A Medical Miracle†††

 

By K. Corris

 

Note:Parts of this story may not be for the squeamish, though I tried to generalize them.

 

It promised to be a beautiful, relaxing mission, and Captain Lee Crane was truly looking forward to getting in some diving in several of his favorite areas.The submarine Seaview was hosting an international contingent of marine biologists who were studying the effects of global warming on coral reefs around the world.Admiral Nelson was in unbelievably good spirits, looking forward to spending time with some of his favorite scientific buddies, and doing what he loved most, studying the earthís oceans. One of the men was Ted Martin, an old friend of the Admiralís.The two had collaborated on and published a paper on the feasibility of creating underwater farms to be used strictly to grow sea plants found to have high medicinal value.Based on that paper alone, WHO, the World Health Organization, had funded the first farm, created and now being operated by NIMR, the Nelson Institute of Marine Research.

 

As Lee stood in the observation nose looking out Seaviewís incredible Herculite windows watching supplies being loaded, he spied his best friend and Executive officer, Chip Morton come onto the dock. Chip had recently returned from a long shore leave home to visit his family in the Midwest. He was as relaxed and happy as Lee had ever known him to be, and Lee had known him since they roomed together in Annapolis. Yep, this cruise was shaping up to be fun!

 

Of course, it had crossed Leeís mind that there had been other cruises that started out this way but certainly ended differently, especially if one of the Admiralís egghead colleagues had gotten out of hand.But after meeting each one of the biologists beforehand at the Institute, Lee was convinced he had nothing to worry about.They all seemed like down to earth, level-headed, friendly, decent people, only interested in marine research, and in particular this time, coral reef changes and destruction.Their excited chatter as they ate dinner in the nose the first evening after they set sail made it obvious they all had only one and the same thing on their minds.While Lee excused himself shortly after dessert, they were all still going strong when he returned to the control room over two hours later.He was happy for the Admiral, his CO and mentor was certainly in his favorite element. And with Admiral Nelson being recognized and respected as the greatest marine biologist alive today, the other biologists were excited and grateful for this opportunity to study with and hopefully learn something from him.

 

All of the guests were divers, most were even Master Divers the way Lee, Chip, the Admiral, and many of Seaviewís crew were, except of course Dr. Will Jamieson. Jamie, as Lee was fond of calling him, insisted he only felt safe underwater if a submarine was around him, and he wasnít even too sure about that. Getting him out the diving hatch to keep his annual diving certification validated and current, a requirement for submarine duty, was a difficult and unpleasant chore. It bothered all of the senior officers to have to force the doctor to go out in diving gear, he was terrified.It got to the point that they only made him swim halfway down along side the sub, staying within armís reach of the hull so he could touch it to make himself feel safer. Lee joked that he probably held his breath the whole time, and never breathed the tanked air through the regulator. They all owed him their lives several times over; he was a brilliant and dedicated doctor, so they hated putting their friend through this necessary evil.The last time his certification had to be validated, they all made a deal to let him do their yearly physicals as soon as he came back on board, they would give him no fuss.The year before, the Admiral had to promise him a new x-ray machine for Sickbay to get him to go out. And he was always a white-faced, trembling, nervous wreck when he came back on board.But nothing was as bad as the first year.He would only take his test in the Instituteís dolphin pool!

 

The guests had all brought along their own personal diving gear they were familiar with. While it was originally planned that they would only go out in small groups, a few groups at each site, it soon became evident that all of them wanted to go out at every site.They all wanted to see with their own eyes what damage was being done. The Admiral couldnít blame them, he felt the same way. The missile room crew attending the diving hatch was kept constantly busy, keeping track of whose equipment was whose, refilling and checking air tanks, getting men in and out of their gear, and keeping careful track of how many total hours each man was going out and how long they were out each time.The crew joked amongst themselves.These scientists, they get so engrossed with what theyíre studying, they could probably run out of air and not realize it, just die happy, doing what they loved to do. Just like their beloved Admiral.

