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The Ability To Need [AFWC]

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posted on Nov, 22 2009 @ 05:51 PM
How did I get here?
I could offer a few ideas, read: guesses, but none of them would be admissible in court.

How long had I been sitting?
The blood running down my arm was still fresh but the cobwebs holding me to the chair told another story. The situation was probably as reliable a report as any I could myself produce.

Really though, I had nowhere else I absolutely had to be. There was no little wife waiting at home to worry about where I was or why I hadn’t made it before the sun called it a day. She had already gone in search of greener pastures. Dollar greener, that is.

On the other hand, if I had just listened to that little voice that kept telling me to go straight home, that is where I would be and by now, having a cup of hot Chai tea while watching primetime television.

At the far end of the waiting room, a pair of swinging doors opened and closed with mechanical precision each time the nurse came to call someone back for treatment. I had seen her emerge… what? Eight, ten times now? And for each, the name called was not mine. There was also the vague knowing that the least sum of time between her visits had been in the range of 20 minutes. The clock on the wall became my keeper.

“Michael Hallister?”

The sound of her voice arrived mixed with that of bawling children, warbling mothers and other nondescript noises the ailing human body makes in places like this. The sick, the lame, and the otherwise ‘here as opposed to elsewhere’, all make a visit to the hospital as distinctly unforgettable as whatever pain you are yourself carrying in as baggage.

Standing again, finally, was a small chore. Those cobwebs weren’t going to let me get away easily but… the battle was won on second effort. Walking through those doors, I could feel the eyes of all those left behind following me in contempt.

The war of attrition was theirs now.

The examining room was actually a mostly bare cubical, surrounded by surgical-blue nylon curtains that pretended to be walls, but that didn’t have the decency to make a ceiling as well. The nurse removed the makeshift bandage to expose the wound… and the expression on her face told of someone who may have been better suited to another line of work. Any other line of work.

She hastily applied some clean gauze and… I was alone again.

Somewhere in the distance, I could hear a man shouting obscenities and then, the sound of people running passed my location. The shouting suddenly stopped. Then more footsteps as through the privacy blind emerged a young woman, dressed in a white jacket that was stereotypical of physician attire…

“Mr. Hallister? I am Paula Livingston, your doctor here today. Let’s have a look at that arm.”

Peeling back the gauze inspired bolts of pain and blood flow.

“Oh my, and how did you manage to do this?” she asked as she turned to retrieve a tyvek-sealed package from the roll-about supply cabinet.

“Stupidity” was the only thing I could muster up without telling a lie.

“It’s okay.” she responded with a smile. “That’s also the reason half the babies are born into this world.”

My doctor had a delicate wit and her undeniable good looks almost made the whole episode worthwhile. But that little misty side trip came to an abrupt halt as I felt a needle violating the same flesh that was already in so much distress.

“Sorry. I have to numb you before I can do anything else.” she consoled.

With that, she went on to stick the damned thing in about a half dozen other spots around the bloody gash. The local anesthetic worked quickly, though, and for the first time in what seemed like forever, there was no pain.

“Seriously, Mr. Hallister. Would you like to tell me just how you did this? I mean, this wound is all of four inches long and goes through several layers of skin. No minor achievement.”

Her words replaced the physical pain with a kind of hurt of their very own. The pretty doctor with the good bedside manner now stood as my inquisitor.

I went on to explain how after stopping to assist what appeared to be a stranded motorist along an rural stretch of road, a passing truck had whipped me with a loose, dangling tie-down strap. On top of that, what had looked like someone behind the wheel of the car turned out to actually be no more than a curiously shaped headrest.

The little voice had screamed that a 9-1-1 call would have been enough. I had a cell phone just for this kind of thing. But… I didn’t listen and for my obtuseness, my arm had been laid open like a baked potato. Everything after was mere conjecture based on fuzzy recollections that didn’t quite earn the right to be called memories.

“Good Samaritans always get it that way. Didn’t you know that?” she said without ever looking up.

The brief tribunal had produced a swift verdict. Guilty as charged.

Just then, another woman, dressed in business attire, entered the cramped confines…

“Michael Hallister?” she asked directly. I had already gotten tired of hearing my name.

“That’s me” I replied.

“Hi! My name is Suzy Baker and I am from the Patient Advocate office. I see that you list your employer as ‘Statewide Property Management’ and your occupation as ‘Property Analyst’. But it also says here that you don’t have any insurance coverage?”

