IN THE NAME OF LOVE
‘Stop antagonising Dr Alexandre,’
Student Nurse Anna Curtis is told. But is it Anna’s fault that her mere presence has such an adverse effect on the usually good-humoured senior surgical registrar? As for the effect that the attractive doctor has on Anna - surely that must remain a fantasy? Senior registrars don’t date first-year student nurses - or do they?
Nurse Anna Curtis paused uncertainly outside the ward office door. It was ajar and she heard the murmur of voices within. Trying to compose herself for the ordeal of a new ward, she heard a woman's laugh from the office, then one of the voices was raised sufficiently for her to hear.
She caught the name 'Ricky', then with a hand that trembled, knocked on the door and pushed it open. Probably it was Sister listening to the night nurse's gossip. Whoever it was they couldn't possibly eat her.
Two pairs of interested eyes were turned upon Anna and she wished, not for the first time, that she wasn't so tall and curvy with hair a riot of dark red curls, wide-spaced green eyes and the creamy, delicately lovely complexion that often went with red hair.
The emaciated-looking Staff Nurse waved Anna to a chair. 'Hello. You're the new first-year aren't you? I saw you last week.'
'Yes, Staff,' Anna said, quietly, sitting down in a corner, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. It was her sad experience that her looks and figure caused unwarranted envy at first, until people got to know her better and realised she was quiet and unassuming and couldn't care less
pretty she was. So she had learned to keep a low profile. As Park was only her second ward she would be expected to be unobtrusive anyway. First-year students were the lowest form of life at St Aidan's, a medium-sized, fairly new hospital in the south, within walking distance of Anna's home.
Staff Nurse Powell peered at Anna's name-badge. 'Student Nurse A. Curtis. I'll mark you as present, then. There will be two more of us very shortly—a third-year, Pauline Wilson, and a very experienced auxiliary, Mrs Barratt. You can tag along with Mrs Barratt just for a while,' she added, and Anna, after asking if she might look down the list of patients, sat back again, leaving the other two to finish their conversation. It wasn't yet 7.30 and the other night nurse would still be in the ward.
Anna tried to concentrate on the various ailments, knowing how impossible it would be for a day or two to match up names and faces with diseases. Park was men's medical and held twenty-eight beds in the main ward plus four beds in the side-ward. The main disorder, as she had suspected, was heart trouble, but there were two diabetic men and a jaundiced patient with inoperable carcinoma. The ward was full except for the side-room, and likely to remain so, she mused. Then she found herself inadvertently listening to the conversation instead of concentrating on the list.
'I thought at first his eyes were dark blue,' the night nurse was saying, 'but I think they're really grey-blue.'
'They are,' Staff Nurse affirmed. 'He has a devastatingly sad spaniel look,' she giggled. 'That direct blue-grey gaze is very fetching. Particularly when he's been told he can't have something he wants, like when Sister told him he couldn't borrow the auxiliary for something 'or other. He looked really hurt, and his eyes went all moist and soulful, like my dog when I've forgotten it's time for walkies!'
Anna's lips twitched. Presumably this soulful-eyed spaniel type was the house doctor. He sounded fascinating.
Voices and footsteps approached and the rest of the morning shift arrived. Anna knew Pauline Wilson by sight. She was a pleasant brunette of around Anna's own age, which was just twenty-one. The auxiliary, Mrs Barratt, was about forty-five, she judged. Thank goodness she was experienced. Sometimes first-years were left to follow other newcomers, picking up knowledge as best they could—and picking up bad habits at the same time.
The night nurse ran quickly through the list of patients, reading out the relevant information from the Kardex, and Anna listened intently, rapidly making notes of jobs to be carried out, just as the others were doing.
'There. That's it, Staff. The only real problem is Mr Graham. Dr Smith will be along to see him later. Or the Jerseyman, perhaps!' The night nurse had a pleasant, tinkling laugh, and Staff Nurse Powell giggled.
