Series: Sarah Stone Series, Book 2
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“Dr Krenshaw, are you busy? Mrs Drayton hasn’t been seen in almost two hours and she’s becoming difficult. Could you spare a minute to see her?”
Dr Alistair Krenshaw, an epidemiologist by specialisation, but willing to help out however he could, noticed the young brunette and smiled. Not even thirty-years-old, he suspected, and an attractive young thing for sure, yet he couldn’t, for the life of him, remember her name.
“Of course,” he said. “Would you like to fill me in on her condition, Nurse…? I’m sorry, you seem to have forgotten your name badge.”
The nurse looked down at the bare patch on her tunic and blushed. “Oh, no, I had it earlier, but one of the patients on the night shift got a little…grabby. I must have lost it then. My name is Suzanne.”
“My word, are you okay, Suzanne?”
“Nothing I’m not used to at 3AM on a Friday night, Doctor.”
Krenshaw patted Suzanne softly on the shoulder, admiring her ability to deflect an incident others might have made into an issue. “So,” he said, “what seems to be the problem with Mrs Drayton?”
“She’s been complaining of stomach cramps, can’t keep anything down. We have her on a drip, but she’s demanding that we give her something for the pain. It’s a simple case of gastroenteritis but she’s making a meal of it. We really need to free up her bed, though. We’re inundated with new admissions since they closed St Elizabeth. These spending cuts are going to put us all in early graves.”
Krenshaw knew patients like Mrs Drayton well. Most patients were subservient, looking upon doctors with complete reverence, while those like Mrs Drayton thought they knew exactly what was wrong with them and exactly how they should be treated. Gastric conditions made patients feel like their lives were hurtling to a painful end, but it would always pass within 24 hours or so; trying to make someone with stomach-flu understand that was always a challenge.
Doctor and nurse entered the A&E ward and visited Mrs Drayton in her cubicle. Lying on the bed, the old woman was a picture of misery, with grey hair matted against her sweating forehead and horn rimmed spectacles as crooked as her nose.
“Are you the doctor?” Mrs Drayton demanded, before clutching her stomach and moaning.
Krenshaw smiled without warmth of any kind. It was a skill he had learned, just as he had learned how to take blood and administer a suppository. “I am a consultant,” he explained, “but your nurse, Suzanne, summoned me to come speak with you. I understand you are in some discomfort.”
“I’m on death’s door,” the woman said, clutching her stomach again. “I need summin’ for the pain.”
“I suspect you have a virus, Mrs Drayton. Uncomfortable and painful it may be, but very little that can be done about it unfortunately, other than allowing it to run its course.”
The old woman’s face puckered, not from pain but anger. “Bleedin’ NHS. Useless. You don’t wanna help nobody. I had to wait twenny-minutes for an ambulance because you lot closed the St Elizabeth. It’s all about saving money for your fat bonuses, ain’t it?”
Krenshaw glanced at the comely Nurse Suzanne, who was rolling her eyes and huffing. He gave the girl a subtle grin before turning back to the disgruntled patient. “Okay, Mrs Drayton. If you insist you cannot cope with the pain, we will do what we can.” He plucked out his prescription pad, scribbled something on it, and handed it to Suzanne. “Nurse, could you fill this for Mrs Drayton and get her some pain relief, please? I will take a brief look at her charts while you’re gone. Anything I can do to earn that fat bonus, no?”
“Of course, Doctor.” Suzanne left the cubicle.
“Thank you, Doctor,” said Mrs Drayton, sounding like a completely different person now she’d got her way. “I hate to be a bother, but I’m in absolute agony. I feel like I’m dyin’.”
Krenshaw smiled at the patient, showing his teeth in something not far removed from a snarl. “Mrs Drayton, I have worked in places as far flung as the Congo, Sudan, and even Malaysia. I have seen men and women bleed from their eyeballs and cough up tissue from their lungs. I have seen the destruction wrought by evils such as Ebola, HIV, and Dengue Fever. What you have, Mrs Drayton, is a tummy bug. Now, I have sworn an oath to help you and help you I will, but please refrain from the hyperbole because it hurts my ears.”
Mrs Drayton looked at him like he’d just broken wind, so revolted was the expression on her face. For a moment she merely trembled, but then finally exploded. “How dare you speak to me that way. I pay your wages. Bleedin’ NHS. Where do they get you people from? I remember when doctors used to have manners. The way you just spoke to me is disgusting.”
Krenshaw ceased paying attention to the vitriolic harridan and instead checked upon her readings. All of Mrs Drayton’s vitals were fine, as expected. Her salt levels had come back low, but the saline drip would remedy that. He went over to the drip stand and examined the contents. The saline bag was full, recently changed by the lovely Nurse Suzanne.
With his back still to the ranting Mrs Drayton, Krenshaw reached in and removed something from the breast pocket of his doctor’s coat. The ampule was attached to a syringe he had fashioned himself and filled with a liquid he had brought all the way from Liberia several years before. He had been keeping it for just such an occasion. Removing the barrier from the needle’s tip, Krenshaw pierced the top of the saline bag just above the fill-line, then pressed down gently on the syringe, not needing to use much of the contents to get the desired result. Mrs Drayton continued howling indignities at his back, oblivious to the fact he was killing her.
Suzanne returned just as he was recapping the syringe and plopping it back inside his breast pocket. He gave her a quizzical look. “That was quick.”
She smiled, but it became more of a smirk. “I didn’t want Mrs Drayton to be in pain any longer.”
Mrs Drayton noticed Suzanne had returned and so changed the focus of her tirade. “Give me them blasted pills and lemme out of ‘ere, right now. I can’t believe the way your colleague just spoke to me. I’m gunna lodge a serious complaint, you just see if I don’t. Disgusting. You should both be sacked. Bleedin’ NHS.”
Krenshaw stepped out of the cubicle and waited for the nurse to finish her duties and follow him. When Suzanne eventually stepped out to join him, he raised a dark eyebrow and chuckled. “I believe I’ve freed up that bed for you, Nurse. That is, unless you’ve persuaded Mrs Drayton to prolong her stay.”
Suzanne tilted her head as she looked at him strangely. “Whatever did you say to her?”
“Nothing that was not true.” Krenshaw told her. “When does your shift end, Nurse?”
“In an hour. Do you need me to do something?”
“Only come have breakfast with me. It’s been a wretched night shift, wouldn’t you agree?”
Suzanne blushed. Ten years younger than Krenshaw, at least, but he had seen the attraction every time she looked at him. Eventually she managed to answer. “I would love to, Doctor.”
“Excellent. And, please, call me Alistair.”
“Okay… Alistair. I will meet you out front in an hour.”
“I look forward to it. I will carry on with my rounds until then. You know how it is: always more people to treat.” He patted the ampule of liquid in his breast pocket and began to laugh.
Nurse Suzanne did not understand the joke. She would soon.