Patient advocate? More like an in-house bean counter that specializes in squeezing water from a rock… or was it blood? I told her that my employer couldn’t afford to offer their employees health insurance and that my now ex-wife had taken most everything of any value. That much I was sure of.

“Don’t worry Mr. Hallister. The National Healthcare Reform Act of 2010 assures you proper care regardless of your ability to pay. ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his need’, is our motto here at County Regional Hospital.”

Where had I heard that before?

Ms. Suzy Baker, Patient Advocate, then had me sign a number of documents. One was that I understood my rights and responsibilities as a patient. It was one of those with so much really small print that most people just scribble their John Hancock to avoid the eyestrain. It was no different for me.

Finally, with that distraction out of the way, I noticed that my arm had been cleaned up and that a nurse had come in with a wheelchair.

“Mr. Hallister” my doctor spoke, “I am ordering an I.V. just to make sure you are properly hydrated. We’re also going to move you to a treatment room for your suturing.”

Before loading onto the wheelchair for the ride, I was given a bag in which to put my bloody shirt, and any other personal items that had come along for the ride. I was also given a hospital gown that was about three sizes too big in front and five too small in the back. More punishment.

We went down a number of hallways that were all identical. It was like a maze where everything is the same shade of sickening pastel pink, complete with the hand sanitizer stations spaced at regular intervals. We are a boring, filthy species.

Finally, I was steered into a room with no windows that was almost as small as the spot I had just come from. There was no proper bed, no gurney but rather, a cushioned platform that appeared to be made out of painted 2x4 lumber and plywood. After lying down, I was hooked up to the I.V. tubing and left to ponder the slow drip of the saline.

That would be the last entry in the day’s record. The fool who was blown up standing on the side of the road was now hovering at half-past nowhere.


posted on Nov, 22 2009 @ 05:56 PM
Like the tree that fell in the forest that no one was around to hear, if you have a dream that you can’t recall, did you dream it at all? It was a question I had often wondered about.

At first consciousness, my mouth was dry and my tongue swollen, feeling like the whole Chinese army had marched across it in their socks. Yech!

To one side, thin slabs of daylight streamed across the room… a room much different than the last one I made note of inhabiting. There was no sense of time elapsed, either, as I struggled to boot back to reality. It could have been hours, days, or even weeks. Here lies Rip Van Winkle, who fell asleep under a tree for twenty years!

Then, out of nowhere, there was someone at my side and speaking to me…

“Good morning Mr. Hallister. Breakfast is served!” came the deep male voice that was attached to the beefy guy in scrubs at my bedside.

The sound of electric motors and servos coincided with movement. My head and torso were rising and my knees were bending. Then suddenly, a stabbing pain in my back and the involuntary reflex of sound as I emitted a very loud and clear “OW!”

“Okay, that’s as high as we go.” The big guy was trying to show some concern in his voice but… it didn’t match the level of my discomfort.

Before me was one of those hospital tables that reach over your bed. On it were several plain, dark brown containers with matching lids. I began to reach to check the contents of the biggest and another shooting pain reported dutifully to my brain that the arm being used was out of order.

Wrong. I knew that.

Then using the redundant device, I finally exposed the contents as a gray gruel that smelled a little like oatmeal. There was also two slices of toast, no butter, and though there was a container of grape jelly, it would take both arms to operate both hands to get it open. In the cup, there was a steamy liquid that I assumed to be coffee… but could have just as easily been sewer sludge.

Whatever appetite I may have been harboring quickly fled the scene.

“I see you’re awake!” Came a familiar voice in the doorway.

“Dr. Livingston, I presume?” was my reply… though my demeanor was not nearly as lighthearted as the words may have suggested.

“And alert, too! That’s good!” she chirped.

Why couldn’t I just take her home with me? She could change the life of one human being; this one, in ways she probably could not imagine.

“I just wanted to let you know that everything came out just fine and that you’ll be able to go home in a few hours. I’ll have the nurse work up your discharge papers but I do need to ask, do you have someone who can take you home?”

Take me home? I hadn’t even begun to consider that. I had no idea how I got here, much less how I would get home. But rather than expose myself to any more embarrassment, I simply replied, “I have a car… somewhere.”

The thought of being trapped here any longer due to that minor technicality was worse than the pain in my back. I’d call a cab if I had to.