 

Lee had met Ted Martin several times before and truly liked the man. But this whole bunch of marine biologists all got along so well, laughing and joking, not bragging about their accomplishments or their intelligence, showing their appreciation to the crew, that he could easily see why Nelson enjoyed their company and working with them.

 

Lee left Chip in command and went out every chance he could.He wasnít needed to get samples, so his excuse was he needed to keep one eye on the scientists and the other eye looking out for trouble, since they probably wouldnít pay attention to what was going on around them.Lee said he was worried that if they were threatened by anything, they would all become so busy analyzing it they would forget their own safety or to head back to the boat.But he didnít really need an excuse.The Admiral was well aware of Leeís love of diving, and would never have deprived his Captain and friend of this chance to get some in, especially in such beautiful, warm waters. Besides, he had to admit he always felt a little bit safer in any situation when Lee Crane was around.

 

And the boat was safe with Chip at her helm, he was easily as capable a captain as Lee was, he just preferred and enjoyed his duties as Executive Officer better. They made a good team.

 

*********************

 

Lee was in heaven.He did remember to turn around every few minutes to check on the divers, counting them to be sure no one was in any peril or had swum off out of sight.He even managed to bring a few discolored branches of coral hidden behind a huge rocky sea mound to the Admirals attention, who then proceeded to cut a sample to bring back.It was while they were doing this that Lee turned and realized he was missing a diver.

 

Not a moment later, the water started swirling around and became cloudy, with bits and pieces of coral and plant life debris suddenly shooting out of the midst of the cloudy water.The others divers turned toward the commotion, but Lee swam fast enough to get there first, motioning all of them to stay back, but the Admiral stayed with him.All they could do when they reached where the water was the muddiest was wait until it settled and they could see through it.And there on the oceanís floor was the missing diver, half hidden and trapped beneath an enormous pile of rocks, with only his upper torso and head clear. The whole side of the sea mound had slid down to partially cover him. The way the rocks were positioned, it was obvious moving one would bring down the rest on top of the man.

 

The Admiral stayed by him, distressed to realize it was his friend Ted Martin. Nelson tried to calm him down, while Lee tried to pull out small rocks down by his feet, little by little. No good. The first one he tried to pull out caused all the others on top to shift.It was just too risky; Ted would be buried alive. Lee swam back to the other divers and motioned them all back to Seaview.Their safety was his responsibility and this area was more unstable than they had realized. He contacted Chip and explained what had happened, and to be sure all the divers got back on board and stayed there.ďAnd send out ĎSki and two other divers to help.Have them bring three more tanks of air for us; this is going to take a while.Ē

 

While they waited, Lee and the Admiral analyzed the situation, trying to figure out the best way to free Ted.

Even a small amount of explosives to fragment the main rock pinning him down would bring down the rest. Maybe they could try to dig him out carefully from underneath. The divers soon arrived, and began the tedious process of freeing Ted little by little.

 

After a long while, they finally had the outside leg and his lower torso free. But the other leg was not only still covered and pinned, it had been jammed down into the oceanís floor. With the removal of one small sharp edged rock, it began to bleed through the torn diving suit and rubble.Only the fact that he was a Master Diver enabled Ted to concentrate on his breathing and keep from losing it. He was clearly in a great deal of pain.Lee radioed Chip again.

 

ďChip, have someone bring out some shark repellant, and fast.And a couple of spear guns, too. Weíve got a bleeder out here.Ē

 

It was Riley who came out, handing one spear gun to the Captain and the other to the Admiral.He then began swimming in ever widening circles, spraying shark repellant from a tank around the group.They all knew it was no guarantee, but with the amount of blood pouring into the water, they had to do what they could.

 

It was the Admiral who finally radioed Chip, worried about his friendís loss of blood and, quite bluntly, his life.And they were all at risk out here now.He could order them back to the sub, but he certainly wasnít about to leave poor Ted and swim back to safety himself if a shark appeared. He couldnít desert Ted and let his friend be eaten alive.Even though he knew better, the Admiral would rather take his chances at fighting off any sharks.

