They were waiting for us by the helicopter pad. I placed her on the gurney they brought out reluctantly and watched them wheel her away from me. Unable to be any further than a couple of feet from her, I rushed after, giving them information. I didn’t even say thank you to Phillip.
Once inside, they were already hooking her up to gadgets and opening the shred of fabric masquerading as clothing. Each answer to their questions brought on a barrage of new ones. Was she allergic to anything? Strawberries, of all things, made her face flush, but she didn’t have a true allergy I could mention. What was her past medical history and did she take any prescription medications?
It wasn’t until the last two questions that I blurted out about the pregnancy. They all stopped for a half-second and looked at each other, and then they went back to working on her, almost faster than before. The clothes they couldn’t remove quickly were cut off her with just a few snips, considering it was barely held together in the first place. A doctor came through the curtained area, brushing past me talking to the nurse at the head of her bed. “What are her injuries?” The clothes laying on the floor had been peppered in red and her once white sheets were stained the same color. I cringed when I saw the bruises on her body.
“Most of the blood isn’t new.” The nurse’s description shook me out of my stupor but my mind kept seeing the marks he placed on her body. Her white alabaster skin had garish bruises on her chest and by her throat. The right side of her ribs and abdomen had a sickening, garnet-colored bruise. Her right hip looked more black and blue, and it made my stomach clench. What had she been through?
“She... she has blood on her from her attacker.” The doctor turned in my direction. The strange look he gave me was unreadable, and he made his next commands to his staff more guarded. My eyes circled back to the unimaginable pall of her skin, unable to grasp what kinds of torture she received at that monster’s hands. Even the unblemished skin was stained red from all the blood on her clothes, and it only made the bruises look worse. They started an IV and gave her oxygen. Some type of stickers were placed upon her chest, and the machine above started to beep and come to life before a nurse pulled me out of the room.
“Make sure her belongings go into a marked paper bag for evidence. Start an IV of normal saline and get me a page for x-ray now.” He pushed me back gently to the direction of the nurse, but I still didn’t want to leave her. I wanted to stay beside her, but they told me they needed more information from me and I would do whatever I could to help.
The doctor turned to me once the curtain closed, “Is the child yours?” My child, yes, I need to focus on Chelsea being alive and okay and that my child could be in danger.
“Yes, she is thirteen weeks along. Dr. Hunt is her physician in Océano del Cielo and can give you all the information you need. You just got to help her, doc.” The desperation in my voice softened his eyes.
“We will do our best. I will have our team contact Dr. Hunt, but we need some more information.” He left and another nurse took over, prodding me with paperwork. Most of the questions centered around her pregnancy but the interrogation was short-lived when she looked at my arm in shock. It wasn’t until the nurse gestured to my shirt that I noticed my arm.
Blood brightened around a gunshot wound to my left arm. I felt the injury in the helicopter, and even ripped part of my shirt to put around it on the flight to the hospital, but somewhere along the way it started to bleed again. The nurse insisted that I go into another room to remove the dressing while she called in another doctor.
This doctor was an older Asian lady with a calm demeanor and a gentle smile. She looked all of five feet tall but had a manner about her that demanded respect. She seemed like she knew how to command an emergency department but all I wanted at this point was to find out if Chelsea was okay.
“Mister...?” She walked over to the side of my cot looking me straight in the eye.
“Stennet. Just call me Brandt. Do I really have to be in here? Please, I want to go back to Chelsea.” She casually examined my wound as the nurse hustled around behind her pulling out supplies.
“It seems that your friend was brought to CAT scan. We need to find out what is all wrong with her.”
“CAT scan? Can she have one if she is pregnant?”
She frowned, “We prefer not, but we need to know why her blood pressure is so low.”
“Is that bad? I mean how low?” I knew nothing about what was going on, but I hated thinking she was still in danger. “Will she be okay?”
