“Dr. Edwards, we need you on the floor there is a man who just came in, he was in a building collapse and it looks like a crushed tibia!” a nurse exclaimed, her breath heaving from the run down the hall. Dr. Edwards had lain down an hour before, after working close to thirty hours. With a yawn, she sat up trying to fight the deep-seated need for sleep. If they didn’t get more doctors soon, she was going to lose her fucking mind!
“All right, Adele, I’ll be there in five.” She yawned while sitting up, trying her best to shake off the drowsiness and took a sip of her water. Adele nodded; her job was done. She had informed Dr. Edwards, the Chief of Staff, and now had to get back to the sea of other patients lining their halls, who were not in immediate need of doctor attention.
Brynn stood, trying to ignore the pain in her back from being on her feet for so long. Stretching, in an attempt to dislodge the kinks from her body, she walked over to her desk and withdrew her pills. Provigil, for the tiredness that never left, was the only thing helping her do her job most days and Voltaren for the back pain. Swallowing them, she hoped that with her empty stomach they’d kick in fast. She needed her strength. She needed to snap back to being alert fast, but she was only human.
Since the earthquake, almost a week ago, she was working around the clock. Everyone was. Her medical center was one of the few buildings in their area left standing, although one wing had been affected and left unusable. Her staff were unprepared for the onslaught of need, and there were few relief workers available. The Red Cross assured more were being recruited, but it did little to help them in the first few days. The devastation was just too severe. A lot of roads were impassable, and landing strips had been crippled as well. Their supplies were lowering, need was high, and everyone was pushing themselves to the limit in an attempt to help save the lives of people who had nowhere else to go. She needed a miracle that didn’t seem to be coming.
With two hands placed on the desk as she tried to force her eyes to open and switch her body into doctor mode, she felt them once more closing from the exhaustion racking her body. Deep breaths, she tried to tell herself. Sitting down, she told herself she needed only five more minutes with her eyes closed. Five beautiful uninterrupted minutes.
“Dr. Edwards! We need you now!” Her friend, and nurse, Darrius yelled opening her door and startling her awake. Jumping up, with a surge of adrenaline from the fright, she took off in a run with him leading the way.
“Forty-ish male with head trauma and a crushed tibia that seems to be putting pressure on the popliteal artery, if we don’t work fast, he might lose his leg.” Darrius informed her as they jogged. People in this part of the world, especially men, couldn’t afford to lose limbs. It was a virtual death sentence. They’d never get work, and then their families would pay the price.
“Give him 10mg of Percocet for the pain and 5mg of midazolam for a sedative.” Brynn ordered grabbing his chart and glancing at the need-to-knows. Harem Shez 42, married to Pilar Shez. No history of illness or medication.
“Mr. Shez, I’m Dr. Edwards can you tell me what happened?” she asked, checking his pupils for signs of brain trauma.
He began to tell her in Nepali that the building he and his team of carpenters were working on, collapsed. A large part of a stone wall fell on his leg, but some of his workers helped to free him. He was hit in the head by a stone too, but not knocked unconscious.
Brynn examined the bleeding from a wound on his head and dispelled any real worry about the blow. It seemed to be minor and his pupils were responding normally.
“Okay Mr. Shez, we need to operate on your leg, so we are going to prep you for surgery. Is there someone who needs to be contacted? The phones are down right now, but we can make it a priority when they get back up.” Brynn smiled trying to be reassuring.
The man said his men had assured him they’d tell his wife, as he cringed with the pain.
“All right, you’re going to be okay, Mr. Shez. We are going to fix you right up.” Brynn promised turning to Darrius. “Clear curtain five and call in Khatri, we have to get him under quickly. I’m going to scrub in,” Brynn ordered putting down the chart and going to the wash area.
Darrius ran to get the anesthesiologist Dr. Arjun Khatri, an Indian doctor who had joined their team a few months back. He was young, ambitious and excellent at his job. Darrius was a happily married gay man, but he had to admit the Indian doctor was easy on the eyes. Whenever he got to work with Arjun, he found himself in crush mode.
Brynn scrubbed up finally starting to feel the effects of the drugs she had taken to make her more alert, and not a moment too soon. Dr. Khatri joined her to scrub in and in less than a minute they were back with the patient.