 

ďChip, tell Dr. Jamieson heís needed out here immediately.And have him bring what he needs for an amputation.Make sure you tell him there has already been a great deal of blood lost.If you have to, tell him it is a direct order from me.Ē

*******************

 

ďHE WANTS ME TO DO WHAT? OUTSIDE THE BOAT? UNDERWATER? IN DIVING GEAR? An amputation in a sterile hospital room with a team of specially trained doctors and nurses is tricky enough!He wants me to do one underwater, alone, under a pile of rocks ready to come down on me and my patient any minute, with hungry sharks circling?And with no sterilization or blood replacement available?And I canít even put the poor man to sleep; anesthetizing him would mean he would stop breathing properly through his air regulator and drown!Does the man know what they want me to do?I canít exactly get him to sign a medical release form out there! And for to me operate in diving gear!Underwater!I wonít even be able to use an electrical saw to cut away the bone! Better to end his misery now!And mine!Let them bring him on board and then Iíll amputate, if need be. They arenít doctors!They donít know if that leg canít be saved!Ē

 

Chip waited until Doc got the ranting and raving out ofhis system. ďUh, Doc, itís because they arenít doctors that they need you out there.And maybe I didnít make the situation clear enough.They canít get him out to bring him on board, his leg is pinned under too much rock.Youíre his only chance to be freed, and freed before any sharks get here. Maybe if you could just stop the bleeding or at least give him something for pain, it would increase his chances until they think of something else. I hate to put it to you this way, but the Admiral said it was a direct order from him. You gotta go out there Doc, your patient needs you, and thatís where he is.Ē

 

Chip felt terrible, the Doctorís face was white as a ghost.At some point though, Chip got through to him.The doctor pulled himself together, and took a deep breath.ďOkay, give me a few minutes to get together what I need, and Iím taking Frank out there with me.He has more experience with amputations than John does.No, wait.John has more diving experience than Frank does, heíll do better under the stress out there.Iíll take him.Weíll meet you in the Missile Room in 15 minutes.Ē

 

*****************

 

Maybe if we swim slowly enough, they will have him free by the time we get there.Or maybe they will have figured out another way to extricate him without me cutting his leg off.Maybe heíll already beÖ-

 

Will stopped himself.He was a better doctor than this, and he was a more professional medical officer that that. He could do this.He felt a little better having John swimming with him.All he had to do was concentrate on his breathing; he certainly knew how to swim. No, he couldnít worry about himself.He had a duty to do, a patient to save. He had to concentrate on saving a life.He had to remember his oath.He could do this.He had to do this.

 

Okay, there was the sea mound, or what was left of it.They swam slowly around to the far side of it, and the group parted to let the doctor near his patient.Why were the Captain and Admiral carrying spear guns?Oh, thatís right, sharks. As poised and ready to shoot as they both were, the doctor realized there were now eight other reasons to get this over with fast, they all were targets for hungry sharks.And the amputation would only release more blood into the waters. He tried to assess the manís vital signs, they werenít good.Blood pressure too low, pulse weak, his color, what the doctor could see of it through Tedís face mask, was grayish.He had told Frank to have everything ready in Sickbay to give Ted a blood transfusion as soon as they got back on board.Since the scientistsí personal diving helmets werenít equipped with radios as Seaviewís diving helmets were, heíd also had Frank make up a sign while he and John got everything ready. It gave a brief statement of the facts and what had to be done to free him, to save his life.It also said to expect an injection that would only be strong enough to dull the pain; he would have to remain conscious to continue breathing through the air regulator, despite the pain.Then came that frightening last sentence.ĎNod if you understand I am about to amputate your leg to free you, and to give me the permission to do so.í

 

Will watched the manís face as his eyes went over the words, finally coming to that last terrifying sentence.

