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Notes: I came across this plotline while watching a program called Trauma about a hospital over here in the UK. It's one of those day in the life of...type programs. Very informative though! Thanks to Jigs for beta reading this before I posted it.
Ezra rolled out of bed and put a hand to his left chest. He'd hoped to be in less pain by now, but it was not to be. He'd been out of hospital a week, after having had to visit the medical facility because of a skiing accident.
"Oh, Lord. Need to slow down." He snorted derisively and sighed as he reached round blindly on the floor with his feet in order to find his slippers. "How much slower can I get? I'd still come last in a race with a snail."
He'd just snagged one slipper with his toes when there was a knock at the bedroom door. Ezra looked up at the obstruction as if he'd be able to tell who was on the other side of it.
"Ez? Need a hand with anything?" a familiar voice called.
"I'm fine, Chris," Ezra replied as he hugged his chest a bit tighter. Liar he thought to himself with a sigh.
The blond pushed open the door and poked his head round. "You sure?"
"Yes, thank you. I'm just getting old," Ezra said as he struggled to his feet, now that he'd finally found both bits of footwear. The only problem was that he'd put them on the wrong feet. He felt the weird sensation created by his mistake and looked down in exasperation, but he really couldn't be bothered to change them over himself.
"Jesus, if you're old, I must be a fossil," the blond laughed as stepped into the room. He knelt in front of his friend after seeing the direction of the man's gaze. He noticed the problem and helped to alter the slippers so that they were now worn correctly. "Take things easy and give me a yell if you need anything."
The blond then left the room to allow Ezra some privacy to get ready. The injured man first stumbled along to the bathroom to wash, shave and see to nature's needs. Once he was finished, he returned to the bedroom and got dressed slowly. After half an hour's struggle, he finally made his way down to the kitchen feeling more tired than when he'd woken up.
"What are you gonna do today?" Chris asked from where he was washing up. "Feel up to some light work?"
Ezra wandered toward the kettle and plugged it in. He pursed his lips and said, "I'll be alright to handle the reception desk, I expect."
"Okay, just don't overdo it or lift anything, will you? Call me to help you, 'cause I'm gonna be around the yard today with the horses. I'll leave you with a radio so that you can contact me."
Ezra brewed himself a drink, now that the kettle had boiled. He then made some toast and took his sparse meal to the nearby table where he sat down. He ate breakfast in silence and when he'd finished, Chris took the crockery to wash up. The two men then ambled along to the guest accommodation where Ezra took up position behind the desk. Chris hovered around anxiously to make sure that his friend really could handle the job.
"Can you deal with the bookings and invoicing?" the blond asked as he looked at the pile of papers on the desk.
Ezra looked at what was required and nodded as he turned on the computer. "I surely can. Paperwork seems rather appealing today. I still don't have much energy."
"Yeah, well, if you will go round spearing your lungs with ski poles what do you expect? See you later, bud, but remember to call me to help at any time." The blond smiled and went out to help get the horses ready for the first clients of the day.
Ezra sat down on the chair, shifting every so often to try and ease the ache in his chest. The phone rang and he answered it and dealt with the query efficiently. The secretarial work carried on apace and he found time passed quickly.
The blond came back to check on him a couple of hours later and Chris waved in greeting when Ezra looked up. "Hey, Ez. How's it going?"
"Oh, so-so. The phone has rung incessantly but I've booked three groups in for next month. I hope that meets with your approval," Ezra said as he handed over the book and pointed out the relevant entries.
"That's great," Chris said as he studied the booking details. "Have you added it to the computer?"
"Yes, and I've done all the invoices up to date too."
Chris looked up in surprise. He hadn't expected Ezra to do much at all. "Gee, you have been working hard, haven't you?"
"Yes, well, it keeps my mind occupied and it's nice to have something purposeful to do," Ezra admitted as he rubbed his optics. It had been a while since he'd used a computer and his eyes were already feeling the effects.
The blond looked at his watch and decided that his friend needed a break. "You coming for a drink and something to eat?"
"Yes, I've worked up quite an appetite. Paperwork seems to be more exhausting than physical exercise."
"Nah, I think you feel tired 'cause you're bored," Chris said as he smiled and herded his friend out of the building. "Invoicing always has that effect on *me* anyway."