“All right Mr. Shez, I’m Dr. Khatri. I need you to start counting backwards from ten please,” Arjun said softly. The man began to do as directed, only making it two numbers before going under. Arjun checked his vitals and inserted the breathing tube. With a nod to Brynn that the patient was ready, she put out her hand in the direction of a nurse.
Ty Keller had been debating what exactly he should do when he finished his residency in New York’s, North Central Bronx. Part of him was being pulled home, to his hometown of Beaumont Falls, Maine. Part of him was still young and motivated enough that he wanted to make a difference.
His college bills were paid. His older two brothers joined his father’s gang fresh out of high school, and his younger brother was a multi-platinum recording artist. His tuition bill just seemed to disappear, although admittedly he wasn’t entirely sure where the money came from. Part of him didn’t care, since he knew the result would be that he would be able to follow his dreams and help people. He stayed a year longer than planned to take extra training in certain areas of personal interest. Ty was like a sponge, absorbing information from some of the best professors that money could buy and he’d be damned if he took it for granted.
As soon as his residency finished, he settled on a decision to not return home immediately, with certainty that Doctors Without Borders would fulfill his ambitious desire to help those in the most need, and flew to Kazungula, Botswana in Africa. His specialty was head trauma, but he had dabbled in infectious disease and Botswana was third highest globally for HIV/AIDS. Kazungula was also on the border of Zambia, where health centers were crying for doctors. After three months, he made the transfer to a medical clinic in Sesheke, Zambia when a friend of his asked him to come up for a consult and he saw the need first hand.
Out of all the Keller men, he was the brain. He had the same height and good looks, but his thirst for knowledge put him above the others. His vibrant blue eyes and dark hair came from his father’s side. His heart and desire to help those in need was all to his mother’s credit. When he was a boy, his mom took him and his brothers to the homeless shelter and made them volunteer. They served food and did dishes at least once a month. Jordan, Dax and Jacob hated it, but Ty loved seeing how the smallest of gestures was so appreciated. His father donated money, but his mom taught him that sometimes it’s the personal touch that matters the most. It was a major reason he chose medicine.
Growing up, his brothers teased him mercilessly. However, every one of his siblings attended his Harvard Convocation. It was nice for them to have a brilliant doctor in the family, even if they didn’t understand how he was so different. When they read his name, and he walked across the stage to obtain his degree, he had never felt more pride. A lot of hard work had gone into that small piece of paper. Plus, he was the only Keller child to get a college degree.
When the Keller kids were in school, the range was so diverse that they were often the conversation in the lunchrooms. In Beaumont Falls, the name had two very different connotations. It depended on how you knew the family.
Jordan and Dax were more like thugs, following in the footsteps of their father, Mike. The motorcycle club, King’s Knights was a double-edged sword in the town. On one end, Michael had been an honorable thug. He donated money to local kids’ clubs and church functions. He helped the community keep major drug and gun lords in check and enforced a law that the police could not. No one was overly surprised when Jordan and Dax followed him, although some were somewhat amazed that they seemed to follow the same code.
Honorable outlaws, a necessary evil.
Jordan, the sexy bad boy, fell in love early with Tegan Forester, leaving Dax to play the full asshole role of the family. Jordan and Tegan had a baby together when they were only seventeen, but decided it was best to give her up for adoption to a family who could better provide for her. After Jordan’s best friend was killed, Tegan left Beaumont, and became a famous photographer.
Ty was the brain, always reading and top of his classes. He skipped ninth and tenth grade, on his way to medical school. Everything he entered in academically, he excelled at. His dream was always to be a doctor and despite the trials and hardships along the way, it seemed to be his fate.
Samantha was the first girl, and the boys catered to her. Quiet and shy. Smart, but with a more nurturing side that made her driven more toward the honorable family business. Farming.
Mike’s father Wilber had started the Keller Family Farmer’s Market, and it was a staple of the Beaumont community. The fact it was over half a century old and still family run, was a legacy of pride for the family known for a range of abnormal careers. Ty’s mother Ruth and Sam focused most of their attention there, which kept them out of the boys’ craziness.
Jacob was the superstar.
Always playing his guitar and writing.
