by Lynne Norris
The ride home from Boston was a blur for Regina. As always the engine vibration and warmth of the sun streaming in the passenger side window lulled her to sleep minutes after they were on the highway. She didnít wake up until they were coming off their exit from the parkway in New Jersey and Alex reached over and shook her gently. Regina decided as she looked out the window at the familiar scenery, that coming back home was strange especially after the crazy week she and Alex had spent together.
Not surprisingly, Alex retreated farther into her self by the time she pulled into Reginaís driveway. Regina suspected that Alex felt much the same as she did. Tired and nervous about the meeting on Monday, both of them wondered what they would do with the feelings they had for each other now that they were going back to the hospital. That is, if they didnít lose their privileges on Monday.
Retrieving her bag from the back of the Jeep, Regina stood up and found the taller woman standing in front of her. Alex tilted her head and gave her a crooked grin.
Alex simply leaned forward and gathered Regina in her arms, holding her tight. Regina started to pull away but the doctor held her close and whispered in her ear. "Thank you,"
Regina wanted to ask for what but decided against it, instead just enjoying the moment for what it was. There was a strength she found wrapped in those arms, a sense that no matter what happened, they would endure and go on together.
Finally releasing her, Alex picked the blondeís bag up and followed Regina into her condo. She set the bag down and waited nervously as Regina turned on the lights. A part of the doctor wanted desperately to stay, but the other half was terrified even to ask, afraid that now they had returned to reality, Regina would have second thoughts about any kind of a relationship with her. So lost in her battle of self-recrimination that Alex didnít realize Regina had walked up behind her until strong arms slipped around her waist and pulled her close. She gasped at the contact.
The sharp intake of breath wasnít lost on the young woman and she laid her head on Alexís back, kissing her through the cotton shirt. She loved the feel of the woman she was holding in her arms and pressed closer, savoring the contact. Regina felt the brunette relax slowly in her embrace and she realized how much effort it had taken for Alex to let her into her life as much as she had this past week. She released the taller woman as she turned in her arms and watched the flicker of raw emotions in her companionís eyes.
"I should go. You must be tired." Alex ran her thumb gently over Reginaís lip, then leaned in and kissed her gently on her lips. She felt the younger womanís hand timidly rest on her hip and she backed off, letting her forehead touch Reginaís. Oh boy, come on Ė leave before you start something sheís not ready for. The dark woman stepped back and let her hand fall away. "Iíll see you Monday, Regina." Alex turned away and walked quickly out of Reginaís house.
The blonde watched sadly as her friend left. She felt Alex pulling away from her and it made her heart ache in a way she never felt before. Just when she thought she was beginning to understand she woman better sheíd turn around and do something like this. Too tired to think about anything, Regina slipped out of her clothes and crawled into bed falling asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.
The shrill ringing of the alarm roused her from her sleep. Confused, Regina slapped her hand at the clock radio sitting on the night table knocking it to the floor. The irritating noise stopped and then started again a moment later. Through her sleepy haze, Regina finally realized it was the phone that she was hearing and not the alarm. Rolling out of bed she stumbled across the room to pick up the phone and mumbled a barely intelligible hello.
Her motherís voice on the other end of the line brought her instantly awake.
"Where the hell have you been?" Her mother asked testily.
Regina sat down on the edge of the bed rubbing her face, trying to wake up. "I spent some time with a friend who needed me."
"You were with that doctor." Her motherís voice was full of accusation.
So Derrick did tell you where I was. Damn him. After a moment of shocked silence, Regina found her voice. "Mother, who I choose to spend my time with is no concern of yours."
"I canít believe you just left like you did. That was a terrible thing to do to us."
"You didnít leave me a choice. You should never have called Derrick in the first place, mother." Regina stood up, slipped into her robe and walked out of the bedroom. Sheíd been wondering when or how she would talk to her mother after the argument she had with her. Guess this is it. Wonderful.
"You could have at least stayed and talked with him after he drove all that way to see you." Her mother continued to press the issue.
Regina almost laughed at this. "Mother, you donít get it. I donít have anything to say to him." Regina pulled open the refrigerator door. She wrinkled her nose at the meager contents.
"He cares about you, Regina."
"Oh bullshit, mom!" She remembered with satisfaction the sound of Alex kicking him in the ribs and wishing it had been her own self doing it, instead. "Mother, you have no idea what heís really like. Besides, it doesnít matter anyway."
"What are you talking about?" Her mother snapped.
Regina rolled her eyes. "Mom, this is going nowhere. Why did you call me?"
"Have you thought anything about what this is going to do to your career? Do you think anyone is going to want aÖa."
