RATING: PG13 - for subject content and Carter angst
DISCLAIMER: I own none of the ER characters
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is a tough subject to deal with. I don't know how many people know about postpartum depression, and to be honest I don't know much about it either. It is a terrible thing that's happened to many women all around the world. I do not condone it, and I hope that someday there will be a cure so that it may never affect anyone again. My fic is dedicated to the five children: Luke, Paul, John, Mary, and Noah, who lost their lives to this illness. It shows no solution, no way of dealing with the illness, just a situation in which a family is affected by it.
SUMMARY: Carter treats a mother who is suffering from postpartum depression.
Carter leaned on the counter behind Randi's sitting pose.
"Any patients for me?" he asked sweetly, deciding to stay on her good side instead of pissing her off. He'd seen the results of her wrath when Malucci had tried on of his new pick-up lines on her.
He heard a bubble snap as she reached over a pulled a chart out of a pile. Without changing her position, she handed it back to him.
"Woman in Exam 2."
"Thank you, Randi." He took the chart and smiled.
"You're welcome, Dr. Carter."
Walking in that direction, he quickly glanced through the information that was there. Mrs. Mary Keagan, thirty-eight. Husband was Mike, a bank executive. He recognized their address as being in a nice suburb. Before opening the door, he checked the ailment. Hand laceration. A few stitches, then he'd be done.
He smiled at the slim woman perched on the end of the exam table. Her hand was tightly wrapped in a white towel, already stained with blood. A small boy, he guessed six, sat quietly next to her, and looked at him with big brown eyes. A baby was asleep in a carrier on a nearby chair.
Hooking the leg of another chair with his foot, he pulled it closer to her and sat down. Her back straightened up.
"Hello, Mrs. Keagan. My name is Dr. Carter. Could you tell me how you cut your hand?" He gently took her hand in his and unwound the makeshift wrap.
Instead of her answering, the boy said, "She was fixing lunch."
As if coming out of a trance, the woman continued, "I was making sandwiches and the knife slipped." Her voice was soft, almost too soft. She flinched when he probed the area around the cut.
"Sorry," he apologized. "I don't think there's any nerve damage. Can you feel this?" He moved her fingers around and she nodded. "Okay, this should only take a few stitches." A nurse appeared in the room and he ordered a suture kit. "Are you allergic to Novocain, Lidocain?" She looked at him curiously, but shook her head.
The procedure was quick, and soon he was ordering a tetanus booster and wishing her a good day. Signing off the chart, he placed it back in the slot and picked up another.
After two more brief cases, he stopped in the waiting area to grab a soda. Opening it, he sat in a chair and sank down, exhaustion sweeping over his body. He closed his eyes and rested his head against the wall behind him.
"Excuse me," a small voice said from somewhere close. Opening his eyes, he saw a little boy standing by his chair, holding an unopened can of soda. The boy held it out to him.
"Can you open this?" he asked.
Carter recognized him as the boy that was with the mother earlier. He straightened up, took the can and opened it. The boy crawled into the seat next to him and took the drink back.
"Thank you." He took a sip.
"What's your name?" Carter asked. He hadn't spoken to him in the exam room, nor had the boy said anything to him.
"Noah. What's yours?"
The boy seemed content with this information.
"Where's your mom?"
"She's calling my dad. She told me to stay here."
A moment passed in silence.
"Is my mom going to be okay now?"
"She should be. Why?" Carter was suspicious of the boy's question.
"She's been sick." Noah pulled his legs up on the chair and sat on his knees, carefully clutching the soda in his hands.
"Really?" She hadn't seemed very sick to him.
"Daddy says she's sick."
Noah shrugged. "She's always sad. Nothing ever makes her happy. When I try to make her happy, she gets angry."
"Noah," Carter said seriously, "does your mom do things when she's angry?"
The boy was quiet for a second. "She yells, then she cries."
"Do you know if she's seeing a doctor? Like me, only one who fixes you emotionally? Do you know what I mean?"
He nodded. "They're always fighting about that."
Again he nodded. "She says she doesn't want to go, but daddy says she will. She just won't yet." He got off the chair, looking towards the admit desk. "My mom's over there. I have to go."
"Noah thanks for talking to me. If you need anything, you can always come by here, okay?"
"Okay. Thank you, Dr. Carter." He turned and ran to where his mother was standing. She placed a hand on his head and glanced to where he had come from. Briefly, her eyes met Carter's. His spine tingled as she gave him a cold look, then walked out the door, holding the baby carrier in one arm with her other arm protectively behind Noah's back.
