By Sue Boggs
"Iím fine. Let me go!"
Chip heard the voice, weak but insistent, as soon as he opened the sickbay door.
A second voice, louder and just as insistent, answered, "No, Captain, you are not fine and you are staying put. You may refuse to admit it but that doesnít change the fact that you are in no shape to be walking across the room, let alone wandering around the boat. And just to be sure you donít get any more ideas about escaping while my back is turned, Iím giving you some magic juice to help keep you quiet." As the doctor said this he injected the patient with a sedative.
Chip didnít want to add to the situation so he waited by the door until he heard the patientís continued protests cease. "Howís he doing, Jamie?" Chip asked, walking over to the bunk.
Doctor Will Jamieson finished checking the vital signs on his now sleeping patient and turned to Chip Morton, Executive Officer of the submarine Seaview. "Heís out of the woods. Once again he got lucky. One of these days he may wait too long for me to be of any help," the doctor replied.
Chip took a chair beside the bed of the patient in question, his commanding officer, Lee Crane. Morton turned to the doctor, "Why does he avoid getting medical treatment, Doc? Heís smart enough to know heís putting his life in danger when he does that."
"I donít know, Chip," Jamieson answered with a sigh. "Youíre right that heís intelligent enough to know the consequences. Iíve talked about it with a colleague and he and I agree itís probably an unconscious reaction, based on something that he may not even remember."
The doctor moved away from the patient area and Chip settled back to keep watch over his sleeping friend while pondering the doctorís words.
Four-year-old Lee sat on the front seat of the family car next to his father. He was chattering away, telling his dad all the fun things heíd do when he got big and would sail a boat far away. The two had just spent the afternoon at the harbor, looking at boats on display and watching sailboats race. Lee knew thatís what he wanted to do when he grew up.
"Iím sure youíll be a great sailor, son," his father said with a smile, glancing over at him.
Lee saw his smile change to a look of alarm and heard him yell, "No." His fatherís arm went up in front of Lee as if to hold him back and Lee heard a terrible, loud noise, then everything went black.
Lee became aware of an unpleasant smell. It smelled kind of like some of the stuff Mommy used to clean the bathroom. He didnít like it. He realized he was lying in a bed but it didnít feel like his bed. He also realized he didnít feel good. His head hurt and so did most of the rest of him. He suddenly remembered being in the car and the loud noise.
"Daddy?" he cried, opening his eyes finally.
"Youíre father is dead," he heard a man say. "You need to be quiet now."
A tall man in a white coat came into view. Lee didnít know who he was and was scared. Dr. Edelburg picked up Leeís wrist to take his pulse. He didnít regret his blunt comments to the child. He didnít believe in molly-coddling anyone, even children. They should be told the truth.
"I want my Mommy," Lee said with a trembling voice.
"She canít come and see you yet. Visiting hours arenít until this afternoon. Just lay there quietly."
Lee began to cry as Doctor Edelburg made a few notations on the childís chart. The boy had a concussion and a large gash on his side that had taken many stitches to close, as well as various bruises and contusions consistent with an automobile crash. As Leeís wails grew Edelburg thought how glad he would be when he was off this pediatric rotation. He hooked the chart to the foot of the bed and went to get a nurse to deal with the child.
A lady also dressed in white came in after the man left. "There, there. No need to cry. Weíll take good care of you. Just lie there and be a good boy like the doctor told you."
"I want my Mommy," Lee repeated between sniffles.
"Sheíll be here this afternoon. Why donít you try and take a nap until then." She tucked the covers in around him, patted him on the head and left. Lee lay there crying quietly. That doctor was mean. He wouldnít let Mommy or Daddy see him. Lee knew they wanted to. Wait till they heard what the mean doctor did. Heíd be in trouble.
Daddy wasnít dead. Lee wasnít exactly sure what that meant but heíd heard the word before and he knew it was bad. Daddy wasnít bad. Lee finally fell asleep, still frightened and longing to see his parents.
The next thing Lee knew he heard a voice saying, "Lee, honey, wake up."
"Mommy!" Lee cried, overjoyed to see her. He reached up his arms for a hug, even though that hurt.
"Oh, Lee, I love you," Mrs. Crane said, fighting back her tears as she gathered him into her arms.
"You werenít here. Neither was Daddy. I was scared," Lee said with his head against her chest. He started to cry again.
Ruffling his hair, Mrs. Crane said, "I know honey. But the doctors and nurses are here and Iím here now."
"Whereís Daddy? That mean doctor said he was dead. Whatís that mean?" he asked, looking up at her.
Mrs. Crane wasnít expecting that question and was suddenly overwhelmed. Sheíd hoped she could spare the boy that truth for a little while longer. Taking a deep breath she pulled her son away from her and looked into his innocent, trusting eyes. She said the first thing that came to mind, which she hoped would be a comfort to him. "Daddyís gone to see Jesus, son. Heís very happy there."
