Chapter Seven: Dr. Lawson
Dr. Richard Lawson’s pager began to vibrate. He didn’t have to look down at it to know where he had to be. With the precision of a soldier he headed towards the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit: “Dick…Overweight…Grotesque…Bitch…Degenerate…Crazy…Vile…I think not…”
These were just some of the words that flew into his head as he passed the crowds of people milling around the corridor. They were not nice thoughts but they were his truths and he was thankful that no one could hear them.
The doctor was a tall man by many people’s standards - extending well over six feet. His dark brown hair was combed backwards but this did little to prevent strands from occasionally falling and obscuring his sight. He had a stature that many a man would be proud of, but instead of taking great big strides, he shuffled towards his destination. His grey-blue eyes zeroed in on the ground in front of him, as though analysing its very composition. Occasionally, his eyes darted to the left and to the right of him. If anyone was planning (not that anyone had been) to sneak up on him, they’d be sorely disappointed, as he’d be ready to catch them in the act first. He seemed to be that kind of person; prepared for any kind of confrontation but forcefully opposed to any personal contact of any kind.
As soon as he arrived at the unit he reached for his access card which was clipped onto his belt. He didn’t look up but he was very aware of the surveillance camera; its intrusive stare narrowed in on him like an ominous crow. The change from red to green took only a matter of seconds but it was still too long for Dr. Lawson. Once cleared he yanked the door open.
“Good afternoon doctor,” greeted the nurse on reception. She sounded out of breath.
“Hello Dr. Lawson,” said another.
“Afternoon,” he curtly replied. He didn’t look at them. He headed towards the end of the hallway.
Despite themselves the two nurses gave each other knowing looks.
“He’s well fit,” Angela giggled, she was the younger of the two nurses. Her colleague, Nurse Reid, agreed, “Yes he is quite. But he seems a bit shy don’t you think?”
“Shy? No. I wouldn’t say he’s shy,” Angela drew out the last word while she pondered on this thought. “Actually, I’ve seen that he can be quite direct. You should see him with the others, he never gets distracted and he pays absolutely no attention to Dr. Metcalfe, who, everyone knows is totally gaga about him.”
“Is she now?” Nurse Reid laughed. She didn’t disguise her glee on receiving some ripe gossip. “But isn’t he married?”
“I’m not sure. I don’t think so. He’s not wearing a ring. But I heard somewhere that he is, or was, or - I don’t know! I just find it hard to believe that a man like that is single now.” She chuckled and then suddenly exclaimed. “Aloof! That’s the word I was looking for. He’s very aloof…Come to think about it, I don’t think he has any friends on the ward but he’s still quite cordial, if you know what I mean.”
“Well, whatever he’s doing seems to work well on many of us,” Nurse Reid teased.
The two nurses giggled at the cheeky innuendo then they turned their heads towards the direction the doctor had gone down only a few moments ago. They were not looking at anything in particular, just allowing their minds to meander in their own private thoughts.
Dr. Lawson headed towards the end of the unit where a small group of medics had assembled. They were looking through a glass partition at a baby in an incubator and spoke quietly amongst themselves.
“So, baby Lindsay has returned,” he announced to the group. He was aiming for wit but it didn’t quite come over with his soft voice. They all looked up at the towering doctor. If they were shocked at his sudden appearance they concealed it well. Some of the junior medics quickly scanned his face for humour but as always the doctor’s eyes didn’t connect with anyone in particular.
“The mother brought her in over an hour ago,” one of his male colleagues volunteered, “The baby has developed a rather nasty looking rash across her abdominal region. We’re not sure what’s brought it on.”
Another one of his fellow workers, Dr. Metcalfe, added her report, “Before the baby’s release, she appeared to be a healthy preemie; you know. No problems, other than the usual weight issues of course…”
“Could I have the notes?” They were handed over to Dr. Lawson. “Okay,” he mumbled, “Let’s see what we have here…” He left his colleagues looking behind the glass partition and entered into the room where the baby and mother were situated. His colleagues blinked on as they watched the doctor ask the mother a number of questions.