“Mister, er... sorry, Brandt. She was arousable and has a good heart rhythm. We just need to know what we are dealing with. As soon as I find out anything, I will let you know.” She placed her hand over mine on the gurney, and I relaxed albeit slightly. “I promise. Now sit back and let me take a look at your wound.”
They turned on a bright light above me, and the doctor took out a needle and syringe, numbing the area and then cleaning it up. She said that it had gone all the way through my biceps and was lucky it didn’t shatter a bone or sever an artery although my attention manifested elsewhere causing me to barely listen. Chelsea had low blood pressure. Was it due to the shock of what she went through or another injury? What did this mean for the baby?
When the nurse came back in to give me my tetanus shot I blew up at her, unable to control my frustration. Chelsea had been gone a while and not knowing only added to my lack of control. I needed to get to Chelsea. I didn’t find her just to have her in some room somewhere thinking I abandoned her. She had been through too much. The nurse left and said that she would get Dr. Voong.
Just as I was about to run through the emergency department looking for Chelsea myself, Dr. Voong came back in looking solemn. “Where is she?”
“Brandt, your girlfriend is up in surgery.” The word surgery stopped my meltdown in its tracks.
“Surgery? What is wrong?” I nearly jumped out of bed to find her on my own, but she pushed me back down.
“She has internal bleeding as well as two broken ribs on the right side, and a lacerated liver. The CAT scan couldn’t tell the severity of the bleeding, so they need to take a closer look.”
“Is this serious?” My lack of medical knowledge made for a near panic-stricken moment as I tried to decipher if she could still die.
“She is receiving a blood transfusion. Her hemoglobin is low but her systolic level has stabilized. No, there is nothing to indicate this is fatal.” Her medical terminology did nothing to lighten my confusion and it must have shown on my face as she continued, “Brandt, she is going to be okay. They have her blood pressure to near normal numbers and as soon as we know if the bleeding has stopped, I am sure she will be fine.” Tears stung at my eyes as I let out a sigh of relief. And then I thought of the baby.
“What about the baby?” Her optimistic expression turned wary as she placed her hand on my shoulder.
“I don’t know. They said nothing about the baby as they needed to focus all their efforts on Chelsea, but they are aware of it. Let’s finish with you, and I will have someone walk you to the surgical waiting room. The surgeon will talk to you when he is done, but it could still be a while.” She wouldn’t let me go until they checked my blood sugar and gave me some insulin. I couldn’t remember the last time I had any or anything to eat for that matter, but I wasn’t hungry.
She would be okay. Chelsea was a fighter. After all she had gone through, we would still be together because she refused to give up. Our child had her strength and would pull through. She had to.
Reluctantly, I ate some food so I could get the insulin and leave. True to her word, they had a staff member walk me up to the surgical waiting room and explained it would still be a while before the surgeon could come out and talk to me. Ed showed up soon after. As I was explaining the broken ribs and the liver laceration, a woman emerged from the heavy door separating me from Chelsea. I looked at her, puzzled, knowing Dr. Voong told me Chelsea had a male surgeon. I didn’t care who the hell she was as long as she would give me information.
“How is she doing?” Anxiously, I waited with Ed by my side.
“Hello. You must be her--” She moved the clipboard in her hand and held it out, shaking Ed’s hand first and then turning to me.
“I am her boyfriend and this is her father.” Why did she have to be so formal for Christ’s sake? I needed answers, not manners.
“I am Dr. Whynt. Dr. Brinon is still in with her. He is the general surgeon. Her liver was lacerated, but the bleeding is controlled. He repaired the small puncture site, and she is stable.” Once I heard the words from her physician, I knew without a doubt that she was going to be fine. I closed my eyes in relief, swallowing down a lump in my throat. Thank God. I smiled and looked down at the floor, letting out a pent-up breath.
When I looked back up at her, I noticed she had more to say by the way she fidgeted with her clipboard. Who was this doctor if the surgeon was still in there? Cautiously, I asked about my child, “And the baby? How is the baby?” Ed startled next to me as I realized he still didn’t know. I never told him or the others, too fixated on Chelsea being taken from me. I should have told him sooner. This wasn’t the way I wanted him to find out.
