The lady glanced over her shoulder, looked them both over quickly, and returned to her task. “You here to help?”
She was Jamaican, but her accent wasn’t as thick as most.
“I’m the nurse from the States.”
“Thank the gods. What about you? You a doctor?”
Trent assumed she meant him. “I’m just her ride.”
She grunted. “You’re walking. You’re standing. You can help.”
Trent swept the room with his gaze. Even if he could get past the stench in the room, he’d have to take in the blood, this misery.
Monica moved around the patient and glanced at the bag of fluids hanging over the patient’s head. “Are you a nurse?”
The woman huffed. “I’m a secretary. The nurse, she’s with the sick patients.”
Monica’s hand dropped to her side. “One nurse?”
“Two… but the other one, she had to rest. Hand me that gauze.” The secretary pointed to the table separating two makeshift beds.
Monica’s hands hesitated over the dirty bandages. “Don’t you have clean ones?”
“Not enough. Those will do.”
Trent could see the argument on Monica’s lips. Instead of saying anything, she handed the gauze over and attempted to smile at the patient. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Monica and this is Trent.”
Freya finished her task and turned away from the patient. “Come. I’ll show you where everything is.”
“Wait,” Monica said, stopping her. “Who’s in charge here?”
Freya stuck her ample hip out and laid a heavy hand on it. “Right now, in this room, I am. There are only a few of us and none of us were trained for this.”
“Who’s triaging the patients? Making the decisions?” Monica’s voice was elevating and at the same time, Freya’s jaw drew tighter.
“I’m doing my best.”
Monica took a deep breath. “I’m sure you are. Without a doctor or skilled help, this can’t be easy. I’m just trying to figure out what has been done so far.
From the looks of the room, not a lot. Some patients were sitting up, but on a gurney or some kind of flat surface. Others rocked back and forth, moaning. Trent was way out of his league and he knew it.
“Maybe it’s time for me to go,” he suggested.
Monica whipped her head around so fast Trent thought it might spin in a complete circle. “Don’t you dare.”
He held up his hands in surrender. Couldn’t be that easy. “I’m not a nurse, doctor, or even a secretary in a clinic.”
Freya and Monica were both glaring now.
Monica’s eyes narrowed. “Where’s the nurse with the sick patients?”
“In the clinic.”
“This isn’t the clinic?” Monica’s eyes never left Trent’s. It was as if she knew if she turned away, he’d slip out.
“This is the waiting room.”
“Show me. And you,” she pointed a finger into his chest. “You’re coming with me.”
She stopped his words with a hand in the air. Monica blinked a few times before she said, “A couple of hours. That way you can tell my help back at the main hospital exactly what we need.”
“A couple of hours?”
She held up two fingers.
Tauni, the nurse with the sick patients, went from pleased to see Monica to pissed that she couldn’t leave the clinic immediately to sleep.
Monica tested every skill she owned in mass casualty incidents and rearranged patients according to severity. The immediate need patients were in the clinic’s red room. There was a generator running lights and the oxygen tanks were still full. For how long, Monica didn’t want to guess.
Tauni was a young nurse, much like Monica, but the entirety of her work was in the clinic. Her license was that of a vocational nurse back home. Shandee, the other nurse, returned to the clinic four hours after Monica had arrived. Though Shandee was happy for the help, she didn’t like Monica taking over.
“This is what I’m trained for,” Monica had said to her.
“This is where I work for twenty years.” Shandee was in her fifties; gray hair peppered the dark strands. “I’ve been a nurse longer than you’ve been alive.”
“Age does not dictate my abilities.”
Shandee’s eyes swept over Monica’s frame as if to say she could sit on her to keep her from taking over. “I know these people.”
Shandee had her there. Monica tried not to get any more defensive than she already was. She needed every hand, even a disgruntled nurse who would love it if Monica were anything but a young, petite blonde from the States.
Monica lowered her voice and took a deep breath and started over. “Look, Shandee, we need to make this work for the minimal people we have helping here. You need to take the red room, Tauni in the yellow room, Freya in the green room. Once we have the sickest inside the building we can manage this better.” Though Monica had her doubts. Two critical patients were already in the red room dropping their vitals. There wasn’t enough power to run the X-ray machine and there certainly wasn’t a CAT scan available. Not that there was a surgeon to operate if they knew the severity of the patient’s injuries.
“The red room?” Shandee glanced around and noticed several people watching them.
It was time to put on a smile and tell Shandee what she needed to hear. “I’m told you’re a gifted nurse. These people need your help. I’ll focus on triage.”
Shandee twisted on her heel and walked to the red room.
Monica blew out a frustrated breath. It’s going to be a long-ass day.
Trent followed her around for the next couple of hours while she dime-store triaged as many patients as she could. After about fifteen patients, two teenage boys—Jerrick, who was Tauni’s brother, and Arcus, Shandee’s son—understood enough of the basics of triage to help.
“If they’re breathing too fast, find me. If their skin is pale below their injury, find me. If they’re not making any sense or are unconscious, take them to Shandee.”
Jerrick led a couple of his friends to help move patients around. Arcus moved in a different direction to look over the wounded opposite Monica and Trent.
Monica crawled up into the back of one of the trucks where a patient lay. She placed a hand on his shoulder and found it stiff and unmoving. One look confirmed what she already knew. “Damn,” she whispered to herself.
How long had this patient been out here? Was he alive when he arrived? Where was his family? Who owned the truck? She started to shiver despite the heat.
Trent was returning from inside the clinic when she jumped out of the back of the truck. “Inside, or out?” Trent asked.
Monica stiffened her spine. “He—he’s gone.”
Trent looked behind her, his half grin faded. “Oh.”
She brought a hand to her forehead and noticed it tremble.
“Are you OK?”
“Fine. We, ah… we need to find a place for him.” She swallowed. There were probably others. Maybe Shandee had already placed the dead in a certain spot… somewhere.
Monica clenched her fists, trying like hell to stop the shaking. Exhaustion nipped at the edges of her sanity. Now was not the time to lose it.
“Hey?” He placed a warm hand on her shoulder. “It’s OK. You can’t save everyone.”
His soothing voice and comforting hand would undo her if she let it. Monica pulled away. “I know that. He’s cold. Probably gone before we even got here.”
Trent stepped back as if stung.
Way to go, Ice Queen. “I’m sorry. Listen, I know you’re trying to help me, but I can’t think about all this right now. I have to stay focused. OK? Do you get that?”
She needed his help, but didn’t want his compassion. Not yet anyway.
“Good.” She nodded and realized a tear had fallen. She wiped it away, frustrated by its existence. “Maybe Shandee knows where they’re keeping the deceased.”
The hours lumbered by in the heat and misery. Using the protocols given to her, Monica started IVs on the sickest patients, and administered antibiotics in hopes that the minimum of infection-fighting medicine would help until Walt, Donald… or any doctor at all could come. The patients in the red room were simply too sick to send to the hospital. Monica knew they wouldn’t survive the trip on the Jamaican back roads.
Tauni had gone home to sleep and Trent was still roaming the clinic… somewhere. Trent opted to stay, and had the locals transfer the patients in trucks to the main hospital. All Monica had to do was wait for help. And pray their supplies held up.