In high school, he was also the athlete. The girls flocked to him, but he only had eyes for his first love Victoria. It was a surprise that when his best friend Kyle McKinley died, he broke it off with her and took off to Nashville. It was an even bigger surprise when he shot to fame and the baby of the family, Charlotte became his Assistant/Manager.
Charlotte the tiny spitfire they all adored. None more than Jake, but Ty babied her too. Charlotte had had cancer as a child. She had spent over a year at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland then a miracle happened, and she went into remission. It was a scary time for the older kids, who were old enough to remember the chaos that having a sick baby sister meant. To give back, Jake performed a benefit concert and fan meet-and-greet to raise money to help families at the hospital every year or two.
On April 25th, 2015 a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook the Kathmandu Valley, in Nepal. A second one had hit on the 12th of May leveling more buildings to rubble and too many bodies to count. When the earthquake hit, the entire country was in a horrific state of emergency. Ty had applied for a transfer from his post in Zambia, with a desperate feeling of obligation to help, but the red tape had taken time to cut through.
The American Red Cross had flown in doctors and medical staff to assist and assigned them throughout the country to help those most affected. When Ty’s name came up, it was already mid-July, but Nepal was still in crisis. Most of the airstrips had been affected so they had to be helicoptered in, which further hindered the process. In third world countries, disasters such as these devastated people who had long given up that life was fair. Over one-third of the population lived below the poverty level in conditions that barely withstood normal circumstances, so disasters like earthquakes, hit like a pride of lions taking on a baby zebra. The chance of survival was so minimal, it was almost impossible.
It was Ty’s first day at the ER in a medical center just outside of the city of Kathmandu. Three months since the first quake had hit.
The state of the hospital would have shocked any western physician who was used to the anal cleanliness of an American hospital. Even the tented medical facilities littered through Africa looked luxurious in comparison. Ty hadn’t really known what to expect, but these conditions far outweighed the images he had conjured in his mind.
Everywhere you looked there was devastation.
Every face you looked in had the shallow look of hopelessness.
It was hard to describe the true impact that a disaster of that caliber had on those involved, but as Ty took in his new surroundings, the only word that came to mind was Hell, and he had landed right at the gates.
Looking through his paperwork, he had to find a doctor named Edwards. That was what the email had stated was his superior’s name.
Dr. B. Edwards, the head physician for the Doctors Without Borders in that area.
People were everywhere, and it was difficult to tell the difference between workers and staff. Some of the staff were in white slacks, which he had been instructed to wear the first day. However, he learned quickly that was not a guarantee that a person was staff.
It was literally hit the ground running.
As he approached, cots of people were even out on the street, because going into parts of the building was still too dangerous.
“Excuse me,” he asked a girl who appeared to be a nurse. Reading the nametag, he learned her name was Adele Harris. She was young, maybe in her early twenties. “I need to find Dr. Edwards.”
Adele was checking the pulse of a man, who was severely bandaged. Part of the wounds were showing around his neck and they looked like burns. The girl thought for a second and then pointed. “Dr. Edwards should be doing rounds in that small building to the left. She was there about fifteen minutes ago, anyway.”
Ty nodded a thank you and headed in that direction.
Dr. Edwards was a she? He asked himself, surprised since he had assumed that it was a male supervisor he would be working with. In Africa, it had been all male supervisors.
The small building was well lit. The whitewashed walls offered decent lighting, which was good since much of the place still had very limited power.
“I need a crash cart!” An order came, as Ty faced a loud, female voice, as she pushed past him.
He stepped back feeling bad for getting in the way, and irritated that she so rudely pushed him aside.
“Is Dr. Edwards here?” Ty asked a man who looked like a nurse. He was approaching with the cart.
The man chuckled, pointing to the woman who had just pushed him.
It took a moment to register that the beautiful young woman who was issuing orders was now his boss.
“Dr. Ty Keller, what can I do?” Ty asked, skillfully introducing himself and approaching to help.
Without missing a beat, she replied, “Dr. Brynn Edwards, and stay out of my way!” Brynn flagged down a person she seemed to know, and they started going with the cart and man she was working on into another curtained room. Ty stepped back, trying not to take it personally. In all his years he had not encountered someone so abrupt when someone was trying to help.