"The word is lesbian, mom," Regina interjected.
"I know what the word is. Do you think anyone is going to want you to take care of them when they find out what you are? Have you thought about that at all?" Her motherís voice was thick with anger.
Regina turned around and leaned up against the wall. "Mother, just stop it. Iím the same person I was before and I donít need to justify my life to anyone," Regina snapped. The past three months and more - specifically the last forty-eight hours - had more than convinced her of that. "Iíve spent the last ten years lying to myself and to everyone around me. Iím not going to do that anymore."
There was silence on the other end of the phone. Her motherís voice, when she did speak, was cold and callous. "Well, I guess we donít have anything else to discuss, then."
"Mom." Regina put her hand down on the counter to steady her self against the empty ache building in the center of her chest. "Please, donít do this," but the line was already dead. "Shit."
She started to dial her parentís number but stopped, setting the phone down on the counter. Regina knew her mother was upset. It was bad enough when Jeffrey came out to her and now it wasnít just one child she thought she lost, but two. Why should her motherís reaction to her be any different than it was for Jeffrey?
Wiping the hot tears running down her face, she walked out of the kitchen. She couldnít believe her mother was doing this. Sheíd sacrificed a relationship with her oldest son for the past fifteen years and now it seemed like she was willing to do the same to her daughter.
Depressed, Regina crawled back into the bed and pulled the covers up, gratefully letting her body drift back to sleep.
In between mundane chores and mindlessly watching television, Regina ended up sleeping her way through most of the weekend back at her condo. Monday morning arrived too quickly and the resident was more than a little nervous as she sat across from the four doctors that made up the medical review committee.
She let her eyes focus on the wall behind them as she sat waiting. She knew two of them. One, Dr. Samuels, was the head of pediatrics and the other was Dr. Timmons, the head of radiology. The other two she had seen on a couple of occasions around the hospital but had no interactions with.
The door opened and her heart sped up as Dr. Jameson walk in. He made a point of greeting the other doctors and all but ignored Regina as he sat down at the end of the table. When he finally did look up, he made a show of checking his watch and sighing loudly.
"So, where is Dr. Margulies?" He looked pointedly at Regina and she met his gaze trying hard to hide her own nervousness. "Maybe she has decided to spare us all the aggravation and not show up today. That would be nice, wouldnít it gentlemen?" He asked, as a self-satisfied smirk crossed his face.
"Oh, I wouldnít miss this for the world, Dr. Jameson." Alex stepped through the door and walked into the room, followed by Dr. Cassandra Mitchard and another man that Regina guessed was an attorney for the hospital.
Regina watched with interest as Alex walked over and pulled out the chair next to her and sat down. She was wearing a pair of black pants with thin suspenders crossed in the back of a white mandarin collared shirt. Her expression was hard and focused as she made eye contact with the medical director. The doctorís facial expression softened slightly as she glanced down at the young woman who was looking back up at her.
"Well, now that weíre all here." Dr. Jameson said. "Letís get started. Itís no surprise that the Martin family has named the hospital in a lawsuit. They are suing for damages suffered as a result of the accident and the medical care rendered by this facility."
"Youíre talking about two different issues, Dr. Jameson." The man dressed in the three-piece, black, pin-stripe suit who walked in with Alex and Dr. Mitchard, leaned forward in his chair.
"The police investigation already proved the ambulance driver was speeding and lost control of the rig. As for the autopsy report, well, let it suffice to say that someone with epilepsy should not have been driving in the first place."
He sat back and scribbled a note on his pad. "By the way, Dr. Jameson," he asked looking pointedly at the medical director, "arenít you directly responsible for overseeing the hiring of the paramedics for the medical center?" The attorney tapped the tip of his pen slowly on the pad of paper and glanced up at the medical director with a predatory gleam in his dark eyes.
Cassandra leaned back in her chair, her eyes narrowing as she listened to the verbal posturing between to the medical director and the hospital attorney.
Dr. Jameson shifted in his seat, his face reddening slightly. "Weíve been over that already. His condition wasnít listed in his history and physical."
"Yes, well thatís not why weíre here. I think we can address that later."
Regina leaned closer to Alex and whispered in her ear. "Sounds like heís been taking some heat for this."
Alex nodded her head, her attention focused on Dr. Jameson who did his best to appear unruffled by the question.
"Letís get to the issue of why these two doctors were out there in the first place," one of the doctors across the table said.
"Yes, Dr. Kingston, as senior resident you know the hospitalís policy. Why did you go out to the car?" Dr. Jameson remarked snidely.
