Soothing vibrations aboard the hospital-class MedStar ship, Recovery, had finally lured Commanding Medical Officer Ellyn Camden into much-needed sleep when the comm sounded. Rolling out of her bunk, she glared at the flashing red light that signaled a priority transmission from the medlifter and keyed to receive:
***Incoming: Human male. Identity unknown. Age estimated between twenty and twenty-five standard years. Multiple fractures and lacerations. Multiple limb amputations. Third degree burns, seventy percent body surface area. Probable smoke inhalation. Possible skull fracture. Probable spinal cord injury.***
She rubbed the grit from her eyes and thought, a transport wreck, the occupational jargon for a medical disaster. Great. Her trauma team had not slept for more than two consecutive hours in the past three days. She wondered for the thousandth time if any of the leaders in this war ever paused to consider who had to clean up their mess.
Pausing only for a cup of stimcaf, Ellyn greeted the staff congregated around the central communications desk. “This sounds fun,” she said wearily.
Jared, a respiratory intensivist freshly graduated from Coruscant Med, smirked, “And why are they calling us instead of the morgue? No human can survive that.”
The charge nurse, an older Corellian woman named Henil, pulled a flimisplast report sheet from the comm station. “It gets better. We’ve just received orders from the office of the Supreme Chancellor himself to keep this patient alive…at all costs.”
Ellyn raised her eyebrows, “The Supreme Chancellor? Who is this Incoming, some kind of V.I.P?” Ellyn didn’t have much knowledge of political machinations, but knew that the Chancellor’s involvement meant that their day had just gone from routine to memorable.
“Don’t know,” Henil shrugged. “But he’s obviously not your generic clone trooper that needs re-assembling.”
“ETA?” Ellyn asked, suddenly apprehensive at what would greet her upon the unknown patient’s arrival.
“Ten minutes,” Henil responded matter-of-factly. “Pod seven is ready.”
Ellyn nodded and keyed for overhead broadcast. “Attention Trauma One. Incoming. Level one priority. Pod seven. ETA, ten.” Downing the remainder of her stimcaf, she headed down the corridor.
Henil, Jared, two nurses and the medical droid members of Trauma One team had already assembled when Ellyn arrived at pod seven. She passed through the bacteriostatic room field with a faint buzz.
“Some medical students heard about the excitement and want to watch, chief,” Henil commented while verifying proper supplies in the pod. “Want me to send them away?”
Ellyn thought for a moment and then said, “No. They can observe. Everyone has to learn sometime. Just keep them out of the way.” As far as she was concerned, this was as good a time as any to see the worst the galaxy had to offer in terms of medical emergencies. And, perhaps, the brutality of the war would not shock them into ineffectiveness when they assumed their roles later on.
Henil stepped into the corridor and signaled for the students to enter, then pointed toward the back wall, “Stand there. If we want to hear what you learned in class last week, we’ll ask. Otherwise, keep quiet.”
Ellyn suppressed a smile at Henil’s no-nonsense style. She was the best nurse on the MedStar and could manage any given case without a physician’s presence, if needed.
The comm buzzed. “Medlift landing confirmed,” a tech droid announced.
Out of habit, a sense of calm expectation fell over the team members lining the walls as they assumed their positions in preparation for the patient’s arrival. They had all read the report and mentally prepared themselves when the pod doors hissed open and the transport team rushed in with the hover stretcher.
The battle-hardened staff, most of them witness to the some of the worst atrocities sentient beings could inflict upon each other, absorbed the gruesome sight. For all their experience, it was never easy to see a life form damaged to the extent of the man now lying in front of them, and the team froze in a collective split-second of remorse.
One of the medical students, a male humanoid, did not fare so well and gagged, falling against the wall for support. Henil glanced across the room in disgust, “Get them out of here.”
Ellyn snapped her skin-gloves into place, her years of training and experience taking over. “All right, people. Stats and scans. We’ve got a job to do,” she said as she ran a practiced eye over the patient, mentally cataloguing and triaging his injuries.
A whirlwind of organized chaos began as nurses called out vital statistics and overhead scanners displayed details of internal injuries on various monitor screens.
“Heart rate: 160. Blood pressure: 78 over 42. Oxygen saturation: 84 percent.”
Jared placed a high-flow oxygen mask over the patient’s mouth and nose, “At least he’s not bleeding.”