'Our Ricky Jerseyman might come, especially as Dr Tester is sick.' Turning to Anna, she explained: 'Ricky Jerseyman is Dr Alexandre, the senior medical registrar. Dr Tester, the consultant, is sick and old Dr Smith is standing in for him, but Dr Alexandre does most of the work.'
'Why Ricky Jerseyman?' Anna wanted to know. 'It makes him sound like a potato!'
Staff Nurse snorted, displeased at the laughter that greeted Anna's remark, and Anna mentally slapped herself. She hadn't been unobtrusive for long enough.
'He's from the Channel Islands. Jersey, I believe,' Staff Nurse said crisply, standing up and adjusting her belt so that the ornate silver buckle gleamed in the light.
They all trooped into the ward to begin the day's work. Being a medical ward it was heavy going but perhaps less so than women's medical, Coppice Ward. The men tended not to be so overweight as the women, according to Mrs Barratt, who was a cheerful mine of information.
'All the wards are arranged on similar lines, love,' she explained as they walked along the row of beds, Anna shyly greeting each patient as they passed, aware of the hubbub her arrival had caused.
'You're a nice armful, dear!' one of the patients called and Anna coloured, wishing she could sink through the floor.
'Get noticed more, you being a redhead,' the auxiliary commented. 'Shouldn't worry about them. They're good sorts. Mind your bottom when they are nearly ready for discharge, though!'
The ward was compact, with the sluice and bathrooms at one end, a nurses' station in the middle of the ward, and treatment room, linen-cupboard and kitchen at the other.
'The nurses' station is usually staffed,' Ruth Barratt explained, 'but as we're dodging about most of the morning we can see if anything goes wrong.'
After the pressure of a surgical ward, medical seemed slow-moving. With no patients to be readied for surgery, Anna found they had more time to chat to the men, though they had to work while they talked. She had imagined medical to be a hard slog and so it was, in a way, with urinals, back trolleys, bed-making, lifting—but the atmosphere was more relaxed. Patients tended to stay longer for one thing, sometimes several weeks, and they gave the ward more character.
Mrs Barratt said she thought of the patients as one big happy family, and gradually Anna came to see what she meant. But on this first morning she had to concentrate mainly on picking up the routine.
Ruth Barratt greeted each man by name as they worked, which helped Anna considerably. After breakfast most of the men would dress and sit in the small day-room, and Anna decided this would be the best chance to get to know those few who remained in bed.
Giving out breakfasts was an ordeal, with Staff Nurse merely making gestures in an approximate direction. Anna had to glance at the names over the beds in case she made a mistake, though Ruth Barratt helped as much as she could. Two patients required help with eating and Anna was delegated to. one of them, a Mr Cumming.
Mr Cumming was a short, portly man with a military moustache and a cheerful grin. He was also newly-blinded in a works accident and required supervision and explanation at meal times, though he liked to place the food in his mouth himself.
Anna explained who she was and what he was having for breakfast. 'Aha! A new voice. What are
you like, my love?' he asked. 'A gorgeous redhead or a beautiful blonde?'
'Neither. The fish is on your fork, Mr Cumming,' Anna said firmly.
He chewed steadily, though the fish was so tender he could have swallowed without chewing. 'You can't be bald!' he guffawed, and Anna tried to quieten him.
'Please! Don't get excited, Mr Cumming. I'm a redhead. Dark red actually,' she told him, hoping the matter would be dropped, because she saw Staff Nurse glance sharply over at them.
But the patient insisted on knowing her general shape, as well as the colour of her eyes, and her Christian name. She could imagine how much details of that nature would mean to a man who had become blind in his middle years, so she supplied the relevant information, gently teasing him all the while.
'Best breakfast I've had for years, Nurse darling,' he assured her as she stacked the dishes. He put out a large, work-roughened hand, as if to reassure himself she was still there, and before she could stop him he knocked the tray to the ground with a resounding crash.
