Disclaimer: See Chapter 1
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Nydia was admiring Jo's strong profile as Jo pulled the car up outside the Emergency Room entrance. Jo turned to her and asked, “Are you going to be all right? I'm sure you could call in sick if you wanted to.”
Nydia was touched by the look of concern, the empathy she saw reflected in Jo's eyes. She could see how worried Jo was. Without thinking, she reached out her hand and took the larger one in her own. “No, I'll be fine. I just need some time to soak it all in. This has all been pretty fast. It's taken me by surprise is all.” She gently kissed the palm of the hand she held. She bent her head down a little and looked up through the hair that fell over her eyes. “When will I see you again?” She asked shyly.
“I'll be here when you get off. We can talk some more tonight if you want.” Jo gave the hand a gentle squeeze. “I'll see you later, okay.” She leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on the soft lips. “I don't know why, but kissing you just feels so right.”
Nydia smiled up at her with a goofy grin on her face, her eyes closed halfway and the corners of her mouth turned up. The feeling she got when Jo kissed her gave her what Trudy called the ‘warm fuzzies.' It was a sense of contentment she felt down to her core. It was something she hoped she could hold onto all day.
“Thanks, I think I really needed that right now.”
“No problem, happy to oblige anytime. Just let me know whenever you need another. Believe me I'll have my own selfish reasons for giving them.”
“I will,” Nydia said with a bright smile.
She turned to get out of the car and saw Trudy looking at them through the glass of the ER doors. Nydia noted the grin on the woman's face and knew it was full of smugness. She grinned back. Nydia was sure she was due for an inquisition once she got inside. She let out a small chuckle at the idea. Nydia stepped out of the car and walked towards her friend.
As Nydia neared the door, she was abruptly stopped by a forceful hand on her arm. Flung around she came face to face with Dr. Goddard.
“You heathen. I can't believe you would bring such evilness here and flaunt it in front of the hospital. Anyone could have seen you. It's bad enough they let people like you work here, but to carry on in such a filthy manner is beyond acceptable. I'm going to speak to Dr. Stevenson about this.”
Before Nydia could come up with a response, she was released. Dr. Goddard's arm held behind his back in an arm lock. She looked up to see six feet of angry woman holding Dr. Goddard by the scruff of his shirt and arm. The furious doctor's veins were standing out in his neck and his face flushed as he stood on the tips of his toes trying to relieve the stress.
“Let go of me, you piece of filth! Do you have any idea who you're dealing with?”
“No, I don't, and I don't really care. However, you might care who you're dealing with. I just might arrest your ass right now for assault.” Jo shoved her badge under his nose giving him a good look at it without letting go of his arm.
“They let people like you on the police force? What kind of world are we living in?”
“The kind that allows for equal rights, you moron.”
Nydia felt her old fears coming out. She had to put a stop to this. Walking up to Jo, she placed a hand on the small of her back. “Jo, please don't do this…”
Jo stared at her for a moment and her face gentled in tone the angry stare disappeared. She quickly looked between Nydia and the man in her hands. With one last irritated look from her, Jo let him go giving him a slight shove.
“I'll have both your jobs for this! How dare you treat upstanding citizens like this. As for you, Dr. Gilman, I will have you up before the Board.” He said through gritted teeth as he turned and stormed into the hospital.
Nydia saw the remorseful expression in Jo's eyes. “I'm sorry. I never should have done that. It's just that when I saw him grab you I thought he was going to harm you. Nothing would hurt me more than someone doing that to you.”
Nydia looked at Jo closely. She was torn by her conflicting emotions. On one hand, she was afraid that all her worries were coming true. On the other, she saw the woman who was quickly becoming her strength. However, her decision was made for her when she saw the look of loss in Jo's eyes. “It's okay Jo. But please don't let it happen again. I hate to think of you that way.”
“I've never done anything like that before, I swear. I promise you it will never happen again. Please believe me, the thought of someone hurting you was too great. I panicked.”
“I do believe you, Jo,” Nydia assured. “I just need time to beat my past. I spent a long time learning to distrust the police. It is going to take a while to get rid of them. I've lived with it so long they've become a part of me now.”
“Thank you, Nydia, for believing in me and us, and I hope someday you will share your past with me. I want to understand and know every part of you.” Jo pulled Nydia in for a long, deep hug. Nydia felt safe in Jo's arms. After several moments, Jo released her. Jo bent down and placed a tender kiss on Nydia's soft, inviting lips, not caring where they were. “You better get inside, otherwise I'll stay and make you late,” Jo said, even as she tightened her hold on Nydia.
