for this job. You have responsibilities. In the middle of everything, we’ve had an outbreak of mumps in the camp. This place is a mess. Look around. Do you think Boodean and I were coping?”
He’s right. The place is a mess. Two extra cots crowd the small room, there’s a pile of clean linen on a chair, and a pile of dirty linen on the floor in the corner. Bottles of medication and gauze cover the desk.
We glare at each other, neither wanting to be the first to look away, and silence thickens the air. I’m eager to get to work and clean the place up, but not while Wolfe is still standing here. His face is red and I imagine mine is too, a far cry from the night he told me after the ball in Torrington that I looked so beautiful.
Finally, there’s a timid knock at the door.
It’s Boodean. “We have our first patient, Nurse Myers.” The captain spins on his heel and leaves without another word.
Within ten minutes after Wolfe’s departure, Boodean and I have the extra cots collapsed and stored against the wall, the medications back on the shelves, and the dirty and clean linen put away, but I am still steamed.
What makes me feel so bad is that maybe Wolfe is right. Maybe I should have driven out here and told him personally what was going on. Maybe I could have come back to work sooner.
Fever and Chills
There isn’t much time for further self-recriminations. Within five minutes Boodean escorts our first patient through the door.
It’s Drake Trustler, aka Nick Rioli, the mobster’s driver, and he looks terrible. His face is pale with dark circles under his eyes and he’s lost so much weight his CCC uniform droops from his shoulders. I try to remember when I last saw him. It must have been before the camp Christmas party.
“Miss Myers.” He gives a little military salute. “Glad to have you back. I haven’t been feeling so well.”
I take a seat behind the desk and my assistant picks up his clipboard.
“Do you think you’re getting the mumps? I heard several of the men had it.” (Mumps are quite serious for adult males and can make them go sterile.)
“Not likely. Me and my brothers had the mumps in 1919. We were awful sick. I remember because my pop had just gotten back from the war.”
“Well, tell me what’s wrong then. What are your symptoms? Does it involve your bowels? Are you able to eat?”
“Oh, nothing like that. I eat all I want and I keep it down. Don’t feel much like eating though.” He starts to cough and puts a blue kerchief to his mouth. “It’s more like my chest hurts and I’m not sleeping well. I wake hot and then chill. I’m worried I’ve got pneumo.”
Without even asking, Boodean gets out my thermometer and stethoscope. He shakes the glass rod vigorously and pops it in the patient’s mouth before I have a chance to ask any more questions.
Two minutes later, as Boodean holds the glass tube up at eye level, his eyebrows go up. “One hundred and one degrees,” he reads out loud.
“Is that high? What’s it supposed to be, ninety or something?” Drake questions.
“Yes, it’s a little high.” I run my fingers down his neck looking for swollen glands and then lay the back of my hand on his forehead, feeling the heat. “You didn’t have a cigarette on the way over, did you?”
“Nah, I never smoke. My father died of consumption, so none of us kids did.”
“Can you take off your shirt?” The medic steps over to the wood stove, opens the damper, and throws in two logs to warm the room up.
The patient coughs again. When he stops, I place the bell of my stethoscope over his left upper chest and am startled to hear a familiar rattle. I listen again. Yes, it’s still there, a rattle on the in breath and not only that, there’s a high-pitched wheeze on the out breath too. “Can you cough harder? Clear your airway?”
“Yeah, I feel it, a squeaky door, every time I breathe.” The man leans over, his elbows on his knees with the kerchief over his face and hacks a few times, but when I listen, the rattle’s still there and so is the wheeze.
“You know, Drake. I think it’s a good idea to keep you in the clinic overnight. It’s probably warmer here than in the bunkhouse, and tomorrow I’m going to get Captain Wolfe or someone to take you down to the hospital in Torrington for a chest X-ray.” Boodean gives me a strange look.
“Oh, no, Miss Myers! My mother told me never to get an X-ray!” Drake argues. “She knew a lady who got brain cancer that way. I’m sure I’ll be better tomorrow. Just sleeping here will help. It is cold in the bunkhouse and in the garage I’m on the concrete floor under the trucks all the time.”
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