It seemed like an eternity, but finally Ted not only nodded, but gave the doctor a thumbs up.Will proceeded with the injection.While he waited for it to take effect, he applied a tourniquet to the small part of the upper thigh that was still visible.He had hoped to be able to save the knee, make it easier for Ted to walk with prosthesis, but that wasnít an option.He couldnít even see the knee, it was buried. He carefully cut away the top leg of diving suit.Finally, he was ready to start.

 

Dear God.I have to cut off this poor manís leg with a hastily sterilized hacksaw grabbed from a machine mate.And heíll be fully conscious.And I canít guarantee how good a job the tourniquet will do with the diving suit in the way.I canít fully see what I am doing, even with Kowalski holding the light on the leg.Dear God, please get me through this, please get us through this.Please Father, guide my hand. Give us both courage and strength.

 

As Paterson held down Tedís shoulders and arms, Will started his cut with his surgical knife.He would only need the saw for the bone.Will had performed amputations before, but never under these circumstances.Even as a field medic under gunfire during the war, he had at least usually been able to put his patient out, give blood, and have somewhat sterile conditions.This time, he couldnít even get scrubbed. Even he wasnít sterile!

 

It didnít help that everyone was watching him, including his patient and especially his Captain.Will was nervous enough. He hoped someone remembered to look out for sharks.He had to hand it to Ted.The man never moved.Will looked up several times to be sure he was still conscious and breathing.But his eyes were wide open, apparently totally engrossed in watching this brand new experience he was going through.Speaking of brand new experiences, Will had a sudden thought.This was going to make a great article for some medical journal.No, on second thought, he didnít want to have to remember every little detail of this experience enough to document or record it for posterityís sake.†† Besides, he had every intention of not only resigning from the Institute after this, but retiring from medicine completely.He couldnít be called on to go through this again. This wasnít his idea of medicine.This was barbaric, like blood letting in the dark ages.Well, maybe not even that long ago.He still remembered how surprised he was to find out during his medical studies that George Washington had died that way! Maybe he could become a doctor in some safe, nice, summer Boy Scout Camp, on a lake. Get a little fishing and swimming in. Only have to treat scraped knees, Poison Ivy, a few allergies and bee stings, stomachaches. Now there was a tempting idea.

 

Finally, Will was cutting through the last shreds on the underside of the diving suit.The flesh, bone and muscle all separated, and not even too much blood being lost. The tourniquet was doing some good after all.

Will hastily wrapped a huge white sterile cotton gauze pad around the stump, sticking the ends under the tourniquet.Well, it was sterile when he took it out of the wrapper anyway.He could only hope that the salt water was doing some good. That would have to do for now. It was imperative to get Ted back to Seaview immediately, he was showing signs of shock, and if he passed out he would stop breathing through the regulator. Will could do nothing more for him now, at least not out here.

 

But for whatever reason, after Paterson finally pulled Ted free, something compelled the doctor to try one last time to pull the amputated leg out.He didnít know why, it certainly wasnít reattachable. It just didnít seem right to leave it out here for fish food. But it still wouldnít budge.Now being able to see it from a different angle, it appeared a long sharp shard of rock had gone all the way through the leg and was staking it to the oceanís floor. Okay, he could now resign himself to the fact that the amputation had to be done; there hadnít been any other way to free Ted or save his life.He grabbed handfuls of silt from the oceanís floor, carefully and respectfully burying the raw end of the amputated leg that was now left exposed. Will quickly followed the others back to the boat, with Lee right behind him.But despite everything, he couldnít help to notice that, gee, it was kind of pretty out here!

 

The Captain and Doctor were half way back to the diving hatch when the warning came through their radios from Seaview.Three large biologics just picked up by sonar headed this way, and configured to most likely be sharks.The sharks came into view just as the diving hatch was closing.†† Whew, that was a close one!