“How could he be?” Henil quipped, unrolling pre-moistened sheets of bacta to wrap around the stumps of his remaining limbs. “His whole damned body has been cauterized.”
Ellyn stood calmly at the head of the stretcher, “Give four units of vascolution, increase oxygen supply to 100 percent.” She looked down at the red, suppurating skin on the face of what, by looking at his bone structure, had probably been a very handsome young man.
The deep lacerations on his skull and cheek were surprisingly clean with no sign of blood loss. Ellyn frowned. Outside of an operating theater, a Jedi’s lightsaber was the only other instrument, or weapon, as it was, that she knew of that stopped blood flow upon contact.
“Commander,” Henil was inspecting what remained of his left arm, “I don’t think these limbs were burned off. The cuts are clean. It looks like they were severed.”
“Severed?” one of the nurses repeated incredulously.
Ellyn grimaced, securing the intravenous access she had just obtained under his collar bone. “Well, let’s hope, for this young man’s sake, that he was not conscious when this happened.” She couldn’t help but wonder if that was further evidence of a lightsaber’s involvement. Surely not.
Jerking her attention back to the task at hand, she glanced up at Henil, “Is that vascolution in yet?”
“Almost. His blood pressure is up to-”
Suddenly, an alarm signaled from the cardiac monitor. The erratic tracing on the screen indicated that the heart had stopped beating and was now quivering uselessly inside the patient’s chest. “He’s fibrillating! Stand clear.” A defibrillation droid zoomed from its prominent station on the wall to the center of the room and hovered over the man’s chest, administering a single jolt of electricity.
There was a brief pause, as the staff stood breathless in anticipation, before the patient’s heart tentatively resumed its normal rhythm.
The defibrillation droid started to hover away when the entire medical staff was abruptly lifted off their feet and violently thrown against the walls by an unseen force.
“What the kark?” Jared cursed, wiping blood from his the back of his head, which had taken the full brunt of the impact from wall behind him.
Tossed by the same invisible hand, the defibrillation droid crashed into the ceiling and clattered to the floor, broken into several different pieces. Ellyn struggled to her feet and watched in horror as the patient flailed on the stretcher, fighting to sit up.
“Pressor field!” she barked. A generator dropped from the ceiling and restrained the man onto the stretcher with a low-level energy field. His eyes darted wildly around the room. Vials of spectacillin in the supply case behind him shattered spontaneously, sending the liquid everywhere.
Ellyn swore under her breath. A Jedi? She deliberately calmed her hands which were shaking uncharacteristically.
“Blood pressure is 189 over 112,” Henil called out. “He’s going to give himself a brain hemorrhage, chief, and we can’t treat him under this pressor field!”
“I’m aware of that,” she answered, regaining her composure. “Give Myoplexaril, variant two, one hundred milligrams, and prepare for intubation.”
Jared stalked across the room. “You can’t do that, Commander,” he said, shaking his head incredulously. “Have you seen his lung scans? If you put him on a ventilator, he’ll never come off! He’ll be dependent on artificial respiration for the rest of his life.”
Jared lowered his voice and hissed, “Look at him.” He took Ellyn by the arm, his furrowed brow pleading, “For mercy’s sake, let him die.”
Ellyn pressed her lips together and faced him squarely. “You have worked with me long enough to know that I am not without compassion,” she said, her voice trembling with unexpected emotion.
“Given the choice, I would contact this man’s next of kin to come and say ‘goodbye’ before making him as comfortable as possible; you know that!” she said vehemently. She glanced down at the stained floor, grasping for composure, then looked to the patient and back to Jared. The weeks of stress were starting to get to her. “But you heard the order. I do not have that option this time,” she said quietly with a quaver of dread, or regret, in her voice.
“Commander, we cannot, we should not, fix everyone,” he implored. “Even the Supreme Chancellor must understand-”
Ellyn grasped him by the arm and pulled him to the head of the stretcher. “You think I don’t know that? This man, what’s left of him, is awake and suffering,” she bit out. “Now, you look at him!”
They looked down at the patient who was still struggling beneath the field, his eyes filled with agonized horror. “Do you even want to imagine how much pain he is in? Would you want to be awake in his condition?” she grilled. “You know we cannot sedate him or suppress his pain adequately without control of his airway.”
