William Doonan

I write books and stories.

MedicineLand: Chapter Ten

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After class, Julia hurried across campus to the cafe near the Medical Center where her mother liked the chicken salad.  Gloria Beltran ordered for both of them.

“I don’t drink wine with lunch, Mama,” Julia said, kissing her on the cheek.

“You do, dear.  You just like to say that you don’t.  You’re still coming to dinner this weekend?”

“Yes.  Rocky has a trip next week but he’ll be here for the weekend.  How’s work?”

Gloria Beltran picked at her chicken salad on a croissant, and her potato salad.

“What’s up, mama?”

She shook her head.  “It looks like Mr. Schwarzenegger will be reducing our funding next year.  Part of balancing the budget, he says.  It makes sense, don’t you think?  Why not reduce medical funding.  Lord knows the prison guards are going to get their raises.  So why shouldn’t the rest of us suffer?”

“Relax, mama.  He hasn’t released a budget yet.”

Gloria took a bite of her sandwich.  “The strangest thing happened today,” she said.  “Do you remember a few years ago when those twins came in with liver cancer?”

Julia took a bite of her turkey and Havarti on rye and thought for a moment.  “Yes,” she said.  “A boy and a girl, about eleven years old, right?”

“Kevin and Karen Sorrows.  Full blown metastasized cancer, both of them.  The father died from it, the mother was killed in a car crash.  The kids were being raised by their grandmother.”

“Right.”  Julia tried to remember.  “And the grandmother refused medical care on religious grounds.  She was a Christian Scientist or something like that?”

“She was a Jehovah’s Witness.  She took the kids away.  They almost put her in jail but there was a stink.  So she took them home and the boy died a week later and that was the last anyone ever heard about it.”

Julia frowned.  “So what happened to the girl?”

“What happened to the girl?  The girl turned up yesterday morning in one of my exam rooms.”

“She’s alive?”  Julia looked up.  “Liver cancer kills in months.”

“What else strikes you about what I just said?”

Julia bit into her pickle.  “You work in Ob-Gyn.  So either her cancer metastasized to her ovaries or she’s pregnant.”

“She was pregnant.”

“I doubt it,” Julia said.

“Why?  She was eleven three years ago.  She’s old enough now.”

“No.”  Julia shook her head.  “If she has cancer she’s likely not heavy enough.  She might be fourteen, but fourteen year old girls can only menstruate if they have enough body weight.”

“She’s pregnant and she’s perfectly healthy.”

“No.  Then it’s not the same girl.”

“It’s the same girl.”

“How did you ID her?”

Gloria leaned in close.  “Nobody can know this, right?”

Julia nodded.

“Remember Emma, the receiving nurse, nights?  Retired last year and moved to Dominican Republic?”

“Big red hair, heavy lipstick?”

“Yeah.  She chipped her.”

“Come again?”

“Remember when those babies got mixed up in Boston, and hospitals started putting these microchip tags on all the newborns’ bracelets so that there would be no way to mix them up?”

“Yeah.  They still do it.”

“Right.  Emma took to Karen Sorrows, felt like she was being manipulated, so she chipped her, only she did a subdermal, used Novocain and punched the chip under her skin, near her left shoulder blade.”

Julia sat back.  “That is totally illegal.  That’s like felony illegal.”

“And it also means that the hospital computers read Karen Sorrows’ microchip when she passed through the security door into ObGyn.  And because there was no reason that she should have a microchip, nobody said anything much, just took it for a glitch.  But it’s her.”

“Not possible.”  Julia shook her head.  “Metastasized liver cancer doesn’t progress like that.”

“Remember, she was a patient here three years ago, so she had a file – finger prints, blood type.  It’s the same girl.  We did a blood work up.  Her liver is fine.  So is her fetus.”

Julia picked at her sandwich.  “That’s fucked up.  Did she say where she was for the past few years?”

“Yes,” said Gloria.  “She said a lot of things because she was pretty upset.”

“Upset because she was pregnant.”

“Upset because she was a virgin.”

Julia paused mid-bite, and wiped a piece of lettuce from her chin.  “You’re joking.”

“I was there when the doctor did the exam.  She’s intact.”

“It’s been known to happen.  You don’t have to have penetration.  Sex play can come pretty close and sperm are devious little fuckers.”

Gloria bit into her pickle.  “I think she was lying.  Her urine tested positive for Depo-Provera.”

“She’s on birth control.”

“Yes, but she said she hadn’t set eyes on a man in two years.”

“She lied.”

“No doubt,” Gloria said, “but the issue remains that she is cancer-free.  And so was her fetus.”

“So what did she want?”

“She wanted to abort,” Gloria continued, “but she’s underage so she needed approval from her guardian.”

“What did the guardian say?”

Gloria smiled.  “That’s the fun part.  Nobody knew who the guardian was.  Karen got dumped off at this offbeat religious compound three years ago and that was the last time anyone heard from her.  Paperwork confers guardianship to the owner of the compound, a woman named Ruth Black who signed off on the abortion.  They aborted the fetus yesterday afternoon and released the girl to this woman we know nothing about.”

“Wow,” Julia exclaimed.  “Where is she now?”

“A van came for her.”

“Where’s the fetal tissue?”

Gloria Beltran shook her head.  “The fetal material was bagged for disposal.”

“But you tagged it, right?”

“No.  Because of the microchip thing, the hospital lawyers were poking around, so I didn’t have a chance.  Not only that, a woman from the compound where the girl lives, it’s some kind of African religious institution, took possession of the fetal tissue on religious grounds.  She had a court order to do so, to bury it.”

“So we have nothing?”

Gloria smiled.  “I got a tissue sample from the fetus.  And a swab from the girl.  This is a birthday present to you.  You think there’s something here?”

Julia was more excited than she let on.  “I don’t know.  She’s fourteen, right?  Fourteen year old girls have sex all the time, so there’s probably nothing there.  What’s more important is how a dying girl managed to stay alive for three years and conceive a child.  That’s what we might have to look into.”

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Written by williamdoonan

November 22, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand

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