“You're right, I should. But you're not making this easy for me.” Nydia pointed out.
“Okay, you win; this time.” Jo let go of her. “I'll see you right here at six tonight.”
Nydia looked up and felt a shyness come over her. “It's a date then.”
Jo cupped Nydia's cheek and pulled her face upwards. She gently placed a kiss on the woman's forehead. “It's definitely a date.” She was rewarded with a bright smile. “I'll carry that look you just gave with me the rest of the day.”
As Nydia walked into the ER, she saw Trudy sitting at her station desk. The nurse had her head down pretending to work on some papers. Nydia was quick to see the paper she was reading was upside down.
“Good morning, Trudy.” Nydia said as she snagged a doughnut out of the box on the counter.
“Good morning to you too. Can I guess by the smile on your face that the night went well? Or does it have more to do with the raging scowl Dr. Goddard just gave me as he went by? I saw his little tirade outside.”
“It has everything to do with the company last night. Dr. Goddard is a side benefit.”
“So tell me about it. How did it go? Details woman, I want details.”
“You know me better than that, Trudy.”
“So you're not going to tell me anything. Fine be that way.”
“Fine, I will,” Nydia laughed. “I will tell you, though, that it all worked out okay, and yes, I will be seeing her again.” She said, as a warm smile appeared. “We had some shaky moments, which I hate thinking about, but we came to an understanding.”
“So what about Goddard? What did you do to him?”
“Oh, him? He took offense to my lifestyle choices again. Nothing new there.”
“Ah, that would explain the vein sticking out on his forehead,” Trudy said. “But be careful, Nydia. I saw him heading into Dr. Stephenson's office.”
“Oh, geez, that could be a problem, but let's hope not. I'm in too good of a mood to worry about it.”
“Okay. Whatever you say. You're the doctor.”
“Speaking of being a doctor, hand me a chart so I can start working.”
Trudy handed Nydia one from the file holder on the station counter. “Here you go. Something nice and easy to start your day.”
“Why does your idea of easy make me nervous?” Nydia called over her shoulder going into exam room two.
Nydia's day was going relatively easy. No major traumas had come in so far. Though they did have one minor case, a man fell off the roof of his ranch house trying to fix a gutter by himself. All in all, he wasn't hurt too bad. A broken arm was his only injury. So, as her days at work go, today was a good one.
Nydia sat in the doctor's lounge drinking coffee that was thick, sludgy, and tasted like it was made hours ago. Her feet rested on the chair across from her and it felt good. She put her head back and closed her eyes, hoping to bring up images of a certain dark haired, blue-eyed beauty. Instead, she heard the door open behind her, disturbing her solitude.
Nydia was annoyed at the interruption as she heard someone clear their throat behind her, obviously trying to gain her attention. Putting her feet down, she sat up and turned around seeing her supervisor. Her annoyance disappeared along with her good mood “Hello Jim, what can I help you with?”
Jim took the seat across from her, looking at her with a worried expression bringing his brow down. “Well, I hate to disturb your break, but I had a visit from Dr. Goddard earlier.”
“Oh?” Nydia said and put her coffee down.
“Yes, I imagine you know what he had to say.”
“I have an idea it wasn't anything praiseworthy.”
Dr. Stephenson chuckled, “No, it never is. Is it?” The grey haired doctor stood up and walked over to the counter. Taking a cup, he poured himself some coffee. With the first sip of the beverage, he grimaced. “What the heck do you people make this stuff out of? Diesel fuel?”
“Nope, high octane, leaded only.” Nydia responded in an attempt to relax herself. If Dr. Stephenson was in a joking mood, it couldn't be that bad.
As Jim sat back down, her face turned serious. “So what's the story?”
“Well according to my ‘source,'” he said, making little quotation marks. “You defiled the reputation of the hospital, committed violations of morality, and had Dr. Goddard assaulted.”
“And the verdict is what?”
“My verdict is that Dr. Goddard is a close minded bigot with an egocentric, adolescent mentality.”
“But…” she said, knowing there must be more to come.
“But, his complaint is official, so it will have to be reviewed by me. I see no reason to involve the Board so long as you can tell me what really happened.”
“Well, I'm seeing someone. They drove me to work this morning. As we were saying goodbye in the car, Dr. Goddard must have seen us. He took offense.”
“Why would he do that? What goes on in your car is between you and person in question, not Dr. Goddard.”
