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Saturday, July 12, 2008
LOSTL The Remains - chapter five - "Trying Times"
Lost: THE REMAINS
I woke up strapped in my seat, lying on my side, a searing pain in my arm, which was twisted awkwardly beneath me.
I saw the chaos and confusion, people screaming and dying and running everywhere.
Twenty feet in front of me a woman was drenched in her own blood, moaning in pain. Where the beach met the jungle a blonde man with a couple of gym bags was opening people luggage and taking what he could find: a scavenger, a looter.
I saw movement and a brown man in a gray suit approached the bloody woman. Over the noise of the engine and the sound of the shouting I heard him say "Oh my God!"
The doctor, Shepherd, unbuckled me and pulled me from my seat and looked at my arm. He handled it roughly to be sure the shoulder was not dislocated, diagnosed it as possible fractured and was already looking around for someone hurt worse who needed his help more than I. He asked Genna if she could make a splint and she mentioned taking a first aid class. By the time she had located two short sticks Shepherd had moved on to his next patient. She bound up my arm and said she'd try to find something to make a sling.
The man in gray was holding a handkerchief to the face of the moaning woman - it was soaked red with her blood.
"You, first aid class! Help me!" he cried to Genna. He saw a dazed lumbering man, a towering, strong looking black man, walking past. "You sir! This woman needs help. Please!" The man stepped over, knelt and asked what he could do. Talking quickly to Genna and the man, Dr. Ranjimurtha quickly rattled off a list of things he needed. "See if you can find pliers, a sewing kit or needle and thread, a lighter, something to hold water, some small dry sticks to make a quick fire. Some alcohol, if you can find it. A cup... cloth to make bandages - cotton, a t-shirt perhaps."
I tried to get to my feet but the pain in my arm wouldn't let it support me to get up. As the large black man, George Benton, passed by I pointed at the blond man and said, "He might have some of those things!"
Sawyer spun around as George ran up and accosted him.
"Sir! Do you have..." and he ran off the list of things the man had asked for, minus the water and dry sticks.
"Hold on there, Goliath. What's in this for me?"
"I will owe you."
"I ain't exactly set up to take credit cards..."
"PLEASE! That woman is dying!"
"Look around, Tiny. People are dead or dying left and right. I should care because?"
"It could have happened to you."
"But it didn't. Luck of the draw."
George pulled himself up to his full height and looked down at the man.
"No, you don't understand. It still could. Now, please."
I don't know if you've ever seen a human being shrink, but the man Sawyer seemed to take a step back without moving. He dropped to his knees and began to rummage through his bag.
"Well, okay, as long as you asked nicely."
He fished out a Bic lighter, a small sewing kit, a medium pair of vice grip pliers and a smaller pair of needle nosed pliers, three small sample bottles of vodka, a plastic drinking cup.
"That" said George, pointing to a container of blue gel.
"No offense, Nat, but what do you need with sun tan lotion?"
George just held out his hand. "No more jokes. Please. And that."
Sawyer handed across the lotion and fished out a brand new white cotton t-shirt, still in the plastic wrapper. Even from a distance I recognized the Hanes logo. Sawyer grimaced, sorry to give it up. It was cleaner and of better quality than the shirt he was wearing.
As George stood and turned to go, he murmured, "Thank you."
"Yeah, well, don't forget you owe me one now." replied Sawyer.
As he strode away George stated "Someday someone will want to kill you and I will ask him not to."
Genna had gathered sticks and a metal bowl. As George set a small fire she ran to the waters edge to get some water.
Soon they had a fire going, the water boiling, and the shirt torn into strips.
Dr. Ranjimurtha calmly, reassuringly but truthfully warned Fay, the woman soaked in her own blood, "Cleaning an open wound with salt water will sting like crazy, but we need to clean the cut.
Fay's face was slashed down the right side from above the hairline to just over her eye, and from her cheek to the tip of her chin. Worse, a large jagged shard of metal was embedded in her face. Her right arm from shoulder to elbow was also badly abraded and raw. He gripped the metal fragment and pulled and Fay moaned in pain. It was worse than he thought. He asked for the vice grip pliers and asked George to hold her head. Then he thought better of it.
"Sir, you look like you are stronger than I am. I will hold her head steady, I need you to take these pliers, get a good grip on this piece of metal and pull it straight out. It is stuck in her bone - her skull. You will need to pull very hard. You will want to try to twist it out, but this is a human being and that could fracture her skull. Just pull it straight out. Now!"
Fay screamed in pain and then mercifully passed out. The metal scrap was larger than it had looked. A vicious wedge of steel that had impaled her face and entered just below her brain and just above severing her tongue.
He cleaned the jagged slash on her face, first with hot water, than with vodka, to sterilize it, and began to stitch up her face. Genna cleaned the sand and grit from her raw arm and began to wrap it.
I watched them pour vodka over her wounds and found myself licking my lips. Lord help me, I was thirsty, but not for water. I wanted a whole bottle of liquor, something to dull the throbbing pain and something to slake the cravings. They were using that vodka to save a woman's life and prevent her wounds from getting infected, and I just wanted a taste so badly...
"Will this help?" George asked, offering the thick blue sunburn ointment. Ranjimurtha glanced at it. "Benzocaine and aloe vera. Excellent! On her arm."
By the time George and Genna had her arm lotioned and bandaged Ranjimurtha was finished stitching up Fay's face. She coughed and blood gurgled up from her mouth. He looked inside her mouth and began to sew up a gash in the roof of her mouth. Then he took the needle nosed pliers, which had been in the pot of boiling water to sterilize them. Fay was still unconscious when he began pulling teeth.
"My God! Hasn't she been through enough? Why..." Genna protested.
"She has several badly cracked or broken teeth. Pinched or exposed nerve endings. She will be in horrible pain unless these come out."
You'd think in the 21st century when doctors can shatter kidney stones with sound waves and operate on cataracts with beams of light, that there would be a better way to perform dental surgery, but they still use pliers and arm muscle and tug teeth from skulls as they have done for thousands of years. Or, well, ever since pliers were invented.
He took out eight teeth on the right side and front of her jaw and rinsed her mouth with vodka and prepared to pack her mouth with boiled cloth when he told George "We have one more thing to do. Her jaw is dislocated. If it could pop out without breaking, I think we can put it back. Hold her head. Firmly..."
I looked away. I was beginning to think I'd died and gone to some sort of Hell on Earth. But I heard a loud snap sound - not her jaw breaking, but snapping back into place. Fay moaned and whimpered.
Dr. Shepherd heard her moan and came over to offer assistance. Dr. Ranjimurtha told him he had this one under control.
Once they made sure Fay was lying comfortable with a gray jacket neatly folded beneath her head I called to them. Genna remembered the task she had been planning when she'd been interrupted and found a dead fat woman's bra to make a sling for my arm from. I asked the doctor if he could look at my arm. And somewhere in the back of my mind I was praying he had one more of those little bottles of vodka.
He looked at my arm, felt my shoulder and elbow, examined my splint, and said, "You seem to be alright. Though I wouldn't know. I am a dentist, not a doctor."
"But... you performed surgery on that woman. You saved her life!"
"A man does what he has to do. These are trying times,” he said, looking out at the dazed and wounded survivors wandering around on the smoky beach.