The Circle Ch. 39

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Chapter 39 – Tracy in a plane crash

The TV announcer was talking at a rapid rate. Several of the others in the room stopped what they were doing to look at the screen because of the panic in the announcer’s voice.

” … the plane had just taken off from St. Louis’ Lambert Field. According to local sources, a microburst from a nearby thunderstorm may have interrupted the flight’s climb out, forcing the jet to the ground along a road in an industrial park near the airport. The plane broke into pieces at the hard impact, and there were significant fires from the full-load of jet fuel. Fire crews were on the scene in minutes, and there are survivors, but we have no other word on the Transpac Airline flight four-five-two.”

As the announcer went on about the disaster, Ellie screamed and sobbed, “OH, NO. NO. NO. TRACY WAS ON THAT PLANE.” She looked to her cellphone as tears ran down her face, and verified the information in the text she’d had from Tracy only an hour earlier. Ellie burst out in wild sobbing fearing the worst about her closest friend. Tina went and held the young blond, but not without her own tears.

Matt leapt up and called Jim instantly. As his best buddy answered, he said, “I hate to bring you bad news, but you need to head to city airport immediately. There’s been an airline crash in St. Louis, and we are pretty certain Tracy was onboard.”

Jim sobbed out, “You can’t be right. She was coming from California.”

“Ellie is certain she was on the flight. They’d swapped text messages just an hour ago. Tracy was able to get out earlier than her original plan, and she took a connecting flight through St. Louis – where the crash just happened a few minutes ago. It’s on the news. She was trying to get home early.”

“I’m turning. What am I doing? How bad is it? Talk to me.”

“I’ll let you know in a few minutes. There are survivors, but you’re heading to St. Louis. Turn on your car radio to the news station. I’ll call you back in minutes.”

Matt got on the phone with a Transpac Airline agent, explained what was going on, that he was booking for a relative who had a sister on the crashed plane, and got immediate attention. In a few minutes, he’d arranged a first class flight for Jim to St. Louis on another airline. He called Jim back with the details of the flight.

Three hours later, Jim’s flight flew a landing pattern that took them alongside the crash site. Jim looked down and felt his heart in his throat and a knot of terror in his gut. Through eyes glazed with tears he saw a thousand blinking red and blue lights on emergency vehicles, along with high-powered emergency lights on the scene. Some of the wreckage was still smoldering with fire crews attending to it. Large sections of the fuselage looked somewhat intact, but broken in sections like a cracked egg.

Getting off the flight, Jim rushed to the Transpac Airline flight counter. “I’m the brother of a passenger on your plane that crashed. Can you tell me about Tracy Wilson? Where are the survivors of the flight being taken?” He prayed she was on that list, and not one of the dead.

The agent said, “Barnes Jewish and St. Luke’s were where the first recoveries went. We don’t have all the names yet, so I can’t direct you. I don’t even have an official passenger list.”

Jim ran for the taxi door, an easy task since he didn’t have any luggage. He was in a taxi in seconds.

A few minutes later, he burst in the door of the emergency room entrance at Barnes, “Do you have a pretty little blond here from the airline crash. Tracy Wilson.”

The ER receptionist, looked up sympathetically, “Let me see what I can tell you. Are you next of kin?” Jim hated that vocabulary – ‘next of kin’ sounded like a death knell for any survivor.

“I’m her brother. I just got here.”

The woman ran through several rosters of names. In the background of the ER, there were hundreds of people racing from room to room, or area to area. There was a lot of yelling going on. He kept hearing the word ‘Stat.’ The hospital was obviously in a state of disaster mobilization.

The receptionist eventually shook her head, “We have two-dozen no names here; two-thirds of them are women, but I don’t have physical descriptions. They’re all with doctors.” She grimaced indicating that any further news might be bad.

“Can you check St. Luke’s?”

“Hold on.” The woman got on the phone as another slid into her place at the reception desk, giving him a sympathetic look. She had tears in her eyes. Another family rushed up to the desk with similar questions.

A couple of minutes later she turned back to him, “They have the same problem there that we have. They have over thirty men and women with no names in various states of health. Can you wait here and let me see what I can find out back there? The airline is also sending someone over; they might know more too; they’re overdue.”