 

Once on board, the doctor ordered Ted to be taken immediately down to Sickbay, just get the air tanks off him so the stretcher detail can lay him down.Frank was standing there, waiting to give him an injection that would knock him completely out.While the missile room crew quickly helped to get the doctor out of his diving gear, all that was on his mind was what he had to do next for his patient.Hopefully, by the time he got down there, Frank would have already gotten him out of the rest of his gear.Will had to start the blood transfusion and hook up the IV that included antibiotics as well as nutrients.He also had to disinfect and wrap the stump in sterile gauze. The doctor would have to take him into surgery again, as soon as his vitals stabilized. Clean the wound; give it a smoother cut, and cover the stump.Will finally arrived in Sickbay and immediately took vital signs.He tried to speak to Ted, but all he could get out of him was a weak smile, and then, ďSome fun, huh Doc? Whataday. But, thanks.ĒThen, he dropped off.

 

Will just stood there.He couldnít believe what he had just heard. Was this man actually joking about this?Taking it all in stride, like it happened all the time?No big deal? Had he had that much faith in the doctor, more faith than Will had had in himself?

 

Will thought about it while he took a fast shower in his cabin and threw on a clean uniform.If someone had told him this was going to happen on this cruise, he wouldnít have come on board.Maybe feigned sickness and put himself in the sick list. But heíd done it. He survived it, and so did his patient. Heíd operated to save a manís life, under the most horrendous of conditions.Heíd pushed himself to do whatever he had to do, and had gotten the job done, successfully.A day ago he would never have thought himself capable of not only going out in scuba gear, but handling it well enough to operate and save a life at the same time.He had always understood the need for everyone, even him, to be able to use scuba gear.But he had always naively believed the need to be only for self survival, if they ever had to evacuate the sub.Never in a million years had he thought he might need the expertise to enable him to perform his medical duties, and in this case to save a life.He couldnít help it. Suddenly, the good doctor felt very proud of himself. And to be honest, he also felt a little bit relieved.He wouldnít dread his scuba recertifications anymore. Heck, with what he saw out there, the pretty coral and warm water, he might even try diving again willingly, to get his confidence up. It wasnít so terrifying after all.Well, not if you took the hungry sharks out of the equation. All he had to do was face it while concentrating on something more important that took his mind off it. He had no delusions of ever becoming a master diver, but felt now that he could at least dive without being scared out of his wits.

He headed back to Sickbay, now crowded with concerned scientists.He nicely threw them all out, and that included the Admiral.ďItís too soon to tell you anything for sure yet, other than Iím sure heíll make it.I have to take him back into surgery again as soon as he is stable. Donít come back until tomorrow morning, Iíll have more accurate news for you then. And he may be up to seeing you at that time.ĒWith that, they all slowly drifted out, talking about heading down to the Wardroom for some dinner.Suddenly, Will realized he was starving, too.He checked Tedís vitals, a little bit steadier, but not quite up to another surgery just yet. He stood there and thought for a moment.Now that Iím thinking more clearly, have I done everything?

 

Suddenly, he found himself giving his patient the same cursory examination he gave Lee whenever he was brought back from an ONI mission unconscious.He was part way down the remaining leg when he started to get suspicious.This discoloration and swelling werenít just from severe bruising, the leg was broken.

 

ďFrank, I need you and John to get x-rays of his leg.Heck, with all the rocks that fell on him, you better get the whole body.While you do that, Iím going to run down and get a sandwich and coffee.Iíll be right back.Ē

 

Will was back not 10 minutes later, carrying a tray with coffee, a bowl of hot beef barley soup, a ham and Swiss cheese sandwich, cole slaw to put on his sandwich between the ham and cheese, an old habit of his, potato salad, and a bowl of canned fruit cocktail. The first thing he saw when he entered his office was a freshly showered and meticulously uniformed Captain Crane waiting for him.

