Chapter 23: Spuds
Six Weeks Later
I carried the tiny baby over to the incubator, trying to ignore the sounds of the woman dying on the table behind me. The girl was in her twenty-fourth week when Alpha Madeline’s fever started. Vivian had given the baby the drugs to speed her lung development, but things happened so fast. Three hours later, she was on the table, Vivian’s hands in her belly, delivering a baby that had almost no chance of living.
I set her in the incubator, closing the top as soon as I had the mask over her face. She was on pure oxygen, the regulator helping her tiny chest expand and contract as it tried to force the air into her lungs. She was too small and weak to breathe on her own; she weighed a little over a pound. Her skin was blue tinged, she hadn’t made a noise, and if she was like the first ten babies, she never would.
I cursed the fact that werewolves couldn’t use human health care. Doctor Hardigan did the best she could; we had bought equipment, reviewed texts, and did everything we could to help, but we weren’t a neonatal intensive care unit. We didn’t have everything we needed to get a good outcome, including time. While humans would expect almost half of the babies at this age to survive, we were batting zero.
Vivian had explained to me during one of our crying and rum drinking binges that it was the sudden onset that caused things to go so badly. In humans, the premature birth was usually due to early onset of labor, which could be controlled with drugs. Tocolytics could slow the labor down, giving the other drugs time to work. Antibiotics and antenatal corticosteroids were given, the first to prevent infection, the second to speed lung development and reduce the chance of complications like bleeding on the brain or lung infections in the first two days.
The problem was that it was a guessing game as to when the mother’s placenta would choose to detach. If you administered the drug too early, it could cause development problems. We had no chance of saving a baby at 23 weeks or earlier, so she gave the drug if the mother made it that long. Madeline was the second mother to make the milestone, but the first only made it by a day; not enough time for the drug to take effect.
Madeline had taken it four days ago, and this was our best chance at saving someone. I wiped the tears away from my eyes as I adjusted the regulator and checked the temperature of the air, making sure it was preheating correctly. Baby Jennifer was a fighter, she was struggling to survive in there alone. Her skin was looking better, color had improved, and I allowed myself some hope.
“Blood pressure is dropping, 80/40,” Doc said.
“Shit, I can’t stop the bleeding. Doc, push the NovoSeven to sixty drips a minute. Jessica, get over here.” I pulled off the gloves, grabbing a new set as I came over. NovoSeven was the incredibly expensive drug the military had pioneered to deal with cases of extreme blood loss. We had talked about how it would be used, we had one shot, and it was risky. Too slow and the person bleeds to death anyway, too fast and their blood starts clotting in the veins, resulting in stroke or death.
“Suction,” she said. I took the probe, placing the end of the tube inside her, in the place where her uterus had just been removed. The clamps were slowing the bleeding, or maybe her heart just couldn’t pump as hard anymore. The blood seemed to fill the cavity as fast as I could remove it, making it difficult for Vivian to see where the bleeding was coming from.
She worked frantically, clamping and sewing bleeders, before we heard the tone on the heart monitor go flat. “Charge 100, start CPR,” Vivian ordered. I climbed up on the table, placing my hands in the right position on her sternum I started to count. Doc handed her the paddles, and I made sure I wasn’t touching her as the paddles were placed across her chest. “Clear!” Madeline’s body spasmed off the table as the electricity hit. “No pulse, continue CPR.” I resumed compressions while they charged again. “Clear!” No change.
Doc and I changed places, and I went to the cabinet to get a cardiac needle and adrenalin. Vivian injected it directly into her heart, then shocked her again.
Five minutes later, she made the call. “Time of death, 2322. DAMMIT!” She pulled off her gloves, moving back until she reached the cabinet and slid to the ground.
I pulled off my gloves and surgical gown, tossing them in the hamper. Turning around, I checked baby Jennifer again. “VIVIAN!”
She jumped to her feet and came over. A smile came over her face as she read the instruments. She was not just alive, she was improving. “I can’t believe it,” Vivian said. “She’s still alive.”
“She’s doing good,” I said. “Look, her color, it’s so much better than when I put her in here.”