She stopped and said, “Give me a picture of your sister and let me see what I can find out. Escort bayan Email it to me, if you can.” She gave him her email address, and seconds later she had a recent portrait of Tracy pop-up on her cellphone. She went off for ten minutes but came back and just shrugged to show she had no news. “It doesn’t mean much. She still might be here. There are over two-dozen patients in the various operating rooms right now. Every doctor we can lay our hands on is here to help. Every operating room is being used. I’m sure it’s like this at St. Luke’s too.

Jim nodded, and started pacing in the waiting room that was filling up with other friends and relatives of the crash victims. Unfortunately, the media were also there like vultures waiting for fresh meat.

Jim thought about going to the other hospital, but decided to stay at Barnes. No sense rushing around, plus he felt vibes about Tracy being in this one.

Around midnight, the airline rep confirmed the passenger list and Tracy Wilson was on the list, but he had no further news about specific passengers. The television in the waiting area had on nothing but news about the crash. According to them, about a third of the passengers had perished in the crash including the pilot, first officer, and at least one flight attendant.

Jim refused to allow himself to mire down in the worst-case scenarios. Deep inside he knew that Tracy was alive and somewhere nearby.

Just after midnight, Sheila and Matt came into the waiting room carrying backpacks. Jim sobbed when he saw them, allowing himself to finally let go in the presence of his close friends. No words were needed, just arms to hold him and to even pray with him. The two surrounded him as they all cried.

The three sat together in the crowded room, Matt and Sheila with their arms around Jim. About once an hour, the representative from the airline stood at the front of the room, and gave an update about the accident. Unfortunately, there was little news except a growing list of fatalities.

About four a.m. the receptionist Jim had first talked to and to whom he’d given the photo, stood near the edge of the room, scanning past everyone. She finally saw Jim, and gestured for him to come to the desk.

He went to her full of questions, but there were many others clustered around. She said to him in a firm voice as she came out from behind the desk, “Sir, the restrooms are this way. Let me show you.” She said it in a way that Jim knew something else was up.

Jim caught on right away and followed, waving back at Matt and Sheila as he left the waiting room behind the middle-age woman. She remained mute, until they were down a sterile hallway and away from the melee in the waiting room.

She stopped and said to him and said in a conspiratorial whisper, “You sister is here. She’s in an induced coma right now. She was badly injured in the crash. I’m not sure about the prognosis but I will try to find out for you. She’s in the ICU after spending about five hours in the operating room. It turns out she was one of the first casualties we got.”

Jim hugged the woman, and tried to hold back his emotions. “Thank you so much.” Tears streamed down his cheek.

She tried to smile, “I hope she makes it. If you stay in the waiting area, I’ll try to get you updates before I go off duty.”

Jim nodded, and headed back to his friends. He whispered his news to them, and then went outside and called his parents. They answered on the first ring; Matt had been keeping them informed about what was taking place. They both wanted to come to St. Louis, but Jim told them to stay home until there was more news.

About six a.m., the receptionist again sought out Jim, pulling him away from the throng of people in the waiting area. She said, “Walk out with me. I’m heading out to the garage to head home. My shift just ended.”

Jim followed the woman towards the hospital’s parking garage. When they were away from the front door, she slowed down. “Tracy Wilson is now officially registered at the hospital, thanks to your photo of her. You should be able to get medical reports now. Let my replacement know, and she’ll help you; her name is Katherine. She expects to help you, Jim.

“Your sister got badly banged up. She has a broken arm, a torn up foot, and a couple of broken ribs. They think she’ll mend from those with no problem. She lost a kidney and part of her colon, and there’s still worry about infection from the abdominal wound that did that to her. She’s on a heavy dose of painkillers, and thus in an induced coma to help manage the pain.

The woman looked sad, and touched his arm. “One more thing. She lost her baby. It wasn’t very far along. I don’t know the details about that, but she’s not carrying now; it was just noted on her chart.”

Jim sobbed and thanked her. Tracy hadn’t said anything, and he briefly wondered if she had even known she was pregnant.

The woman gave him a supportive hug, and they went in opposite directions.

Jim Bayan escort yelled back at her, “What’s your name?”

“Ruth Newhouse.”

“Thank you, Ruth. I hope I see you again … under better circumstances.”

