The ER nurse hung the normal saline drip and cleared the IV line. Overhead a Life Flight announced “Industrial Accident: 58 year old Caucasian, 3 crushed ribs, right femur fracture, severe head concussion with increased intracranial pressure.” Lori looked up to see an immobile body of a man on a stretcher being wheeled into her stall. An O2 mask was in place over his mouth and nose. Thick red blood saturated a carpenter’s shirt, and his right leg was covered with a blue air cast. Three paramedics rushed to surround the bed for the gurney transfer of “Jimmy,” a man who had been found without an ID working alone on the scaffolding of the Holden’s construction site. The police were looking into his identity.
“He hit the ground hard from 15 feet when the wires must have broken. He’s been unconscious the whole time. I don’t know if he’ll make it,” the medic next to her gave report.
“We need a type and cross match on him,” the doctor turned to her. “He’s lost too much blood already.” She glanced at the man and saw that his eyelids were shut, swollen and dark blue. His cheeks were scraped skin and muddy blood. He was hardly recognizable.
Lori had been in the ER for over twenty years, and she had a calm daily rhythm even with severe trauma cases. As her hands worked quickly, she drew blood gases and placed the EKG leads on his chest so his heart rhythm would show on the monitor.
It was a rural hospital in a forested area of the state - a poor population with people out of work. They needed her here. The first day she came, the hospital administrator added her immediately to the 11-7 Shift. The doctors were appreciative of her gift in establishing immediate rapport with patients. She had a calm confidence and quick medical responses. Last year Lori had even been selected for “Nurse of the Year” for Lakeview Memorial Hospital. Pictures, flowers, and her Bio appeared in the local paper. For two weeks she received free breakfast coffee and donuts in the cafeteria.
Her life had not always gone so well. When she was in her twenties, she married Randy Tragg, a construction foreman for Fairfield Industries. He had moved up the latter in the company to where he was supervising thirty workers. Randy could walk any scaffolding with the grace of a gymnast while belted down with five hammers at his waist. Even though they hadn’t known each other very long before they married, they were happy. He would get home from work early so they could spend some time before her Shift. Randy wasn’t much of a people person, and Lori was his only social contact. He would spend most of his off hours watching sports and downing a six pack. When Lori would come home from the hospital in the morning, Randy would have already left for his job site.
As time went on she noticed empty scotch and vodka bottles next to the beer cans as she cleaned up in the morning. She began to worry about him and his health as only a nurse could do. “Perhaps he’s dehydrated on his job,” she thought, but even to her that sounded lame.
Then the beatings started. For no particular reason he’d yell at her and slam her into the kitchen cabinets if she didn’t get his dinner on time. She called in “sick” many times. The ER staff would see her lacerations and bruises and know immediately what was happening. And she was ashamed.
One day she woke up and decided it was time to leave him. She had started reading books on domestic violence and realized she was a victim. She needed to make some major changes and fast. So her best friend helped her get a new job in a new state. A new start. She dyed and cut her hair, lost fifteen pounds, and changed her eye color with contact lenses. When she applied for a nursing job in the ER, she asked the staff to call her by her full name, “Laurel Ann.”
Her divorce papers were filed from a P.O. Box in a town two hours from her home. And when Randy signed them, she promptly forgot about him. It had been a bad deal between them.
In her new life she started observing her responses to various types of people. At the end of her marriage she had become passive and subservient to Randy. Although sometimes she soothed herself by making him ‘wrong’ and hating him, a healthier part of her wanted to understand why she drew him and why she stayed with him. She never wanted a violent relationship again. Lori took assertive classes at the local college, and the new Lori felt strong and powerful as she verbally stood up for herself. She began praying in the mornings and turning her life over to a Higher power. Her next-door neighbor started her on running, and they would compete to see who would reach the Henderson’s fence first. Inside and out, she was becoming a different person. The bitter memory of the ‘marshmallow’ who was abused by Randy Tragg was fading.
One night when she was searching the Book section of Amazon.com, she came across a book called FACE READING – How to Know Anyone at a Glance. On the back cover a San Diego Morning News anchor had said, “If only I had known about Barbara (and Face Reading) when it came to men, I could have saved myself a lot of grief!”
Grief. She certainly understood “grief” when it came to men! So she got the book and studied the pages on “Romance.” She identified what facial features to look for in a loving man. She even drew a picture of an ‘ideal match’ as outlined in the book. She took the book to work and read the faces of all her co-workers. They thought it was great fun and lined up to see her on their breaks.
One night as she was reading it, she came upon the chapter on “Dangerous Facial Features.” She stopped breathing. Lori rushed to the closet to get out an old photo of Randy. For the first time, she really looked at his face closely using the facial features from the book: His small mouth, angled unibrow eyebrows, his short forehead, the horizontal line across the bridge of his nose, and his left eye with the white sclera under the pupil. All his facial features where listed in the “Dangerous Facial Features” section.
Patterns. Facial Feature Patterns she could learn from so she didn’t make the same mistake twice.
“His vitals are stable, and we’ve got a bed for him on 4 North,” the physician pushed past her as they heard an approaching siren announcing another trauma patient. As Lori moved to put a clean hospital gown over “Jimmy’s” bare chest, she noticed a dark, triangular mole on his left shoulder. It seemed very familiar, but she couldn’t place it. Then, she looked up into his face. She was looking into the face of Randy Tragg, her former husband.
Her chest stopped moving. The fingers holding his IV froze. Lori’s first instinct was to run before he opened his eyes and recognized her. But her legs were stiff toothpicks and wouldn’t move. Panic poured over her in gushing torrents. And then came the rage. For the times he had hurt her – damaged her body, damaged her mind. For years she gave her power over to him. She hated him for taking it. She hated herself for giving it.
Then, she became aware of how isolated they were in the curtained off cubicle in the ER. The rest of the staff was at the far end of the ward working on some in-coming fire fighters. In her lab coat she had a half syringe of Mr. Weldon’s heart medication which he hadn’t needed. She had forgotten to “waste” it - shot the liquid into the trash can and discard the used syringe. She knew that Randy was highly allergic to this same medication, and that it would be untraceable in his blood stream. A quick injection into the IV port, and it would go straight to his heart. She could be ten feet away when his monitors went off announcing his cardiac arrest. No one would ever know. So tempting. So tempting. Everyone knew that things happened fast in the ER. An “accident” could be covered over so easily when they were short staffed.
Her head went back, and she shook it violently as though to wake up from what felt like a bad dream. “No, no, no. I have come too far,” she told herself. She was healing from him. She wanted her whole life in front of her. God could help her to have power over the evil that was pouring through her mind. She could change. She could choose to let go of his negative hold over her heart by letting go of her hatred for him. Her hatred would live or she would live. She needed to live. She needed to move on.
She turned to him and put up the guard rails on his gurney. Then she called for the orderly to take Randy Tragg to 4 North.
(c) Copyright, 2010. Barbara Roberts. All rights reserved.