Dr. Mark Steele was still examining a very pregnant and soon to be new mother when Daniel brought Jayme into the clinic’s outer office. The young girl seated at the reception desk smiled brightly at Daniel.
“Hi, Daniel. What’s the problem?” Naomi asked sweetly, eyeing Jayme.
“Hi, Naomi. Is Dr. Steele in, I hope? One of my diver’s got hooked by a fishing lure!” It was clear Daniel was angered by the situation. “When… I find out who was out there today, there will be hell to pay!”
“ Dr. Steele is with Lana right now, but he should be finished soon. Bring her back to, ah, room three,” the young girl glanced over her shoulder to check which rooms were occupied. “Yeah, room three is open.” The young woman eyed Jayme cautiously.
Daniel escorted a weak kneed Jayme to the examination table, and then was shooed out by Naomi. “I’m an assistant in training to Dr. Steele,” Naomi boasted, “I watch the desk and answer the phones when he doesn’t need my help,” she explained further, feeling the need to justify her presence in the exam room.
“That must keep you very busy,” Jayme answered in her throaty voice, deepened with exhaustion.
“Very,” the young girl was clearly startled by Jayme’s reply, as much by the voice as by being answered at all. “I’m going to put your arm in these restraints so the doctor can work more easily to remove that lure, okay?”
“And if it isn’t?” Jayme’s mild voice took on an unusual edge.
“If what isn’t what?”
“If it isn’t okay to restrain my arm, then what?” Jayme briefly closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry if I was harsh, but I lean toward being claustrophobic, so let’s just wait to strap me down until the doctor is ready, okay?”
“Sure, no problem,” Naomi smiled widely at Jayme, not use to being countermanded. “I’ll just get things ready and be out of your way.”
When Mark Steele came into room three, he saw a long legged female, clad in drying diving skins, a fabric that clung to every shapely curve of her body. She was facing the window, away from him, and he could see her water darkened hair was starting to dry in salt encrusted waves at the nape of her shapely neck. He thought he detected a faint hum coming from her direction.
As he scanned her chart for the complaint why she was there seeking medical attention, he thought ‘crazy tourist! Probably was standing too close to some fool who was trying to cast his deep sea line like a fly rod, and got hooked in the process.’
Mark picked up her chart, again. “Hello, Mrs. Haller, I’m Dr. Steele.” Why did that name sound familiar? Her head slowly turned, and he was startled by the intensity of her green eyes.
“Ms. Haller, Dr. Steele. I’ve been a widow for five years. I don’t feel much like a married woman anymore.” Her honesty and bluntness was refreshing if not startling. “But at the moment, what I do feel like is a pincushion.”
Her comment snapped him out of his day dreaming. I know I’ve seen her before! “Have we met before, Ms Haller?”
Jayme gazed into his smoky gray eyes long and hard, trying to steady her increasing heart rate as she took in his nearness. “Yes.”
I knew it! He thought triumphantly.
“At breakfast last week. I almost spilled my coffee on you.” Jayme was having difficulty breaking away from the look in his eyes.
“No, I mean before that.” Confound this woman, Mark seethed, she knows what I mean!
“Oh, I thought you were pulling a fast line on me that morning. I still don’t recollect meeting you before, Dr. Steele.” He seemed disappointed. “Now, could you do something about this thing sticking out of my arm? It really hurts.”
“Oh, of course. Let’s take a look.” He turned her arm over, and brought an intensity light closer. “It’s pretty deep. I’ll have to give you a local, then have it out in no time.” He reached for the restraint board and Velcro-ed her arm in position. Swabbing her arm down with a cleansing alcohol, Mark found all the Vaseline. “What in the hell is this?” he demanded.
“The Vaseline? It stopped the flow of blood….”
“That wasn’t very smart.”
Jayme suddenly got very defensive. She snapped back, “Well, it seemed like a good idea at fifty feet under water! I wasn’t too crazy about becoming shark bait!”
“You were diving when this happened? Don’t you know to stay out of a fishing area? You’re right about one thing, though, you could have become shark food! I’ve seen shark in this area…………..” he trailed off, leaving his thoughts unspoken.
“Look, just get the damn thing out of my arm and I’ll get out of your way!” There was something about this doctor that was indeed familiar. Maybe they had met before. If that was so, it couldn’t have been a very pleasant experience, for Jayme felt the familiarity came with a darkness, and she didn’t like that, not at all.
Mark shut his mouth. What was he doing? He normally didn’t talk that way to his patients. Her eyes. He lost all his senses, including his common sense when she turned those emeralds in his direction.
“I’m going to numb just your upper arm. Look at the wall, please. Good.” He moved the needle every few inches, numbing the five inch jagged tear. It was irregular, nasty and deep, and had to be causing her excruciating pain. He gentled his voice. “Can you feel this now?” He asked as he tapped her arm with the needle.
“No.” Jayme answered curtly. If he wanted to be a bully, she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of responding, which would also make it easier for her to ignore him. In spite of the dark shadow over her mind he seemed to bring, she was definitely attracted to him and she couldn’t let him know that!