Nydia took a deep breath. Her hands became sweaty with the thought of saying it out loud. “It was a her.”
“Yes, well I assumed that.”
“You did?” Nydia asked, surprised at his calm response. Though she had always known him to be fair and forthright, she had still been a little unsure what his response to this disclosure would be. It was always a gamble when she told someone she was gay.
“Sure. I didn't think you kept your sexual orientation a secret. Was I mistaken?”
“No, no. I know people in the ER are aware, but I didn't know that you knew.”
“Of course I do. Nothing goes on that I don't know about,” he said with a smirk, as he leaned back in his chair. “So what happened after he saw you?”
“As I made my way to the door, he grabbed my arm and started spouting about perversion, morality, and the good reputation of the hospital being smeared. Nothing I haven't heard before, but just not quite so aggressively.”
“He grabbed you?” Dr. Stephenson said, leaning forward again. “Did he hurt you?”
“No, I just have a little bruising, that's all.”
“He grabbed you hard enough to do that?” Jim asked in a concerned tone as his face turned red.
“I guess so. It all happened so fast,” Nydia explained, furrowing her brows.
“Okay, so then what happened? Dr. Goddard said you had him assaulted. Did you?”
“No, it was nothing like that. When he grabbed at me, my friend came out of the car and pulled him off. She is a police detective and took exception to how he was handling me. I'm sorry this has caused you so much trouble, Jim. If you need to suspend me, I understand.”
Dr. Stephenson looked at her with a curious expression, his eyebrows raising a little. “Why would I suspend you? It sounds to me like he should be apologizing to you. If I could, I'd suspend him. But unfortunately, I can't. If I suspend him now it will look like retaliation for making the accusation. I hope you understand, Nydia. It's unfortunate, but politics will play a role here.”
“I do. I'm just glad you believe me, Jim.”
“I've known you long enough to trust your honesty. I've no reason to doubt you.”
“Thank you.” Nydia said. She felt her body begin to relax and her heart rate slow down. She hadn't even realized how tense she had become over the situation. She handled life and death situations every day with no problem. However, the confrontation had her hands sweating. “It means a lot to me”
“Yes, well, it's my pleasure. I just wish I could do more. So, I'll let you get back to work now. I know how busy you get down here. I'm not so old I don't remember my time down in the trenches.”
Just as he said that, a call came over the PA system. “Trauma team to trauma room 3!”
“Well, I guess my break is over. Thanks again Jim for being so understanding.” She held out her hand as she stood to leave.
Jim shook her hand. “There was never a real doubt in my mind about you, Nydia. You better get going.” As she left the room, she looked back in time to see him take another sip of his coffee and cringe. “God, this is awful stuff.”
Nydia hurried into the trauma room, immediately putting out her arms to be gloved and gowned. “So what do we have coming in?” She asked Trudy who was standing over by the trauma cart.
“A probable assault victim. According to the EMT's who called it in, it's not pretty. They should be here any minute.”
Just then, the EMTs entered the room each at one end of the gurney. Nydia immediately recognized Jo following alongside the stretcher. Jo held onto the hand of the person on the stretcher. Nydia gave her a quick glance. Jo hadn't mentioned that she had to work today. Now Nydia felt bad about last night and this morning.
Nydia drew closer to the stretcher and could see the patient was a woman. Her shirt had been torn so it was barely hanging on. What skin Nydia could see was colored in bruises, new and old. The woman's face had begun swelling around the jaw and right eye. The paramedics had put an air cast over her left arm and leg. The patient's head was immobilized and her neck was in a C-Collar. Nydia could see blood dripping from a scalp wound. The EMTs had put a bandage on it, but it had soaked through.
As the EMT's came to a stop, one of them began to rattle off her vitals. The young man looked down at his notes and repeated them to no one in particular. “BP is 150 over 90, heart rate is 120, but strong and steady. The patient was conscious and responsive on the scene and in transport. She has a laceration to the scalp, complained of head and neck pain. Summary exam on the scene indicated the possibility of a fracture to the lower left arm and hand, and also the upper left leg.”
The team moved as one to get the patient and backboard off the stretcher and onto the hospital gurney.
“All right people, let's get another IV with saline started. I want X-rays and a CT-scan.” Nydia called out.
Moving up towards the woman, she bent down close to her head. Nydia spared another glance up at Jo and saw the concern in the officer's eyes. A slight moisture could be seen in her eyes, and the smile she held for the woman did not reach her eyes either.
“Can you tell me your name?” Nydia asked, looking down at her patient.
