From the personal journal of Jamie McCraren
As Doc Hansen likes to say, he’s not getting any younger. The other family practitioner in town was a first responder at the plane crash. Unfortunately, she didn’t make it. The community as a whole has been very aware that if we don’t have a doctor, our chance of survival decreases.
So, there was a collective sigh of relief when a young stranger showed up, and saved the day.
There were no epic New Year’s celebrations this year. If people partied, they did it quietly on bathtub hooch in their enclaves. There was talk in the community of having a big get together to celebrate that we’d survived this long, but two days before an incident nixed that.
Best we can figure, a small group of people associated with the criminal element in our County decided that they were going to celebrate a few days early. You could hear the firecrackers and gunshots all across the valley. Not long after the last burst of noise, a pickup truck was speeding hell for leather down Main Street toward the courthouse. Bunch of idiots. What did they think would happen, making all of that noise?
Knowing that Doc Hansen was checking on people a few miles outside Spencer’s Mill, I left Bob in charge of the library and headed over to the courthouse to see if there was anything I could do. I’ve read a hell of a lot of medical texts since this thing started. If nothing else, I could administer basic first aid until someone could track the Doc down. What I encountered wasn’t pretty. One of the four, Earl Hart, had an arm hanging on by a tendon. That wasn’t the worst of the wounds, though. I knew I wasn’t going to be much help when I nearly fainted at the sight of Johnny Hart’s intestines spooling out of his body in a writhing mass.
Lucky for those bastards I wasn’t the only medical help to be had. Serhat Richen, a young medical student, had been checking out medical residency programs in Danforth when all hell broke loose. Since then, he’d been trying to get back home, only making it as far as Marshall in the ensuing months.
Serhat may not have had Doc Hansen’s thirty years of experience , but that young man took charge almost immediately. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the residents of the courthouse move so fast outside of a zombie siege. Judge Lawton was fetching hot water and thread for stitching. I got roped into sterilizing surgical tools. He’d cobbled together a set of scalpels and forceps in his travels, but he told me later that the stethoscope had been a present from his grandmother for graduating medical school.
Ansel Williams, one of the last surviving deputies, tried pouring some whiskey into Johnny’s open wound in an attempt to sterilize, when the young man knocked the bottle out of his hand and bellowed. As it turns out, pouring booze into a wound is more likely to kill healthy tissue. Who knew? I certainly didn’t, but you can bet I made note of it for later use.
Serhat became deeply focused as he studied and then triaged each of the men. I could see his indecision when it came to choosing between Johnny and Earl. Like any young person, he probably still believed that he could save them all. I wouldn’t say it out loud, but I thought Johnny was already a lost cause. His skin had already turned a sickly grey. Once that color change happens, you know the patient isn’t going to make it – no matter what you try.
It wasn’t a surprise when the young doctor bent over Johnny’s body, and whispered something into his ear. He laid his hand on Johnny’s forehead, said a small prayer in a language I didn’t understand, and then went to work on Earl.
Earl fought us though. Remaining fist flying, he insisted that we fix Johnny first. But by then, he was too delirious, and didn’t understand that it was too late for his little brother. We’d had to forcibly hold him down while Doctor Richen sliced through the remaining tendon tethering the arm with his scalpel. His fingers flew with certainty as he debrided, stitched, cleansed, and prepped the wound for bandaging.
Andy asked if we were going to cauterize the wound, and Serhat looked at him aghast. “We’re not barbarians. Bandaging will do.”
“We’re not barbarians.” That line stuck with me. We weren’t, but we’d had to make do over the last several months. Without experienced trauma surgeons, we’d resorted to the kind of doctoring folks had to live with in the pre-industrial age. Medicine was used sparingly now. After-all, we had a limited supply. I felt sympathy for this young, idealistic man.
He finished bandaging Earl and then moved on to the other two patients who presented with minor injuries. While he did that, we dosed Earl with the last of the courthouse morphine stock and took Johnny’s body out for “burial.”
“Don’t burn him!” Earl had screamed.
His protests fell on deaf ears. We burned everyone these days. Didn’t want them coming back.
Once the trauma area was cleared, I brought the young doctor a drink of water and thanked him for his service. I had other questions, of course. I am the linchpin for county gossip and information, you know.
As it turns out, Serhat had been squatting in abandoned houses when he was unable to find an enclave to take him in for short periods. It turned out Serhat was making his way south like a traveling tinker, trading medical care for food and shelter and then moving on. He was sure his family was alive and anxious for his return, and in real need of the education they’d sacrificed so much to give him.
I tried to impress upon him that we could really use another doctor in the area. But, while he understood our need, he couldn’t commit. I can’t say I didn’t understand. I’ve thought too often of trying to get back to my own family. Unfortunately, I’ve seen enough to know that I likely wouldn’t survive the trip.
Thus far, he’d been unable to find reliable transportation. I gave him a short hug and told him to come with me. Then I introduced him to Ray Santos. If anyone could help him out or find him what he needed, Ray was the one to do it. They agreed that Serhat would stay for another week to “pay” for the car and the supplies. I imagine that the poor man is going to be busy dealing with piles, lacerations and whatnot. Hopefully not too many more trauma cases. It is my hope that Serhat Richen rejoins us after he’s finished his quest to find his family.
After all, Trumbull County is a nice place to live.