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They had trauma surgeons. Cosmetic and orthopedic surgeons. General surgeons and even eye surgeons. But no brain surgeons.
With crumbling composure, Wallstead twisted her work-worn hands together. “I know. He’s got a severe concussion and a medium-grade brain bleed. No one here is even close to qualified to handle it. And it will probably only get worse.”
Lanie pressed a hand to her forehead. “What are we going to do?”
“There’s not else to do, Lanie.”
“His personnel file says that he wants us to do everything we can if he ends up in critical condition.”
“This is more than critical. You might need to prepare yourself –” Wallstead’s pager went off. “It looks like his heart just stopped again. Stay there!”
Something closed over Lanie’s mind as the nurse flew back through the doors. From a mental distance, she felt herself actively rejecting any implications surrounding Ben’s cardiac arrest. The look in Wallstead’s eyes could only precede the suggestion of one course of action. Logic dictated that the fatal inevitable was going to win here.
Save me. I’m not done yet.
She leaned her pounding, dizzy head against the wall, closing her eyes. This place was a nightmare to keep supplied and staffed, but she’d always done her best. She’d done what she could with all eight of the mission bases, scattered around the globe. Although general practitioners weren’t as difficult to find, she had to scrape to find surgeons. Most staff were usually only willing to volunteer sporadically and for short bursts. The stubbornly evasive unicorn was a permanent neurosurgeon that the Foundation was willing to pay enough for. But Ben needed brain surgery, and soon, or he would die. If Wallstead and Jake’s conclusion was true, soon his brain would swell, and he wouldn’t be able to regulate his breathing or his heart, and he would die.
I disagree, Lanie. That’s why I signed those scary papers before I came here. If there’s even a chance that you guys can save me, I want all the extraordinary measures you can cook up.
But even if he did somehow turn a corner, he would face weeks of recovery. There’d been two major incidents in the last month, when usually they only had a couple per year. She never believed in bad luck until she’d met this man, and now she was willing to bet that if he stayed here, something else was bound to happen that put him at risk. It would be unbearable to have him helpless in this hospital if there was another attack.
She ached to spread wings and fly him home. That was what she and Jake had been trying to do all along before the explosion ripped everything apart. Why couldn’t anyone understand? Ben was a danger to himself and others.
Drowsily, she looked up. Mickey, Ali, and Lena ran toward her. Lena, the dining hall manager, reached her first, wrapping Lanie in an unsolicited hug that jolted her aching head. “Are you okay? Where’s Ben?”
“In surgery,” Lanie murmured, head swimming.
Ali, the early education teacher, leaned in closer so that she wouldn’t be overheard. “What about Jake? We saw you and Ben leave after he did. The plan…”
“Jake’s fine. He got knocked out by the blast, but he’s back on his feet and helping with…with Ben’s…” Her mouth was full of marbles. So was her head.
“You don’t look so good, Lanie. Has someone examined you?” Mickey anxiously peered into Lanie’s face with dizzying, liquid blue eyes.
Lanie waved her off. Or, tried to, and instead ended up clipping her in the jaw. “Tell me…what’s happening.”
Urgency impeded Mickey’s normally compassionate demeanor. “The bus driver’s here. Oliver.”
Uh oh. “What?”
“We caught him before he could say much to anybody, but he ran to the hospital after the explosion, yelling about it and interrupting the party. Just before security came in to clear us out.”
Miles. Oliver Miles was here. Miles, who could clean up any mess and navigate her underground networks like a way finder. Air, land and sea. A breath of clarity blew aside the fog. Lanie couldn’t spread wings, but she could still get them in the air.
Unlike the last few times she’d tried it, now getting Ben away from this place was no longer a matter of safety or her sanity – it was a Hail Mary against the odds of death. He needed the best chance he could get, even if that chance was a fraction above zero.
“Bring Miles…to me.” The wheezing couldn’t be good. Smoke inhalation?
“Only if you get treated first, Lanie.” Mickey’s gentle Australian accent softened the unyielding ultimatum in her eyes.
Lanie tried to protest, but she had no more breath to speak. The balloon of her head was light enough to float off into the sky. At last, she nodded slightly, wincing. She needed a clear mind. Or maybe it was brain damage that was giving her this very bad, yet very necessary idea.
But it wasn’t like she could blame brain damage for all the other very bad ideas that had led to this point.
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13