Ezra started increasing his workload over the following week, but he had to admit that he really didn't feel as though he was improving much. He was continually tired, unsettled and in pain. He tried to hide his worries and health concerns from his friends, but he didn't hide them nearly well enough. Josiah had picked up on the fact that all was not well with his friend.
Two days later, the big man began to voice his concerns.
"Ezra? Is something wrong?" Josiah asked quietly as he took a quick step forward.
He had been watching the smaller man closely that morning and could see that he was terribly pale. Ezra had just walked across the yard and appeared to be rather out of breath.
"I'm fine, thank you. Just seem to be out of condition after my recent accident."
"Take a seat and I'll get you a drink," the tall man said as he put a concerned hand on Ezra's elbow.
He helped his friend sink slowly onto the porch and then disappeared into the kitchen on his errand. He returned a short time later with a glass of water clutched in his hand and he looked in concern at the ex-attorney. Ezra was leaning forward awkwardly and seemed to be muttering under his breath.
"There ya go, son," Josiah said as he passed the water over.
Ezra jumped, startled after not hearing the big man's approach. "Thank you, Mr. Sanchez," he said as he took possession of the clear liquid and drank a small sip.
"You look like yer kinda in pain," Josiah observed as he squatted down in front of the pale man.
"Just a bit uncomfortable," Ezra admitted as he tried to take a deep breath. He lifted his free hand to the left side of his chest while groaning and sighing.
"Is that where the pain is, Ez?" Josiah asked with a frown, when he saw the man turn almost transparent. He'd never seen anyone who was so white yet still conscious.
Ezra nodded and winced. "Yes, just my lung continuing to act up, I assume."
Josiah moved to sit beside his friend and reached out a hand to rub Ezra's back gently. "Well, take it easy. You've only been outta the hospital a short while. Maybe take a break until yer feeling a mite better."
"Yes, I think I will heed your advice." Ezra turned to face his companion with a look of concern on his face. "Please don't say anything to the others. I don't want to make a fuss."
Josiah nodded to put his friend's mind at rest, but he vowed to keep a close eye on the ex-attorney. He had the feeling that all was not well, and he was going to be proved right.
The next day, Ezra was in the barn when Josiah came in to get one of the quad bikes for Chris.
"Ez? You still hurting'?" the big man asked when he saw Ezra sitting silently on a bale of hay.
The younger man had a hand clamped to his ribs and appeared breathless again. Ezra seemed slightly panicked and that un-nerved Josiah considerably. All the men were always concerned when Ezra was sick, given his previous health problems. However, Ezra usually tried not to worry them unnecessarily by complaining about minor ailments. He knew that they were liable to act excessively, out of fear, even if he just commented on the fact that he had a headache. Today, though, it looked like he really had something to complain about.
The ex-attorney looked at Josiah and grimaced in pain. "Yes, I am continuing to suffer my previous symptoms but the pain appears to be increasing somewhat."
Josiah made a snap decision, knowing that he couldn't leave things as they were. There was no way he was going to keep things quiet now. "Alright, son. I think we need to get you checked out properly. I'll bring the truck round and I'll take ya into town. Nate's already left with his skiing group so I can't call him back to look at you."
The tall man ran back across the yard to his truck, his errand for the quad bike forgotten. He was totally unaware of what was going on around him, his mind firmly fixed on discovering what was wrong with Ezra.
"Josiah? Where are you goin'?" Chris called from the porch when he saw his associate hadn't done his bidding.
The big man came to a sliding, startled halt and looked around in confusion. His gaze settled on Chris distractedly and he turned toward the blond. "Ez don't seem too well. I was just gonna get him checked out at the hospital seeing as he was only released a while ago. I don't think we should take any chances. He's in real pain and is having trouble breathing." Josiah winced and admitted with a shrug, "He wasn't too well yesterday either."
Chris frowned in concern, not having noticed Ezra's obvious ailment. "Do you want me to come?"
"No, I'll be okay but I'll call you if there's a problem. Hopefully it's nothing to worry about."
Josiah carried on to his truck and drove it over to the barn where he helped Ezra to climb in. He took his friend toward town but watched him closely out of the corner of his eye in case he got any worse. They reached the hospital in double-quick time and Ezra actually seemed to have improved marginally. The two men were told to take seats in the waiting area and it seemed that they had chosen a bad time to arrive. The injured from a multiple MVA had been shipped in recently and the medical staff had their hands full dealing with them.