The day wore on and by six Carter was ready to drop. He'd treated twenty-eight patients that day, along with four traumas. With only ten minutes of his shift left, he went into the lounge to put his lab coat away.
When he was in the middle of doing his combination, Kerry came in.
"John," she said urgently, "can you stay a few more minutes. We've got a trauma coming in, two GSWs." She left before Carter had a chance to protest. Sighing, he let go of his lock and turned back to the door. He saw that one of the GSWs was already coming in, so he ran to the gurney and followed it to the trauma room.
"Noah Keagan, six years old. GSW to the upper left chest. BP is…"
Carter's brain triggered an immediate response. Noah Keagan? That was the boy… oh God. He ran faster and made it to the head of the gurney by the time they transferred the boy onto the other table.
"Noah, Noah can you hear me?" he called to the still figure. His eyes were closed, and a large oxygen mask covered the lower half of his face. Grabbing a pen, he checked his eyes for movement.
"Pupils are equal and reactive," he said, not sure who was actually running the trauma. He looked up and saw that Dave and Elizabeth were there, already probing Noah's chest.
Fighting back the multitude of emotions that were building up inside him, he shouted out orders and went by Dave's side to assist.
"The bullet's too close to the artery, I can't identify the source." Elizabeth looked at the vital signs then back at the patient. "We need a portable chest in here!"
"Let's get four liters of O neg," Dave ordered.
Carter was numb. He didn't hear when Dave first told him to get out of his way.
"Carter, move aside. I have to put in a chest tube."
He stepped back, unable to participate anymore. Even if he tried, he wouldn't know what to do.
The room erupted in a parade of loud noises. Voices accompanied the commotion.
"We need to get him to the OR."
"Lost a pulse! Starting compressions." Dave pressed down on Noah's chest, pumping his heart. Elizabeth grabbed the paddles and when Dave backed off, she placed them on the boy's chest.
"Clear!" Nothing. "Set it to 300. Clear!" Nothing again.
Carter watched as they continued however their efforts were futile. After many minutes of continuous shocking and injections of Epi, they placed the paddles back.
"He's already gone," he heard Elizabeth say. "Time of death 6:26." The annoying machines were turned off and people began backing away from the body. It was now a body, Carter realized, no longer a person. He watched in disbelief as Elizabeth stripped off her gloves and approached him.
"I'm sorry Carter," she said. She wasn't aware of who the boy was, but judging by his responses, she guessed he knew him. She saw the other trauma in the other room was finishing. "Is that the other victim?" she asked Dave.
"Yah, only seven months. I guess she didn't make it either," he said, noticing how they were placing paddles back and turning machines off.
Carter had forgotten there was a second person. He turned and looked through the window. Benton was pulling his gloves off, and beside him on the bed there laid a very still infant, covered in dark red blood.
The ER returned to its quiet self after the two deceased patients were properly cleaned up and sent to the morgue. But Carter couldn't have cared. He sat in the empty waiting area, in the chair that Noah had been in only hours earlier. With downcast eyes, he tried to make sense in his mind what had transpired. The father had yet to show up to the hospital, and he hadn't heard anything about the mother. Of course the police were less than helpful when he had asked about her. Apparently it wasn't any of his business what had happened to those kids.
He felt the presence of another person sit next to him.
"They found the mother," Benton said. When he got no response, he added, "She killed herself in her basement. The police found her with a bullet in her head."
Carter closed his eyes as the information sent a wave of nausea through him. He'd thought he wanted to know, but he was regretting it.
Benton noticed his reaction. "There's more."
Carter sighed. "What?" He sounded like he didn't want to know.
"She dialed 911, told them she was going to kill her children, then herself." He watched as Carter clenched his eyes and tightened his jaw. "When they got there, the kids were already shot. After they brought them in, they found her under the basement stairs."
Carter forced out his next question. "Were there any others?"
"No. The husband was at work. They have two other kids, but they're away at camp right now."
Carter wondered what they were going to think when they found out their mother had murdered their brother and sister. What was the husband thinking? What was… Carter was suddenly hit with another realization. The husband had to have known. Noah even said his dad knew his mom was sick. Why the hell didn't he do something?
"Didn't the husband know anything?" he asked, not particularly to Benton.
"What do you mean?"
"Noah told me his father knew that she was sick. He said she was always crying, and they were always arguing about her getting treatment." He now sat up with an energy that was derived from anger. If only he could talk to the father…
Fulfilling his request, he saw a tall man enter the ER and stop at the desk. He listened closely as the person introduced himself as Mike Keagan. He didn't bother to eavesdrop anymore. By the time the man had explained why he was there, Carter was at his side, pulling on his arm.