The patient mumbled something which Nydia couldn't make out. She began looking at her jaw and feeling along the bone. “Okay honey, don't try and talk. I think you may have hurt your jawbone so just try and stay calm and I'll be right back. I want to have a word with the officer who came in with you. Okay? Just blink to let me know you understand.”
The woman opened her one good eye and blinked once, long and slow. It was as if it took all her energy and concentration for that little effort.
Before moving away, Nydia took out her penlight. “I'm just going to check your eyes. If it hurts at all let me know.” She shined the light in each eye and noted that her right pupil was slow to respond. This concerned her because it could mean swelling of the brain. “What's her BP again?”
“Still 140 over 90.” Trudy responded as she checked her notes.
“Okay, take it again in a few minutes and let me know if it's changed any. I'm stepping outside for a minute.” As Nydia moved away, she indicated with a nod for Jo to follow her.
Nydia watched as Jo attempted to follow, but the patient refused to let go of her hand. Jo bent down and said, “I'm just going to be outside. I promise you will be well taken care of. Just let them do their jobs and everything will be fine. I'll come back as soon as I can.” The woman reluctantly let go. One of the nurses right away took up Jo's spot.
Once outside the room, Nydia turned to Jo. “I take it that this is another Intimate Partner Violence case. Can you tell me what happened?”
“I don't know exactly. We got a call from the neighbor. By the time we got there the husband was gone.”
“Was she able to tell you anything?”
“Not much. As you can see, she can barely talk. Based on the condition we found her and the scene, whoever it was may have sexually assaulted her.”
Nydia frowned and ran her fingers through her blonde hair, pushing it off her forehead in frustration. “So it's a possible rape.”
“Yeah, it looks that way.”
“Okay, let me get back in there. I'm sorry Jo but until we get her checked out and stable we won't be able to give you much in the way of evidence. What's her name?”
“Barbara, Barbara Essex”
“Essex? That name sounds familiar.”
“Do you recognize her?”
“Not through all the bruising and swelling, but the name is familiar. I just don't know why.” Nydia began walking back into the trauma room, when she realized Jo meant to follow. “I'm sorry Jo, you can't come in.”
“Why not? The poor woman is hurt and scared. I just want to be there for her.”
Nydia could see the pleading and compassion plainly written on her friend's face. Jo's eye's shone with wetness. However, Nydia knew she couldn't budge on this point. “I know you want to be there for her. But her treatment is confidential you should be aware of that, Jo. Trudy and I will get what evidence we can but it has to be done this way.”
“Just so you know it's not just about the evidence. I trust you. I only wanted to be there for her, but I'll stay out here.” Jo said, as she stood straighter.
“I know.” Nydia took Jo's larger hand in her own. “I promise to take care of her as gently as possible.”
“I don't doubt you will, Nydia.”
Nydia released Jo's hand and went back into the room.
The patient was rolled back into the room after her x-ray and CAT Scan. Nydia came into the room along with her. She watched carefully as Mark, the other doctor on the team, set and finished with the cast on her arm by taking a final set of x-rays. Her jaw was badly bruised down into the bone, but it was determined not to be broken. Nydia was relieved. She just needed a little more information before she could consider it safe to proceed with the rest of the exam.
“Alright, everyone stop what you're doing.” Immediately everyone ceased their actions and stepped back away from the patient. “Mark, is the patient stable?” Nydia asked the resident.
“Yeah, Neurology and Ortho looked at the scans and cleared her for the time being. Her vitals are holding steady. Her BP is better.”
“Is it steady?”
“Yes we hung a unit of Normal Saline, and it came to120 over 60. It's been steady since.”
“Okay, then I want everyone out of here except Trudy.”
Several of the staff began leaving, however a few stood and stared at her looking confused, their eyes wide.
Nydia pushed her eyebrows down and put on her most commanding look as she stated with authority, “I said everyone. What part of that didn't you people understand, people?”
The rest scrambled out of the room.
Trudy came over to Nydia, “So what's up?” She said in a low voice, so as not to upset the patient any further.
Nydia looked Trudy in the eyes, “It's an assumed rape.”
“Oh,” Trudy said.
“I'm going to talk to her; you get the Sexual Assault Evidence Kit.”
“Sure.” Trudy turned away and went to the cabinet along the wall where the rape kits were kept.
Nydia rolled the stool that was in the corner of the room over and placed it near the woman's head, taking a seat. “Barbara? I understand the police think you may have been raped.” Nydia saw tears begin to fall from the woman's eyes. While her heart hurt for the woman, her professionalism couldn't let that stand in the way of what she had to do.
