Prelude (An Alec Winters Series, Book 1)

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Chapter 27

Chaz met Celina during his second year of medical school. Medical school was grueling, much harder than pre-med. Chaz missed Sabrina as his study partner more than he cared to admit. He missed her unconditional support and keen insight. Regardless, he threw himself into his career, and even though he loved the work, he often felt washed out, frustrated, and alone until he met Celina.

They had an easy relationship that gave each of them what they needed most: Time together and time alone. Celina, a nursing student, was trusting and trustworthy, something that Chaz deeply desired. She was attentive, but never over-bearing or clingy. She was also very different from the girls he had known during the first twenty-four years of his life. It was a new experience for the shy, unsure young man that had never really dated anyone for more than a few weeks at a time. In this case, however, new wasn’t as frightening as it had been in the past.

Although Chaz’s parents were not overly accepting of his new girlfriend, he often thought that Celina and Alec’s mother would get along great. They had a similar outlook on life. Like Cassidy Winters, Celina was positive and filled with hope no matter what life threw at her. Oh, he well remembered the dull phase Cassidy had gone through during the early years of her marriage. Chaz had been friends with Alec since fifth grade when Alec wouldn’t let other sixth graders bully him. He knew the family history and understood that Cassidy’s lost faith didn’t return until after her husband’s death. However, when the chips were down, Alec’s mom had made a powerful comeback, a comeback that anyone could honor. With renewed hope, Cassidy helped everyone around her.

Chaz knew Celina had the same inner faith and fortitude. He knew she’d always do the same thing, the right thing. Even though he couldn’t fully explain it, the knowledge comforted him. That understanding allowed him to fall in love with Celina.

Due to that affectionate and caring relationship, things were going well. Chaz had never felt better. He was satisfied and no longer envied Alec’s happiness with Sabrina because he was with Celina. He didn’t resent that Danaé had escaped the darkness of the city by moving to Rhode Island because he was at peace living in New Orleans, his birthplace. Chaz found that he was content for the first time in his life. However, during his second year of residency at the University Medical Center of New Orleans, misfortune found him.

Chaz had worked a double shift at the hospital, and finished for the day, was on his way home. As he passed by Tulane’s campus, he noticed a frantic crowd gathered at the outer edge close to its Carrollton Avenue side. It was late, but assuming it was an organized rally, a bonfire lit the way. Enthralled, Chaz stopped to watch the unusual commotion.

An undergraduate, hyped-up on some unknown street drug, went berserk. No one could corral or manage him. Out-of-control, he wounded several other students and faculty members before he displayed superhuman strength and threw an industrial trash bin into the crowd. It was so sudden and bizarre that many of the looky-loos froze; no one could get out of the way fast enough. Chaz pushed several other bystanders out of the missile’s path, but he didn’t make it. The hard metal crashed into him, knocking him unconscious.

An investigation would blame PCP. The drug had made a comeback during the 1990s, and was still available on the streets in some form today, especially on the streets of New Orleans. Campus Security never mentioned in their investigative report that Chaz was a hero, preventing serious injury to others. Rather, it stated, ‘Chaz Lambert was unlucky. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.’

Chaz was in and out of consciousness for some time. With a compound fracture of his femur, surgery was a necessity. The surgical team used metal pins, rods, and screws to repair the bone. As Chaz drifted in and out of consciousness after surgery, he felt Alec Winters’ presence. Chaz felt cool, caring hands check his bandage. He heard the scribbling of a pen notating his chart. He heard his friend’s soothing voice, encouraging him. “You can do this, Chaz. Put your mind to it. Get better and pull through. You’re going to be all right, buddy.”

When Chaz finally woke up, he discovered that his right leg was broken, but he’d had surgery to repair it. He also learned that the blow had caused severe nerve damage and pain in his lower back and right hip. Sometimes, he felt numbness and tingling in his right arm and hand.

During Celina’s next visit, he asked, “Was Alec Winters here in my room?”

“Not that I’m aware of, however, there was a doctor here that I’ve never seen before. He had bright red hair and his nametag read Alexander. I thought that was odd, but he had me look at your chart. Oh my gosh. You had the early signs of sepsis around the incision and you were running a slight fever. Before I could get more doctors to start the antibiotic protocol, he’d disappeared. No matter, just getting me to see the notes was a miracle in itself. We averted that major problem.”

“What color were his eyes?” Chaz mumbled. He was feeling very tired.

“His eyes? Oh, they were very blue,” Celina replied just as Chaz nodded off.

Morphine helped while he was in the hospital, but nothing the doctors gave him helped with the suffering he experienced during and after rehab. With the support of a cane, he returned to the hospital’s residency program, but the constant pain was unbearable.

Chaz would’ve never treated a patient the way his physicians treated him. Begging for something to make the pain stop only resulted in suspicion from his doctors. Thinking that the pain he described was all in his head, they referred him to a staff psychologist. Other than that, Chaz was offered very little help or support. He was advised to take over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen, but that was similar to a fly biting an elephant. It had very little effect.

Desperate for help, the promising young surgeon developed a heavy addiction to Oxy, street slang for the painkiller OxyContin. It was the only medication that would dull the continual pain and suffering, but it never completely relieved it. In spite of these obstacles, Chaz finished his third year of residency. However, the injury responsible for the nerve damage he suffered, along with his addiction, successfully ended his future as a surgeon.

Oddly enough, Celina was the only one who could help him. She taught Chaz to meditate when the pain was unbearable. She trained him to manage the pain in nontraditional ways, ways that often were considered quackery during that time. She introduced him to energy workers who could cleanse his body, mind, and soul of emotional traumas that might hinder his improvement. She led him through gentle stretches, yoga, and guided imagery until he was finally able to achieve a life that became, to some degree, normal.

Although Chaz regretted the mistakes he’d made after the accident, he tried to make up for it by helping others. His surgeon skills learned during residency certainly weren’t wasted. He often patched up those who couldn’t easily get treatment at the emergency room or reputable clinics. As the underground community secretly utilized his services for their various traumas and medical emergencies, his skills grew from the many surgeries he preformed.

He successfully operated on gunshots, knife wounds, and any other injuries that might bring police department inquiries if notified. He treated rape victims who refused to go to the E.R. or report the incident. He circumcised grown men after their girlfriends or wives complained of urinary tract infections. Through the course of his work, Chaz’s expertise grew and there were many in the city who thought he was the best surgeon around.

As it is everywhere, many citizens in New Orleans didn’t trust the government-run and parish-controlled facilities meant to protect its society. He treated many who simply wanted to keep their affairs as private as possible. In doing so, Chaz Lambert was a name that could be trusted.

Now, he lived with Celina in the home his grandfather had left to him. The couple prepared a small, but efficient, surgical room in the back of the house that was similar to an urgent care facility. As his nurse, Celina assisted him there. Although the cane was still a necessary part of his life, Chaz and Celina managed to supplement their income by accepting cash payments for the work and miracles performed.

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