Josiah looked across at his companion after quarter of an hour. "Feel okay, Ez?"
"Bit better, but the slight breathlessness remains. I can wait though," Ezra replied, hoping to put off the inevitable examination for as long as possible.
"Well, sit back and relax but tell me if it gets worse again. I'll make sure someone sees ya if that happens," the man reassured gently.
The two men sat quietly, and after an hour's anxious waiting, Ezra was finally called to see a doctor.
"Can I come too?" Josiah asked the nurse who'd called Ezra's name. The ex-Academy instructor knew how much Ezra had come to loathe hospitals after the discovery of his heart condition the previous year. Ever since that frightening day, one of his friends always accompanied him on hospital visits.
"Sure, just don't get in the way," the woman said tartly as she led the way.
Ezra was assigned a bed and he fidgeted on it continually until a doctor finally arrived a short time later.
"Hello, I'm Doctor Patterson. What seems to be the problem?" he asked with a kind smile playing on his lips. He could see how uptight both Ezra and Josiah were.
Josiah spoke on his friend's behalf. "Ezra was in here a few weeks ago with a punctured lung and broken ribs. He's started being kinda breathless and tired recently after first seeming to recover okay. He was real pale yesterday and he said he had pain in his lung."
The doctor reached out a finger and felt Ezra's pulse as he listened to Josiah's explanation. "His heart's beating quite rapidly. Does he still seem pale to you now?" the medic asked.
"Yeah, he does." Josiah exchanged glances with Ezra. "Look, doc, he's got a pacemaker. You probably oughta know that too."
"Okay, thanks for telling me but I'd probably have noticed on examination. Right, Ezra, can you put this gown on to start with and we'll see what's causing this?"
Josiah reached in and helped the man get changed. His friend seemed to have totally run out of energy and the big man did most of the work for him.
"Can you lean forward for me?" the doctor asked, once Ezra was settled.
Ezra did so, again with Josiah's help, and the doctor then began his examination. He placed two fingers flat against Ezra's back and tapped them with a couple of fingers on his other hand and listened to the sounds produced. Dr. Patterson stopped after a while and pursed his lips.
"Well, it sure sounds like you've got liquid of some sort in yer chest. I'll get an x-ray done and see what we're looking at."
Ezra was taken away but came back shortly afterwards to find Josiah still waiting for him. The doctor appeared a few seconds later with the all-important x-ray clutched in his hand. He held it up and pointed to a large white patch on the left side of the photo.
"See that? You've definitely got liquid in there. It's pushing against your heart, which is in turn pressing against your other lung. We're gonna have to drain it off and that should ease your symptoms."
"What kinda fluid?" Josiah asked.
"Well, he's either developed an infection, or it could be blood."
"What?" Josiah flicked a quick look at Ezra and saw that he looked terrified by the news too.
Dr. Patterson spoke in a calming tone, understanding how upsetting what he'd said sounded. "If you're saying he broke some ribs, it could also mean that the bone broke a blood vessel at the same time. It's a possibility anyway, but let's not jump to conclusions."
"But you're saying that he coulda been bleeding for weeks?" Josiah asked in horror, his mind still latched onto the explanation.
The doctor put an oxygen mask over Ezra's nose and mouth as he spoke. "Maybe, but we'll only know what's truly involved when I start to drain it. It may just be fluid from an infection."
"Can I stay while you treat him?"
"Sure you can."
Josiah saw Ezra raise a hand to his chest and guessed what the man was thinking. The big man asked the question himself, knowing that Ezra wouldn't utter his concerns. "Is his heart okay?"
"We'll be as quick as we can and we'll be monitoring him throughout. He'll be fine." Dr. Patterson turned to face his patient. "There's no need to panic, okay, Ezra?" the doctor said when he saw the unease on the man's face.
The ex-attorney didn't look particularly convinced by the assurances, but he nodded anyway.
Josiah smiled and patted Ezra's hand when the sick man looked at him nervously.
Dr Patterson said, "Alright, Ezra. I'm just gonna numb the area first, then I'll put a needle in your back and see what we're up against."