Anna put her hands up to her face in horror, then hurriedly comforted the patient, who kept apologising. Her face was as red as her hair, and she heard the sound of crepe-soled shoes approaching. Staff Nurse Powell would
Turning quickly, she bumped into the owner of the crepe-soled shoes—a tall, dark-haired man in a white coat. A tall dark-haired man with a very angry expression—and big blue-grey eyes.
Words of apology trembled on her lips but were ignored as the white-coated man spoke to Mr Cumming.
'Dr Alexandre, Mr Cumming. Welfare have found you a place. Near Southampton. Will that do for you? Not too far from your son.' His voice was gentle, concerned, and Anna forgot her embarrassment and, at a gesture from Staff Nurse, she swept up the broken crockery, trying to avoid Dr Alexandre's feet.
He had large feet, shod in tan suede shoes. She had time to notice only that before she scurried away with the crockery in a dustpan, leaving the hastily-summoned domestic to clear the rest once the doctor had finished.
'How could you be so careless!' Staff Nurse flared, as Anna obeyed the beckoning finger and presented herself at the office. 'You know many of these patients have heart disease and need keeping quiet! Being a first-year doesn't excuse carelessness, Nurse.'
'No, Staff. I'm sorry. I'm very sorry,' Anna added, which was true. Although the fault was not hers, not only had the noise upset the ward, it had upset Dr Alexandre. He of the blue-grey eyes and sad spaniel look.
She hadn't had time to notice any sad spaniel expression, but perhaps it would come later. At least she hadn't upset a consultant—yet.
After breakfasts were cleared away and Staff Nurse had seen to the doctor, she offered to run through the list of patients with Anna, who hoped she would be able to memorise the information.
'Park Ward is a twenty-eight bedder, then we
have the side-ward, as you've seen,' Staff Nurse began. 'At the moment we haven't any patients there because women's medical are using it. They're over the top and haven't a vacancy anywhere so we'll just have to manage somehow if we get another admission.'
Staff Nurse sighed and ran long fingers through her short fair hair. 'Sister will be on tomorrow so that's a relief. She can deal with Dr Smith, who's rather a pain. He's the consultant standing in for Paul Tester, who's sick,' she explained. 'A few of the patients belong to Dr Carter—he does a round on Wednesday.' Then she began on the patients, explaining each disorder briefly.
Whatever Staff Nurse Powell lacked on the personality side, Anna was forced to admit that she knew her job. She obviously enjoyed teaching too, and some of the dread left her. Things weren't as bad as she'd expected. Why, she might even be able to eat some lunch! She'd been so fearful that morning that she couldn't even manage a cup of coffee, and she knew her stomach would soon start protesting.
'Mr Cumming is, as you know, blind,' Staff Nurse was saying. 'But that isn't why he's in a medical ward, of course. Did he tell you what was wrong with him?' Grey eyes homed in on Anna, who was pleased to be able to say she knew.
'He didn't tell me, but I was looking at the list earlier, Staff Nurse, and I remembered because he was the only blind patient. He had quite severe hypertension but he's almost cured now.'
Staff Nurse frowned. 'I wouldn't say cured, but he's a good deal better. Certainly if he takes things
easy he should be all right, and Rick, I mean Dr Alexandre, has fixed up for him to go into a home. There is no one at his home to tend to him,' she finished sadly, and Anna sighed.
'He seems such a dear,' she said wistfully, 'and he Was very apologetic about his accident with the breakfast dishes. He . . .'
'Accident? Do you mean the breakage was
fault?' Staff Nurse shot at her, and Anna hesitated before nodding.
'He couldn't help it, Staff. Really.' Worry caused her to frown. Surely he wouldn't have to pay for the broken crockery?'
'Why ever didn't you say so before? I wouldn't have ticked you off,' Staff Nurse went on wryly. 'Never take the blame for something you didn't do. First-years get blamed enough as it is. Then we have Mr Graham,' she continued. 'He isn't too well this morning and Dr Alexandre had a look at him. Personally I think it's all in the mind. He has a vivid imagination and might worry himself into a gastric ulcer. His heart isn't too good, though. Any questions so far?'