More compressions, drugs, shocks—the back arching, the arms flailing, the skin burning. The body grew pale. The lips violet. The heart was dying.
The sour smell of burnt skin drew waves of nausea up from Higgins’ empty stomach. Saliva filled his mouth. He suppressed the urge to vomit. Wiped the sweat off his forehead with his coat sleeve. Leaned on the narrow, roll-away patient table the code team had pushed aside.
“Student Doctor Higgins, are you okay?”
Higgins turned to find the Leadership hag standing next to him.
“You have that glassy-eyed look students get right before they hit the floor.”
“Uh, yeah, I’m okay,” Higgins replied, “but thanks for your concern.”
“You were the only one here when this man coded?”
“Yes. I was inserting the NG tube you and I discussed.”
“You seem to have more than a passing interest in this patient. I’ve been watching you for the past month, and you’ve spent a lot of time at his bedside, even when you were not on call. Maybe that’s why you’re upset?”
“Yes,” said Higgins, “I worked him up when he came into the ER. I scrubbed on all of his surgeries. He’s been a complex and interesting case, and I’ve learned a lot from him.”
“Then you’ll want to attend his postmortem exam, should our resuscitative efforts fail.”
“What?” Higgins said. Another loud snap, another broken rib. “I didn’t think patients like this were coroner’s cases. I’ve heard Dr. Porter tell the junior residents many times not to call the coroner if he died.”
“Patients like this?”
“You know, he’s had multiple operations. All his internal injuries have been well documented.”
“Ah yes, the ‘living autopsy,’ as your surgical brethren are fond of saying. It is true that the coroner will most likely decline this case, but that doesn’t mean the pathology department isn’t interested.
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