She placed her hand on my arm, and although it should be comforting, it only caused a sense of doom. “Mr. Stennet we couldn’t find a heartbeat on the ultrasound. I am sorry, but the baby didn’t survive.” Tears formed in my eyes. I staggered backward a couple of steps until the back of my knees found the waiting room chair. My legs buckled underneath me and I sat down hard, feeling the cold steel of the chair even through my jeans.
We were going to be a family. We were going to have it all. The 2.5 kids and the white picket fence. I was going to be a father. Have a child of my own. Unable to form words, I placed my head in my hands and let the sorrow seep in as a salty remnant of my pain puddled at my feet through my tears.
In a low voice she continued, “As difficult as this is, I need to mention that it would be a good idea to do a dilation and curettage before they remove the anesthesia.” Shaking my head obviously not understanding her, I looked back up opening my mouth but no words could be formed by my mind. She gave a weak smile as she sat in the seat next to me explaining, “We commonly refer it to as a D & C procedure where we would remove the fetus. She is still under anesthesia and wouldn’t feel a thing. Without the procedure, it could take anywhere from days to weeks to pass it on her own.”
Realization dawned on me as they wanted to remove our baby. I wanted to respond to her, but I couldn’t seem to think straight. I nodded my head, agreeing it would probably be easier on Chelsea. “We need to have a consent signed before we can do the procedure.”
Nodding again, I reached for the clipboard in her hand, but she shook her head, “I am sorry Mr. Stennet, but you are not her legal guardian. These consents can only be filled out by a spouse or relative.”
Ed stepped over, now less stunned. “I can sign it. I am her father.” Tempered rage warred inside of me as I looked between them. Was I mad about the death of my child or because I felt second rate next to her father? She lived with me. I was her boyfriend, and if it hadn’t been for Ed in the first place, we would be married. We were going to be a family, damnit. She was going to be my wife.
Curbing my irritation, I watched as he signed the paper and gave it back to her before she disappeared back beyond the doors of the surgical area. Ed didn’t kill my child, but he signed to extract it like it was a tumor. Even though I had been ready to sign the slip anyway, my anger needed a focus and Ed a likely target. He hated me already so it wasn’t like I could hurt my chances with his daughter. The idea that I was unworthy of her, not only by admission of her father but my own consciousness, poured salt into my open wounds.
Ed went to sit back down in the waiting room, but I chose to go to the window with my back to him, willing myself to calm. Chelsea needed me more so than ever when she awoke. My feud with her father would have to wait.
Silently grieving, I tried to come to terms with the fact that our baby was gone. Tears threatened to break the rims of my bloodshot eyes, but I held back. There would be a time to mourn. Chelsea and I would get through this together.
My God, Chelsea. She would be crushed. It would be hard on her. She was so scared about losing the baby and thinking the threat had passed since we had been in the second trimester. I thought back over the last several weeks. The ultrasounds and hearing the heartbeat. The look in her eye when Dr. Hunt told her she made it and everything would be fine. When she finally let herself believe that she would become a mother. This would devastate her.
A little over an hour later my parents and Barb showed up. Edwin, at least, let me tell them about the baby. My parents were shocked but relieved that Chelsea would be all right. Barb started to cry immediately, knowing what this meant to Chelsea.
We talked about finding the cabin and what went on there. My mother cringed when I talked about being shot but it was the least of my worries. I hardly remembered it. My only concern was lying beyond those sterile operating doors.
Dr. Whynt came out and told us that the procedure went as expected and that she was in the recovery room. “I need to be in there.” My inquiry came out as a command.
Dr. Whynt looked at me skeptically. “Mr. Stennet, we will get you in as soon as we can--”
“We need to see her,” Barb spoke up as Dr. Whynt surveyed the small crowd.
My mom put a hand on Dr. Whynt’s arm, “She was kidnapped and taken from us. We have been waiting a long time to see her. Please.”
