Bus trip with Nancy

Bus trip with Nancy

A Story by Vonnie15

An innocent doctors life is thrown into turmoil when her patient dies


Bus trip with Nancy


“Please pass me the scalpel, Nurse,” I said as I started inspecting the patient. “Okay, we’ve got it! The patient is going to be alright. Vital signs are strong. GCS of 12,” I said in a serious voice. “I believe it is time to sew….”  “Jackie! Come finish your homework right now!” My mom should have known better by now than to interrupt me, mid-operation. Open-heart surgery was no joke, especially when it was a life or death situation for my teddy bear. One day I’d be a real doctor and doing my stupid English homework would no longer be important.


At last, things seemed to be quieting down. I had just finished a 26-hour shift and Ted was probably beginning to wonder whether he still had a wife. “Time to head home,” I mused to myself, absolutely exhausted as I started coming off my adrenalin high. ER did that to me, I found it an absolute adrenalin rush; I loved every second of it. “Dr Connolly! I’m so glad you’re still here. A policeman just came in with four gunshot wounds and he needs to be operated on immediately,” a nurse with a stressed expression said. “Well, where’s Dr Ambrose? He’s the best at this type of thing,” I said, to which the nurse replied, “He’s out of town. Some or other family crisis. You are going to have to do it, Dr Connolly.” “I’ll be right there!” I said, the old familiar adrenalin rush coming back again.


After operating on the police officer all night, it was finally time to go home. The patient was in ICU and I would check on him a little later.  As I got home, I was glad to see that Ted’s car was still in the driveway. We could have a conversation before he left, maybe even have a nice breakfast.  Ted and I had a beautiful house. We both got a good salary and at least financially, things were great in our lives. Instead of a warm welcome when I walked through the door, however, all I got from Ted was, “Where the hell have you been, Jackie? Did you forget that you have a husband?” I had not seen Ted this angry in a long time. “In case you forgot, Ted, I’m a doctor. There were a lot of emergencies and they needed me,” I said defensively. “You were gone for almost two days without even a phone call! You know what, just forget it. I’m late for work,” Ted shouted and left before I could say anything else.


I had a short nap and then headed back to the hospital. When I got there, the police officer was not completely out of danger yet. He had some respiratory problems, but he would be fine.  I was almost positive about that. I decided to check on my other patients before going home.  Two hours later, I walked towards my car, and decided that I would make Ted a fancy dinner to apologize for that morning’s fight. We would eat something nice, one of Ted’s favourite dishes, and then we would make-up and forget about our relationship problems for a while.


The food was almost ready and it smelled great. I was making blueberry soufflé, which Ted had loved since he was a little boy. He would be very impressed. I smiled to myself and was just about to head up-stairs to change into something pretty when the phone rang. “Hello, Dr Connolly speaking,” I said into the receiver, hoping that it would be Ted calling. “Doctor, you need to come down to the hospital right away. Your patient, the shot wound victim, just passed away,” the voice informed me. So much for my plans to make-up with Ted.


“The patient continued to have respiratory and fluid problems, Doctor. His heart rate also did not respond with the fluid administration,” I was told by the nurse on duty, after it took me about forty-five minutes to get through all the traffic on the way there.  I had been so sure that he would be alright; I did everything I could to ensure that. But these things happened. It was always sad to lose a patient, but at least I did my best to save his life. Now I had to tell the man’s family what happened before having supper with my husband.


As expected, the wife did not take the news well at all and I had to administer something to calm her down. Telling the family the bad news was always the most difficult part of being a doctor.  As I walked out of the waiting room, a man in an expensive suit stopped me. “Dr Connolly?” he enquired. “Yes, can I help you?” I asked, slightly annoyed that I was still at the hospital, when I really wanted to be at home with Ted. “My name’s Jim Walton and I’m from the district attorney’s office. Someone made an anonymous complaint to the police chief’s office, that the care Inspector Smith received was substandard. The complaint was then referred to us, and we will be investigating it as if it were a homicide.” I suddenly felt faint. “What do you mean? These things happen. Sometimes patients don’t make it,” I said, trying to convince myself as well as the preposterous man in front of me. “We aren’t so sure that his death couldn’t possibly have been prevented. We feel that there may have been negligence on your part,” the man said obnoxiously. I could not take the nonsense anymore, so I simply turned around and walked out the front door.


Dinner did not go quite as planned after that day’s incident at the hospital. The steaks were burnt and the soufflé fell flat. When I told Ted about the homicide investigation, his reply was that it would blow over. I had a feeling it wouldn’t.  Ted was still annoyed with me when we went to bed. I could not fall asleep and spent almost the whole night listening to Ted snore.