A few moments later he emerged from the room. He turned to Dr. Metcalfe. “Can somebody contact the Allergenic Specialist? We need to get the breast milk tested right away.”
“The breast milk?”
“Yes. The breast milk,” he said bluntly, “I believe the baby is undergoing an allergic reaction to her mother’s milk…” It was a simple prognosis but the strained expressions on his colleagues’ faces revealed their complete chagrin for the man. Not that their perceived reticence moved him the slightest. Dr. Lawson was far too seasoned a medic to become smug over trivialities such as these. He handed the notes back to Dr. Metcalfe. “As soon as it arrives let me know the outcome of the test.”
“Certainly,” she replied. With experience Dr. Metcalfe had learnt to keep answers short whenever she worked with Dr. Lawson. However she was about to say something else but he had already surged past her.
Dr. Lawson briefly checked the time on his pager. He was due to see yet another preemie with skin problems but he instinctively wandered over to the room where baby Tobey lay.
Richard peered through the glass partition. Other than the flaring of his nostrils, the doctor became rock still. His silvery metallic eyes honed in on the silent bundle...
For many, watching a sick and helpless baby struggling to breathe is enough to arouse some form of pity, or at least, a deep sense of sorrow. Not so for Dr. Lawson. Looking at baby Tobey’s ailing body filled him with rage. Actually, it was more like a tempered vexation, it gnawed and swirled around his abdomen; occasionally taking shots at him like flaming darts of fire.
For you see baby Tobey’s pitiful state was a sharp reminder of the hospital’s continual failings to find a solution. Well, that was how Dr. Lawson saw it, anyhow.
‘This baby is going to die!’ He seethed. It was a fact he could bet his 33- year old life on. As far as he was concerned, this pointless charade to keep him alive had gone on long enough.
For Richard, anyone who professed to hold a smidgeon of knowledge in medicine could see the situation with baby Tobey was a hopeless cause.
Most unfortunately for this little boy, when he came into this world he entered it with an extremely rare neuromuscular condition. There was no one to blame – it was nature, and sometimes it seemed to work in the cruellest of ways...
In his ten years in Paediatrics, Dr. Lawson had to admit he had never seen anything quite like it. After countless tests and examinations the nearest diagnosis given for the baby’s apparent disorder was: Congenital Myasthenia Syndrome - or CMS - as it was medically termed. However, with that being said, there was a slight probability that it was not CMS. Although it seemed the symptoms shared many similarities with this chronic disease.
Nevertheless, this was still, by and large, the worst manifestation the doctor had ever encountered, and one of the most challenging the Unit had ever had to deal with in its 70-year history.
The slippery complexity of this disease was fuelling Dr. Lawson’s frustrations. The hospital, himself included, had tried several complicated procedures and one - almost fatal -attempt to sustain the boy’s respiration. But in time they all had to concede that this baby would not be able to breathe unassisted.
And with the matter of drugs - where could he begin? The much heralded Prositgmin trails had turned out to be a complete disaster! He and his team had then been advised to switch the baby’s medication to 34 Dap - which almost killed the boy. Later, they all agreed to trial him on Ephedrine since numerous reports had surfaced of its use with CMS patients. Needless to say, there was little, to no, improvement to speak of. And judging from recent notes the doctor discovered it seemed the baby was becoming a lot sicker on it as well.
‘So in God’s name. What more could the department do?’ The hospital was out of choices. And almost after a year of trials and false hopes, he had all but lost interest in trying to improve the boy’s chances.
Moreover, to further exacerbate his wrath, Richard could not ignore the fact that over the last 12 months it seemed the hospital had gone completely PC mad! He could only blame one institution for this: The media.
Much to Richard’s annoyance all of the departmental heads were suddenly being harangued to adhere to hospital policy. And this was being extrapolated to the point of ridiculousness! All this was happening simply because of this special case with baby Tobey.
‘Surely, he couldn’t be the only one who was a little perturbed by the amount of publicity this case had already attracted?’
