Captain Smith's Christmas
5


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Epilogue

Dixie sauntered to the playroom with her hands behind her back.  "Why the long faces?  You were having a party just a few minutes ago," she said sweetly.
 
"Tommy" they said.
 
"Well, the doctors want to keep a closer eye on him.  They think if they do that, he might get well faster."
 
The charge nurse, Geneva, took over from there.  "Why don't we make a great big get well card for him from all of you?" she said, gathering materials.
 
"Yeah!" they said.
 
Dixie walked back to the firefighters who had gathered in the hallway outside Tommy's room.  "Former elementary school teacher.  Said the classroom walls started closing in on her.  When that happens," she said, nodding toward the playroom, "We call it the Geneva Convention.  Did you deliver Tommy's present to him?"
 
"I gave it to his mother.  Tommy seemed to be asleep," said Chet.
 
"He just fell into a coma.  Leukemia victim.  I think we should go on upstairs now.  Your captain's on the pulmonary unit.  They'll be coming for Tommy at any time."
 
Once upstairs, they couldn't tell where Cap's room was due to all the patients coughing.  "Rough year for pneumonia," said Dixie.  "Respiratory Therapy's jumping through hoops right now."
 
A cart which held masks and gloves was outside Cap's door--along with a timer.  A tent sign next to them said:
 
                  Gloves and masks required.
                  One minute per every two visitors.
                  Please use timer.
                  By order of Dr. Brackett.

"Minor isolation," Roy observed.  "His immune system must be suppressed."
 
"He was a very sick man when he came in yesterday," said Dixie.  "The antibiotics have helped a lot, but he still needs rest."
 
The group started reaching for their masks and gloves.  Dixie held up her hand.  "First two mask up.  After they've been in for 30 seconds, the second two will mask up.  See how it works?"

"Gage and DeSoto will go in first," said Captain Smith.  "Then Kelly and Lopez, then Stoker and myself.  Stoker--you keep time."
 
Dixie smiled.
 
Johnny and Roy masked up, then went in the room with the timer.  Cap was sitting up in bed, leaned over onto his over-the-bed table, directly under an air conditioning vent.  He was sweating with labored breathing and intermittent coughing; had an IV in one arm; and a nasal cannula for oxygen.  He smiled when he saw them.
 
"We can't stay but a minute. . ." Johnny started.
 
Cap nodded.
 
"We really hope you get to feeling better very quickly," said Roy.
 
Cap gave a larger nod, as if to say, "Thanks."
 
The timer dinged.  Johnny and Roy left with a wave.  Cap gave a small wave.
 
Back outside, the paramedics disposed of their masks and gloves in the provided receptacle, and stood against the wall across the hall.  Stoker stood next to the cart, intent on his watch.  After Kelly and Lopez went in, Stoker said, "Now," and he and the captain masked up.
 
"Must be a slow day in the E.R." Roy mentioned to Dixie.
 
"Unusually slow," she agreed.  "No indigestions, electrocutions, or foreign object removals yet."

Chet and Marco joined them.  "I didn't have the nerve to tell him that Captain Smith was here," said Chet.
 
"I'm glad you didn't," said Johnny.
 
They turned to Cap's room when they heard a fit of coughing.  Captain Smith and Stoker made a bee-line into the hallway.  The captain made eye contact with Dixie, and pointed to the room.  Dixie masked up and went in.  The call light came on, and a unit nurse came to answer.

"Let's go get some lunch," said the captain, slightly flustered.  He headed for the stairwell door.
 
The others hung back, and tapped Stoker on the back.  "What was that all about?" asked Johnny, pointing with his thumb over his shoulder."  Stoker frowned, and pointed to the captain, who was almost to the stair door.  When he opened it, he waved for them to come on.

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