Dr. Whynt looked hesitant but in the end relented, mentioning we could go into the recovery area to say a few words after she woke up. Another ten minutes passed before the nurse came out to get us, making us promise to leave after seeing for ourselves she was alright.
Chelsea was behind a large curtain and in a room full of gadgets softly pinging a deranged lullaby. Hooked up to lines and cords, the steady beep of the machine above her head softened into the background as I took in her small, fragile body. Her gaunt face looked as white as the sheets surrounding her. Although her eyes were still closed, they fluttered in her sleep and I wondered if she was reliving the horrible events of the past two days. Both our parents gasped when they saw her, noting the bruising. I had already seen her contusions and swollen face, so I knew what outrage it caused them.
Sitting down at her bedside in a chair provided by the nurse, I grabbed her hand, hating the cold texture. She looked so breakable in the bed, and had been through so much, but was still here with me. I brought my hand up to brush her soft hair. She sensed me and woke up slowly. Looking around the room she seemed disorientated from her surroundings or maybe still under the hold of the anesthesia.
“Angel.” Quietly, I tried to get her to come around, needing to hear her voice. Her eyes closed, and then slowly reopened again as she looked around at the faces before her. She focused on me and smiled, making my heart sing.
“Hey, sweetie.” Her mother spoke up from behind me, causing Chelsea to turn her attention on her and the others. Glancing at the people in the room, she finally noticed everyone around her. The steady beeping of the machine had become monotonous in the background as we waited patiently for her to rouse. Her gaze returned to me, and I smiled down at her, trying not to let my worry show. She glanced over to my bandage around my arm, “Brandt, you were shot.” Her eyebrows furrowed and her voice projected so softly I could barely hear her.
A look of concern engulfed her face. I shook my head, “Nothing, really. Look I am fine.” I moved my arm to show her, and her look of concern dissipated. She smiled again as relief washed over her face.
She cleared her throat, but it still took a while for her to talk again, “Brandt, you found me.” I nodded my head and leaned in to kiss her nose gently.
“Of course, I did. Oh Chelsea, everything is going to be okay.” Even as weak as she was she smiled brightly for me.
Gingerly, I watched as her hand moved slowly down to her belly. A sinking feeling deep inside me took hold of the pit of my stomach. She searched the gathering faces before landing on mine. “I suppose they all know now. So much for flying out to tell them.” She smiled again, and I looked away, fighting the tears stinging the back of my eyes.
It took a while before I could look back at her. I swallowed my displeasure and tried to talk past my own regrets. “Chelsea...” but I didn’t need to say anymore. Her eyes welled up with tears, and she started to shake her head back and forth.
“No.” First quietly and with each declaration getting louder and louder, she said, “No... No... No!” The monitor above her alarmed as the beeping became more constant, instead of the previous steady rhythm. The nurse rushed to the bedside, but all I saw was the pain in her eyes. “My baby!” She clutched at her abdomen, and the nurse yelled for sedating medication.
“My baby, oh God no, not my baby, oh please.” The trembling caused the bed to shake imperceptibly as she squeezed her eyes shut, blocking out the truth. I tried to bring her into the comfort of my arms but the confines of the bed prevented it. I wanted to soothe her but felt helpless.
And then she let out a wail so heart-wrenching I felt my insides crumble with her anguish. I had never heard such a morose sound before. It felt as though the pain came from deep inside and ripped her apart. The outcry made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and it was astonishingly powerful from someone so depleted. Crying my own tears, I shushed in her ear as the nurses yelled commands to one another.
“Chelsea, shhhh...” My voice drifting away as they pushed sedating medication into her veins.
She continued her rocking motion in the bed while clamoring, “No... no God, no!” Each ‘no’ she uttered became softer and softer as the medication took effect, replacing her cries of grief back to the incessant bleat of the machines above her. She stopped rocking, and her eyes grew heavy and closed. The pain she displayed was more than I could bear. I had never heard such a painful cry in my life, and it made me wonder if her sorrow would ever go away.