And, no. He did not subscribe to the notion that: ‘All publicity was good publicity.’ In his opinion the media were partaking in reckless reporting. Printing stories which didn’t hold a shred of truth, with some of the most distasteful headlines he’s ever had the displeasure of reading:
‘Still no miracle from St Margaret’ - heralded one newspaper.
‘Award-winning hospital loses battle to save’ - reported another. And the least of his favourites…
’Dr., Dr. what do I have? We don’t know! - That’ll be £62m please: The Real Cost of NHS failings’
Dr. Lawson couldn’t deny that every time the hospital got a mention he wanted to smash something. He didn’t have a quick temper, he just had a bad one. And at the heart of his ire was the fact that it was glaringly obvious that the hospital - meaning - he, was still unable to resolve or improve this clinical malaise...
This did not look good. He never failed at anything.
‘If the boy couldn’t be healed - why waste more time? The baby needed to go!’ Richard didn’t think he was being heartless - just a realist. And one, his department so desperately needed at this time.
Least of all he didn’t have to remind himself that he was ranked among the top 10 paediatricians in the country, and one of the most respected MDs at the hospital. He had a pristine track-record and he needed it to stay that way. This had nothing to do with safeguarding the hospital’s reputation but more to do with buttressing his own. Others were watching him. Others, more important than the stuffy members of the Trustee Board…
Although all these current events had been a bother to Richard, he was able to derive some comfort in knowing that this charade would soon be drawing to a close. He, and a select few, were due to attend a meeting later in the week. The reason: To begin proceedings to switch off baby Tobey’s life support machine. This time, Richard was hoping there would be no objections.
He breathed a sigh of relief.
As for the others who were watching him…Richard smiled to himself.
At this moment in time, the young doctor was at the most exciting stage of his life. He was finally working towards something much more in line with own his personal beliefs.
All those years of research into the study of human genetics and nucleolus biology had not been for nothing. And all those years submitting countless articles for The Quarterly Medical Review had, apparently, not gone unnoticed. He was now in the company of others who saw that if there was success to be had, it would ultimately be found in stem cell research - the science of the future…
This private project he was working on had all the markings of a winner: great funding, great rewards, but these all came at even greater risks…His heart gave a small jolt at this last admission but his hapless zeal remained…
For you see there was a lot about Dr. Richard Lawson that many people did not know. Yes, the man was an accomplished obstetrician, paediatrician and gynecologist, being one of the few, on staff, to hold qualifications in three medical disciplines.
But this retiring medic harboured fierce ambitions of his own. And truthfully, there was nothing wrong with having ambition, except, when coupled with unresolved insecurities. When this occurs, there is something markedly toxic about this mix: ambition and insecurities. The latter, somehow has a way of complicating the former…But I’ll expand on that a little later…
But back to Richard Lawson.
To look at this way, this young doctor would have been a prime candidate for pursuing a career in genetics or microbiology, since, from an early age, he wanted nothing more than to become a medical inventor; a pioneer of sorts. Someone, who would one day find a cure for all terminal illnesses or rid the body of every kind of allergy known to humankind. He wanted to do for biology, what Albert Einstein had done for physics, and what Marie Curie had done for chemistry. From the start he had had a heart-felt desire to find cures, for incurable diseases. But ever since Richard could remember, there was something that halted his progression. It was only one small personality defect, which, later in life, turned out to be a huge stumbling block for him. And that defect, was the fear of failure...
Hardly noteworthy to many, but for Richard it was anything but. This underlying insecurity was staggering in his mind’s eye, and greatly chaffed on him like a jacket against a nasty burn. He was certain this personality flaw was only unique to him. After all, he saw several people, he knew, try and fail at many things in their lives. Yet, they seemed to come out of it just fine; failed marriages, mislaid fortunes, sudden illnesses, buried loved ones, and so on. It didn’t spell the end for all these people. Yet, why was failure so unimaginable to him?
On the contrary, and with reasonable measure, Richard was all for trying things - he didn’t mind that part. But failing?
How does one recover from that? How does one recover from the shame?
He shuddered. He was not one to take those chances. Whenever he had undergone any such minor setbacks in his life, the experience had made him physically sick. So violent were the convulsions he once burst a blood vessel in his right eye.