She stepped away and spoke evenly. “Either you intubate him, or I will and you are relieved of your duties,” she said determinedly.
Jared glared at her. Reluctantly, he reached for the laryngoscope and moved to the head of the stretcher, motioning for Henil to administer the myoplexaril. He looked down at the tortured face below him and mumbled, “I’m sorry, man. It’s a sad situation when this is an act of compassion.”
Henil nodded and began pushing the amber liquid slowly through the I.V. tubing.
Less than two minutes later, the patient lay motionless, unconscious, and attached to the artificial respirator by a breathing tube protruding from his mouth. Jared looked to the monitors, “Oxygen level dropping. Scan confirms alveolar damage in the lungs.”
Ellyn had anticipated the lung injury. “Surfactant lavage,” she ordered calmly.
Jared attached thin tubing to the breathing apparatus. The lavage treatment would administer cleansing and healing solution directly into the small alveoli of the lungs and would then be removed with a separate suction tube.
Ellyn, Jared and Henil watched the monitor anxiously. Surfactant was not always successful, especially in adult humans. They breathed a simultaneous sigh of relief when his blood oxygen level returned to a safe range.
Rubbing her brow in exhaustion, Ellyn ticked off instructions to Henil, “All right, consult a neurosurgeon for that neck injury. It’ll have to be stabilized before we can dunk him in bacta. Notify the cybertronic techs-”
“Commander,” the comm tech droid buzzed into the pod. “You have an incoming call from the Supreme Chancellor’s office.”
“Thank you,” Ellyn stripped off her skin-gloves, straightened her crumpled hospital issue fatigues and made her way quickly to the comm station.
The holo of a dark clad officer greeted her bluntly, “Hold for the Supreme Chancellor.” The holo shifted and a face appeared, cloaked completely in shadow, “Commander?”
Ellyn swallowed nervously, “Yes, your Excellency.”
“Tell me the young man’s condition.”
“Critical, your Excellency, but he will survive,” she assured him. “He will need natural limb replacements and is life-dependent on artificial respiration. However, with the recent advances in the cloning of lung tissue, he will be an excellent candidate for lung transplantation in the future.”
“I will keep that in mind,” the Chancellor’s voice grated. “In the meantime, my personal medical staff is en route to transfer him to a private facility.”
Ellyn gaped, “With respect, your Excellency, he is not stable enough to transport. His respiratory status remains guarded and he has a high-level cervical spine injury that, if extended, could result in paralysis from the neck down. And, if I may venture, he has exhibited something resembling Jedi behaviors. I would like to contact a Jedi Healer, if possible-”
“Your concern and expertise are noted, Commander,” the Chancellor interrupted and terminated the transmission, leaving her to stand staring in disbelief at the now empty holo-plate.
Ellyn felt strangely uneasy as she returned to the patient’s bedside where Henil was adjusting flow rates on various infusion pumps, “Any better?” She looked down at the sleeping patient and wondered silently, who are you?
Henil glanced over her shoulder, “Vitals are stable but I’m still worried about that heart rate. We can’t get it below 150.”
Ellyn nodded and sighed, “He seems to be tolerating it, at least. I just talked to the Supreme Chancellor and we have to prepare him for transport. The Chancellor is sending a private medical team-”
“What?” Henil exclaimed. “There’s no way-”
“I know,” Ellyn cut her off, equally disgusted at the turn of events. “Just secure his neck as best you can. If that fracture is completed he won’t be able to breathe even with a lung transplant.”
They both turned at a sudden commotion in the corridor. Red-clad guards had pushed their way past security droids and now circled pod seven. They held staffs in their hands and stood rigidly at attention.
A severe-looking man in crisp uniform approached the pod. “Who is the officiating medical officer?” he demanded, eyes scanning across the staff scattered around the stretcher in the center of the room.
“I am,” Ellyn said as she blocked his entrance. “And what is the meaning of this? This area is restricted.”
“Not to me,” he answered shortly. “I am the new Commanding Medical Officer of this facility.”
Henil and Jared looked at each other in shock, “What?”
He ignored them, training his attention on Ellyn, “The Supreme Chancellor wishes to thank you and your staff for a job well done, but your services will no longer be required.”
Stepping back, he waved his hand to signal the Red Guards to take the medical officers into custody.
Original cover by rhonderoo. HTML formatting copyright 2005 TheForce.Net LLC.