Regina ignored Dr. Jamesonís attempt to rattle her and leaned forward looking at the doctor who spoke first. It was a split-second decision and sheíd followed her instincts that night. "The husband was frantic. I wanted to see if the paramedics were there yet. I thought if he knew his wife was getting the help she needed, he would feel better."
"So, why did you go out to the car, Dr. Kingston?" The first doctor repeated his question, obviously not satisfied with her answer.
Regina stared at him. "Iím sorry I didnít get your name."
"Dr. Newsome, are you married?"
"That has nothing to do with this, Dr. Kingston." Dr. Jameson snapped testily from the other end of the table.
"I donít think so." Regina said, ignoring him as she continued to look at the solidly built brown-haired doctor sitting across from her.
"Yes, Iím married," the doctor replied.
"Good. Then put yourself in that manís place, Dr. Newsome. Your wifeís in labor and you have a serious car accident on the way to the hospital." Regina set her hands on the table and leaned forward. "You run into an emergency room to get help and the staff tells you they have to call 911. Wouldnít you want the hospital to do what it could to save your wife and your unborn child or would you rather stand by helplessly waiting for the paramedics to arrive and hope itís not too late when they do?"
"Thatís quite enough, Dr. Kingston." Dr. Jameson slammed his hand on the table. "The fact remains you and your cohort here broke with hospital policy. You left the building to provide medical care you are not trained to provide."
"Dr. Jameson." Alex twisted around in her chair so she was facing him. "We might not be paramedics but we sure as hell are doctors trained in emergency medicine, so we are more than capable of handling a trauma outside in the field."
He glared at her from across the table. "So well trained, in fact, that the woman lost her leg because of your actions," he shouted at her.
Regina reached her hand out to touch Alexís arm, seeing the doctorís whole body tense at the obnoxious remark. Regina thought Alex was going to go over the table at Dr. Jameson.
"If we didnít stop the bleeding, she would have bled out and died, along with her baby, long before the paramedics would have gotten to her," Alex shot back at him. "I made the decision to use a tourniquet so we could save her life and give that baby a chance. If I had to do it again, I would."
"You see!" Jameson was out of his chair waving his hand in Alexís direction. "She puts the medical center at risk and admits sheíd do it again. What the hell are you waiting for? Thereís no question she should have her privileges to practice medicine here revoked." His jugular veins were bulging and his face was flushed red by the time he finished his ranting tirade.
"Enough!" Cassandra said, slamming her fist down on the table. There was silence as everyone stared at her in surprise. She glared at both of them. "Jim, sit down. Everybody just calm down."
Dr. Jameson huffed angrily and dropped into his chair, sulking.
Alex leaned back in her seat. She felt Reginaís grip relax on her arm as she took a couple of breaths to calm her racing heart. "I hate that bastard," she muttered under her breath.
Cassandra looked at Regina and Alex. "The board needs to ask both of you some questions and then weíll take a break. Dr. Samuels, why donít you start?" Cassandra offered.
"Dr. Margulies, what did you find when you got to the truck?" The gray-haired doctor asked.
Alex leaned back in her chair and focused on the man sitting across from her. "Mrs. Martin had a compound open fracture of her tibia and fibula. She was losing arterial blood and was going into shock. We controlled the bleeding using a tourniquet just below the knee and started an IV using Ringerís Lactate to start fluid resuscitation."
"I thought you said you didnít have any medical equipment with you?" Dr. Timmons interjected, leaning forward across the table.
"She didnít." Regina jumped in. "I took a trauma kit from the storeroom and brought it out to the truck."
"Who applied the tourniquet?" Dr. Samuels asked, leaning forward as he read over some notes in front of him.
"I did." The resident answered.
"Did you monitor the pulse in the foot while it was on?"
"I checked it once a couple of minutes after I put it on. The pulse was still strong at that point. Mrs. Martin was well into the second stage of labor by the time I examined her, and her labor was progressing quickly at that point," Regina explained.
"Why didnít you monitor the pulse, Dr. Margulies?" Dr. Samuels, asked turning back to Alex.
"I couldnít reach down to where her foot was because the dashboard was pushed up in to the middle of the console. Dr. Kingston could just barely fit in between the seat and the dash herself to deliver the baby." Alex nodded to a manila folder of pictures sitting next to the attorney. "You can see for yourself in the pictures what the truck looked like after it was hit by the ambulance and spun into the utility pole."
"When did the paramedics arrive?" Another of the other doctors asked.
"I just delivered the baby and was checking its vital signs when they got to the truck." Regina responded.
"What happened after they arrived?" Dr. Timmons asked.
"Dr. Kingston brought the baby to the ER and turned him over to the neonatologist. I stayed with Mrs. Martin until we brought her into the emergency department and transferred her to the OR."