I woke up with a start when the phone rang. “Hello, Dr Connolly speaking,” I said groggily. “Jackie, it’s Director Wiehan. The board and I need to speak to you. Please be here by eight,” the president of the hospital board barked into the phone while I desperately tried to register what he was telling me. “Jackie? Did you hear me? Eight o’clock. Don’t be late,” he said again. “Um, sorry, yes I’ll be there, but what…” I started asking, but he interrupted me, “Just be there.” Then he put the phone down in my ear.


A few hours later, I walked out of the board meeting in a complete daze. I had just had my medical license revoked and I could not practice medicine until the investigation was over. If I was proven innocent. I had wanted to be a thoracic surgeon my whole life; I had never known anything else. That is all I was. I was not much of a wife and I had not had kids yet.  The thought of being at home with Ted more often filled me with fear, instead of coming as a welcome relief. We didn’t have anything to say to each other anymore. What if I never got my license back?


I knew that I was innocent. I did everything I could for the patient. It was all a big mistake, and soon everyone would realise that. Maybe this was a good thing: I could work on my marriage, spend some time fixing the house up, go grocery shopping for the first time in…I couldn’t even remember when last I had been to the shops. Yes, everything would work out alright. I was innocent. As I opened the door, journalists with cameras and microphones bombarded me. “What the hell…” I asked, confused as I had a newspaper pushed into my face. I was on the front cover.  It seemed as if the press loved the sensation of a doctor allegedly causing the death of a respected police officer.


I never got to the shops that day. I rushed back inside, closed all the curtains and waited for life to return to normal.  Two weeks later, I sneaked outside to fetch our mail out of the mailbox.  As usual, there were many envelopes addressed to Ted and a huge pile of bills. I was surprised to find an envelope addressed to me, however. It was probably junk mail from the book club or something. I never really got letters from family or friends, because I no longer had any family, and as far as friends were concerned, well, I did not really have time for anything more than casual work acquaintances.  When I opened the envelope, I almost fell off the chair. “People like you shouldn’t be allowed to become doctors. I hope you rot in jail and then in hell for murdering Duncan Smith,” was the message that had been in the seemingly innocent-looking envelope. I was so shocked that I cried for almost two hours.


The hate-mail continued. It got to the point that I refused to open envelopes addressed to me anymore, and Ted was required to do it for me. He thought I was being pathetic and said that I should just ignore it. But I couldn’t. As time went by, I started doubting my innocence. I had been exhausted while treating Inspector Smith and it was possible that everyone was right: Maybe I truly was a murderer.


I woke up screaming one night, because I had the most terrifying nightmare. It was full of blood. Blood that I caused. Ted got up and went to sleep in the spare bedroom. When I fell asleep again, the nightmares just kept coming and this was what it was like every night from then on. The nightmares and continued hate-mail eventually convinced me that I very definitely was to blame for the death. I could feel how I was slowly falling apart. During the day, the guilt ate away at me, and I sat around in my pyjamas in complete silence. At night, the bad dreams tore away at my sanity.


One morning I found Ted packing his suitcase when I woke up. “Uh…where are you going? A business trip?” I asked, very confused. “No, Jackie, I’m leaving. I can’t handle this anymore,” Ted said. I sat up and almost screamed, “What do you mean you can’t handle this anymore? I’m just temporarily going through a rough patch.” “Things haven’t been working in this marriage for a long time now. This break-down of yours is just the final straw," replied my husband.  “But…I’ll get myself together, Ted. Please don’t do this to me, I need you,” I was close to tears. “You and I both know that you haven’t needed me in years. I will support you well, financially, but that is where any connection between us ends. In politics, reputation is very important, and the public isn’t going to respond very well to a politician that’s married to a has-been doctor with a criminal record,” Ted said, intentionally being hurtful. Then he walked out the door without even looking back.


Getting out of bed in the morning was becoming more and more difficult each day. What was the point anyway?  I was a failure at absolutely everything: my job, which I thought was my life calling, my marriage, even my normal duty as a female.  Considering the fact that I was already 34, not being a mother yet was something that other women looked down on. It’s not that I did not want to have children; there just had not been time to be a mother. Ted desperately wanted children; maybe that was the start of our problems. He came from a family of nine children, and here I was, depriving him of a proper family. I really was a pathetic excuse of a woman.