"Oh," was all Lee said. He wasnít sure why Daddy would go on a trip without saying goodbye. Lee knew from Sunday School that Jesus lived far away and he hoped his father would come back soon. Lee wanted to ask Mommy more questions but he could tell she was upset so he didnít. He just snuggled back against her. She rocked him back and forth, sending a thankful prayer to heaven that at least his life was spared. All too quickly visiting hour was up and the nurses came around to tell the parents on the ward they had only five more minutes.
"Lee, I have to go now." Mrs. Crane said.
"No!" Lee cried, tears coming to his eyes once again. "I want to go with you."
"Iím afraid you canít yet honey. You be good for the nurses," Mommy said. "Iíll be back to see you tomorrow."
"No!" Lee kept crying, but Mrs. Crane laid him back against his pillow, kissed him on the forehead and forced herself to leave, mindful of the stern look of the matron urging the parents out with her hands. Lee rolled over and buried his face in the pillow, ignoring the nurse who came in to give him dinner.
Days went by. Everyday it was the same. One of the nurses would wake him up and make him eat breakfast even if he wasnít hungry, then tell him to lie there quietly and not make trouble. Then no one would come in until lunch when a nurse would come in and repeat the same procedure. After lunch the children were supposed to sleep for a few hours. Then Mommy would come for a short time. That time went by too quickly. Mommy had to leave when it was time for dinner. Heíd rather have Mommy there than dinner. Then the nurses gave them baths and turned the lights out.
There were several other beds in the large room and as he began to feel better Lee started to interact with the other children in those beds. At first they just talked but he soon felt well enough to get out of bed and play. If they got too loud the nurse would come in and yell at them.
Though Lee didnít cry much anymore he didnít like it here. The mean, scary doctor would come in once a day and poke him on his side where it hurt. Sometimes heíd even poke him with a needle. Lee wanted to go home. He wished his father were there. Heíd make the mean doctor let him go home.
Mrs. Crane entered her sonís room. It had been a long two weeks but she was finally taking Lee home today. It had been so hard to be separated from him but hospital rules only allowed parents to visit an hour each day.
"Are you ready to go?" she asked Lee who was sitting with his feet over the side of the bed.
"Yeah," Lee said somewhat listlessly.
"Is something wrong? Do you feel alright?"
"My tummy feels a little funny."
Shrugging, Lee said, "I donít know. It hurts a little."
"Let me check. Hmm, you also feel a little warm. Let me call the doctor."
The doctor came and examined him. He said big words like secondary Ďfection that Lee didnít understand. But the result was they made him get back in bed and wouldnít let him go home.
"But Iím supposed to go home today," he wailed.
"I know sweetheart, but when the doctor examined your tummy when you said it hurt they found you still werenít well. Youíll have to stay here a few more days."
"But you could take care of me at home. Youíve done it before when I was sick."
"This is different, honey," she tried to explain. The pain of losing her beloved husband was still so fresh she wanted nothing more than to take this living link to him home and take care of him. But she knew it was best for Lee to stay where the doctors could look after him.
"You donít love me anymore," he sniffled.
"Oh, sweetie, yes I do. I love you more than anything in the world. But I want you to get well and you can do that best here."
"No, I canít."
"Yes, you can, honey. I know you donít understand that yet but you will some day. Let me sing you a song."
As she started to hum a favorite song, Lee knew she was wrong. He understood. He understood that if he hadnít said anything about his stomachache heíd be home right now. He shouldnít have told them he didnít feel good.
Lee Crane awoke gradually. As he became aware of that unique smell that was Sickbay he sighed.
"You awake, Lee?" he heard a familiar voice say.
"That depends. Are you here to break me out?" Lee said, slowly opening his eyes.
Chip smiled at his friendís choice of words. "Sorry, buddy. You did the crime, youíll have to do the time."
"I didnít commit a crime. I justÖ"
"Neglected to tell anyone youíd been slammed around when that seaquake caught you in the storage locker," Chip interrupted. "You impacted with those crate edges so hard it caused internal bleeding. Which of course no one knew about until you passed out in the control room. In Docís book, thatís a crime."
Chip continued in a friendly but exasperated tone, "Then you tried to escape from sickbay. Why do you bedevil Doc so? You know you need to heal."
"I donít know. I just know I hate being cooped up with doctors hovering over me." Lee replied. He shifted on the bunk, trying to get more comfortable but gave up in frustration.
Chip gave him a sympathetic look as he got up. "Well, try to be good. Maybe Jamie wonít give you extra time for the escape attempt and youíll get paroled early." He leaned over the rack and patted Lee on the shoulder then straightened to leave. Despite himself, Lee had pulled through again. Chip didnít need to hover. "If not, Iíll be back on visiting day."
Leeís groan mingled with Chipís laughter as he left the room.
Authorís note: Char Treusedeau wrote a story called "December Tide", published in Anchorís Away #3 (now out of print). In it she has a back-story for Lee where his father was killed in a car accident with a young Lee in the car. Lee was seriously injured and spent time in the hospital. It got me thinking that that experience might be why Lee didnít like doctors and hospitals. Thanks to Susan and Chris for giving me the excuse to put that idea into writing.