 

ďCaptain, itís too soon to be sure of anything, all I can say is that for right now is he is holding his own. I---ď

 

ďActually Jamie, I came down here to see how YOU were doing.I have to tell you, I couldnít be prouder of you.You did an incredible job out there; you saved a life operating under appalling conditions.You put your patient first all the way, not once letting your fear of being underwater distract or get to you.Thatís the kind of man I call a hero.Ē

 

ďWell, IÖ, uhÖ, gee, Lee, I donít know what to say.Thatís a whole heap of praise. And coming from the man I consider a real hero.Thanks, thank you very much. I have to admit, on the way back, I realized it wasnít so bad after all, at least not until the sharks showed up.In fact, Iíve been wondering. I know how you love diving.Do you think maybe sometime you could take me out with you, when we are on shore leave not boat business.I want to try to get my confidence up a bit, now that Iím over being terrified.Ē

 

ďJamie, thereís nothing I would like more.I always take The Lorelei out as much as the weather will permit when I am on shore leave, for both fishing and diving.You are welcome any time.She certainly isnít the Admiralís yacht, but she does sleep four. I know it sounds strange, like I should have enough of the water when we are on Seaview. But I enjoy being on top of the water too, breathing the salt air, feeling the ocean breeze on my face, and the waves beneath me. I donít get that inside a submarine.Ē

 

ďSpoken like a true sea Captain, Lee.It must be in your blood.You certainly know what you are doing, and you enjoy it too.Ok, itís a date; let me know the next time you go out. But Lee, I donít have my own diving gear.Ē

 

ďNo problem Jamie, weíll just borrow a suit for you from the Institute.Weíll start somewhere shallow and warm, until you feel secure and comfortable enough to go deeper. Although you were out in fairly deep water this time, you just didnít know it.As much as you were keeping an eye on your patient, I was keeping and eye on you and your breathing.Like I said earlier, Iím proud of you.This experience puts all the times you saved my life to shame. What you did those times for me was under decent medical conditions and with no risk to yourself, other than losing some sleep.Ē

 

ďLee, it truly has been an honor to take care of you, no matter what the circumstances.A braver warrior I have never known.You are the one taking all the chances and risk to do what has to be done.I just clean up the mess and keep you alive to fight again. I know I might yell a lot, but itís because, well, damn it Lee, you constantly scare the hell out of me!Some day I may not be able to put you back together. Itís a huge responsibility. Itís not like I have never lost a patient or someone I care about before, but the whole world needs Lee Crane.You know what was kept going through my mind out there?Thank God this isnít Lee.Ē

 

ďI wouldnít repeat that to anyone Jamie, but thanks anyway.And donít you dare ever feel guilty if, when my time comes, you are the one taking care of me. Iím gonna die somehow someday.And if I look over from the other side and see you blaming yourself, I promise I will come back and haunt you. But Iíll tell you a little secret.I get every bit as terrified in certain situations as you were out there. And I handle it exactly the way you did.Acknowledge the fear for what it is, a basic and necessary survival instinct warning you to be careful, and then just keep putting one foot in front of the other to get the job done. Donít let it get in the way.But I really donít think you are ever going to be put through anything like this again.But if you are, you know now that you can do it.That self-assurance has to go a long way to building up your confidence.Getting in more experience will help, too.Okay, Iím going to let you eat before your soup gets cold.Actually, Iím getting pretty hungry myself.Iíll check in with you later. And, as usual, keep us apprised of his condition.Ē

 

As Lee walked out, Will sat there, stunned.Surely in no way could he ever be put in the same category as Lee Crane.Never. And he would never allow himself to think so. But it sure doesnít hurt to know you have your commanding officerís respect and appreciation. And he realized now, he was making a big difference too, in his own way and in his own chosen field.Here, he was really needed, and needed to save lives.

 

Had he seriously been thinking of giving that up to be a boring Boy Scout camp medic? This was his world, and he was grateful to have a vital and satisfying role in it.

 

Now, about that articleÖ.

 

 

THE END

 

Please let me know what you think!

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