Fifty or Sixty Years
Post Never Say Never
Late Night Decisions
"Because, I was thinking about applying."
"It is my next step."
"Oh right, of course."
"You don't sound very enthusiastic."
"No, it's just, we were hoping for someone at least five years post residency. But yeah, certainly, apply."
"Right, in case you can't find anything better."
Conversation between John Carter and Kerry Weaver: The Longer You Stay
Carter knew he would be up late following his conversation with Dr. Weaver. Three months ago his career was going nowhere. Now, he had been offered a faculty position at Northwestern and the chief residency at County General ER. Of course, Susan Lewis was also in town applying for the job at Northwestern. However, since they had offered it to him first, he was sure it was his, if he wanted it. No doubt, Susan's arrival was the reason they had clocked his decision. He had to make up his mind by morning.
As he showered, he thought about Dr. Lewis . . . Susan. It seemed strange to call her Susan and yet, not so strange. Carter remembered the time on the roof when they had sipped champagne and tried calling each other by their first names. They decided it really did not fit. That was right after he completed his first lumbar puncture. Mark had given him the bottle of champagne. Gosh, that was ages ago. Even now, it seemed natural for Susan to call him Carter. She was still as pretty as he remembered. He slipped on his pajamas and robe. Then, he opened the drawer where he kept his journal. He noticed the stack of cards and letters Susan had sent him from Arizona. He smiled as he recalled the crush he'd had on her. Gradually, they had lost touch but now she was back. Carter picked up his journal and went downstairs to the kitchen. He poured himself a large glass of milk, picked up a bag of Famous Amos7 cookies and headed to the library where he stretched out on the sofa.
Keeping a journal was something Carter had learned in rehab. When he didn't feel like talking to anyone else, it helped to write his thoughts. He had tried a laptop but there was something calming about writing with a pen. Perhaps he chose it because it was so different from the computer he used at work. Carter shook his head. Why did he feel the need to compartmentalize his life?
In rehab he had been encouraged to write as a way to cope with drug addiction. Yet, the more he wrote, the more he realized there were times when it helped to clarify his thinking about everything . . . and tonight he had a lot of thinking to do. This was a decision only he could make . . . a decision that would affect the rest of his life.
Carter stuffed a cookie in his mouth and took a drink of milk. Carter shook his head and glanced up at Paul's painting hanging over the mantle. A talented artist who could have become famous had now been reduced to being known as the Marfans case. The chief residency . . . that was one of the reasons Kerry had given for him needing to move out. She did not want their sharing a house to hinder his career. He ate another cookie as he continued writing.
August 31, 2001'For the past two years my life has been a disaster . . . personally as well as professionally. Now, suddenly, I'm offered two positions and Abby has informed me that she is no longer with Luka. Well, actually the Abby thing was a few weeks ago but I still don't know what to make of it. I told her last spring I didn't want to be her friend but somehow we have drifted back into friendship. My career decision, however, has to be made by morning.'
'The Northwestern position is definitely a promotion B a chance to start over where my notoriety as a drug addict will not precede me. Of course, I was honest about my addiction with the Chief of Staff and the Dean of the Medical School. I guess I could have lied and said I'd taken a three month tour of Europe. Knowing my family, they probably would have believed it but that's not my style. I've never been a good liar. I may omit or stretch the truth but I can t lie . . . not believably anyway. Besides, sooner or later, they would have checked my record with the state medical board. They promised to keep my addiction confidential and said that, as long as I did my job, I'd have random drug tests no more often than the rest of the staff.'
'The position at County is also a promotion, though not exactly an increase in pay. Not that money is a factor as Abby so sweetly pointed out. Yet, I know it's only offered because Deb made a mistake. Weaver didn't want the hassle of going through the application process. I don't think she really believes I'm the better candidate. Kerry Weaver just happens to be the master of rhetoric. Still, I love County General. I've always loved County General. Since the first day I walked in as a med student, I wanted to be chief resident . . . first of surgery and later of ER . . . Benton and Greene were my heroes. But, I know the position is mine only because of Deb's mistake.'
'Deb and I have become good friends and she seems okay with me taking the position. Deb is a good doctor but the fact is, despite my drug addiction, I was the better candidate. I know that sounds conceited but facts are facts. It's not that I'm a better doctor. Except for my surgical skills, our medical knowledge is probably equal. The difference is in our ability to handle a crisis and the emergency department is frequently one long series of crises. Deb appears arrogant but that's her cover. She lacks self-confidence. Deb has always been competitive . . . more so, even, than I. Maybe it was our competition in med school that made me study more . . . made me work so hard to become a better doctor. But Deb gets frustrated in a crisis . . . she loses her confidence . . . panics . . . loses her ability to make sound judgements. I don't. It's not anything I've had to work at. Even when I was a little boy, I always remained calm during a crisis. Maybe I should have put that on Deb's peer review. Maybe, if I had, it would have saved Paul Zankowski's life . . . maybe he would still be painting pictures . . . such a waste of life.'