I wondered whether anyone else had ever felt like I was feeling.  My body seemed to move slower than ever before, and my mind was filled with voices accusing me of being worthless and pathetic: Ted’s voice, the journalists’ voices and above all the rest…my own voice. Why was life so difficult? Maybe this was happening to me as punishment for all the bad things I did when I was younger. I deserved everything that came my way.


I had not left my house in months. I was not exactly very keen to go out in public, but I really missed my favourite spot. I had lived in the same area most of my life and there was a little cove at the beach that had always been my retreat in times of heartache during my teenage years.  In the years that followed, during which I attended medical school, I did not have much time to spend there, but it was a welcome relief when I did have a chance to sneak off to my cove in between exams.  When I picked up my car keys, I realised that my driver’s license had expired two months ago. It was almost nice to have an excuse to simply get back in bed and forget about going out, but for the first time in months, I decided to do something other than watch TV and eat. It would only be a thirty-minute bus trip to my safe haven.


As I got on the bus, I was completely paranoid. It was as if every eye was on me as I quickly found a seat next to an old lady. I felt like such a criminal; I was almost afraid that someone would walk up to me and tell me I was under arrest.  At this point, I would not even have been surprised if that really did happen. “Excuse me…” the old lady next to me said, and I knew she was probably going to ask me how I felt, knowing that I was a murderer. Before she could go any further with her question, I rudely answered, “Yes, I know that a man is dead because of me, and I feel awful about it, but please just leave me alone.” The woman gave me such a shocked looked that I almost felt bad for being so rude. “Actually, Dear, I was just going to ask you whether you had the time?” she replied politely, with a sincere smile. “Um…it’s ten minutes past two,” I said, blushing at my mistake. The next thirty minutes felt like a lifetime.


When I got onto the bus the next day at two o’clock, I desperately hoped that the nice old lady would not be on the bus again. As usual, things did not go my way and she was sitting at exactly the same place as the previous day. I would have sat as far away from her as humanly possible, but there was only one seat left on the bus: right next to her. She smiled and waved at me as I slowly walked towards the available seat. “Afternoon, Dear,” she said warmly and I knew I had to apologise for the previous day. “Hi. I’m really sorry about the way I spoke to you yesterday. I had no right to be so rude,” I said sincerely. “Don’t even think about it again, my Dear. Sometimes life hands us the worst possible situations and it’s understandable to get upset when it feels like the whole world is against you,” the sweet old lady replied, as if she had known me for years. It felt so nice to finely have someone on my side that I almost started crying. The nice old lady smelled like daisies and she reminded me of my granny. How I wished I could be little again. Things had been so simple then: doing my English homework, “operating” on my toys, being protected from all the ugliness in the world. “My name is Nancy, Dear,” she said in her sweet old lady way. “I’m Jackie. It’s really nice to meet you,” I said, as I desperately wished that Nancy was my granny, my protector or my friend.


Over the next few weeks, my wish partially came true: Nancy became my friend. Nancy lived just down the road from the beach where I went each day, so we shared a thirty-minute bus ride almost daily. Nancy took the bus to and from the community centre, where she volunteered at the soup kitchen. As time went by, I started thinking of her as my personal guardian angel, because I could speak to her about anything without even a hint of judgement on her part. She was the wisest person I had ever met and she had such a gentle, caring spirit; Nancy was a nurse her whole life and helping others was her passion. Soon after we became friends, I found out that she understood the pain and rejection I felt: Her husband left her for another woman…on their anniversary. The difference between us, however, was that she did not fall apart like I did. Nancy started a support group for divorced women and became the loving, supportive mother in the group.


“How did you do it, Nancy? How did you forgive your husband and deal with the rejection? You must have been a very strong person to be able to move on,” I said one day as we were discussing our failed relationships.  “It wasn’t that I was a strong woman, Dear. If it had been up to my own strength and willpower, I would have fallen apart completely. The only thing that got me through the heartache was my relationship with the Lord. I’ve always held on with everything in me to Romans 8:28 : ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’, “ Nancy said with strong conviction. “Do you really believe all of that, Nancy? I’m not so sure that it is true. The Lord decided to turn His back on me many years ago,” I said. “Maybe the problem is that you turned your back on him, not the other way round, Jackie,” Nancy said gently.


A few days past, and Nancy did not bring God up again. She was wise enough to know that I would probably bring Him up when I was ready, and she was right. I had thought about what she said and I realised that things didn’t start going wrong in my life on the night the cop died and it didn’t start going wrong the day that Ted left. It started long before that: the day I finished medical school and decided I did not need God anymore.  Well, that was going to change, because I did not have the energy to do it alone anymore. Nancy was there to hold my hand when I prayed that things would be different from then on.


