“Code Blue in the cardiac cath lab!”
Ann Lowell’s ears perked up when she heard the announcement over the loudspeaker. She yanked the surgical mask from her face and pulled off the cap covering her straight black hair, which she now wore cropped off an inch below her ear for easy maintenance. She hurried out of the ambulatory surgery recovery unit, leaving her white coat and stethoscope still hanging from a hook on the wall.
Surgical interns generally didn’t respond to the code blue announcements, but Ann knew that the patient coding was hers. Earlier that morning, Mrs. Duncan had been waiting for a routine outpatient hernia repair when she asked Ann if she could have a pill for heartburn. Mrs. Duncan was a mildly overweight woman in her forties—not high risk for a cardiac event, but Ann got a bad feeling when she saw the sweat blotting the patient’s forehead. An EKG and a set of cardiac enzymes later, Mrs. Duncan was being rushed to the cardiac cath lab. Her “heartburn” was in fact a full blown heart attack.
And now she was coding in the cath lab.
Ann arrived at the cath lab sweaty and out of breath. I’ve got to get back in shape, she decided, otherwise they’re going to end up coding me. She bent over, clutching her knees and breathing rapidly. When she lifted her face, her cheeks felt flushed.
The cardiology attending was emerging from the cath lab, which was either a very good sign or a very bad sign. Ann wiped her damp forehead and stood up straight. “Hi,” she said. “I’m Ann Lowell from surgery. Mrs. Duncan is my patient…”
“She’s going to be fine,” the attending said. “She went into v-fib but she came out of it before we even shocked her. We put in two stents—her LAD was nearly 100% occluded.”
Ann’s shoulder’s sagged with relief, “Thank god.”
“I know you’re from surgery, but maybe you’d like to see what we did for the sake of your general learning,” the attending said. “The fellow is finishing up and I’m sure he’d be happy to show you.”
“Yeah, definitely,” Ann said. She had never seen a cardiac cath before and she was curious what they did in there.”
The attending stuck his head into the cath lab, “Hey Joel, the surgery intern taking care of Mrs. Duncan is here.”
It couldn’t be, Ann thought. But as she ventured into the lab, she saw none other than Dr. Joel Dergan, sitting in his wheelchair, wearing dark blue scrubs, staring at the screen of a computer. He seemed very intent on whatever he was looking at, so much so that he didn’t even glance in Ann’s direction as he spoke. “Good catch, Surgery Intern,” he said in a distracted voice. “You probably saved Mrs. Duncan’s life.”
“Thanks,” Ann said.
She watched as he frowned and turned in her direction. He blinked a few times until a smile slowly dawned on his face. “Holy shit,” he said. “You’re a surgery intern here, Ann?”
She smiled and nodded, although her smile faded slightly when she saw the silver band around his left ring finger. Joel had gotten married. Not that there would ever be any chance of anything between the two of them ever again, but the wedding band certainly clinched it. “And you’re the cardiology fellow, I guess…”
“What gave me away?” he said, grinning at her.
Ann realized that in all the time she had known Joel, she had never seen him look this happy before. In fact, she wasn’t sure if she had ever seen him look happy until today. “How is it?” she asked.
“I never thought I’d enjoy something so much that didn’t involve cutting people open,” he said. “Speaking of which, are you enjoying yourself?”
“Yes, I am,” Ann replied earnestly. It hadn’t been easy for her to get to where she was. After Joel quit his job, she had been suspended from her clerkships until she was able to pass her board exam. She studied nonstop and used up all her vacation time, but she passed on her second try with a respectable score. She had to work harder than she ever had in her life to make up for her unimpressive boards, but she was up for the challenge. By the time interview season came around, she had made herself into a reasonable candidate for a surgery residency.
And she loved being a surgeon. Even when she was waking up at 4 in the morning and staying up all night, she loved it.
“Just a little tired,” she said.
Joel nodded knowingly, “Just watch the driving.”
She looked down at the ring on his finger again, “Congratulations, by the way. Anyone I’d know?”
He smiled. “I married Kyra,” he said. “You know, that blonde woman who yelled at you in my apartment.”
Ann immediately knew who he was talking about. It was hard to forget that night. “Any kids yet?” she asked. “I remember you said you didn’t want any.”
“One on the way,” he admitted. “What can I say? The wife is addicted to sleepless nights and we figured we should squeeze one in before we hit forty.”
Ann couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of the woman that Joel had married. With her schedule, there was no time for a romance of her own. Their eyes met and she remembered the way Joel had kissed her—she could almost still feel his lips on hers.
Ann heard her pager go off and was startled out of her fantasy. “I guess I better go,” she said.
As she hurried out of the cath lab, she looked back at Joel one last time.
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