“All right, we will need to closely monitor her over the next forty-eight hours. Jessica, you did a good job. Continue watching her while Doc and I take care of Madeline.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” She gave me a quick hug, then turned back to work. It wasn’t a fun job, we had to dismember the corpses to get them into the box we used in the small pet crematorium. It would take a whole day, three burns, to remove all evidence of her life from the earth. I ignored the sounds from behind me as they worked.
When Vivian relieved me in the baby watch, I still had work to do. The operating room needed to be cleaned; all the soiled linens were placed in a barrel to start soaking the blood out. We had washing machines in back we used later. The trash was compacted and packed for later burning, and the surgical instruments were put in the autoclave to be sterilized again.
Doc helped me with the last part, cleaning the stainless table, cabinets and floors. We scrubbed them down with bleach and rinsed it down the drain in the center of the room. The whole time, we kept an eye on the incubator, watching little Jennifer fight for her life.
When we were done, we had a group hug and just cried. Six weeks ago, we had taken on an impossible task, trying to find a way to save someone, to figure out a way around this horrible epidemic. We had failed twenty-one times, but number twenty-two was still going. She was our little miracle. We finally pulled apart, and Vivian looked at the clock. “It’s one on the morning, I’ll take first watch,” she said. “Doc, you be here at four. Jessica, you relieve him at six. Both of you, if anything doesn’t seem right, you wake me up right away,” I said.
“Yes Doc,” I said as my eyes started closing on their own.
“Take a shower and get some rest, that’s an order,” she said. I walked out, moving to the bathroom where I stripped and showered. I pulled on scrubs, and was just exiting when I heard the knock on the door.
My heart jumped when I heard his voice. I opened the door, Carson was standing there with Snake, both of them looked like they had been sleeping before whatever had woken them up. Carson burst through the door, pulling me to his chest as the emotions of the night broke through again. “Oh baby…” He picked me up and walked me to the front, where he put me into bed before climbing in next to me. I fell asleep as he rubbed my back.
I could sense him as soon as he entered the building. His scent calmed me, called to me. It wasn’t a mate bond, but it was a close as I was ever going to get. I wrote down the vitals and readings on the chart, and turned to the door just as it opened. “Hi Snake,” I said.
“Baby…” He came over and pulled me into his chest. “Holy cow, look at her! She’s so tiny!” He put his fingers to the cover of the incubator, studying the tiny baby as she fought for her life. “My god, she survived.” He had held me through all of the losses, comforting me as I cried out my grief and frustration. A part of me twisted, my wolf knowing that I’d never be able to give him this. I could see it in his eyes; it was a part of him, of me, not just my wolf. The drive to have offspring of your own was universal.
“She’s a fighter. Her vitals are good, her lungs are working just enough on 100% oxygen. Fetal distress was low compared to previous patients. The timing just barely worked, her momma stayed strong long enough to give her a chance.” I wiped my eyes. “Her name is Jennifer.”
“Beautiful name for a beautiful girl,” he said. “What happens now?”
“Well, the first 48 hours are the most dangerous. If she can avoid complications and I can get her to eat, she has a chance. Not as much as if she was at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, but a hell of a lot more than at any other place for Werewolves.”
He kissed my hair as I went back to watching her, adjusting the settings slightly. “Can you mix some formula for me?”
“Is it like bartending?”
I just hip-checked him away. “It’s in the cafeteria, on the shelf by the fridge. Directions are on the can. It needs to be heated until it is warm, but not hot. Test the temperature on the underside of your forearm.”
“I know, baby, I’ve helped in day care you know.” He walked out and left me alone with my thoughts. When he returned, we had to carefully feed her, using the gloves on the side to hold her and a syringe with a tube. Too small to use a bottle, I guided the tube into her throat and slowly fed her. Her tiny eyes had a tough time with light, and it took a while, but she finally got a few cc’s of formula in.
Snake walked out to his motorcycle and came back in with a digital camera. “The Alpha is a major-league asshole, but he just lost his mate and he needs to know about his daughter,” he said. I held her tiny body in my hands as he took a couple photos. “I’m going to the office, I can email them from the computer,” he said. “Anything you want to say?”
“Madeline fought so hard to live, and to give her baby a chance. She was a good woman,” I said. “More than he deserved.”
“You did all you could, baby. I love you.”
“I love you too, Snake.”