Lessons Learned

AUTHOR: Kristen
EMAIL: kdarganin@hotmail.com
SPOILERS: About a month after "Under Control" anything after it has been altered.
ARCHIVE: Yes, just let me know.
DISCLAIMER: I do now own the characters of ER I am just borrowing them for fun.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: To my wonderful editor Jackie and to all my fellow friends who have supported me. If you liked my past stories then this one is for you.
Comments: Will be appreciated and can be sent to kdarganin@hotmail.com
SUMMARY: What happens when John Carter thinks he's having a bad day? It gets worse.

6:00 a.m.

Carter walked into the admitting area of Grady Memorial Hospital. Numerous files obscured the counter, and it appeared as if it hadn't been organized in a long time. An older woman looked up upon his arrival with not so much as a smile, and pointed her bony finger in the direction of an exam area.

"The rest of the docs are in Curtain One. I guess they're waiting for you." She turned her attention back to her crossword, not looking at him. She adjusted settings on the fan sitting on her desk, and the wind blew her black, wavy hair in all directions.

"Ah, how do you know that I'm the one they are waiting on?" Carter asked, puzzled.

"Because, young man, I know the entire staff here and you are not one of Grady's regular doctors. Want to know my little secret about my exceptional mental abilities?" the older woman whispered with her hand cupping her face.

Carter decided to amuse the receptionist, and moved closer for her to speak.

"You're wearing a lab coat, sweetie. Now go on, Dr. Logan does not like people who are late," she told him.

"Well, thanks," he mumbled, as he headed towards the exam room. Carter didn't bother finding a place to put his bag, and tried to slip in on the meeting. "No wonder this place is being closed," he muttered to himself. The hospital was old, apparently built in the early sixties. Paint was faded on the walls, and the floor was grimy despite probable numerous cleanings. The facility just didn't look like it was ever maintained properly, and it was a shame that no one cared for it.

Carter pulled back the curtain of Exam One, and it nearly fell apart in his hand as it glided along the rod. The noise was enough to draw the attention of the others who, by the looks of things, were in the middle of a meeting. Luka Kovac was leaning on the exam bed, Rocket Romano was next to him with a scowl on his face, and Peter Benton, standing in the corner, didn't seem too amused. The only person he didn't recognize was an older gentleman with salt and pepper hair and a mustache. The doctor that he wasn't familiar with turned his attention on Carter without much enthusiasm.

"I presume that you're Dr. Carter," he uttered gruffly.

"Yes, sir. I'm sorry..." Carter began to explain.

"I don't want hear it," the older doctor snapped; then turned his attention to Romano. "I see that we get all the disciplinary problems from this little staffing arrangement, eh, Robert?" He sneered at the bald doctor. Carter watched Dr. Romano stiffen with anger, as Peter stood up straighter, obviously irritated.

"Dr. Logan, we are here because this hospital is closing its doors in a few weeks, and your pleasant personality couldn't keep all of your staff from walking out early. We're here for the patients who would be affected by a shortage and not to stroke your tail feathers. Are we clear?" Robert asked icily.

"Yeah, whatever. Just don't screw anything up. I didn't want any of you here; I had no choice in the matter." Dr. Logan stood long enough to glare at the doctors surrounding him, and stormed out of the exam area.

"Well, this is going to be fun," Carter stated with obvious sarcasm.

"Can it, Dr. Carter. You and Dr. Kovac are here to attend to patients. Peter, you are to take charge of the OR, while I try to handle the bureaucratic mess that this situation has created. We all have jobs to do, so let's do them efficiently and with smiles, all right folks?"

Since none of the men said a word, Romano smiled. "Good. If you need anything, I'll be upstairs." Without a second look, Robert walked off in the opposite direction of Dr. Logan.

"Why were we chosen for this assignment?" Luka asked the remaining doctors.

"Because we're all on Robert's short list, Dr. Kovac," Peter replied.

Confused, Carter looked innocently at Peter. "I haven't done anything wrong." Carter had looked up at Peter in time to see him shake his head as he grabbed several charts from the table in front of him. Ignoring Carter's bewildered stare, Peter walked away.

"Ummm, Dr. Benton, what have I done lately? Dr. Benton?" Carter asked again, as his former teacher continued to walk away, silence greeting his unanswered question.

