Today's Wild Card author is:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Visit the author's website. Brandy Bruce was scribbling stories in spiral notebooks by the age of 12. Her love for books never left her. She graduated from Liberty University, married the one person she could never get enough of, then started working as a book editor for a publishing house. Brandy and her husband, Jeff, live in Colorado with their two children. She can be reached through her blog at http://www.brandybruce.blogspot.com.
List Price: $4.99
Publisher: Heartsong Presents/ Love Inspired
“Okay, people. We’ve got a firefighter with possible fractures and trauma to the spine. ETA is five minutes.”
Nurse Isabella Romano’s ears perked up and her pulse quickened. The mood in the emergency room shifted to one of controlled urgency. Isabella slipped on gloves and followed the attending physician, Dr. Nichols, to the Denver Health Medical Center’s ER entrance. Sirens rang out in the distance, and within minutes, the familiar sight of flashing lights sped toward them.
The back doors of the ambulance flew open and the paramedics jumped out. “Male, late twenties, fell from second-story landing to first floor and landed on his back. Multiple burns on his arms and a laceration on his right thigh. Hypotensive. Tachycardic. We administered one liter of saline through an 18 gauge IV in his left AC. Patient has maintained a pulse ox of 96 percent on 10L of oxygen via facemask.”
Isabella grabbed the left side of the stretcher, helping push the gurney to trauma room 1. At the sound of a low moan, she looked down at the firefighter strapped to the backboard. A neck collar kept him immobile and an oxygen mask covered his mouth.
“What’s his name?” Isabella called out to the EMT across from her.
“Ethan Carter. Company 51. Those guys will be filling up the waiting room as soon as they clear the scene.”
“Ethan, I’m Isabella. Can you hear me?”
His gaze met hers and Isabella could see his intense pain.
“Ethan, you’re going to be okay. We’re going to take good care of you.”
“Okay, everyone, on three,” Dr. Nichols ordered.
Everyone stopped what they were doing at Dr. Nichols’s instruction and lifted the backboard with Ethan on it, transferring him and the backboard to the hospital bed. He moaned. “We’re going to need 50 mcg of fentanyl,” Dr. Nichols called out. Maggie, one of Isabella’s colleagues, began cutting off Ethan’s burned clothing.
“Let’s get some X-rays, Isa,” Dr. Nichols stated. “I want a CT scan. His thigh obviously needs stitches.”
“I’m on it,” Maggie said as she inspected the burns on Ethan’s arms. Isabella moved to order the X-rays but Ethan reached out for her. She stepped back toward him, preparing to explain to him that she’d be back and he was going to be all right. But the look in his blue eyes stopped her. He tried to reach for his oxygen mask, but Isabella shook her head.
“No, don’t move,” she said; then pulled away his mask for a moment.
“Don’t leave me,” he said, his voice dry and raspy. Isabella was pretty sure that even covered in dust and blood, with a brace around his neck, he was the most attractive man she’d ever seen. Her heart tugged. In that moment, he just seemed so alone.
She replaced his oxygen. “I have to go for a minute, Ethan, but I’ll be coming right back. And we’ll get through this together. I know you’re scared and I know you’re hurting. But it’s going to be okay.”
He just stared at her, his eyes pleading for her to stay. Isabella couldn’t help it; she reached down and brushed his brown hair from his forehead.
“I promise I’ll be back,” she told him.Ethan Carter’s eyes fluttered open and then shut again quickly.
Who in the world turned on that blinding light?
He could hear a voice, someone saying his name. He turned his head to the side.
He heard that voice again, saying his name. Then it came back to him, playing through his mind like a movie reel. The house fire. The roaring sound of the blaze. The sensation that he was falling. The impact of the ground floor. The rush into the ER.
He opened his eyes and blinked, trying to focus on the woman’s face in front of him.
“Hi there,” she said. “It’s nice to see you again.”
He blinked again. “Nurse . . .”
“Isabella. We met under rather tragic circumstances, I know.”
She was teasing. He could hear it in her voice. Now that he could focus on her clearly, he remembered seeing her in the ER.
“Isabella,” he repeated. Dressed in blue scrubs, she stood next to the bed, her brown hair tied back in a knot. She smiled down at him and Ethan felt better at the sight of her smile. She checked the monitors, her eyes darting toward the door of the hospital room.
“Did they get the family out of the house?” Ethan asked. Isabella nodded.
“Yes. One of the other firefighters—I think his name was Blake—told me to let you know that everyone made it out safely.”
“Except me, I guess,” Ethan said grimly. But Isabella’s smile didn’t fade.
“C’mon, tough guy. You’ve got this.”
Ethan studied her warm smile and playful tone. “You’re right,” he conceded. “God was watching over me in that burning house. He won’t abandon me now.”
She blinked in surprise at his statement. “I suppose He was,” she agreed.
“When can I go home?” Ethan asked.
“I’m not sure,” Isabella answered. “Dr. Nichols will be here any minute to talk to you,” she said.
“Can you stay?” Ethan asked immediately. Her face softened.
“Sure, if you want me to. Is there anyone you want me to call for you? The guys from the firehouse were here all night, off and on, in the waiting room. There are a few guys out there now. They can come in as soon as Dr. Nichols speaks to you.”
