As they strapped the patient to the gurney, put a clear face shield on her and secured her restraints, Kim turned to Rachel and asked, “What’s going on?”
The patient’s eyes exhibited emotional distress, but weren’t focusing on anything — most likely shock. She’d clearly been attacked, with bite marks on both her arms, but she was also pregnant which was obviously why Rachel, who was a midwife, was with her.
“The baby’s breech, and I can’t turn him,” the pitch of Rachel’s voice was higher than usual. “She needs a C-section right away, but we can’t reach her obstetrician. Who’s upstairs today?” Rachel started to pull the gurney towards the elevator.
“Nobody,” Kim said flatly, and the gurney came to a sudden stop.
“What?” Rachel stared at her. Though she couldn’t see Rachel’s mouth through the mask, she assumed her jaw had just dropped.
“Nobody came in today,” Kim said, trying hard to hide her disgust. The look in Rachel’s eyes was probably the same look Kim had been making for hours now. Half today’s staff had either called in sick or just hadn’t come in without so much as a call or email. Kim had spent most of her day wandering through the different departments and calling people to try to fill in the gaps. When she’d gone up to the third floor about an hour ago and found the maternity ward completely empty, that was particularly upsetting.
It was a small ward by design. Since Children’s Hospital just across campus was far better equipped and staffed, most of UW’s maternity traffic came from their overflow, so Kim hadn’t been surprised to find there weren’t any families in the ward at the moment, but there were always at least a couple nurses and an obstetrician on-call.
Not today though. Today half the doctors and staff in the entire hospital decided they’re not healing people anymore, just because of a bunch of rumors from LA and Atlanta.
“Why didn’t you go to Children’s Hospital?” Kim asked Rachel.
“We did, but the doors are chained shut and nobody’s answering their phones,” Rachel answered, the pitch of her voice going even higher. “Kim, what the hell are we gonna do?”
“It’s gonna be okay,” she put a hand on Rachel’s shoulder, trying to calm her down. “I think Dr. Lee can help, but he’s down here. In the ER.” Kim started to wheel the gurney down the hall and Rachel followed, checking in with her patient.
“How you doing, Amy?” she asked the dark-haired woman strapped to the gurney. Amy didn’t respond, just continued opening and closing her mouth, like she was about to say something, but couldn’t remember what.
“What happened to her?” Kim asked as she pushed through a set of double doors.
“I don’t know. I found her like this, parked in front of Children’s Hospital. Her car was all beat up. I swear, five, maybe ten minutes before that I was on the phone with her boyfriend. He was driving her there, but when I found her she was behind the wheel and he was nowhere to be found. She still hasn’t said a word since. This is just shock, right? What the hell do you think happened?”
Kim shrugged, and turned to speak with the receptionist at the ER desk.
As they rolled through to a treatment room a few minutes later, Kim heard somebody calling her name.
“Kim!” Kim turned to see Barry walking in the front door. He was out of his uniform. Kim waved Rachel on, then went back to talk to Barry. “Did you pack a bag?” he asked.
Kim was confused for a moment, preoccupied with Amy’s well-being, but then she remembered their conversation the day before. “Yes, I did. It’s at my station.”
“Okay. Are you ready?” he asked.
“Ready for what?”
“Ready to go,” Barry replied, “Didn’t you watch the links I sent you?”
“I didn’t have time, Barry,” she said, exasperated. “I’m sorry.”
“You gotta watch those videos, Kim. They’re from a doctor trapped at the UCLA hospital right now — if she’s even still alive. You said if it’s as bad as I thought, then you’d come, right? Well, it’s not as bad as I thought. It’s way worse. You need to watch those videos, so you know what’s gonna happen here. This place shouldn’t even be open right now. You’re just putting yourselves in harm’s way. Our whole team took off — the whole company. They just shut down and everybody’s going their own way.”
“Well, I can’t abandon the people that are here, Barry, and there’s a woman about to give birth in there. I can’t abandon her.”