The doctor fussed around making preparations for a while and then picked up a large syringe. He stuck it in Ezra's left back and began to pull out the plunger. The syringe started to fill with pure blood and the doctor cursed softly. No matter how quiet the curse had been, Ezra still heard it, and it struck the fear of God into his soul.
Dr Patterson sighed when he felt Ezra tense. "Okay, we need to put a chest drain in, Ezra. It seems that you did break a blood vessel when you hurt yer ribs. You've got quite a lot of blood in yer chest," the medic said as he put the full syringe aside.
Josiah took the man to one side. "What does that mean? How much blood is there, do you think?"
Dr. Patterson knew that the whole truth would be the only thing to satisfy Josiah. He sighed. "Well, by the size of the patch on the x-ray, I'd say he's got at least a liter and a half of blood in his chest. When you consider the fact that the human body contains a total of five liters, he's lost a considerable amount. As I said before, it's putting pressure on his heart and other lung. If we don't relieve it he could be in serious trouble. I'm surprised that he's managed so well up to now and he's very lucky that you brought him in when you did."
"Shit." Josiah flicked a look back at his friend.
The doctor walked back to Ezra. "Okay, Ezra. I'm gonna give you something that'll make ya feel real woozy but it'll take the edge off things for you."
"Okay," Ezra mumbled.
Dr. Patterson injected a dose of drugs into Ezra's arm and the ex-attorney began to feel drunk and sleepy. He groaned as he slowly lost the ability to focus his eyes.
The medic waited until the drug was totally in effect before beginning to cut into Ezra's side, between his ribs, to allow the insertion of the chest drain.
"Ahhh," Ezra groaned as his eyes fluttered opened and closed. He couldn't feel any pain, but he could feel the faint sensation of the procedure being performed on him.
Josiah reached out and clutched Ezra's hand and rubbed it gently in comfort.
"Alright, I'll be as quick as I can," the doctor apologized as he continued cutting.
Blood suddenly started pouring out of the hole in Ezra's side before the doctor could put the tube in. The medic fiddled around with slippery, gloved fingers, but paused when he heard his name being called.
"His blood pressure's dropping, doctor," the nurse warned, who was monitoring Ezra.
"What?" Josiah said anxiously.
Dr. Patterson cursed and used his fingers to try and halt the flow. "Dan? Can I have some help in here?" he called, while looking over his shoulder.
Another doctor appeared to the summons and listened as his colleague told him what was wrong. Ezra groaned and shifted as the two doctors began to work on him again. They managed to get the tube inserted and the blood flowed through it freely into a receptacle, instead of all over the floor as before.
"He's stabilizing," the nurse informed them after a few nervous minutes.
"Great, yer doin' just great, Ezra," the doctor said as he adjusted the flow a bit more so that it slowed. He smiled and patted his patient's shoulder.
"Is he okay?" Josiah asked anxiously. His heart seemed to be beating twice as fast since the nurse had said about the state of Ezra's blood pressure.
"Yeah, he's more stable. It's just that the blood came out a bit fast when I cut through and it affected him badly. I've slowed the flow for now so he should improve. As I said before, he's lost an awful lot over the last few weeks. If he continues to bleed after we've drained what's already in there, he may need surgery. Hopefully it won't come to that though."
Josiah moved back to Ezra's side. "Hey, Ez. Feel okay?" he asked as he ran a gentle hand through his sleepy friend's hair.
"Dizzy," Ezra mumbled as he took a shaky breath and sighed.
"Yeah, that's the drugs, son. I'm just gonna call Chris and let him know what's going on. I won't be long, so will you be okay on your own?"
"Uhuh," Ezra moaned and nodded.
Josiah turned to Dr. Patterson. "I assume he's gonna have to stay in?"
"Yeah, we'd like to keep an eye on him for a while even if he does stop bleeding of his own accord."
The tall man nodded and headed outside. As soon as he reached fresh air he pulled out his phone and put in the call. "Chris?"
"Hey, Josiah. What's happening?" the blond asked anxiously. He'd wondered what had been going on when he realized just how long the two men had been gone for.
Josiah rubbed his face and imparted his bad news. "Ez has been bleeding into his chest since his accident."
"Shit, is he okay?"
"They had to put in a chest drain but he's lost a helluva lot of blood, Chris. His condition became a bit unstable at one point but he's better now. He's real drowsy and dizzy at the moment 'cause of the drugs he's been given," the big man said quietly.
