Home > Small Great Things (Ruth Jefferson #1)(4)

Small Great Things (Ruth Jefferson #1)(4)
Author: Jodi Picoult


“Still,” Marie says. “For a boy like Edison to be so successful…well. You should be proud, is all. I can only hope Ella turns out to be that good a student.”

A boy like Edison. I know what she is saying, even if she’s careful not to spell it out. There are not many Black kids in the high school, and as far as I know, Edison is the only one on the Highest Honors list. Comments like this feel like paper cuts, but I’ve worked with Marie for over ten years now, so I try to ignore the sting. I know she doesn’t really mean anything by it. She’s a friend, after all—she came to my house with her family for Easter supper last year, along with some of the other nurses, and we’ve gone out for cocktails or movie nights and once a girls’ weekend at a spa. Still, Marie has no idea how often I have to just take a deep breath, and move on. White people don’t mean half the offensive things that come out of their mouths, and so I try not to let myself get rubbed the wrong way.

“Maybe you should hope that Ella makes it through the school day without going to the nurse’s office again,” I reply, and Marie laughs.

“You’re right. First things first.”

Corinne explodes into the room. “Sorry I’m late,” she says, and Marie and I exchange a look. Corinne’s fifteen years younger than I am, and there’s always some emergency—a carburetor that’s dead, a fight with her boyfriend, a crash on 95N. Corinne is one of those people for whom life is just the space between crises. She takes off her coat and manages to knock over a potted plant that died months ago, which no one has bothered to replace. “Dammit,” she mutters, righting the pot and sweeping the soil back inside. She dusts off her palms on her scrubs, and then sits down with her hands folded. “I’m really sorry, Marie. The stupid tire I replaced last week has a leak or something; I had to drive here the whole way going thirty.”

Marie reaches into her pocket and pulls out a dollar, which she flicks across the table at me. I laugh.

“All right,” Marie says. “Floor report. Room two is a couplet. Jessica Myers, G one P one at forty weeks and two days. She had a vaginal delivery this morning at three A.M., uncomplicated, without pain meds. Baby girl is breast-feeding well; she’s peed but hasn’t pooped yet.”

“I’ll take her,” Corinne and I say in unison.

Everyone wants the patient who’s already delivered; it’s the easier job. “I had her during active labor,” I point out.

“Right,” Marie says. “Ruth, she’s yours.” She pushes her reading glasses up on her nose. “Room three is Thea McVaughn, G one P zero at forty-one weeks and three days, she’s in active labor at four centimeters dilated, membranes intact. Fetal heart rate tracing looks good on the monitor, the baby’s active. She’s requested an epidural and her IV fluid bolus is infusing.”

“Has Anesthesia been paged?” Corinne asks.

“Yes.”

“I’ve got her.”

We only take one active labor patient at a time, if we can help it, which means that the third patient—the last one this morning—will be mine. “Room five is a recovery. Brittany Bauer is a G one P one at thirty-nine weeks and one day; had an epidural and a vaginal delivery at five-thirty A.M. Baby’s a boy; they want a circ. Mom was a GDM A one; the baby is on Q three hour blood sugars for twenty-four hours. The mom really wants to breast-feed. They’re still skin to skin.”

A recovery is still a lot of work—a one-to-one nurse-patient relationship. True, the labor’s finished, but there is still tidying up to be done, a physical assessment of the newborn, and a stack of paperwork. “Got it,” I say, and I push away from the table to go find Lucille, the night nurse, who was with Brittany during the delivery.

She finds me first, in the staff restroom, washing my hands. “Tag, you’re it,” she says, handing me Brittany Bauer’s file. “Twenty-six-year-old G one, now P one, delivered vaginally this morning at five-thirty over an intact perineum. She’s O positive, rubella immune, Hep B and HIV negative, GBS negative. Gestational diabetic, diet controlled, otherwise uncomplicated. She still has an IV in her left forearm. I DC’d the epidural, but she hasn’t been out of bed yet, so ask her if she has to get up and pee. Her bleeding’s been good, her fundus is firm at U.”

I open the file and scan the notes, committing the details to memory. “Davis,” I read. “That’s the baby?”

“Yeah. His vital signs have been normal, but his one-hour blood sugar was forty, so we’ve got him trying to nurse. He’s done a little bit on each side, but he’s kind of spitty and sleepy and he hasn’t done a whole lot of eating.”

“Did he get his eyes and thighs?”

“Yeah, and he’s peed, but hasn’t pooped. I haven’t done the bath or the newborn assessment yet.”

“No problem,” I say. “Is that it?”

“The dad’s name is Turk,” Lucille replies, hesitating. “There’s something just a little…off about him.”

“Like Creeper Dad?” I ask. Last year, we had a father who was flirting with the nursing student in the room during his wife’s delivery. When she wound up having a C-section, instead of standing behind the drape near his wife’s head, he strolled across the OR and said to the nursing student, Is it hot in here, or is it just you?

“Not like that,” Lucille says. “He’s appropriate with the mom. He’s just…sketchy. I can’t put my finger on it.”

I’ve always thought that if I wasn’t an L & D nurse, I’d make a great fake psychic. We are skilled at reading our patients so that we know what they need moments before they realize it. And we are also gifted when it comes to sensing strange vibes. Just last month my radar went off when a mentally challenged patient came in with an older Ukrainian woman who had befriended her at the grocery store where she worked. There was something weird about the dynamic between them, and I followed my hunch and called the police. Turned out the Ukrainian woman had served time in Kentucky for stealing the baby of a woman with Down syndrome.

So as I walk into Brittany Bauer’s room for the first time, I am not worried. I’m thinking: I’ve got this.

I knock softly and push open the door. “I’m Ruth,” I say. “I’m going to be your nurse today.” I walk right up to Brittany, and smile down at the baby cradled in her arms. “Isn’t he a sweetie! What’s his name?” I ask, although I already know. It’s a means to start a conversation, to connect with the patient.

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