Ethan nodded. “Thanks. But there’s no one else for you to call.”
Isabella frowned. “Your family?”
Ethan just shook his head, turning his attention to the gauze covering his forearms. “There’s no one. Just the guys.” He hoped she’d drop the topic. He hated the pitiful looks he got whenever he explained to people that other than a few distant relatives out in California, he had no one. It was part of why he’d joined Company 51. A whole firehouse with the brothers he’d never had. He wondered if the chief was in the waiting room.
The door slid open and a doctor wearing black rimmed glasses and holding a clipboard walked in. He looked to be in his mid-forties.
“Good morning, Ethan. How are we feeling today?”
We? I have a feeling you’re doing a lot better than I am, doc.
“I’m hurting, but I’m guessing that medication is dulling the real pain.”
Dr. Nichols nodded. “You had a bad fall, Ethan. You know that. There were second degree burns on your arms, and a gash on your thigh that took about twenty stitches. You lost some blood, but we’ve given you IV fluids and you’re vitals have stabilized. You’re pretty banged up and bruised all over, but unfortunately, your back took the impact of the fall.”
Ethan’s chest constricted with fear.
“How bad is it?”
Isabella stepped closer to his bedside.
“It could have been worse. You have a lumbar—lower back—spinal fracture. The X-ray showed an L4 compression fracture. The positive aspect of this is that you still have good movement and feeling. Also, there doesn’t seem to be any neurological damage.”
“Do I need surgery?” Ethan asked.
“I don’t think so. The X-rays indicate a clean fracture. I’m going to recommend we move forward with outpatient treatment. But you’ve got a long, arduous healing journey ahead of you.”
“How long until I can be back on active duty?”
Dr. Nichol’s eyebrows furrowed. “The spine is a tricky thing, Ethan. And everyone heals at a different pace. You’re going to need rest, pain medication, lots of therapy, a back brace—”
“How long?” Ethan insisted.
“We’re talking months, Ethan. And that’s assuming that everything heals as it should. While in a few weeks you’ll be able to continue with most day-to-day activities, I don’t see you going back to active duty for probably six months. It could be less; it could be more. Perhaps they can transfer you to a desk job until you’re ready. After a few weeks of therapy we could reevaluate and consider light duty. But as of right now, your life is going to look different. You need to understand and accept that. Your priority needs to be healing properly.”
Months? Desk job? Light duty? Ethan tried to swallow the boulder in his throat.
“But, eventually, I’ll be back to normal. I’ll be able to be on active duty, right?” Ethan pressed. Dr. Nichols folded his arms across his clipboard.
“If all goes as it should, I think you’ll make a full recovery. But as I said, this is going to be a one-day-at-a-time healing process. We’ll start with rest. I want you on complete bed rest for the next few days. No strenuous activity. We’ll fit you for a back brace, which I want you to wear for six to eight weeks. We’ll do an X-ray after six weeks and see if the bone has healed. Then, once the bone has healed, you’ll need to begin physical therapy.”
Ethan took a deep breath. He felt a soft hand squeeze his arm and he looked up at Isabella.
“Hey, it’s going to be okay,” she said, her voice encouraging. “You’re here, you’re alive, you can walk—those are all good things.” He stared at her, trying to hold on to the sense of calm emanating from her.
She’s right, Father, he prayed. But what am I going to do for months if I’m not fighting fires? And what if ‘the healing process’ doesn’t go as it should and I can’t go back? Company 51 is all I have.
That last thought was too much. Ethan felt tears welling up in his eyes. He blinked fast to keep them at bay, mortified that he might cry in front of this nurse who not only was kind and smart and had a great sense of humor, but also looked stunning in blue scrubs.
I will never leave you.
The words were just a whisper in his heart, but they were enough. He clung to them. It had only been six months since one of his brothers at the firehouse, Caleb, had lead Ethan to Christ. Six months of a changed life. He still struggled to accept that God loved him like a father. That he could turn to God at any time. But it got easier. Accepting Christ as his Savior had filled Ethan with something he’d known was missing since childhood. Now he treasured that faith more than anything else.
Ethan closed his eyes.
I have You, Father. Whatever comes, I have you. Help me through this.Isabella watched as Ethan closed his eyes. His lips moved silently, and she knew without a doubt that he was praying. She looked over at Dr. Nichols who stood waiting without a word. Prayers were common things in the hospital. Sometimes people cried out loudly for help. Sometimes it was a desperate whisper. And sometimes, like now, it was a silent request. She’d seen people blame God. She’d seen them beg for His comfort. She’d even seen them try to barter for what they wanted.
Isabella wondered which one Ethan was doing now.
She also considered the fact that without all the dust and blood, Ethan Carter was even more attractive than she’d found him to be in the ER.
He had no family to call. That’s odd. The firefighters have filled up the waiting room, of course. But no one else. No relatives. No girlfriend. No one.
Isabella stared at the handsome firefighter’s brown hair and dark brown eyebrows. His sturdy jaw and those lips. She watched him pray. She wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to think so or not—but the fact that he was praying made him even more attractive.
I was wrong. He’s not completely alone. He has faith.
Ethan drew a breath and opened his eyes. He looked at Isabella before turning his attention to Dr. Nichols.
“Okay, what’s my next step, doc?”.