Luka chuckled. "I think Dr. Benton was just being sarcastic, Carter. I wouldn't worry about it. Come on, let's look around and get familiar with where everything is." Luka patted Carter on the shoulder, and the younger man gave him a brief smile.

"I still don't understand why Dr. Weaver isn't here to handle the administrative chaos," Luka said, waving his hand in the direction the two were walking.

"I don't know. I heard something about how Dr. Romano doesn't get along with Dr. Logan, and he wanted to gloat while his hospital shuts down around him. What I don't understand is why this place is still accepting patients to begin with, when most of the staff has walked out," Carter told the other doctor.

"Just because some of the staff here didn't respect their obligations to this hospital does not mean we stop treating patients, Dr. Carter. There are two more weeks before we will be forced to close our doors because of budget concerns. Even though we are to remain open until then, many of the staff left and took well paying private practice positions. Each hospital will send four doctors each day to help cover shifts. The two of you will be gone in 36 hours, and then I will have the joy of dealing with staff members from Rush. Don't worry, the labor shortage will be covered by each hospital in the city. Know this, we will stay open no matter what, and you will do your assigned job." Dr. Logan continued to stare at the duo, who were unnerved that the Chief of Staff overheard their discussion. "Is there a problem?" he asked with irritation.

"Ah, no sir. We were just..." Carter began.

"Then stop standing around wasting time; go do something useful." Dr. Logan seethed.

Carter simply nodded a bit, taken back at such hostility. He headed in the direction of the admit desk to pick up some charts. Luka followed, but was still close enough to hear Dr. Logan's disparaging remarks.

"For Christ's sakes, I make sure that I didn't spend my remaining time with Weaver and they send me another cripple instead," The older doctor said under his breath.

Luka spun around in anger at such disrespectful remarks of a fellow colleague. It was apparent that Carter had been out of earshot of Dr. Logan's comments on Carter's lingering limp. 'This man is a doctor, why would he make such callous statements when it's his job to care for sick people?' Luka thought. He caught Dr. Logan's attention, and stormed over to where the administrator was standing.

"I don't want to hear you use such descriptions around any of my co- workers or patients, you understand?" Luka told the man through clenched teeth, trying to control his anger.

"Dr. Kovac, I think you misunderstand the chain of authority here. If you ever talk to me in such a tone, I'll have you up on suspension." Dr. Logan didn't give Luka time to react and walked away, leaving him furious. Luka walked back to the admit desk where he overheard Carter introducing himself to two nurses. He went over to the counter to make his own introduction, when he saw Carter wave him over.

"Sally, this is Dr. Kovac." Carter was extending his hand in the direction of a petite young woman with long red hair. She shook Luka's hand, and it was obvious to Carter that she was checking Luka out; tilting her head, her eyes scanning him from foot back up to his face.

"Nice to meet you," Luka replied.

Carter turned his attention to Linda, an older blonde woman. She looked like she worked out, so it was hard to tell her exact age. Before he could introduce her as well, she spoke instead.

"And I'm Linda. So, what kind of name is Kovac? Russian, perhaps?" She asked, even though it was apparent that she didn't care what his response was. Carter knew the effect foreign accents had on women sometimes. He smiled in amusement, as Luka looked like he wasn't in the mood for that kind of attention so early in the morning.

"No, its Croatian." He replied softly.

Carter sensed that Luka maybe needed a little rescuing, so he decided to help his friend out. "Hey, Luka, want to help me find the lounge so I can put by bag up?"

"Yeah, I might want to know where to get my next cup of coffee." Luka turned and followed him down the hall and to the left. They found the lounge, where Carter hung his bag in an opened locker. He then rummaged around in what appeared to be a storage locker, where some of the white lab coats were hanging. He took off his own lab coat and placed it on one of the hangers.

"It's kind of hot in this hospital for that, don't you think?" Luka asked while wiping his brow.

Carter shook his head in an affirmative nod. Ever since he walked into this place it had felt like a damn sauna. His hair was already sticking to his forehead from sweat, and it was still way too early in the morning for such heat.

"You're right, I think the air conditioning in this place is broken," Carter said, and looked up at Luka to see the man staring at him. "What?" he asked suspiciously.