>It wouldn't have mattered what I put on Deb's peer review. Weaver would have chosen Deb anyway. She had already made it clear that my addiction was the reason she bagged me.'Carter closed his journal, carried his things to the kitchen and went upstairs. He needed to be up early tomorrow; he had better get some sleep. What to do about Abby would have to wait until later. Susan Lewis was still in town. Possibly, he could talk things over with her.
>Damn it! I didn't ask to be stabbed. I didn't ask to be in this much pain. I've tried to overcome my problems. I've followed all the rules. Is this thing going to follow me all my life? Have I made one mistake from which I can never be redeemed? I know the choice to take drugs was my own. But sometimes . . . sometimes I wonder if I would have made the same choice if I'd never met Paul Sobriki . . . if I'd never been stabbed . . . if Lucy hadn't died. If I take the position, will Kerry ever trust me?'
>I can't change the past so, I guess I'll never know the answers to those questions. However, I can change my future. I know what my answer will be tomorrow. I'm taking the position at County. It was at County General that I failed; it's at County General that I'll succeed.'
Post Start All Over Again
Working With Friends
Carter entered the lounge and saw Susan getting her things from her locker. "So . . . you survived your first day back at County. Planning to stay?"
"I think so. And you survived your first day a chief resident."
"Actually, it was my third but it was eventful."
Susan closed her locker. "Hey, how's your grandmother?"
"Fine, I checked with Alger twice. She went to dinner, attended two charity events and retired about eleven."
"Sounds like she's a busy lady."
"She's trying to do too much since Grandpa died. I wish she'd slow down."
"Yeah well, did you ever listen when she gave you advice?"
"No, not really." Carter smiled as he opened his locker and put away his stethoscope. "Say, how's your ectopic girl? Did she come back?"
"She's in surgery now. I thought I'd get a midnight snack and come back to check on her before I go home."
"You're going to wear yourself out doing that."
"Oh, and you never stayed late to follow-up on a patient? You missed your graduation to take care of a patient as I recall."
"I never said I didn't do it; I said you'd wear yourself out. So, Doc Magoo's?"
"Are you asking me to dinner, Dr. Carter?"
"Just trying to impress the new attending." Carter said with a smirk, as he picked up his bag and closed his locker.
"More like kiss-up."
"So, is that a yes?"
"Only if you're buying."
Carter held the door of the lounge and they walked out together. Abby was standing at the desk charting as they left. "Night John."
"Uh . . . oh, goodnight Abby. See you tomorrow," he said and waved as he opened the ambulance bay door for Susan.
"I don't think she likes me."
"Abby, why not?"
"Just the way she's looked at me all day . . . like I've done something to offend her."
"Susan, that's probably just your imagination."
"I don't think so. Besides, Weaver said some of the nurses had been complaining about me."
"And you think it might have been Abby?"
"Well, I doubt that it was Haleh or Malik. I guess it could have been Yosh. When Weaver talked to me she already knew about the isoniazid case." They found a booth at Doc's and sat down. Carter ordered his usual: burger, fries and shake. Susan ordered juice and toast.
"So, Dr. Lewis, tell me about your day and maybe we can discover what you did to offend the nurses."
"Well, you already know about the enforcer. I started my day with a surgical bounce-back . . . a pervert who wouldn't remove his clothes so I could examine him and a homeless lady with maggots."
"And you learned about Col. Dixon's Magical Maggot Mix."
"Yeah, it works but it's gross."
"I keep Acetacaine in my locker." Raising his eyebrows, he added, "If you're good, I'll give you the combination."
"Well, I'm trying to be good but according to the nurses, I'm too demanding."
"Weaver said that?"
"What she said was that she had explained to the nurses that I was accustomed to better staffing and that she asked them to 'cut me some slack' until I adjusted. Then, she said she'd heard I lost a patient. Something about the way she said it made me feel she blamed me."
"Weaver has a way of doing that at times. She can make a compliment sound like a criticism and vise versa. What happened with your patient?"
"She and her husband only spoke Spanish. The prescription said 'take once a day.' Once` in Spanish is eleven. She took eleven isoniazid and was having seizures. I ran the case with Dr. Kovac and Yosh."
"Dr. Kovac and I frequently disagree on treatments. So far, I've been right."
"Not that you're smug or arrogant about it."
"Dr. Lewis, facts are facts."