Before going inside, Jim called his parents again, bringing them up to speed on the latest news; he left out the part about the baby. “I’ll try to find out when they’ll be bringing her out of her coma. That’s when it’ll make sense for you to be here. I’ll be back to you later. This place is a zoo, and being in this environment only makes you more anxious.”

Back in the waiting room, Jim watched a doctor and nurse giving another family some bad news about a lost loved one. Apparently, there were others that weren’t surviving the crash even though they’d made it to the hospital.

Jim checked in with the new receptionist, and with a sympathetic smile got routed to the ICU waiting area, instead of the general waiting area for the hospital ER. Matt, Sheila, and Jim went there, and found a much less crowded area, but still a room full of emotion and angst.

A young nurse’s aide served as receptionist there. Jim identified himself. She held up a finger. Moments later an Indian doctor appeared; “Come with me for a moment,” he said in his sing-song Indian accent. “I am Dr. Rama Dhanukonda – Dr. Rama for short. I operated on your sister along with a large surgical team to piece her back together.”

He spoke as they walked, “Miss Tracy Wilson will survive, but she will have a long recovery, and she’ll need some special care the rest of her life, especially because of her missing kidney and a few feet of her colon.” He ran through the information about her, going into more detail than Ruth had a couple of hours earlier.

Jim asked, “When can I see her? When will you bring her out of her induced coma?”

“I’ll let you peek in now. She is asleep, and we want to keep her that way for at least another twenty-four hours. I’d say mid-day tomorrow we’ll bring her out unless there’s some complication.”

“She lost her baby?”

“Yes. Sorry about that news for her family. I hasten to add that she will not be able to have children after this. We had to remove a few other injured body parts including her uterus and ovaries. Understand that she had a piece of wreckage penetrate her lower body in the crash. She’s lucky to have survived the loss of blood. You can thank the EMTs for that piece of work, and the fact that she was one of the first patients to get here. We’ve given her a lot of blood to make up for what she lost, but she seems to be improving despite it all.”

Jim said, “If she needs anything to make her healthy or comfortable, please spare no expense.”

The doctor nodded, “That’s what we’re here to do. Later we’ll worry about costs and insurance and everything; fortunately, that’s not my job. Right now she needs rest. If she avoids infection we’ll move her from the ICU to a surgical recovery room in a few days.” He pointed into a hospital room full of electronic gear that blinked and beeped at a regular rate. In the middle of it all in a sterile hospital bed lay Tracy sleeping.

Jim looked across the room from the door. Tracy had a bandage across part of her face, and an obvious bruise on her forehead. Her left arm was in a cast, as well as one of her legs. A dozen plastic tubes and wires came out from under the top sheet. Besides that, she looked peaceful.

* * * * *

Jim slept with his head in Sheila’s lap. She had her head on Matt’s shoulder, as he leaned against her. Somehow, they pieced together a few hours of rest. Matt liaised with The Circle back home, passing on Tracy’s condition and medical reports.

There were a lot of tears about Tracy, and especially about the lost baby and other internal equipment.

Gary and Denise Wilson arrived at the hospital at nine a.m. the next day. They were obviously stressed and concerned. They hugged everyone, even Matt and Sheila.

The five of them sat in the ICU waiting room. At one point Dr. Rama went scurrying past, and Jim pointed him out to his parents. Later, he strolled by reading a chart. He stopped outside the glassed in waiting room, glanced in, and then turned in. He came up to Jim, and quickly got introduced to the other four.

Dr. Rama said, “Tracy’s vital signs are good – they’re improving since yesterday, even ahead of our hopes. I want to bring her out of the coma about noontime, but she will be heavily sedated and not ready to talk or see visitors. If she is cogent enough to understand, I will tell her you’re all out here. Often that’s a good motivator for her to heal faster so that they can see their loved ones.

“In any case, I think that tonight, if she isn’t too loopy from the pain meds, you all might see her for just a couple of minutes. I wish we could do more, but I think she needs the sleep.”

“Of course,” Jim said. “Do whatever will restore her the best and fastest way.”

Dr. Rama nodded Escort and walked away to talk to another family in another part of the room.

Matt said, “I’ll buy breakfast for everyone downstairs.”

The five of them trooped down to the hospital cafeteria. Appetites were weak, but the coffee slid down nicely.