Deep down he suspected there was nothing to this defect that some sort of psychoanalytic evaluation could not have ironed out in his youth. But among many things Richard was a quiet child. Whatever it was that was growing in him, was never dealt with in his formative years...
Thus, as Richard grew, so did this minor personality defect. And it would later come to overshadow many of his life’s decisions. Richard couldn’t bear to fail at the things he loved. So, in most incidences, instead of taking up the challenge he would always secure the safest route for himself. No retreat! No surrender! No pioneering for Richard, then…
Richard would take the path of a paediatrician.
And like most straight A-students he was very adept in his chosen field of study. It was almost too easy for him.
Yet, Richard was not to know it but his dream had now undergone a slight modification. A modification that would see the young doctor blossom into a fruit, without a seed…Of course Richard could not see this - nobody could. For this is only visible in the spirit realm. But, alas, fortunately for human beings they are - amongst many things - soulful creatures. It was only a matter of time before Richard began to feel the stirrings of an unfulfilled heart. For no matter how hard he tried he could not forsake his dream.
That dream was a seed. And like all good dreams, it had been purposely planted there. And like all good seeds, it contained the making of him…
In time Richard figured out the importance of realizing his dream; he knew it was somehow linked to his happiness.
However, the young doctor was yet to make another major blunder. Remember what I said earlier about insecurity and ambition? It’s a very bad coupling. Many times they share the same bed but they do not belong together.
For it is not enough to have a dream. One still has to have the courage to own it - like so many people did. But Richard did not. Instead, he covered it up like a dirty secret, choosing to pursue his dream in private, and in the comfort of his own home. Night and day he toiled at it; working tirelessly away, far from public scrutiny, as the doubtful often do.
And this is where his dream had taken him so far...
Over the years, Richard had invested an obscene amount of money converting one of the rooms in his home into a state-of-the-art laboratory.
All the equipment he installed was top of the range: microscopes, anaerobic cabinets, tubes and plate coolers. All, came hot off the production lines from the finest bio-scientific manufacturers around the world.
For Richard, treading into this gleaming white-walled territory was like stepping into his very own private sanctuary. Albeit, it was nowhere near the scope and comprehension of a professional-sized lab, but he was working very hard on changing that.
Confined within these special walls, Richard couldn’t be happier. His dour and somewhat anti-social persona, was for the rest of the world to enjoy. When Richard entered into his lab he finally had the peace he craved to go after that thing he so desperately wanted – success. His kind of success…
Richard had the zeal; he had the desire, he only lacked one thing. And fortuitously for Richard, that thing came to him when he least expected it.
In the autumn of 2002 which was almost two years ago Richard travelled up to Edinburgh to attend a fund-raising dinner. Many senior medical officials and scientists were invited to take part in a discussion about the advancement of stem cell research. For Richard, it was a typical function full of fraternity members and old men in suits: The same people, the same rules; the same tedious menu. But unlike most of the discussions he’d previously attended, that night ended on a very promising note. Someone had been watching him…
A week later he received a call from Diligence. They informed him that they were a well-known medical research and technology facility that had affiliations with many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies. Much to Richard’s delight, they had read many of his old research papers and were very interested in his unique findings.
Two clandestine meetings later, and money was discussed. Richard couldn’t believe his good fortune. It seemed Diligence were to become his real life fairy godmother. They assured him that there was absolutely nothing they couldn’t do for him, which was true; for they had the money, resources, power and connections.
As it turned out Diligence had been searching for some time for the ideal candidate. For legal reasons, some of their human stem cell research needed to be conducted in an un-connected ‘offsite’ lab. They didn’t hesitate to let Richard know that he was definitely the right man for the job.
Nevertheless, with most of these too good to be true deals, there was a catch. There was one thing Richard had to do for them…It was just one thing…
But before we race ahead of ourselves, let’s embark on why Dr. Richard Lawson was selected as the ideal candidate for Diligence. It begins with the young doctor’s very unique findings in the largely unchartered realm of medical sciences: The study in foetal stem cell research.