Alex leaned back in her chair and looked at the doctors sitting around her. She knew all of doctors sitting there; in fact, one of them trained her during her own critical care rotation. Under the circumstances, she knew they did everything medically possible. It was going to be a decision based on whether the hospital was willing to change its policy or not.
Dr. Mitchard broke the silence at the table. "I think we have enough from the both of you for now." She looked down at her watch. "Meet us back here at one oíclock."
Regina looked up at Alex. She was already pushing her chair back and standing up without another look back at the committee. Regina followed her out the door. The cool air of the hallway was a welcome relief from the heated atmosphere inside the conference room.
Alex turned around and looked at Regina. "You did great in there." She rested a hand on Reginaís shoulder. "Are you hungry?"
"Starving, in fact." Regina hardly ate all weekend, choosing instead to boycott reality and sleep more than half the time away.
Alex shook her head. "Come on, letís get out of here."
They rode the elevator down from the fifth floor in silence. Regina followed Alex through the back hallway into the cafeteria. She picked up a sandwich, a bottle of water and frozen yogurt, then waited by the door for Alex to appear with her tray of food. The doctor checked her watch as she waited in line to pay for her own food.
"Why donít we just eat in here?" Alex offered as she walked up to Regina.
Regina nodded her head and walked with her over to an empty table in the back of the cafeteria. It was crowded and Regina saw several residents whom she recognized from the various rotations. Most of them gave her a cursory glance and ducked quickly over to their own tables. She realized as she ate her sandwich, that they probably knew about the meeting today and were uncomfortable about seeing her here, unsure of what the final outcome would be.
Alex leaned across the table. "You really threw them in there by making it personal. That was a good idea. I would have never thought to do that."
Regina looked up and shrugged. "It should be personal. That could have been any of them that night. They needed to know that. What is with Jameson?" she asked in between bites from her sandwich. "He was ready to blow a gasket in there."
"He wants me out." Alex speared a piece of meat with her fork.
"Why? You never told me what happened between you two." Regina looked up at Alexís face. The dark-haired woman looked tired and despite the cool outer façade, Regina could see the nervous tension outlined in her face.
Alex shrugged her shoulders and sat back, pushing her food around on her plate with her fork. "Itís old history," Alex explained as she looked up at Regina. "Some drug company offered Dr. Jameson a research grant to trial a new drug. He asked the doctors in the ER to take part in it. Every time we administered the drug we filled out some paper work for the study."
Alex gestured with her hands. "I know it doesnít sound like much, but then we started to get these Ďgiftsí from the company. First, it was tickets to basketball games, then as the volume picked up so did the size of the gifts. I backed out of the study along with some of the other physicians in the ER. Since I was the first to back out, Jameson blamed me when the hospital administration came down on him for accepting the gifts."
Regina pushed her tray away from her and leaned across the table. "Thatís Medicare fraud."
Alex sighed and nodded her head. "I know. It was a long time ago and the laws werenít as strict then as they are now. Today, it would be a whole other ballgame. He got a slap on the wrist for what he did, but he still blames me for the trouble he got into."
"Nothing like holding a grudge, huh?" Regina looked across the table, at Alex, her mind straying from their conversation.
She decided she really liked the outfit Alex was wearing, especially the suspenders and how they accented her shoulders and narrow waist. Regina realized she was staring as Alex tilted her head and gave her a questioning look. She shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. "Uh, sorry I just went off there for a minute. I guess we should get back," the blonde quickly mumbled, looking down at her watch. "Itís almost one." Went off? Yeah, right. Good thing she canít read your thoughts, Regina.
"Right." Alex said, gazing back at her. She leaned forward, ignoring the questioning glances from around them as she looked into Reginaís eyes. "Listen, whatever happens when we go back, donít you ever think what you did was wrong. I told you the night that this happened that Iíd do it again and I still mean that."
Regina ducked her head feeling the heated blush creeping up her face. "Thanks, Alex."
Alex straightened up and picked up their trays. Walking to the exit she dumped them on the conveyor belt and walked out of the cafeteria with her colleague.
They could hear angry voices shouting as they stepped off the elevator and walked down the carpeted hallway toward the conference room. Regina looked back at Alex, uncertain if they should go in, but Alex shrugged her shoulders, stepped forward,and opened the door.
Dr. Jameson was sitting at the end of the table, his eyebrows knitted together and jaw muscles clenched in anger. Dr. Mitchard was standing at the opposite end, leaning on the table with her hands, staring at him. She looked up as Alex and Regina walked in together and took their seats at the long mahogany table.