“Just watch the videos, okay? She talks about what happened and why we’re just not equipped to deal with it. Not here. Not any hospital I’ve ever been to,” Barry looked tired. He sighed, then continued. “Look, I gotta run up the road to get some supplies, but I’ll be back in about an hour, okay? Just grab your bag and be ready to go.” Barry started to walk away.
“Barry, I can’t promise anything,” she said in frustration, but even so a chill crept up her spine.
“Watch the videos!” He called out as he stepped through the doors and left.
When she got to the treatment room, Dr Lee was examining Amy’s bites. “You’re gonna be upset with me,” he said to Kim, without looking up.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“I sent Dr Catlan home, and some of the staff as well,” he said flatly.
“Doctor, why? We’re already so understaffed!”
He put Amy’s arm down and looked at Kim, gravely. “The CDC just put out a new set of emergency recommendations.” The doctor grabbed an iPad off the counter and handed it to her, “Check ’em out yourself.”
Kim had to read them three times before she could believe what she was reading. Finally, she leaned against the counter and set the iPad down. It felt like it weighed a ton.
“What do they say?” Rachel asked, her voice almost a whisper, and Kim handed her the iPad, then exited to the front desk to start the process of shutting down the hospital.
“Don’t go too far!” Dr Lee called out, “I’m gonna need you to assist me on this C-section.”
Shutting down the hospital, barracading the doors, maybe escaping Seattle with Barry and now assisting on a C-section — which she’d never done before?! She trusted Dr Lee more than most, but Jesus! What was the world turning into right now?
The C-section itself was quick and relatively uneventful, but the baby didn’t cry at all, just took in his first few breaths and promptly went to sleep. But something was wrong with Amy’s blood. She just wouldn’t stop bleeding as they tried to sew her back up. They tried everything they could think of for an hour or so, but her condition just got worse and worse and all her organs just crashed. Finally Dr Lee called it, and Kim was so hot and sweaty under the mountain of PPE that her face shield was fogged up and dripping onto her scrubs.
As they dried off back in the treatment room, out of the blue Dr Lee said, “You gotta take him with you,” giving Kim a dark, sad look.
“The baby,” he said mournfully.
“You’re not leaving?” Kim asked.
“No, I’m not,” he said, wiping the sweat off his forehead with a cloth. “A few of the nurses are gonna stay with me to care for the patients that are here, but we know we can’t let anybody in. Not until … well.”
Rachel stood up suddenly, and practically yelled, “I gotta go! I gotta check on my kids.”
“Okay. Good luck.” Kim said, and hugged Rachel for a moment, then grabbed her arms and told her, “I’m so sorry about Amy, Rachel.”
Rachel nodded at Kim with tears in her eyes, but didn’t say anything before she ran off. Kim walked over to Dr Lee and shook his hand, and said gravely, “It was an honor working with you, Doctor. Take care and be safe.”
“Same to you.”
Thankfully, Barry was idling out front in an old beat up cargo van when Kim left, chaining up the main entrance as she did. After she loaded her bag and the extra baby supplies into the van, she climbed into the front seat.
“Whatcha got there?” Barry asked, gesturing to the bundle wrapped to her chest, as he pulled away from the hospital.
“What?! Seriously?” he slowed down to steal a better look. “Holy shit! You weren’t kidding. Does it have a name?”
“He doesn’t have a name yet,” she replied.
He shook his head and headed towards the I-5, and under his breath, he said, “No name. Damn.”
As they drove away from the hospital, Kim looked down at the tiny sleeping face wrapped to her chest. She could feel his warmth and see his little chest moving. His skin had a slight grey tint to it, but she assumed that was just the afternoon light hitting him a certain way.
Kim made a wordless promise to him. To care for him as long as she was able. She didn’t know when this insanity would finally be over — hopefully soon — but she would do her best to keep him safe as long as she could.
With the oath made, she looked back up to the road to see where Barry was taking them.
READ 19-SANDY | Read all the episodes in the Last Days series in reading order — the next episode publishes Monday morning (US) / Tuesday morning (AU/NZ)