“Just keep breathing” he hissed in her ears while he exhaled wheezily.
“Hang on we are going to make out of here.”
Both of them held each other’s hand tighter while the smoke obstructed any visibility to glance their faces at all.
“Why is your hand wet?” he asked confused.
“It…uh must be the water.” She sounded unsure.
“We are fifty feet below the ground and I certainly don’t remember seeing any water source when we arrived or were being chased down.”
“Oh my god…. are you…” he fumbled while breathing briskly.
“Trev, calm down it’s nothing.” She tried her best to soothe him.
“And what exactly do you mean by nothing.” He asked sourly.
Trevor adjusted his eyes to trade at least a slight glance at her. Disappointed; he instantly swayed his hand across her chest, swift but careful. He encountered no resistance till the lower abdomen. However, upon inspecting the chest he felt something rusty; crumbs beyond which the surface was a tad wet. His arm muscles stiffened as he moved his hand along, he groaned. Something sharp and sturdy cut his finger. Upon realization, he flinched and one could hear his heart rhythm change dramatically. He laid there frozen not saying a word.
He somehow gained enough strength and conscious “How deep?”
“Beyond the pericardium sac, I guess.”
“I…am not certain but yes, I think.
“If it’s lodged in there and you are not bleeding anymore. I think it might have kept you from bleeding then.”
“I guess.” she groaned
“Does it… I mean, how much does it hurt?”
“I have grown numb by now.”
“You don’t feel faint, do you?” he asked concerned.
“Okay. Save your breath and energy I should… I should get some help.”
“Mm..hmm.” her voice sounding lower and lower.
He calmed himself and slowly carried himself up; treaded forward with his body heavily tanked along the walls. He set out to find Stark who trooped about an hour ago to map the intensity of the circumstances. It was difficult to keep track of time in a dungeon, devoid of any photons. However, Trevor had some sense of time to be affirmative. He carefully stepped further with one hand glued to walls for support and the other swaying in the air across his face to sense any hurdles hindering his path. He adjusted his breath to avoid the slightest of nuisance against the macabre silence. He sneaked across stealthily and gained enough momentum and suddenly he stumbled over something.
Not being able to see; he deemed the obstruction to be somewhat sturdy and huge, or someone to be huge. He carefully deployed his sense of touch to realize the obstruction was a man; a huge muscular man. Trevor’s heart rate spiked, he so wished it not to be him. He saw a flickering piece of headlight laying abandoned a few centimeters away. He grasped the light source, knocked it against his hands until the thing glowed enough for him to confirm his suspicions, regarding the unconscious man.
It was him, before jumping out in horror, he slid his hand to the area around his neck. With trembling fingers, he managed to observe his pulse, he was relieved on observing a faint pulse. He had no idea for how long he had been down, he quivered to check his pupils. Seeing his pupils fixed and dilated he knew he was hemorrhaging bleeding in the brain. The only prospect of him pulling through was if he could get onto the operating table; right about this second, to relieve the pressure and cauterize the bleeding vessel. However, this was nothing sort of a long shot but an impossible one rather considering, they were trapped thousands of miles away in a warring country and rifles waiting to shoot them in the head and with absolutely no escape route. He took deep breaths and stopped the noisy groan that could cost him his life too. It was no brainer to try anything else than keep moving but his heart didn’t let him waver even an inch away.
He whispered slowly under his breath, “Forgive, me lord.” And then bent to whisper in Stark’s ear while holding his hand tight, “I am sorry.” He wept a little before bracing himself to return to Cheryl with the horrendous news. But before that, he needed to collect supplies to save Cheryl. He made a grave but calculated decision or at least he thought. He could only save one at the moment.
He slowly treaded to the end of the tunnel where finally the bright light invaded his pupils. He peeked out; at the front stood numerous troops with arms in their hands ready to blow off any piece of flesh in motion. Behind them, miles away was the station where Aid cars were parked. He could get the necessary tools there but reaching there was some sort of impossible mission well at least reaching alive was.
He was exhausted breathless and injured no odds seem to strengthen his chances of ever making a round trip without getting caught or shot immediately. But he couldn’t give up on Cheryl laid there bleeding and waiting for him. Time was of the essence here; every second held the burden of increasing her chances of survival. Trevor had to figure out a plan so he hastened. He had to hurry but also be careful. His survival ensured any chances of Cheryl’s survival.
