Hannah Alexander
Heart beat
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Urgent Care Excerpt Pg 1


The ice wasn’t working. Norville’s high-pitched stridor filled the basement with its sound of desperation as his agitated movements—shoulders flexing, head jerking—resembled those of a drunk.

Lauren removed the pack from his neck. The swelling had increased, and now Norville’s Adam’s apple edged slightly left of center.

Tracheal deviation.

She looked around at John Netz, who stood watching helplessly a few feet away. “The ambulance?” she asked.

He shook his head.

“Can we get a car?”

“Trees are blocking everybody.”

“Okay.” She forced herself to breathe deeply. She must not panic. “Okay, have Helen find the sharpest paring knife in the kitchen.” And then pray I don’t have to use it! “Have her sterilize it the best she can. If anybody has a lighter, she can hold it over the flame. And have her bring me some of those disposable kitchen gloves from the cabinet below the kitchen sink. And some towels. Quickly, John, please!”

What am I doing? Even Grant wouldn’t try to decompress a neck hematoma. He would do an emergency intubation to protect the airway until a surgeon could get there.

But then, Grant didn’t make a habit of practicing medicine in a half-ruined church basement in the wake of a tornado. All Lauren knew was that if she didn’t alleviate the swelling soon, Norville would lose his airway. The carbon dioxide levels in his body would continue to rise until he went to sleep. Maybe forever.

Lauren had no intubation equipment.

She gently placed the fingers of her right hand against the Adam’s apple, then slid them to the right side of his neck, searching for the carotid artery. There. She felt it. Barely. She had to avoid that. And stay away from the external jugular. That would be the most superficial and the easiest to avoid since it was now so prominent with the swelling.

“Norville, you still with me?”

He moaned.

“Norville, please listen to me. We may not be able to wait for the ambulance, and I might have to do a procedure on you to ease the swelling.”

Even as she spoke, his agitation decreased slightly. His head lolled sideways. There wasn’t time to get him to the hospital even if the ambulance was on its way—which it wasn’t.

“Helen, where’s that knife?” Lauren called over her shoulder.

“Right here,” the older woman said. “Here you go. Be careful; it’s sharp.”

“Good, I need sharp.” Lauren pulled the gloves on, then took the knife from Helen. Once again, she surveyed her landmarks, then closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. Lord, I can’t do this!

She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up to see Archer hovering over her. “I’ll be right here to help; just let me know what you need.”

“Straddle his chest and hold his hands so he can’t fight me. John, I need you to hold his head perfectly still. And pray, Archer. We need lots of prayer.”

“You’ve already got that.”

She nodded. Norville’s movements had slowed considerably. She had to do this now.

She pressed the knife to Norville’s throat, rechecking her landmarks. She held her breath and made a short vertical incision.

A little blood dribbled down his neck, but nothing major. She would have to cut deeper.

“Jessica’s back with the car!” someone shouted from the doorway.


Urgent Care Excerpt Pg 1