"Nothing, I was just wondering what else is wrong with this facility besides the fact that its Chief of Staff makes Romano look like a puppy," Luka replied.

"Who knows. I'll be happy when this little transfer is over with." Carter walked over to the door and held it open for Luka. They both made their way through, in search for any patient to help in an effort to pass the time.


1:00 p.m.

Carter was scribbling notations on the variety of cases he had seen so far. It was the usual variety of colds, broken bones, and the obligatory drug overdose. Many of the major traumas were being deviated to County as not to put a strain on the skeleton crew at Grady. Most of the patients were walk-ins, despite the notices that were sent out to try to dissuade people from coming unless it was a desire emergency. A few extra techs and nurses from Mercy arrived, and went about their duties.

"What is the point of being here?" Carter muttered to himself. He glanced up to see Peter walking into the lobby. The surgeon had the same downcast appearance that the rest of the lingering staff had.

"What's with your happy mood?" Carter asked upon seeing Peter's irritated stance. He had his hands on his hips, and it looked like he was in search of someone to chew out for an unnamed offense.

"The damn elevator is broken so I took the stairs down. What kind of hospital can't even keep their elevators running?" Peter replied angrily.

Carter shrugged his shoulders and thought about asking him if, at least, the air conditioning was working properly up there. He decided not to, and went with a more lighthearted topic.

"So, that exciting in the OR?" 'Big mistake,' Carter thought as soon as the words left his mouth.

Peter looked at him with an annoyed expression. "There has been one trauma the entire morning, and the two other surgeons are not the most conversational people in the world," Peter grumbled.

"Since when did you enjoy conversation?" Carter asked.

"Since when do you..."

Peter was interrupted by shouts for help. Carter bolted out of his chair to intercept two construction workers having a difficult time bringing in a third, convulsing, employee.

"Someone get a gurney!" Peter shouted to one of the nurses, as Carter tried to determine the patient's symptoms. Two nurses brought out a gurney and the patient was rolled onto it as it was wheeled into a trauma room.

"What happened?" Carter asked as the patient was attached to a cardiac monitor.

"He was just standing in the break room when he fell down and started shaking," one of his co-workers answered anxiously.

"Is there a history of epilepsy or seizures?" Carter asked, as he tried to hold the man down.

"I don't know," the second worker replied, nervously fiddling with his beard.

"Pulse is 140, BP 150/90, and his airway is obstructed," One of the nurses informed the doctors, while taking off a blood pressure cuff.

"Okay, I'll intubate," Peter responded, as he went to the head of the gurney. "His throat is swollen, I can't see the cords; we need to hold him down," Peter ordered.

Sally grabbed his feet as they were shaking and jerking wildly. Linda struggled to keep the patient's upper body still as she desperately added her own weight over the patient's chest. Carter attempted to do the same from the opposite side and bent over as he tried to place his hands on the patient's shoulders.

"What have we got?" Dr. Logan and Romano came in the room in time to see the two nurses and Carter unsuccessfully trying to hold the big man down as his seizures continued. "We have a thirty year old male with a swollen airway, convulsions for three minutes. Dr. Benton's intubating and I was about to order phenytoin," Carter replied.

"What's the matter, kid, can't you hold this patient still so he can be properly intubated? Move aside!" Dr. Logan ordered; as it was apparent that Carter was having great difficulty keeping the patient stable enough for Benton to work.

Dr. Logan held onto the big man, as Peter placed the tube down the patient's throat and established an airway. Peter glanced up at Carter as he noticeably limped away, his hand to his back. The dejected younger doctor moved to the corner of the room and watched as the patient's seizures ceased after the medication had taken effect.

Dr. Romano looked irritated, as Dr. Logan was giving him the fifth degree concerning something, but Carter was too busy chastising himself for being inadequate. His range of motion had affected his ability to handle the trauma effectively, and he had embarrassed Romano in front of a man that he despised. Carter leaned against the wall as Romano and Logan walked with the gurney outside; he was oblivious to the fact that Peter was staring at him.

"Hey, Carter?"

"Yeah?" Carter responded, surprised that he wasn't alone in the room.

"You okay?" Peter asked.