He waited a few moments when finally, one of the insurgents walked towards him upon witnessing some commotion. Trevor picked an enormous piece of rock lying in the rubble beside him. he skillfully utilized the darkness and smog to his advantage and managed to camouflage. When the armed persona walked in, he stealthily treaded to a few centimeters behind him and knocked him unconscious with the rock. He promptly exchanged the outfits and grasped the ammunition and rifles. He maneuvered as one of them, hastened past them, and acquired any supplies he could. He put all the necessary equipment in the bag and made his way back without raising suspicions.
“Hey, what’s in the bag?” he was halted when he walked out of the aid car. His limbs went cold and he tightened his grip on the gun. He suspected he might need its assistance. However, an unforeseen hurdle summoned all the insurgents to the place of incident. This gave him a clear path to make his way back.
Upon returning he drew a central line to administer the I.V. fluids. He hanged a bag of saline he had found in the aid car; on a piece of metal, he had hammered into the side with a heavy stone. He stood up to monitor the dripping fluids. When he glanced at Cheryl, she had fainted and was drooping on one side. When he walked to her, she fell off the wall she had supported herself on. Trevor hastened to reach her before the series of sudden movements could dislodge the foreign object subjecting her to bleeding once again. But it was too late by then. The metal scrap scraped the blood coating that had formed along the edges to stop bleeding.
He reached for the aid kit; to find something to act as a stopper. He fervently threw everything out but found nothing. Cheryl kept bleeding and without giving a second thought he committed a blunder. He put his unsterilized hands into the tear to keep it from bleeding. And now, he was left with one hand and a handful of supplies. The sterile field is a must but now, that was severely compromised. However, she was still alive because of this.
After few minutes, the bag was half empty and since the blood flow had restored, she regained consciousness. She flinched at the flickering headlight Trevor had on. She was sweating profusely and groaned in the horrendous pain she was enduring. Too exhausted to even scream from the stabbing pain. She seemed confused and worn out. Her gaze shifted to Trevor. She met his eyes which were fixated on her chest. She followed his gaze and saw what had happened. She sighed in disbelief and exhaled heavily.
“You are awake!”
“Uh…huh” she sounded weak.
“You will feel a little dizzy because of the diazepam. They had no narcotics for pain. I know it hurts and I am sorry but, I had to revive you. I need you to help me out here. My hand is…well”
“Yeah…in my chest.”
“Right. I can’t reach supplies and fix you with one hand. So, I’m gonna need yours. My hand is exactly covering the tear but it’s not going to stay that way long. You are more susceptible to necrosis too now.” he sounded worried.
“Alright, what you need me to do?”
“Hand me the suture kit on your left. There’s a 4-O-prolene in there”
Okay. WAIT…!!! Where’s Stark?
“He…umm…I don’t know.”
“What are you saying…we should look for him. He had been gone too long now.” she hastened.
Trevor gazed into nothingness and didn’t utter a word.
“Where is he, Trev?” she persisted.
“I…saw him. The roof must have collapsed and he was hemorrhaging.”
“Did he have a pulse?” She asked shocked.
“He had no chance we can’t even find him an O.R. in the middle of nowhere.”
“You left him there alone! Dying! He was alive!!”
“You could have saved him. No, you can’t sit here.” She resisted him continuously while moving strenuously and causing more damage to the wound.
“Cheryl, listen to me he was too far gone.”
“No! He was… is your brother and he deserves every effort and second you can put in to save him, not me. Go back and save him. He needs you. He depends on you. He is your baby brother!”
“You don’t think I know that; he is my baby brother! And yes, I should be with him right at this moment. Do you even realize, how much it hurts to not be able to save him and the guilt of leaving him there alone; all scared and dying by himself? But I am doing this because I can’t save him but I can save you. I made a medical call. So, shut up…shut up and let me fix you. So that all this is not in vain. You listen to me.”
“Alright, you made a call. I am sorry.” She calmed herself down with a tint of remorse for questioning his judgment or emotions.
“Now we are running out of time. Hand me that suture kit and we need to rush.” A small teardrop slipped from his left eye.
“Right, how are you going to repair the pulsating vessel without bypass?”
“I am yet to determine that. We don’t have anesthetics or a surgical team and these conditions are no way resemble the sterile field of an OR to perform the usual Coronary Artery Bypass Graft but we can do it the traditional way.”