"Well, gentlemen. I think we have reasonably covered all the issues." She glanced over at Dr. Jameson and then spoke to Alex and Regina. "Do either of you have anything you want to say or ask before we go on?"
"I do, Cassandra," Alex said.
"Doesnít that figure," Dr. Jameson said, condescendingly.
Alex shot him a withering look. "Do you remember the fifteen-year old boy that was shot outside a medical center in Chicago about four years ago?" Alex asked, turning her attention back to Dr. Mitchard.
"I remember." Cassandra nodded her head. "Go on."
"His mother pleaded with the medical staff to come out and take care of him. They said they couldnít because their hospital policy didnít allow them to. So instead, they called 911 and transported him to another facility. He died before he got there."
"Whatís your point, Dr. Margulies?" Dr. Jameson asked, looking bored as he stared down at his hands.
"My point, Dr. Jameson is that we did the right thing. That hospital in Chicago changed its policy after the fact. But it took them losing a life to do so. I donít think you would want that kind of publicity here," Alex explained.
"Whatís that supposed to mean?" Dr. Jameson asked, his upper lip curling into a snarl.
"Iím just saying that maybe we need to look at the policy this hospital has before something like that happens here."
"So you want us to re-write the policy so you can keep your ass out of trouble. Isnít that convenient."
Dr. Mitchard put her hands up. "Stop it, both of you. I donít want a repeat of what happened earlier. We already covered all this, Jim, itís a moot issue. If they didnít go out there, the woman would have died along with her child. Thereís no question in my mind or anyone elseís here that these two doctors did the right thing." She looked at Alex and Regina. "The vote was four to one against revoking both your privileges."
Dr. Jameson slammed his hand down on the desk and stood up, causing his chair to bang into the wall behind him. He threw his pad of paper across the table in disgust. "Like that was a surprise. Cassandra, youíll regret this, mark my words."
Cassandra leaned across the table and glared at him, her eyes darkening as her anger built up inside her. "Dr. Jameson." Her voice was low and quiet. "I suggest you find someone to update that policy. Last time I checked, we were still in the business of taking care of people, not bickering over whether we do it in or out of the hospital."
The medical director shoved the chair out of his way as he stormed toward the door and yanked it open.
She watched the door close behind him and shook her head. "Well, weíre finished here. Nice to have you back Dr. Margulies, Dr. Kingston."
"Thanks." Alex stood up from her chair and walked to the door.
"Dr. Kingston, a moment please."
Regina hesitated and walked over to the vice-president.
"I know Dr. Jameson suspended you without pay, but weíre reversing that decision. Youíll get that pay check this week," Dr. Mitchard told her.
"Thatís great. Thanks, Dr. Mitchard." A sense of relief flowed through her. At least that was one less thing to worry about.
Alex held the door as Regina walked out of the room. "Shall we check out the unit and see whatís up?" She grinned, knowing what Reginaís answer would be. The two walked together to the elevator.
They walked down the corridor strewn with stretchers and wheelchairs, and passed through the double doors into the emergency department. It was in its usual state of organized chaos, a code cart stood outside one of the rooms, a baby was crying in another and a drunken man was shouting obscenities at one of the interns who was trying unsuccessfully to draw the manís blood.
Regina stopped at the desk and looked up at Alex. "Feels good to be back, huh?"
"Yeah." Alex stopped at the vacant desk and leaned against it, looking at Regina. "You had a big part in that, you know."
Regina frowned and then her expression softened as she read the serious look on Alexís face. "Alex." She started to say something else but Alex held a hand up.
"Later. We have company."
Regina turned around and saw Sandy and Dr. Torres heading toward them. Both had a hesitant but hopeful expression on their faces.
"Please, tell me that youíre down here because youíre coming back," Sandy pleaded, giving Alex a wary look.
Alex folded her hands, looked down at the floor and didnít say anything.
"Weíre back," Regina said, and yelped as Sandy wrapped her in a big hug.
"Oh thank god. Thatís the best news weíve had all week. This place has been a madhouse. A couple of us are going out to Merriganís, Friday night. You should come with us." Sandy squeezed Alexís arm and pulled her into a hug. "Damn it, Iíve worked with you for how many years now. Margulies? Give me a hug."
Alex made a face and squeezed her back.
"So, whatís going on?" The dark-haired woman asked, breaking away from Sandy.
"Whatís not, is more like it." Sandy crossed her arms, taking in the thoughtful look on the doctorís face. "Whenís your first shift?"
Alex grinned. "Tomorrow. I already checked the schedule. Guess weíll see you all then." She turned to Regina putting a hand on her shoulder. "Come on, letís go get your car."
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