Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A preview of Epitaph 2

Working on edits to Epitaph 2: The Twins. Thought I'd share a piece of it for you.

     Siobhan set the new charts on her desk and checked on her virtual patients, reviewing incision photos, making sure their word clouds were within appropriate positive/negative parameters, checking for patient-added notes or other triggers that required attention. Most patients didn’t bother sending anything more than the app requested. Answer the questions and be done with it. One patient left daily notes, thinking she had to chart the way doctors did. She detailed her food and water intake every day and the amount of time she spent doing her physical therapy. Siobhan sent push notifications acknowledging “nice job.”
     And then there was this new guy. Released from rehab this morning. He’d been keeping up with his progress, but Siobhan hadn’t done much with his file while he was in-patient. He’d added words to his “how are you feeling?” cloud like “aggravated by maternal attention” and “planning a jailbreak.” He was good for a laugh, but she pictured a grown man-child who spent his days playing computer games. From the way he used his app, Siobhan judged Jared Pierce to be a grumpy patient. Some people didn’t do well with slowing the pace of their lives while they recovered. While she checked his progress, she found he’d written a note.

     “Who the hell cares if I have an erection when I wake up? Isn’t that kind of personal? You going to send a nurse over to jump into bed with me?”
Siobhan laughed out loud and checked his word cloud. He’d highlighted that yes, he indeed had an early morning erection. She sent a push notification through the app. “An erection indicates good circulation and is normal and healthy. If you didn’t have one, that would be an indication of a problem.”
     She continued through her charts and checked off three more of her patients when another note appeared from Jared Pierce.
     “You mean there’s a real person on the other end of this godforsaken app?”
     She laughed again. Definitely a grumpy patient. Behind the technology, her job was to monitor and report. Despite years of coddling patients face to face, in her present position, Siobhan was instructed to point them to their primary physicians with any questions. Personal involvement with the PHM users would diminish her ability to do the rest of her job, and yet she couldn’t ignore his question.
     “I will be monitoring your recovery and coordinating with your primary physician.” As soon as she sent the message, the cell phone dedicated to PHM [Patient Health Monitoring] rang.
     The number was the one associated with Jared Pierce. “And who, exactly, are you?” His voice was deep, with a hint of New Orleans.
     Credit him for reading through the app screens and finding the number. “My name is Siobhan. I’ll be checking your progress a couple of times each day,” she told him in her most officious voice.
     “So I can call you anytime I start feeling lonesome?” His voice reverberated like a cat’s purr.
     “I’m a transition care nurse. If you have any critical health issues, you should call 911,” she said.   “Do you have family helping you during your recovery?”
     “Well, now, they’ve just left me on my own for the remainder of my recuperation period. I feel at a disadvantage, Miss Siobhan. You sound like a pretty girl, and you already know more about me than I know about you. That hardly seems fair.”
     She’d dealt with flirty patients before, but it concerned her that he had no help for the next couple of weeks. “Are you in contact with your primary physician? Do you need help coordinating home health care?”
     “It’s all good. I’m fine by myself. I’ve got a visiting nurse coming tomorrow, and at-home physical therapy, but I am a long way from home and they tell me I can’t travel until I’m healed. Sure would be nice to have a friendly voice say hello every now and then.”
This was new territory for her. Was it unprofessional to call the app patients? Her contact was supposed to be minimal. “But you do have family?”
     “Well, sure…”
     “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” she asked.
     He chuckled softly, a sound that woke up long dormant nerve endings. “I do apologize for my crass note, Miss Siobhan. Knee jerk reaction. Not too many people ask me if I wake up with morning wood, and I guess I responded poorly.”
     “It’s a standard question,” she said, growing uncomfortably warm. She was a nurse, used to clinical discussions about bodily functions. So why was she flustered talking to Mr. Pierce? She cleared her throat. “The words in the cloud are typical symptoms that accompany both your condition and your medications and are designed to ferret out any potential issues that might hamper your recovery.”
     “Understood. But I do like the sound of your voice, ma’am. I believe it might go a long way toward speeding my recovery.”
     “This is a business phone, Mr. Pierce, and you may not always get an answer.”
     “Fair enough. I thank you for your time, ma’am, and I do believe my meds are kicking in so I’ll say goodbye and close my eyes now. It’s been a pleasure.”
     “Have a good day.” Siobhan disconnected the call with a cheek splitting grin. Pain meds did funny things to patients. Jared Pierce would likely wake from his nap and forget all about their phone call, but she wouldn’t. The timbre in his voice was well suited to a phone sex operator, although the way he drawled his folksy Southern “ma’ams” was a bit much. Still, it was good of him to apologize for requesting a nurse in his bed.

When two trees grow together...