The blond flicked a look at the rest of his friends who were all with him. "Do you want us to come?"
"No, it's okay. He's gonna stay in overnight anyway, but he may need surgery if he don't stop bleeding."
Chris nodded. "Okay, keep in touch."
"Sure, I will, and I'll stay with him until he's released," Josiah agreed as he disconnected the call.
The blond told the others what he'd learnt and they settled down for the next expected call.
Josiah, meanwhile, wandered back into the hospital to keep Ezra company. The injured man was finally moved to a room for monitoring and the doctor came back periodically to check his condition.
"I'm tired," Ezra mumbled an hour later.
"Well, get some sleep, son. I'm staying with ya 'til you're allowed out, okay?" Josiah watched his friend do his bidding. The big man then stood up and began wandering about, his gaze forever returning to the chest drain to see if blood was still flowing through it or not. It was.
Time passed and Josiah was getting more and more uptight. He rather wished he'd asked one of his friends to come after all. It was all very well him being there for Ezra, but he could do with someone else to talk things through with too.
Dr. Patterson returned once again and was also concerned that the blood flow was continuing. He studied the injured man's monitors and sighed. The ex-attorney inevitably woke during the examination and stared up at the doctor curiously.
"Ezra? We've drained off what was in your chest but it seems that you are still bleeding. We need to take you for surgery, I think."
Ezra nodded, resigned to the fact.
"I'll see if I can get you taken up now." The doctor disappeared for a few minutes and then came back to say that the O.R. was free and Ezra could be seen straightaway.
Josiah patted Ezra's arm and smiled down at him. "I'll be here when you get back. Don't fret, Ez."
Ezra was prepared for surgery and Josiah was asked to go along to the waiting room until he was out of Recovery. The big man sat down on the hard, uncomfortable chair and spent his time staring at a magazine. All he'd done was open the front cover, but he hadn't the concentration to read one word further.
"Mr. Sanchez? Ezra's out of surgery and in Recovery," the nurse said as she stepped into the room and smiled.
Josiah jumped to his feet, the magazine slipping off his knees to crumple to the floor. He bent down and picked it up while looking toward the nurse. "Is he okay?"
"We'll be watching him closely because he's still quite weak. We're replacing the blood he's lost but it's gonna take time 'til he's feeling up to much. We'd like to keep him in for another day at least anyway."
Josiah nodded and hurried out to update Chris. His finger trembled when he punched in the number and he wasn't quite sure whether it was because of stress or relief.
"Chris? Ez had to have surgery so he's gonna be stuck in here for a bit longer."
"How is he?" the blond asked, cursing Ezra's bad luck.
Josiah sighed and ran his fingers through his hair nervously. "The nurse said they'll be keeping an eye on him. As you know he lost a lot of blood."
"Okay, we'll come by tomorrow. Thanks for noticing that he wasn't well, Josiah. He's really gotta learn to confide in us when he don't feel well," the blond said quietly.
"He was just scared, Chris. You know he don't like to worry us 'cause we have been known to over-react in the past."
"Yeah, I know. We've just gotta find the right balance," Chris replied in understanding before hanging up.
Josiah wandered back to the waiting room from where he was eventually collected to see Ezra. He took a seat beside the sleeping man and dozed as well, the anxiety he'd been feeling making him exhausted. He woke a few hours later and yawned loudly, forgetting where he was.
"Hey, Ez," he greeted when he saw that his friend had been woken up by the noise.
"J'siah," Ezra replied drowsily.
"Feel any better?"
The injured man shifted slightly on the bed and groaned. "Hurts a bit."
"I know, son. Just try and relax and I'll call a nurse to give you something." Josiah smiled down at Ezra. "Chris and the boys will be in to see ya tomorrow. They were real worried about ya."
"So was I," Ezra replied weakly with a smile.
The nurse came after Josiah asked for her presence in the room and she gave Ezra some more medication. The ex-attorney closed his eyes after feeling the effects and the next time he woke, all his friends were there.
"Mr. Larabee?" he called as he squinted up at the black-clad man.
"Ez? Hey, good to see you."
"Sorry for managing to get out of returning to work in the near future."
The blond reached out a hand and took hold of Ezra's. "I'll let you off this time, but don't make a habit of it."
Ezra smiled and went back to sleep.