Jim started to get his head together about the crash and the surrounding environment. After breakfast, he sought out the airline representative and talked to him about what the airline was doing for the survivors and families. One result was that the five of them got two hotel rooms a short distance from the hospital.

Once in the hotel room, Jim shaved and showered for the first time in three days, thankful that Matt had brought a RON kit, some fresh underwear, a shirt, and socks for his friend in a hastily assembled backpack. Sheila also showered along with Matt. There wasn’t anything sexual about all of them being in the room together after showers and dressing again.

The five were back at the hospital a little before noon. Dr. Rama came back about one o’clock. He looked at Jim, “One of you can come back to her room for about one minute just to let her know you’re here.”

Jim stood and had already taken five steps before his parents rose. Gary Wilson said to his son, “You go. Tell her we love her.”

The kind words from his father surprised Jim. His father had seldom expressed emotions this way.

Jim followed Dr. Rama into the ICU area. He was given a facemask, as the doctor also put one on with a brief explanation.

They walked a few more feet, and into a room with one bed in it and cart loads of electronic and mechanical medical equipment blinking away at a frantic pace.

Dr. Rama said, “Go ahead. She can hear you.”

“Hi Baby. It’s Jim. I love you. Mom and Dad are here too, along with Matt and Sheila. We all love you. Everyone at home is so worried.”

Tracy’s eyes opened and he could tell she was trying to focus on him. She even looked groggy as she turned her bandaged head.

Jim went on, “You hurry and heal. We’re just a few steps down the hall in the waiting area. One of us will always be here; heck, all of us will probably be here. We had to stop all the others from coming too, otherwise we’d fill the hospital.”

Around the tubes going into her nose and mouth, Jim heard an aspirated ‘K.’ One finger nearest him moved in a small wave.

Tracy’s eyes closed, and Dr. Rama nudged Jim towards the door. He said, “Let’s give her about four hours to sleep a little, and then we’ll come back. I’ll come look for you around five o’clock. Again, it’ll be a short visit.”

Jim reported back to the others, and then called home with his report, talking to Alice, who put him on speakerphone. He could hear the hubbub of other voices in the background asking for details he didn’t have. He promised to report back around the dinner hour.

At five-fifteen, an ICU nurse appeared in the waiting room. She escorted Jim, Gary, and Denise the short distance into Tracy’s room, doling out facemasks along the way. She admonished the three to not touch the patient just yet, except to hold one of her hands. Matt and Sheila were allowed to come just to the doorway to watch.

Tracy lay in her bed with her head slightly elevated.

Jim said, “Hi, Baby. You awake.” He took her right hand in his.

Tracy opened her eyes and tried to focus. “Yeah. I hurt all over – especially my gut.”

“Apparently, you wanted to bring part of an airplane home with you.”

“Am I OK?”

“Yeah. They said you’ll recover with some bruises here and there.”

Tracy asked, “Did Doug make it? He was sitting next to me.” Doug Mayes was Tracy’s boss and mentor at Visionix. “How bad was the crash? It all happened so fast. One second we were climbing out after takeoff, and the next we were falling. After that I only woke up briefly when I was in the ambulance. I hurt so much.”

“I don’t know. I’ll try to find out about Doug. The crash was bad. So far they report on television that forty-five have died. About a hundred survived, and thank God, you’re one of them.”

“Hazards of being a road warrior,” Tracy squeaked out. She had been traveling a lot since starting her new job. It was a rare week when she wasn’t flying somewhere in the country.

Denise talked to Tracy for a couple of moments, pledging her parents’ love and attention in her healing process.

Tracy eventually said, “I need to talk to Jim alone, please.”

Gary and Denise looked surprised, but bid her goodbye until later, and left the room.

Tracy got tears in her eyes. “I lost the baby, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, sorry. There wasn’t much they could do. You were pretty torn up in your midsection according to what they told me. They had to take the uterus and … well, do a hysterectomy. Other parts were damaged too: your kidney and part of your colon are gone.”

“I’d cry except to move is to hurt. That’s a big blow – losing the baby … and losing the ability to have another.”

“Anything any of us can get you?”

“Out of here as fast as possible. I want to go home. I’m so groggy.”

“That’s the painkillers. I suspect you’ll be taking them for a long time.”

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