"Well, the fact is, if we would have had enough of the anecdote in stock, we could have saved her. Why was it I came back to County?"
"Because you're working with friends, remember?"
"Friends and nurses who don't like me. I'd rather talk about your day, Professor Carter. How did things go with your new med students?"
"Well, after Mooney nearly killed my MI with the nitro sprays, he tried to electrocute my future progeny."
"He was shocking the patient and the patient's hand hit me right in the . . ."
"Oh God!" Susan covered her mouth and tried not to laugh. "What did you do?"
Carter couldn't help but smile as he asked, "Before or after I fell on the floor?" Carter shook his head. "When I recovered, I sent Mooney to the library. Hopefully he didn't injure anyone doing research." Carter took a bite of his hamburger and added, "By the way, I went up to see the baby we delivered. You'll never guess what they named him."
"Lewis Carter Frankel. Poor kid, one day he's going to hate them for that."
"Oh, I don't know. I always thought Carter was kind of cute," Susan said with a sly grin. "Maybe we can make it up to him. I promised his mom we'd be there to build his tree house when he was old enough."
"Gee, thanks. Hey, remember the last baby we delivered together?"
"How could I forget? She's beautiful."
"Still looks like her aunt, I guess." Susan blushed as he asked, "How old is she now . . . five . . . no, six?"
"Six. She just started school. I really miss her."
Carter was almost afraid to ask the next question but surely Chloe was clean or Susan wouldn't have returned to Chicago. "And how's your sister?"
"Chloe's doing well. Her husband really seems to care about them both. Chloe's a good mother and she's staying off drugs."
Eventually, Carter knew he would have to tell Susan but he wasn't ready yet. He only hoped he found a way to tell her before she heard the hospital gossip. "I know you were worried about that. Some people do recover from addiction, you know."
"I know." Susan's pager went off. "Ammal must be out of surgery."
Carter left twenty dollars on the table and they walked back to the hospital.
"So what was the deal with your ectopic girl?"
"She had to go home for dinner."
"She's from some Middle Eastern country. Apparently her parents are very strict. She was afraid her parents would disown her and have her deported if they found out she is no longer a virgin. She had to sneak out of the house to have surgery."
"That's criminal. I'm glad she came back."
"Me too. You know, she's the abdominal pain you gave me."
Post Start All Over Again
Raindrops and Reflections
Susan sat looking out her window, watching the rain, and sipping hazelnut coffee as she thought about her first week back at County General. The rain formed fascinating patterns on the window; she had not realized how much she missed the rain. She loved working at County again. She had also forgotten how much she missed the camaraderie. It had not been the same in Scottsdale. In spite of a rough start, she was getting along with most of the nurses. Abby was the exception. It almost seemed as if there was something going on with Abby and Carter. Though, Carter had mentioned nothing to Susan about it.
Kerry Weaver was none to happy to have Susan return but Susan was determined not to let Kerry bother her. Dr. Romano was an arrogant prick. However, Susan had learned to cope with his type before. Besides, he was Chief of Staff so Susan would not see him on a daily basis.
Peter Benton had not changed much and he was obviously involved with Chloe Finch. Though he and Carter seemed to have developed a mutual respect for each other. No, it was more than respect. It was more like friendship. Where had that come from? If ever there were two people who were totally different, it was Carter and Benton.
Mark . . . Susan smiled as she thought about him. Mark was Mark. It was good to have him for a friend again. Mark appeared content and evidently in love with Elizabeth. He was so proud of his new daughter. Susan was happy for him. Elizabeth . . . Susan was not so sure about Elizabeth. Perhaps she would be easier to work with once she realized Susan had no intention of stealing Mark.
Carter had changed the most. He was amazing. Susan loved working with him. And God, he was handsome. The voice was almost the same, slightly deeper. Once or twice, Susan thought she saw a look of sadness in his eyes. Yet, most of the time, he was the cheerful, fun-loving Carter she remembered. He was not at all the bumbling med student who had a crush on her. Mark had been right in his prediction; Carter turned out to be an excellent doctor and a very capable teacher. He was much more patient than Peter Benton had ever been with him. Evidently his relationship with his family had improved. He certainly appeared close to his grandmother.
However, Carter's back problem worried Susan. He was young to be having that kind of pain. And what was with his refusal to take pain medication? It could be that he was just out of shape. Unlike Benton, Carter had never been known for his athletic ability. Susan had found a yoga instructor. If she were good, maybe Susan would ask Carter to join her. It would help strengthen his back and give them a chance to get reacquainted. She smiled as she remembered his attempt to kiss her so long ago. It had required great effort on her part not to let him. She would definitely as him to join the yoga class. After all, he was not the only one who'd had a crush.