Feisty Francesca

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#66 Calm before the storm

“Hey Jonah,” I say in a chipper voice as I walk into the 6-year-old’s room. He’s been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just a few days ago, and he’ll be going home later today with his parents. His mother is asleep in the chair in the corner, and his dad is pacing up and down the small hospital room, looking like he hasn’t slept in days.

“Hi Franny,” Jonah says, smiling up at me. He’s sitting cross-legged on the bed, playing with his stuffed animals. He’s such a cute kid.

His father stops walking and gives me a worn smile. “Nurse Berger, how are you?”

Jonah’s parents are such lovely people. They always ask every single staff member that walks in here how they are doing, even though it’s their kid who got rushed in here in an ambulance earlier this week. We should be asking them how they’re doing, not the other way around.

“I’m great, thanks.” I motion his dad over while I take Jonah’s vitals and get out the insulin pen. I’ve been showing the parents how to take care of Jonah for the past few days, and his father takes the pen from me, makes sure Jonah is completely comfortable and injects the insulin into his son. I can tell it’s hurting his heart to know that his son has a chronical disease and needs injections like these his whole life, but at least it’s manageable. Yeah, it sucks, but his parents thought they were going to lose him, and now he’s playing and smiling again. It could be a whole lot better, but it could also be worse. That’s how things are in the peds wing most days. Kids get better, but often they’re off worse than they were before they got into an accident or a disease presented itself. That’s medicine for you. Trying to fix things that should never be allowed to be broken in the first place.

I talk to Jonah’s dad for a while, answering his questions about his son’s care, and I’m happy that this kid has such great people taking care of him. Jonah is adopted, and little to nothing is known about his family’s history, so far all we know his biological parents could be diabetics too. It would have helped to know that, since his adoptive parents could have paid closer attention to any signs of Jonah having it too, but no such luck.

Not all kids in the pediatrics wing have parents like Jonah’s. I love my job here, and the past four months have been amazing, but it does hurt to see some parents making their kids feel even worse than they already did. There was that girl with the broken ankle last week whose parents kept asking when she’d be able to dance again because she had a competition soon, pressing the matter even tough their kid was crying the entire time her parents asked about ways to speed up the process, drugs they could give her so she could dance through the pain… Some parents suck.

Sadly, they weren’t even the worst parents I’ve seen come in here since I started working as a pediatric nurse. Christopher and I had to alert the authorities a couple of weeks ago to get a kid taken away from his parents, because it was obvious to us that they were drug addicts and the symptoms their kid was having were from withdrawal. They turned their 8-year-old kid into a drug addict. That is just wrong on so many levels. People like that should be sterilized. Or locked up. Preferably both.

“Nurse Berger?” Christopher’s voice sounds from behind me. “Could you check on Peter Hennesy next? Their parents have some question about post-op care, and I’m heading into surgery right now.”

I smile and nod, heading to Peter’s room the moment I’ve answered all Jonah’s questions. I spent another half hour in Peter’s room, explaining to his mother and father how they can make sure his wounds won’t get infected. He was in a car accident – his own grandfather pretty much ran his car over him, the guy has Alzheimer’s disease and forgot that he no longer has a driver’s license – but he’s doing okay now, and his parents are very sweet, caring people. It sucks to see families hurting like this, but it feels good to be a part of their recovery. I can really make a difference, and while I have to work my ass off in here every single shift, and breaks are often cut short, I wouldn’t want to go back to the ER even if they gave me a pay raise. I love the peds wing.

At the end of my shift, I stick around for another twenty minutes just so I can see how little Annie got out of surgery. I wait with her parents, answering all their questions and easing their minds, telling them just how amazing Dr. Davids is and that he’s taking care of their girl right now. Chris himself comes into the waiting room when the surgery is over, along with Dr. Patel who scrubbed in as well.

“She’s going great,” Chris tells the parents. “I’ll get into all the medical terms in a moment, but all you really need to know is that surgery went well and she’ll make a full recovery.”

The mother throws herself at him, hugging him while she sobs. The father shakes Dr. Patel’s hand, and he starts asking about how things went, post-op care, all that stuff. He’s been reading up on his kid’s illness online, and he knows all the terms by now, sounding all doctor-like. I love it when parents do that. Sure, it makes our job harder sometimes, because some parents think they know better than us just because Dr. Google said something different, but at least they care. They try to gain as much knowledge as they can, and they want to understand every single part of the surgery, the recovery process, the medication… I much rather spend an extra hour talking to parents to make sure they know we’re doing everything we can and we know better than Google, than to have to alert authorities about parents putting their kid’s life in danger.

Dr. Patel takes the parents to see their toddler, and Christopher sags down in the chair next to me, not caring that we’re in the waiting room instead of the break room. It’s the middle of the night, so it’s not like anyone else is in here anyway.

“Didn’t your shift end half an hour ago?” he asks, rubbing his eyes.

“Didn’t yours end four hours ago?” I shoot back, patting his knee. “I know you think you’re superman, and all the parents and kids agree and would gladly buy you a nice red cape, but we both know even you need sleep every once in a while, Chris.”

He grunts. “I know. I just couldn’t go home knowing that Annie was in here again.

“Dr. Patel could have handled things without you.”

