Chapter 5 - Ups and Downs

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"Carolyn, what happened? Talk to me. Carolyn!"

She mumbled something again, but he couldn't make it out over the screams from the infant.

"What are you saying baby? What happened?" He positioned his ear close to her mouth.

"I'm sorry Mom, I just wanted to go to the playground."

The room door burst open and medical personnel began pouring in. "What happened?" the first nurse asked. She knelt by Carolyn's head and placed her hands on the sides of her face.

Before Charles could answer, the second person zipped over to the baby and snatched her up. "I'll take her to the nursery," she said as if she had done it a million times.

Dr. Kaufman entered next. "I need you to back up so I can assess her," she said. Charles rose and stumbled backwards as the doctor occupied the position opposite the nurse.

"Did she hit her head." Dr. Kaufman asked. She pulled each of Carolyn's eyes open wide with her thumb and forefinger and flashed her penlight.

"I-I don't know," Charles said, his hand on top of his head. "I didn't see it, but she must have. She was just in bed. I left her for two sec-"

"She's burning up," the nurse said. She wrapped a cuff around Carolyn's arm and began pumping.

Dr. Kaufman unbuttoned Carolyn's gown and thrust it open. She rolled her slightly on her side and discovered several red spots clustered around her left flank. She shot an accusative glance at the nurse across from her. "Tell me you got a urine on her."

"The lab has been backed up since this morning," the nurse said.

A male nurse entered wheeling a crash cart. He stopped and looked down at the doctor. "Where do you need me?" he asked.

"Call MICU," Dr. Kaufman said. "Tell 'em I'm bringing a patient up, possible septicemia." She turned and yelled out the door. "Somebody get the elevator, now!" She turned to the nurses. "Help me get her up on the bed. We're gonna need a central line STAT."

The kneeling nurse removed the cuff. "BP is low," she said.

Charles now had both hands on his head, and an icy numbness began creeping down his spine. "What is it?" he asked. "What's wrong with her?"

"I think your wife has sepsis," Dr. Kaufman said, "She needs fluids and broad spectrum antibiotics immediately." The nurses lifted her onto the bed then released the brake. Twenty seconds later, the team was out the door and boarding the elevator.

Charles stood motionless in the center of the room, his hands still on his head. He stared at the plain tile floor where his daughter lay limp seconds ago while his brain played catchup.

"She's my daughter," he whispered to no one in particular, then turned and stared at the room phone lying on its side on the floor.

Where are you Derick?

***

Agent Barrows strolled through the ground floor lobby of Lancaster Memorial Hospital deep in conversation with an attractive redhead wearing a gray skirt and low-cut blouse. The afternoon sun blasted through the atrium creating a tinted haze over the entire area. Two young male volunteers seated at a triangular information desk snapped to attention as they approached. The woman removed her sunglasses revealing a pair of intense green eyes that did not take no for an answer. She smiled and leaned forward on the desk, and for a brief moment, both of the volunteers forgot their names.

Hello there!" she said. "We were hoping you might be able to point us toward the Maternity Ward."

"The wha?" This emerged from the one with the buzz cut. He looked as if he was ready to join the Marine Corps any minute.

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