“Forty-year-old male MVC victim,” the medic shouted as he and his partner pushed the stretcher through the doors and into the emergency department. “SUV versus semi. SUV rolled multiple times before stopping to land on its passenger side.”
Adrenaline surged through Dr. Rebecca Dahlman’s system, revving her pulse, pushing away the fatigue of an overly long shift. It worked better than the half pot of coffee she’d already consumed.
“Upon arrival at the scene, patient was unresponsive. We were able to get the c-collar on him right away, but had to wait for the Jaws of Life to extricate.”
Gown and gloves in place, Rebecca ran her gaze over the unconscious man strapped to the backboard with orange belts as they swung into room one and transferred him to the ER’s gurney. Her team, already assembled in the trauma room, moved efficiently around the patient, cutting off his clothes with trauma shears, starting large bore IVs and getting vital signs.
The medic continued feeding her pertinent information as she began her assessment. “Blood pressure is one-twenty over seventy-five, pulse ninety-five. Pulse ox is one hundred percent on room air. Pupils—dilated, equal, and reactive.”
The guy was a mess. Blood covered his face, soaked the left side of his head and shoulder of his shirt. He had a laceration on his left upper arm; deep enough to require sutures, and some bruises were already beginning to form at his left shoulder and right hip from the seatbelt doing its job of holding him in place. Even more troubling was the bruise forming on his right side, a sign of rib trauma. Ribs weren’t the only common injuries from impact with the center console. The ones she couldn’t see were what caused her the most concern.
“I want an ultrasound of the abdomen,” Rebecca stated automatically as she shifted closer and listened to her patient’s chest. Lungs clear, respirations even and non-labored, heart tones audible not muffled and no abnormal rhythm. Good, no internal chest trauma. She looped her stethoscope around her neck and leaned in, searching the man’s scalp for head trauma. “Get me a cross-table C-spine, chest and pelvis x-ray. Draw a full trauma panel, type and cross, and a urine tox screen.”
Karmen Williams, Rebecca’s best friend and charge nurse for the night, pulled the man’s wallet from the pile of clothes on the floor. “Rebecca.”
Directly above his left ear Rebecca uncovered the source of all the blood. Pushing her fingers into his hair, she palpated the injury site. The wound immediately began to bleed again. “No skull fracture that I can detect.”
“I’ll want a CT scan of the head and neck.”
“Rebecca.” Karmen’s voice was tight and pulled her attention. “It’s Dominic.”
For a moment, a heartbeat really, the words didn’t make sense. Then, she looked closer at the lifeless man on the gurney. As if in slow motion, Rebecca dragged her gaze up the torso, locked it onto the face partially hidden behind long, blood-soaked black hair. Her breath snagged in her throat and she froze, the echo of her pulse beating in her ears. It was a struggle to keep her hand steady as she pushed his wavy hair away from his face and focused on his mouth, those lips, the bottom one slightly fuller than the top, the thin, straight nose.
“Stud,” she whispered, her voice torn.
His eyes were closed, ringed in thick black lashes. Were they open they would be the color of the sky just after a cleansing rain.
Her world tilted.
No. It couldn’t be. This wasn’t him. Dominic didn’t have a goatee or a scar across his right clavicle. Dominic wasn’t in California, he was in London. Safe in London.
Not unconscious and bleeding in the middle of her ER.