By Gaby Catalano
She is blue. She has blue hair, blue eyes, and blue metal piercings in both of her ears. What we try to force out of her is not blue, though. Her appendix is about to burst and I’m staring at her, ready to operate. Come to think of it, we’re all blue. The surrounding nurses, the doctor, and myself, are caught in a wave and rush of lighter blue than the ocean.
I look at her and remember what she looked like when I saw her. I’d just gotten out of another surgery – the man was going for his third gastric bypass in the past five years. The staples kept popping and he had told doctors that he didn’t understand why he wasn’t losing weight.
The ridiculous things I see at this hospital are incredible, but for that one day, Miss Blue seemed to be a blessing in disguise.
“She’s about to burst,” Frank said as he rolled her into Emergency two hours before.
Frank is always stating the obvious; always giving us the summaries that no one asks for, the details that no one wants to hear. His mouth never stays shut and he’s always pushing for more. That’s how he had always been, even in college. We both graduated at the top of our class from Hopkins—with me spending more time in the library, and him spending more time at the bar. But he was a genius nonetheless, and despite his crude and blatant remarks, he was brilliant.
She was unconscious. Her abdomen was swelling. She would rupture soon, causing her body to go into peritonitis and shock.
Checking her pupils to see if they had dilated, I could tell that they weren’t and I could see the sapphires of her eyes overpowering the black retina that were hidden by the captivating iris. She has eyes like my mother.
Dr. Josner rushes over to us, instantly silencing Frank, his white coat flapping rapidly. He looks at the girl on the stretcher and checks her pulse.
“Get her to operation immediately. She needs a laparoscopy.” Strong, steady and firm tone. That’s Josner. He plays the “God” role very well, even when he doesn’t mean too. His words have purpose.
“Code Blue. Doctor Josner please report to Oncology,” emits from the small gray box in the ceiling. The small gray box always seems to be buzzing silently when codes are not called out loudly and unannounced.
But blue is for the rare, the immediate, and the necessary. It sends Josner in a haste.
Before Josner rushes away, he gives us the go ahead to take Miss Blue. Frank, the other nurses, and I are on a mission. We are on a mission not for Josner, but for Miss Blue.
We wheel her around and rush down the hallway, shouting what medical school has taught us. Things like “What is her total leucocyte count?” –and “Does she need conduction anesthesia?”
There is a man with a yellow trench coat, who paces furiously outside of the room where his wife is giving birth. He is too squeamish to be inside the room and nervously breathes in an out of a brown paper bag. We push him aside:
“Sir, please move. Sir. Please move.”
He is stuck in his own world, staring blankly into space. He keeps pacing back and forth. We hear the crunching of the brown paper bag as we way try to duck and dodge our way past him.
I take the initiative; I give him a gentle push and shove. Frank gives me a smirk; it is one of the shoves that I used to give him when we used to fight around in college, trying to determine the winner of Mortal Combat.
The man with the yellow trench coat rebounds quickly to the pastel yellow walls. He is still breathing in and out of the bag, his back up against the wall. We continue on our way, rushing down the hallway, still hearing the man with the yellow trench coat’s heavy breathing. We continue to hear him until we round the corner.
Dr. Josner meets us at operation fifteen minutes later and begins to put his gloves on. By the look on his face, I can tell that they lost another one in Oncology. Maybe even two or three. They seem to be going at a steady rate these days.
We haven’t even begun, and sweat pours into the sterile air. I feel the sweat on the back of my neck and I can just imagine it dripping down from the beige walls, drowning us all before we even have time to save Miss Blue.
“Who is she?” Dr. Josner asks a detail nurse. She is Miss Blue, I think.
“Seventeen. Miriam Laxman. No previous health problems. Lives right around the corner on Killington Street.”
1. Her blue features made her look twenty-something, not seventeen. Her features in general are much too severe for a teenager. Her nose is prominent but petite; her lips are full and angled. She looks like a woman. And that is why I say that she was a blessing in disguise; she was much different than any of the patients we’ve had before. She was captivatingly beautiful, and I couldn’t help but stare at her. I found myself wanting to help, not just because it was my job, but because I actually wanted to see her live again. I wanted to see what those eyes were capable of when they were open to the world.
2. The name Miriam does Miss Blue no justice. She is not a Miriam. Miriam is too classy, too tasteful. It is too sophisticated and proper. Miss Blue has fun and is wild and carefree. When she laughs, everyone else laughs. When she cries, people hold her with purpose. She is not fake. She speaks the truth. She is too beautiful to be a snobby Miriam, and her hair is too brilliantly vibrant. Miriam is a girl at a Sock Hop wearing a poodle skirt, with a ribbon in her hair.
3. Killington Street is not a street; it is a row of estates that is different from the rest of this urban city. Killington Street is the exception to everything here; it is its own country. It deserves its own zip code. It’s difference lie in its beauty and the people who reside there. They are not gods like Dr. Josner; they are gods who control the way this town is run, the way people who don’t live on Killington Street live. They are the town officials, the town lawyers, and the town’s privileged who keep to their bubble and never venture out of its manicured streets and 1900s street lamps. Miss Blue does not belong on Killington Street. Her blue eyes are too kind and she does not deserve to be laying here in front of us.
We are ready for surgery and most of the people from my shift are here. I stand next to Frank, like I always do. He says something, but I tune him out, like I usually do.
She is not blue when we cut her open. She is red. Very red. Red oozes out of the open incision from her abdomen that Dr. Josner just made.
She has already burst by the time we open her up. The infection has started to spread, and I can just imagine the bacteria working its way through the tiny crevasses of her insides. She is too perfect to be diseased.
Dr. Josner begins, pushing some the main organs aside, looking for the small appendix. It is difficult to find, and I can’t even see it through the puss and infection covering that part of her body.
She twitches once; a sudden jerk that breaks. Dr. Josner continues to push and shove her, looking for her appendix. She continues to twitch for a few minutes until her twitches become violent and her breathing gets heavy under the translucent plastic oxygen mask.
I know what’s going to happen next and I don’t want to deal with it. I don’t want to lose this precious blue in front of me. I don’t want to lose the woman who has eyes like my mother; eyes that I have not seen in seventeen years since she passed away.
“Watch it, watch it,” Dr. Josner begins to say as he finally reaches the appendix. Miss Blue keeps spazzing and twitching until we have to physically hold her down on the table.
“We’re losing her!”
I look at the monitor. The fast paced beeps were a background to the rush of movements and yells of doctors and nurses. The beeps of the heart monitor, respiration, blood pressure, and cardiac output are too fast to count, and before I know it, the red line fades to white. Miss Blue finally stops shaking, and lays calmly lifeless. We stand there for a brief moment, contemplating what just happened. We are all used to this and we have all seen this happen more times than it should.
Finally, we slowly gravitate away from her body in unison. It was as if we were giving her soul room to expand and escape into the beyond. I can just feel the blue pulsating through the room, searching for the exit, until it finally reaches the double swinging doors. From down the hall I can still hear the man in the yellow trench coat pacing, and the sounds of a newly born baby crying through the hallway.