It was also now apparent to the touch that I had some substantial growth on my face so when the I.V. was removed, I hobbled to the small bathroom to clean myself up. Following a brief shower, I found a disposable razor and a small, travel-sized can of shaving cream in the hospital’s inmate package. But wiping the steam from the mirror, I was immediately taken by what I saw looking back at me.

Just how in the hell long had I been here? I almost needed a pair of hedge shears! No matter, it had to come off and after a prolonged mowing, it was ‘me’ again in the mirror. Returning to the bed, I reached for my property bag and… damn! What was wrong with my back?!

Reaching around, I felt something and headed back to the mirror. Standing on my toes and twisting around… which was also painful, I saw a large bandage across my lower back that was covered by an even larger piece of clear adhesive. It was then I started thinking about my doctor’s exact words, “I just wanted to let you know that everything came out just fine…”

Came out? CAME OUT??

With nothing but a towel around me, I all but ran out of the room and then, spying a nurse’s station a few doors down, marched right up and yelled, “What in the hell did you people do to me?!!”

Out of nowhere, I felt a hand on my shoulder and suddenly, I was back in my bed again with Dr. Livingston, bean counter Suzy Baker and a big ugly orderly I had never seen before standing at my side. It was like that scene in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy wakes to find her friends and family standing about her bedside.

Doctor and bean counter laughed.

“Did I thay thumething funny?” I was slobbering on myself every time I spoke now.

“Mr. Hallister,” the doctor said camly, “ I want you to know that through your generosity and caring, a life was saved.” The words hit me like a hammer. All I could do was to stare blankly in their general direction as the reality of it all finally set in.

Next, it was Suzy’s turn. “Your kidney was more than equal to the services rendered here on your behalf. From your ability to donate, a need was filled.”

“But… I didn’t thign any conthent form!” I sputtered.

“Of course you did, Mr. Hallister. In the ER three days ago when you agreed to treatment.”

The paperwork, the small print… my signatures. Oh my god.

“Guidelines set forth by The National Healthcare Reform Act of 2010 allowed us to assume that you also agreed to the ‘Ability to Need’ clause. In this instance, we had a patient who was in need of a kidney and yours was a good match. YOUR ability to meet THEIR need - it’s a very simple concept and it does work quite well.”

With that, my company exited the room and I was left to weigh it all… less one of my internal organs.

Later in the day, I was wheeled out to the far corner of the parking lot… where my car had been left by the wrecker. The passenger window was smashed and my CD player gone. The broken glass crunched under my feet as I sat gingerly behind the wheel. On the seat next to me was a towing invoice for $179.

It had been stamped ‘PAID courtesy of County Regional Hospital’. There was also a small drop of dried blood next to the validation.

Nothing is free.

Edit: Mispelling

[edit on 22-11-2009 by redoubt]

posted on Nov, 22 2009 @ 06:07 PM
A ripping good tale...

What's that old saying? Beware (enter suitable name) bearing gifts.

Marvellous. A commendable take on a contemporary ATS issue, redoubt.

posted on Nov, 22 2009 @ 06:09 PM
reply to post by masqua


posted on Nov, 24 2009 @ 02:13 PM
This is my new favorite forum. The writers on ATS are top notch!

Great story!

posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 09:48 AM
reply to post by Anjin

Thanks much

posted on Dec, 1 2009 @ 12:22 AM
reply to post by redoubt

What a great story redoubt !! I really was suprised by the ending. I hope to continue to read your work. Really great. Best Wishes, Magantice

posted on Dec, 19 2009 @ 10:17 AM
Your pacing is as smooth as can be, leading up to a thought-provoking twist. I can see this type of outcome in the near future.

It is a very professional and flawless story. I also really like your wit. It is very bitter and dark and humorous.

Thanks for putting this here instead of submitting it for publication in some magazine; which I think would have been a very reasonable alternative for you.

Please keep writing.

posted on Dec, 21 2009 @ 06:44 PM
Wow! You writers are all setting the bar for this latest competition very high

The tension in this story just kept increasing, and nicely augmented by the almost observational commentary by the antagonist. Wonderfully devious and dark with portents of some of today's most important issues gone awry.

Great story!

posted on Mar, 12 2010 @ 07:15 AM

The blood running down my arm was still fresh but the cobwebs holding me to the chair told another story.

That's my favourite line.

There was also two slices of toast, no butter

Hello, Captain Crunch palate!

I'll second every comment by the previous posters.
You are a wonderful writer.

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