“You need help, Jackie,” Nancy said, not intending to be obtrusive at all. “What do you mean, Nancy? I’ve got God helping me…and you,” I said, taking her hand gently. “I know, Dear, and I can see the difference in you already. I do, however, feel that you need professional help, in order to deal with your guilt. I believe in my heart that you are innocent, you used to believe that too, until other people made you believe otherwise. Now, I have always been strongly against listening to the opinions of others and I think it’s time that you let go of the guilt.”  From then on, I swapped my afternoons at the beach for afternoons with a Christian counsellor. Fortunately, the counsellor’s office was on the same route as the beach was and Nancy and I continued to share bus trips, during which she prayed with me before each session. 


As the months went by, I learnt to deal with my guilt. After 3 months of counselling, the guilt was completely gone and the nightmares stopped. I had forgotten how it felt to sleep peacefully. The voices of accusation that used to be in my head were gone and I felt so…free.  Now that I had my life back together again, I began to realise how lonely I was. “What do you think of me adopting a child, Nancy?” I asked one day, blushing. Many people would have thought I was being silly considering adoption after everything that had happened in my life, but Nancy simply answered, “What a lovely idea, Darling. I think you would make a wonderful mother.” I decided that I would definitely give adoption some serious thought.


I spent a lot of time thinking about adoption in the days that followed our conversation and I became very excited about the possibility of being a mom. I could not wait to tell Nancy that I was planning on going through with it! As I got on the bus that day, I could hardly contain the joy in my heart. Things were really starting to look up in my life. But… where was Nancy? Maybe she was running late at the soup kitchen. I decided to walk over to the community centre. I could take the next bus. When I walked into the community centre, I saw that there were still people being served and I felt a sudden surge of compassion go through me. These people understood hardship. There were two ladies serving the soup, but Nancy was nowhere to be seen. “Excuse me, do you know where Nancy is today?” I asked politely. The women stopped what they were doing and suddenly looked very sad.  Immediately I knew that something terrible had happened and I wanted to run out the door before they could give me the bad news, but I forced myself to stay for Nancy’s sake. “She won’t be volunteering here anymore,” the one woman said, “She passed away last night.” I felt as if the world was crashing down around me.  What would I do without our bus trip chats? Nancy had become my best friend and my guardian angel. I knew that it was time to contact the adoption agency, because I had a lot of love to give, but no one to give it too anymore. I was sure that there were many sweet kids, desperately needing a mother and a loving home.


I spoke to someone from the adoption agency, but was left feeling despondent.

I should have guessed that things would not be easy. The adoption agency was not quite as keen on me being a mother as I had expected. They told me they would reconsider once I was proven innocent in the negligence case. If I was ever proven innocent. My heart ached for the son or daughter I never had and everywhere I looked, people seemed to be walking around with their children. I refused to be discouraged though as I recalled Nancy’s favourite Bible verse: ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This was not over yet.



Three years had passed since that terrible day on which I lost my licence and I could not believe that the investigations were still in progress. I no longer prayed that I would be proved innocent so that I could get my job back, because I had found meaning and purpose for my life outside of being a surgeon. I was so glad that I decided to do a Christian counselling course after Nancy’s death; I loved being a counsellor. Nancy inspired me to help others through my own pain and suffering. I did, however, still pray that I would be proved innocent so that I would at last be allowed to adopt a child of my own. My big house seemed frightfully empty, especially at night. At that point, the phone interrupted my thoughts. “Hello, Mrs Connolly speaking,” I said, my arrogant title long forgotten. “Hi, Jackie. It’s Director Wiehan. I’m phoning to let you know that the investigation is finished and we have decided to rescind the charges against you. There will be a press release tomorrow.  It would be nice to have you back at the hospital as soon as possible.” My mind was working over-time as I replied, “Thank you, I’ll think about your offer and let you know.” As I put the phone down, my heart was racing as I thought about Director Wiehan's words. I had spent so much time wishing that I could have my job back; now I finally could. Was that really what I wanted though? I had two phone calls to make that night: one to Director Wiehan to tell him, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and a second phone call to the adoption agency.


**** The End ****




The case in which the doctor was accused of negligence, resulting in a patient’s death was partially inspired by a true case (United Stated v. Scott – 1992), but the rest of the events and characters are entirely fictional.





© 2009 Vonnie15

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Added on June 29, 2009



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A Story by Vonnie15