"Excuse me, Mr. Keagan," he asked, masking his true anger. He had ignored Benton's warning comments but was aware the other doctor was at his side.
Mike was obviously relieved to be talking to doctors instead of a secretary. "Yes, I was told that my son and daughter were brought in here," he said anxiously.
"Yes, I personally assisted with the treatment of your son," Carter said professionally. "But he's dead now."
"Dead?" the father exclaimed.
"Carter," Benton warned. He was ignored again.
"Yes, he's dead. He was shot by your wife, in case you were unaware of that, which I'm sure you were because you knew exactly what your wife was capable of."
"What? Mary did this?" The man was still in shock.
"Yes, she took a gun and shot both Noah and his sister, but not before phoning the police and telling them that she was going to. Didn't she call you as well?" His voice was cocky and dry.
Benton roughly grabbed his arm and pulled him away. "Okay Carter, that's enough," he said angrily, warning him to test his temper. He couldn't believe Carter was acting this way.
"No," Carter protested. "I want to know why this son of a bitch would just go ahead and let this happen! Why did you, huh?! How could you do this to your own children!? Did they deserve to die like this?" He was shouting now, and drawing attention from around the entrance area. "Why didn't you do something? Why didn't you stop her? Whatever happened to fatherly love?!"
His last words were cut of as Benton hauled him into the lounge, closing the door behind him. He let go of him and pushed him away.
"Doctor Carter," he spoke sharply, emphasizing the word 'doctor'. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
Carter began to pace furiously, however his space was limited. "He knew! The father knew what she was like!" He abruptly stopped by the couch and sat on the edge of it, fighting off the tears that were building in his eyes.
"What makes you so sure?" Benton's voice was quieter now.
Carter didn't answer his question. "He knew," he persisted, just as quiet. "He should've known."
"But he didn't," Benton finished. Carter shook his head, determined that the man outside was responsible for two children's deaths.
"Carter, he may have known she was ill. But a lot of people never expect this to happen."
"He should've." Carter's hands were clasped under his chin as he slowly rocked back and forth, staring at the door where he knew Mike Keagan was just outside.
"So, are you going to blame him for this?"
"Carter." Benton rubbed his chin in frustration. "Do you blame Mrs. Sobricki for what happened to you?"
Carter stopped moving and looked up at him. "No."
"But why not? She was married to Paul. Why don't you blame her for him attacking you and killing Lucy, because she should have known he was ill?" He made sure his words fit the logic that Carter had been portraying.
The young doctor was still, realizing what it was he was doing. Slowly he brought his hands up and covered his face. Benton heard him choke back a small sob. Quietly, he stepped over and sat next to him, pulling the distressed resident in his arms. He held him tightly as Carter released his tears.
As the static buzzed on the television, Carter tried to piece together any form of pictures he could see on the gray screen from his corner of the couch. His feet rested comfortably on a leather footrest.
"John, what are you doing?" his Gamma asked gently from behind the couch. She didn't understand why he was sitting there, staring at a blank screen.
Carter flicked the t.v. off, tucking the remote next to his hip. "Sorry Gamma," he said. Looking up at her, he asked, "What are you doing up?"
"I should ask you the same question." She sat down next to him. "It's after three o'clock. Why aren't you asleep?"
He shrugged. "Can't sleep." Truthfully, he'd never tried to sleep. After his Gamma had gone to bed, he'd come downstairs to sit in the living room.
"Just can't." He tried to smile at her.
She examined him in her motherly way. With a sigh, she stood. "Try to keep the noise down."
He watched her walk through the kitchen and disappear up the stairs. "Night Gamma," he called.
Picking up the remote, he turned the t.v. back on and flipped through the channels. He stopped briefly on CNN then changed his mind, deciding he'd heard enough bad news for one day. For some reason, he couldn't shake the empty feeling that was deep in his stomach.
He wondered whether or not love really existed.
Where's the navigator of your destiny
Where is the dealer of this hand
Who can explain
Life and its brevity
'Cause there is nothing here
That I can understand
You and I
Have barely met
And I just don't want to let go of you yet
Noah, hello, good-bye
I'll see you on the other side
Noah, sweet child of mine
I'll see you on the other side
And so I hold your tiny hand in mine
For the hardest thing I've ever had to face
Heaven calls for you
Before it calls for me
When you get there save me a place
A place where I can share your smile
And I can hold you for more than just awhile
Noah, hello, good-bye
I'll see you on the other side
Noah, sweet child of mine
I'll see you on the other side
Michael W. Smith and Wayne Kirkpatrick