Mark worked swiftly, cleaning the wound of all the jelly. At fifty feet down, he thought, it was probably the smartest thing she could have done, and lucky to have the jelly with her. He spread the wound wider to assess the damage. The grappling hook styled lure was very popular in the area, sure to sink into whatever it touched that was soft and fleshy. Right now, Mark could see that it had punctured deeply, only two of the three sharp tips could be seen. He picked up a pair of sterile wire cutters to free the main body of the lure from her tender flesh. Soon he dropped the offending object into a metal dish with a loud clatter. It was large, about six inches long, and bright yellow with deep blue stripes, made to look like a Blue-striped grunt, no doubt. Knowing the local would wear off too soon, he re-anesthetized the area.
“Done so soon?” Jayme queried.
“Not quite.” He kept his voice steady, keeping in check his rising anger at the fisherman who did this to her. “The hooks are imbedded pretty deep. I just cut the lure off to get a better grip on them. There are three tines on each post, like this,” he handed her the lure in the tray. As she examined it with interest, he went on, relieved to have something technical to talk about, though he was sure under different circumstances, they wouldn’t be at a loss for words. Mark went on, “Two of the hooks passed through the epidermis and dermas, their tips are exposed and should come out easily. The third, however, appears to be still in the superficial fascia layer. I’m going to force it the rest of the way.”
“Of course,” commented Jayme, “you can’t pull it back through the skin without causing additional injury. The only logical way to minimize the damage is to continue its path.”
Mark raised his eyebrow, impressed at her knowledge. “That’s right – to a point. No pun intended.” He smiled warmly at her, trying to lighten the tenseness in the room. Jayme could feel herself melt inside as his lips parted over even white teeth.
“Once the third tip is exposed, I’m going to cut the end off where the three tines join, and pull each one out along the path is has already created.” Soon four pieces of metal landed in the small metal bowl sitting on the instrument tray a Mark’s side.
Jayme let out a long sigh. Mark looked up as she asked. “Was there any damage below the fascia?”
“As in the muscle layer? No, it doesn’t appear so. You we’re lucky. The hooks must have caught on your dive skins, keeping it from getting too deep.”
“The Skins are quite thin. Must have been the neoprene wet suit that caught the hooks.”
“You were wearing a wet suit? I didn’t see…”he glanced around the room.
“I had a friend help me take it off. I was afraid you’d probably be… less gentle with it than we were, and I wanted to keep all the damage to a minimum.” Jayme gave him a dazzling smile then, and his heart skipped a beat and he momentarily forgot to breathe. He found her more and more amazing with each passing minute. The pain she must have endured to remove the wet suit! Very few people he knew would have been able to stand it. She must have a very high pain threshold.
“I’m almost done, You have choice, Ms. Haller. Would you like pink sutures or standard black?”
“Neon pink or regular pink?” she teased back, finding it easier to like him than stay angry at him.
“Only regular,” Mark replied. Were they really almost yelling at each other only a few minutes ago? He couldn’t even remember why.
“Ah, well, regular pink it is then,” Jayme answered, mock disappointment in her voice.
He quickly and expertly, but carefully, stitched up the gaping wound. Mark wiped his forehead with the back of his sleeve. When he finished, he selected another syringe, this one with a light painkiller. Toughing the still numb arm, he injected her with 10cc of Demerol.
“All done, Ms. Haller. You can take a look now if you want. You took forty stitches, some of them inside,” he informed her as he reached for yet another syringe, this one with penicillin.
Jayme turned her head in time to see the doctor dimple her arm with the needle. “Stop! What is that? I don’t handle sedatives very well.”
“It’s only penicillin.”
She tried to jerk her arm away, but it was held fast by the restraint board. “I’m allergic!”
Mark pulled the needle back before it punctured her delicate skin. “Why didn’t you tell someone?!”
“I did!” she retorted. Why didn’t you read my chart?” She was getting darned tired of his vacillating attitude.
Mark pushed away from her and reached for the clip board that held her stats. Naomi had written “penicillin” across the top of the page in neat block letters, but failed to highlight it in red which would bring to his attention there was an allergy. “Anything else I should know about?” His voice only slightly humbled.
“Only like I said, I don’t handle sedatives or painkillers very well,” she added.
The Demerol! “What do you mean by ‘don’t handle very well’, Ms Haller?” Had he screwed up royally in being distracted by their easy banter and those lovely green eyes of hers?
“It’s just that a little goes a long way with me. I take less than half of a normal dose. The last time I had a sedative, when my husband died, I was in la-la land for three days, thanks to some doctor in Marsh Harbor who acted first and asked questions later. Maybe I was better off there, though,” her voice drifted away. It was getting hard to concentrate. “Why am I so fuzzy all of a sudden, Dr. Steele?”
“I’m afraid, Ms. Haller, I already gave you a pain killer. I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware. It was a very light dose, though. But considering your apparent history, you’ll probably sleep for the next twelve to eighteen hours. I’ll arrange to have someone stay with you,” .. maybe even myself, he added silently, as he mulled over her comments about her experience in Marsh Harbor.