“He could have, but I wanted to be there.” He turns to me with a small smile. “You didn’t need to stick around either. We both know you care about Annie and the other kids just as much as I do.”

“Yeah, I do. I need some sleep too, though.” I curse when I realize I still need to all an uber. My own place is close, so I could walk, but I haven’t slept in my own bed in months, still pretty much living over at Josh’s. We both prefer me crashing with him even when I don’t get home until it’s pretty much morning already and he needs to get to class. His place feels like home more than my apartment does. Joshua dropped me off here earlier, and I was planning on taking care of getting a ride sooner, but I forgot all about that the moment my shift started.

“Need a ride?” Chris asks knowingly when I pull out my phone. “I can drop you off again.”

He’s been doing that a lot lately, and I feel bad for making him go out of his way to drop a nurse off at her boyfriend’s house after he just pulled a long-ass shift that has him yawning. “No need,” I tell him. “I’ll find my way home. I can always crash at my own place.”

Christopher laughs. “You won’t. It’s only a matter of time before you move in with Joshua for real, and we both know it. Come on, Fran, let me drive you home. It’s only a ten-minute detour. No big deal.”

I grudgingly accept and we chat about our patients on the way home. Chris looks like he needs sleep even more than I do, and I’m exhausted, so I make him promise to text me when he gets home. I sometimes worry he will fall asleep behind the wheel of his car, even though he’s a great driver and a very responsible person. He works too hard, and I think it’s partially because he’s so lonely. Annabel and Aston had their baby a few weeks back, and Chris took it harder than anyone thought he would. He and Annabel have become good friends despite the weirdness of him being her ex and dating her sister, but even being friends couldn’t soften the blow of Christopher having to watch the woman he thought he’d end up with nursing her newborn baby girl.

I wish Chris would get back in the game, but no matter how many dating profiles me and nurse Jacob have set up for him the past months, he always just deletes them and goes back to work. He works more than any doctor in that place, and that’s saying something, because the others aren’t lazy either. My mother made no secret of liking Christopher, and during that week she was here for my dad’s birthday a couple months ago, she did everything she could to get into his pants – it was very awkward to watch – but he turned her down. He confided in me that while it was weird for him that she’s my mother, that wasn’t even the main reason he told her no.

Chris wants kids. He wants them more than anything, and he’s not going to have any with a 50-year-old wild child like my mother. After taking care of other people’s kids all damn day, he has to go home to the huge family home he’s leasing, all alone, no wife, no girlfriend, not even a girl he’s dating. And no kids. He’s hurting, and I wish I could make him feel better.

I let myself into Joshua’s apartment and take a quick shower and eat some yoghurt before crashing into bed besides him. He’s sound asleep, and doesn’t wake up when I snuggle up to him, but even in his sleep Joshua gravitates towards me. His arms wrap around me and I rest my head on his chest, listening to his heart beating, finding comfort in that simple sound.

We’ve been good. Better than good, even. We’ve been great. Amazing. Wonderful. Almost too good to be true. This is the longest relationship I’ve ever been in, and I’ve never come this close to living with someone. Things are still easy as breathing with him, and we never fight. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop, but maybe it won’t. Maybe we really are as perfect together as we seemed from that first time we kissed.

This week will be a test for us, though. I’m finally meeting James for coffee tomorrow, after agreeing to meet up a while ago but never getting around to it. He sounded good over the phone, but I’m a little apprehensive to see him in person. It’s been months, and I’m nervous about how we’ll be around each other after everything that happened. Joshua seems perfectly okay with me seeing my ex-boyfriend, but it’s still weird. Joshua is so cool about me being friends with Aston, Thomas and Chris, and now he’s encouraging me to get closure with James… He’s only 22, for crying out loud. It would be perfectly normal for him to worry about me spending time with guys I slept with or who wanted to date me, but he isn’t. He says he feels perfectly secure in our relationship and me spending time with other people won’t change that.

The real test will come at the end of the week. Joshua’s father is turning 60 and we’re having dinner with them. I haven’t actually met Josh’s parents yet. I’ve talked to his mother over the phone back when Joshua broke his leg in that horrible fight, but I’ve never seen either of them in person. Joshua wanted me to meet them sooner, but they were back in their home in England for a long time – they’ve got four houses, that’s how rich they are – and we both agreed that it may be a bit soon for me fly all the way out there with him. Besides, I couldn’t get that much time off on short notice since I already got a week off for my father’s birthday. They’re back in town now, and they’ve been asking to meet me in person for weeks now, so it’s finally going to happen.

I am shitting my pants, that’s how nervous I am.

Joshua has assured me time and time again that it’ll be fine, that his mother already loves me because I took care of Joshua when he was injured, and that his parents may be rich, but that they don’t care about pink hair, tattoos or piercings. I hope he’s right, because he may think his mother is overbearing, and he moved out four years ago on his 18th birthday for a reason, but he does love them with all his heart. He looks up to his father, wanting to be make him proud when start working at his firm once he’s done with college in just two more months. If either of his parents doesn’t like me, I don’t know if our relationship will survive, no matter how much we love each other and how amazing things have been since we got together five months ago.

For now, I just need some sleep. No use worrying over something that is out of my control. At least not right now, not when I’m exhausted and all comfortable in Joshua’s arms, ready to drift off to sleep. I will go back to being a nervous wreck later this week.

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