Barbara tried to speak. The strain of the movement showed on her face.
Nydia laid her hand on the woman's arm. “No, don't try to speak. I just want you to blink once for yes and two for no. All right?”
Barbara blinked once.
“Okay, now I'm going to tell you what we are going to be doing. Trudy, over here,” she said pointing to her friend, “is going to be doing what we call a rape kit. It will let us gather any evidence there is. Once she is done with that, I'll do a physical examination, which will include a pelvic exam. Do you understand?”
Barbara blinked again, more tears falling as she did.
“All right we are going to begin. Do we have your permission?”
Once more Barbara indicated her agreement.
With a nod from Nydia, Trudy began the forensic exam.
Meanwhile, Nydia picked up the woman's chart and began taking her history, including her sexual activity of the recent weeks. She asked about such things as when her menstrual cycle was, and whether she thought her alleged rapist may have had any sexually transmitted diseases. It took some time since the woman was limited to yes or no signals. Based on her answers, Nydia suggested the woman take several medications to reduce her risk of pregnancy or infection. Each step of the way, Nydia explained what was going on and why they were doing it. Every time they moved on to something new, Nydia would ask Barbara if it was okay.
Nydia knew how important that was. It gave Nydia medical consent. But more importantly, it would give Barbara a sense of control again. After having lost any semblance of it in the attack, this would allow her to begin gaining it back. Allow her mind to start to heal.
Nydia watched as Trudy marked the evidence bags and put them in a box sealing them up and marking the box.
Trudy came over to Nydia, “I'm done,” she announced to both of them.
“Fine, thanks Trudy,” Nydia said to her friend for being so gentle with their patient. It was times like this that Nydia appreciated having a nurse as good as Trudy. It made her proud to be able to count her as a friend too.
“Barbara, I'm going to start your physical exam. Is that okay?”
A look of fear came over Barbara, but she gave permission.
“Trudy is going to sit and keep you company. She'll explain what I'm doing.”
This seemed to calm Barbara as Trudy took her hand in her own.
Nydia began with the pelvic exam. It was the most intrusive portion of the exam. Most victims found it the most demeaning as well. Nydia made notes in the chart showing what she found. Based on her exam, she could conclude that some form of forced sex had happened. Finally, she finished, moving on to the other portions of the exam. Trudy had taken a blood sample and vaginal swabs There was not much left to do but look at her other injuries. Nydia discovered nothing that made her suspect any other injuries except what they had already found during her initial treatment. Barbara had given consent for the test regarding sexually transmitted diseases. Nydia knew she would have to go over with her the drug protocols required for HIV, and if Barbara was worried about an unwanted pregnancy.
Knowing the extent of Barbara's injuries, the staff at the hospital could start helping her heal physically. It would be up to the social services staff to help her emotionally. But Nydia would do all she could to help ease the emotional impact of the treatment Nydia's team gave her.
As the patient was wheeled out, Jo stepped into the room. “So, how did it go? Will she be alright?”
“Yeah, eventually. Right now, she is battered and bruised. Her arm and wrist are broken, as well as her left leg. She has a concussion, but Neurology doesn't think it's severe enough to cause bleeding or swelling. Either way I am going to keep her here a few days if I can. That will give the social workers a chance to do their jobs, and her a chance to get her emotions under some control. Trudy has the evidence case ready for you to sign out.” Nydia said in a tired voice.
Nydia's shoulders were slumped, and her eyes felt weary. She wanted nothing more than for Jo to take her in her arms and comfort her, but she knew this was not the place for that. Especially, not after what happened this morning. However, looking around, she noticed no one in the hallway. She reached out and cupped Jo's cheek with her hand. Slowly, gently she ran her thumb over her silky skin. “You hate this as much as I do don't you?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“I think the rape cases like this get to me the most. How could someone who is supposed to love and cherish you commit such a violent, heinous act? I can never understand it.” Jo said.
She looked in Nydia's eyes. Nydia could see the hurt in her eyes and wondered if it was for herself or her patients. Abruptly, Jo stiffened. Nydia dropped her hand quickly. Jo turned her head and looked at Dr. Goddard who was staring at them. Nydia knew that it was obvious by Jo's change in posture that Jo also saw the hatred in his eyes. Nydia watched her. Her eyes didn't waiver. Finally, he dropped his gaze, turned and walked away, but not before Nydia could wonder what kind of malevolence he was capable of now that Jo had made him look foolish.
To Be Continued
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