“Don’t mind Dr. B, she can come off as a bit of a bitch to people who don’t know her. However, she really is a wonderful doctor and boss,” a man’s voice said from behind.
“Thanks,” Ty said reaching his hand out, “Dr. Ty Keller.”
The guy shook it. “Darrius Wallis. RN.”
Ty struggled to think, he wanted to help, but wasn’t sure if that help was wanted. When Darrius passed him a scalpel, his wink and nudge toward the patient solidified the meaning. Stepping in, Ty ignored the woman dishing out orders. He did what he thought was necessary.
As the procedure came to an end, Ty busied himself with the clean up.
Dr. Edwards removed her mask and began heading to the sink for a scrub.
“Dr. Edward’s, I’m your new surgeon. Ty Keller.” Ty said to a less than impressed Brynn. She had had three other appointees since March, no one stayed long in an area that required so much attention. Looking him up and down, she pegged him as a pretty boy who wouldn’t make it a week. His hair was even styled like he had a date after shift. Cute. She thought. This must be her payback for flipping out in her last letter to the higher-ups about needing more help. They raided the graduating class that paid their way through their degree by modeling or stripping. She smiled as if it didn’t matter to her what his name was and began to walk away.
“Dr. Edwards?” Ty questioned losing patience at her abrasiveness.
Turning, Brynn tried to keep the scorn from her voice.
“What can I do to help?” he asked not trying to hide his exasperated frustration.
“I’m sorry, I thought I answered. Stay out of my way.” She smirked, slamming her chart down and turning to walk down the small hallway.
“Yes, I heard that,” Ty snapped after her, as a flood of people entered the emergency room, a few on gurneys. He didn’t plan to let her just walk away but froze when a panicked voice sliced through the quiet.
“A landmine exploded. We have four wounded!” a man yelled, Ty turned, forgetting about the sassy young boss who had so rudely dismissed him, and ran over to start treating people. Brynn and he would hash things out at some point, he was sure of it, but now was the time to do his job.
One teenager, with no leg below the knee was clearly in shock and pain. Barking out orders, Ty followed the crew to the makeshift operating room. Bumping into Brynn’s gurney, an unconscious female jolted, but given her injuries didn’t acknowledge the collision. Ty looked up expecting a reprimand.
She smiled. “Doctor Keller is second in charge. I’m off to the OR, if you need direction seek his help.” The OR was just a room at the back of the building that had the most equipment and supplies; because of their current situation, they were being made to operate on people behind curtained gurneys. However, when it was available, they preferred to take the more serious cases to where their chance of survival was greatest. That meant for an unspecific amount of time, Ty was in charge of the front lines.
He had a look of shock frozen on his face as if someone had just tossed their drink on him. Looking down at his own patient, his eyes snapped back to Brynn in a silent bewilderment of what responsibility she bestowed on a perfect stranger. Ty was momentarily speechless.
Shrugging, Brynn said, “You wanted to help. So, help. Impress me.”
The look on his face said it all. He hadn’t expected her to leave him in charge. In her head, she thought, Okay, pretty boy let’s see what you’re really made of. With a smirk on her lips, she began to push the gurney with an unconscious female, about thirty, down the hall with Darrius and another nurse at her side.
“Someone get me, Arjun Khatri!” she hollered.
As her retreating back disappeared down the dirty hallway, another nurse stepped forward. “I can take this man to a curtain, Doctor.”
Ty nodded gratefully, still dumbstruck at his current appointment. He scolded himself to get it together, pinching the bridge of his nose like it would somehow make his brain start functioning again. He was in charge and if he wasted anymore time recovering from the shock of being handed this position, he’d blow his shot to save lives and prove himself.
Like a sport star finally given a chance at glory, Ty got his head back in the game and let his natural leadership skills takeover. Orders came flying from his mouth with ease, as he assessed situations with expert eyes. A natural ease at being in control, reinstated his confidence. He’d make it look easy too, he encouraged himself. Even if he was in over-his-head and feeling like his heart was about to explode from his chest through his pinstriped shirt. Ty was a Keller and Keller men were natural born leaders.
As she disappeared down the dirty hallway, all Ty could do was turn and give his attention to the victims before him needing his care and focus.
Welcome to Nepal.
It was a long way from Beaumont Falls.