"I'm okay, if you call being pushed out of the way during a trauma something to be happy about. I'm sure it impressed the hell out of Dr. Romano," Carter replied sarcastically.

"Carter, those two are going to be present at anything that can be turned into something to argue about. This hospital isn't going to see many patients, and they are going to be sticking their noses into everything. Two Chiefs of Staff shouldn't be in the ER to begin with."

"Neither should you," Carter answered.

"What else am I going to do? I was selected for this assignment because Romano is still pissed about that prescription fiasco, and Dr. Kovac is here because he did a procedure without Kerry's permission," Peter tried to reason with him.

"So why am I here?" Carter asked angrily. "Is it because this way I won't get in the way of any real traumas at County?

"No, Carter, you're a good physician," Peter said matter of factly.

"Yeah, I couldn't even hold that guy down so you could intubate him," Carter said out of disgust.

"Carter, that guy weighed at least 280. You're not ready to handle King Kong. It's going to take some time." Peter looked at his former student, trying to convey to him some confidence he knew Carter lacked.

"I guess you're right. I'm going to do some more chart reviews." Carter turned around and began to walk off.

"Hey, Carter, you need to give yourself some time. In the mean time, don't strain yourself and be careful with the bending," Peter told him in his doctor tone.

"Don't worry, Dr. Benton, I know my limitations." Carter left Peter in the trauma room and went in search of a place to sit down and relax for a minute.


Carter wandered down to the cafeteria. It had been confusing locating it at first, since the one at County was upstairs; but in the older Grady the dining area was below the admittance floor. John stared at the lack of variety of lunch choices, and finally settled for a turkey sandwich and some orange juice. He headed for an empty table, when he ran into Luka chatting with Sally, the nurse he had met earlier.

"What's going on?" Carter asked as he slid into one of the unoccupied chairs.

"There's a political rally going on downtown for some art museum's opening ceremony. Traffic is jammed and all emergency vehicles are being directed there because there are protesters outside causing trouble," Sally explained.

"Protesters at an art exhibit?" Carter asked with confusion.

"Apparently the politician is pro-choice, and since the elections are heating up the city sent a lot of police to keep everything peaceful," Luka explained. "Look at it this way, that means less emergencies for us."

"How's that?" Carter questioned.

"It ties up all traffic coming north; Rush and County are on the other side of the mess and will get whatever units that respond to calls," Sally interjected.

"So in other words, County is going to be short two doctors and two surgeons and they are going to be getting an excessive about of traumas. Unbelievable!" Carter exclaimed, visibly upset.

"Carter, it's only for two days, then Rush replaces us with their staff. Mark and the others will get by just fine, there are plenty of people to cover. Why are you so upset?" Luka asked, clearly puzzled by the level of irritation that Carter was displaying.

"Because I should be back at County, not here because people think I need to take it easy or something." Carter sat back down in his chair dejectedly.

"I don't understand your line of reasoning, Carter. I don't really think there was any motivation behind who was selected for this assignment. I thought it was for some of the problems of late, when Dr. Romano decided to take a vested interest in the ER. Who knows? I think your level of patient care has been fine since you returned." Luka carefully studied Carter's expression. On one hand, he appeared to concur, but his body language seemed to suggest he wasn't buying it.

"Has anyone said something to you?" Luka asked, wondering if any of the staff were concerned. As far as he knew, everything at County had been running fine, with the exception of the prescription screw up between Dr. Finch and Dr. Benton. Luka had his own patients to be concerned with and never noticed if there were some performance problems.

"No, well, except for Dr. Logan," Carter responded.

"Carter, Dr. Logan is a jerk. I wouldn't pay him any attention. I know Dr. Romano doesn't." Luka chuckled.

"Well I guess you're right. The elevators don't work, the air conditioning is broken, and the Chief of Staff hates me. What else could go wrong?" Carter asked, even thought he knew whenever he said things like that, they always came back to bite him in the ass. Just when he was about to take that statement back, his beeper went off. He glanced down at it.

"Looks like I spoke to soon. I've got a patient." Carter saw Luka getting up, and he motioned for him to remain seated. "It's not anything I can't handle, if I need your help I'll let you know." Carter stuffed his hands in his pockets and headed back to the ER.

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