“Do you think I can really make it? I mean you know I have lost…”
“I am going to give my best. It’s risky; yes. Your chances of survival are slim but we are not going to give up yet, okay! We are going to do it the traditional way, XFC Cross Clamp Aortic Fibrillation.”
“Ohh, I wish we were never here. You are here because of me. I am so sorry I pushed you.” Cheryl’s remorse and despair surfaced on her face.
“Hey, hey! None of this is your fault. We took an oath and that why, we are here. We wanted to serve the victims of war, we did good and none of this is on you. It’s on those colossal monstrosities who can’t see past their bloodlust and their affinity for terror and squalor.”
“But I pushed you to take up the program.”
“You remember the kid with spina bifida; she now might have a normal life and the newborn with omphalocele. Not just these but the ones with the most trivial of ailments like the common cold; succumb to those because of the inaccessibility of the basic aids. We helped save all those budding cocoons. I wouldn’t have been at more peace with my entire career in medicine than this. So, I am glad you pushed and we agreed. Stark would be too.”
“We did good. Right.” Cheryl admitted sincerely.
“Okay let’s fix you up now. I’m going try to suture the vessel by clamping it, I would have few minutes to achieve the feat before…”
“Before I am ischemic, I know.”
“I am going to widen the incision here. You are going to have to inject… I think we have acetaminophen yourself I can’t do it. Sterilize the syringe and administer 5 ccs of the analgesic.
“Okay. You should adjust the positioning. Make sure I don’t inject you instead.”
“Okay go ahead.”
After administering the analgesic at the place of repair, Trevor put on the surgical gloves and sterilized the field. He made an incision along the mediastinum with a scalpel. Upon reaching the cavity he could clearly visualize the field. He swept it with the limited gauze he had on him. Without suction, it bled profusely and he struggled for a while to get it under control. He examined the tear and the location while clamping the artery and hindering the blood flow to the lower body and now carefully made whipping sutures around the tear before dislodging his hand from the oozing wound. The vessel walls were frail and hence tricky to sew. He kept struggling to ensure good hemostasis before the clock ran out.
He was stepping over a sword barefooted here. Every second counted and while time seemed to acquire lightning speed at the instant; the moment felt like eons. He carefully detached his hand and sewed the remaining part of the artery. He had no watch on him however he had some sense of time which clearly indicated the passage of fifteen to eighteen minutes. This meant he had overestimated his efficiency and now had to catch up. He hastened when both his hands were free and he ripped the last suture. He panicked but he couldn’t risk the whole effort to circle down the drain.
He gathered himself and tied the knot of the last suture. Cheryl laid there motionless and silent while she witnessed Trevor rigorously fighting every hurdle. It was now the hour of judgment.
Trevor gently removed the clamp. The hemostasis was flawless and circulation was restored. Both exhaled heavily and smiled when Trevor stiffened posture melted into a relaxed one finally.
“You are one tough young lady! Phew.”
“You ain’t that bad either.”
“Yeah.” He winked at her playfully.
“Now let’s close you up.” Trevor fiddled with the leftover medical supplies to close the cavity.
Trevor carefully stitched layers of the chest cavity. He was about to make the last suture when Cheryl turned up gagging. She had a sharp pain in her chest and the sudden harsh movement tore her sutures and she started bleeding along the incision. Trevor stymied at the sudden realization that she might have thrown a clot.
A few seconds later Cheryl fainted a laid motionless on the ground. Trevor checked for her pulse. There was none. He bent down to listen to her heartbeat and it was remarkably silent there. All that nagged in his ear was his own heartbeat.
“No no no no…. get up Cheryl you can’t die on me too.”
Trevor began the chest compressions. The commotion tore off the entire flesh and blood spurted out of her in gallons the whole ground beneath morphed into semi-fluid upon the infusion of blood. She bled until no red fluid coursed through her body anymore.
Trevor was in denial and had gone into shock. He kept compressing her chest.
“Get up get up you can’t die. No no no…”
“Wake up! Damn it, wake up! I can’t lose you too. GET UP!”
“She is gone leave her” someone yelled from behind.
“Trevor leave her!” he persisted.
“No no, I can’t.”
At the instant, someone grabbed Trevor with immense force and held off his hands tight. Trevor kept resisting but wasn’t strong enough from all the exertion. He couldn’t stand long. He was furious and turned and punched the man in his face with all he could gather. The man bled through his nose profusely. He turned towards Trevor and Trevor finally stopped and gasped.