Unlocking the Doctor’s Heart
Liam Livings © 2019
All Rights Reserved
“Davie Penrose, senior staff nurse on Twinkle Ward, starting on Monday,” he said into the phone speaker at the ward’s entrance.
“Sorry, can’t let you in. No ID, no entry.”
“I’ve got this letter.” Davie held the letter to the camera.
“Not the same as a photo ID. They’ll get that sorted for you on Monday.”
“I only wanted to have a look around, see the lay of the land. Where the staff room is, how many beds, that sort of thing.” Davie bit his lip, starting to wish he’d not listened to his friend persuading him to apply for the job in the first place.
“Go on, stretch your wings. You don’t want to be stuck in Cornwall forever do you?” Davie’s friend had said.
Now, that sounded like quite a nice place to be stuck. “Couldn’t you make an exception, ask another member of staff to walk around with me?” Davie held his room key up to the camera. “I’m in the nurses’ accommodation. Room 1004, see?”
After a long sigh, the voice at the end of the speaker went quiet, he was obviously discussing something with another colleague.
A deep, posh, man’s voice came onto the speaker. “Now, let’s see if I can sort this little mess out.” He coughed. “Davie, is it?” Without waiting for a response, he continued, “It’s doctor Westbury here. I’m the senior consultant on call this weekend. I do have other pressing matters to deal with rather than policing the ward entrance.”
Charming! “It won’t take long. If you just look at my paperwork.” Davie held the letter to the camera hopefully.
“One thing at a time, please. Let me finish, will you?”
Disappointed, and frustrated enough to be screaming in his head and wondering who’d died and left this doctor in charge, Davie knew it would be pointless to ask him, because technically as the senior consultant on call, he would be in charge. Instead, Davie said, “I have my passport in my pocket too. Proves who I am. Can’t you check a list somewhere, or something, or other?”
“As I said, one thing at a time. So, I hear you’ve got yourself in something of a situation and you’d like us to bend the rules to let you in.”
“I don’t think it’s bending the rules. Not if I can show you who I am and that I have a job offer here even if I’ve not yet technically started.” Puffing himself up a bit, feeling he was on a bit of a roll now, Davie said, “And besides, I only want a quick look around, see the lay of the—”
“Land, yes, I know. Thing is, see that’s what some old random would say wanting to get inside and make mischief. Or worse. In fact, last week—” Doctor Westbury paused. “—I’m coming out to meet you. Wait there.”
A short while later, after a buzz of the door, Doctor Westbury arrived in a white coat, stethoscope hanging around his neck, brown hair giving the impression he’d just woken. And such deep blue eyes. “Sorry about this, but I can’t bend the rules and let you in.” He folded his arms across his broad chest and shook his head. “I believe you’re starting on Monday, but I can’t take a chance. I don’t know if you noticed, but this isn’t exactly the nicest part of London. Notting Hill it ain’t.” He laughed and raked his hands through his hair. He coughed and looked Davie up and down.
“If I was a random person wanting to get in, why would I have this letter.” Davie waved it theatrically in the air. “And a key to the nurses’ accommodation block.” Jangling it loudly he stared deep into the doctor’s blue eyes. “It’s not bending the rules then, is it? Besides.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his passport. “Look, same name on the letter and passport.”
“I hear your concerns, but as the consultant in charge it would be on my head were anything to happen as a result of this… infraction shall we say.” Carefully checking the passport, letter, and keys he shook his head and tutted loudly. “Seems a bit odd to me, someone wanting to have a look around before starting. Plenty of time for that after you’re properly inducted into the trust.”
“Can’t you use your judgement? I’m sure it must be pretty sound as a consultant.” It was do or die, and Davie needed something to bring this bloody doctor out of his fixation on the damned rules.
Holding his head high, the doctor said, “Of course. My clinical judgement is second to none. I have a fantastic record here and received the highest clinical excellence award possible for the last two years.”
“Very impressive. Well then.” Was it working? Had he taken the bait?
He adjusted his stethoscope around his neck and flattened the collar on his white coat. “I’m thinking. Considering the facts. You.” He looked Davie up and down with a smile.
“Rules are rules for a reason. I’m sure they are. I do know. I have worked on children’s wards myself. Where everyone has to be police checked and all that. But really, honestly, do I look like a random. Can’t you just use some of this amazing judgement and let me in. Please?” Davie smiled.
“You’re not going to take no for an answer, are you?”
Davie shook his head. He usually never did, so why start now with this high-handed doctor? Why did doctors always think they ran the whole hospital if not the whole world? Thinking better than to voice that out loud, he simply held his letter and keys for the doctor to see. Bringing his judgement into the equation may have just worked…. Davie held his breath.
He sighed, raked his hands through his tousled hair and said, “Tell you what. I’ve looked at the evidence you’ve presented to me and I’m satisfied you are who you say you are. But you’re to stay with me the whole time. No wondering off, all right?”
Davie nodded excitedly. He’d done it! He’d won! One nil to Davie!
Entering the code into the keypad, the door opened, and the doctor opened the door. “After you.”
Now, that’s a surprise, Davie thought, expecting the doctor to be something of a me-first-damn-everyone-else man.
Following Davie through the door, the doctor said, “Now, let’s see if we can’t give you a quick tour. I’ll take the flack if I don’t see you back here Monday morning.” He flashed Davie a smile, and butterflies began to stir in Davie’s stomach.
A while later, after checking Davie’s name on the letter from HR and his passport, against the staff off-duty chart on the ward and realising they tallied, Leo was satisfied Davie was who he said he was. Leo couldn’t be bothered to waste any more time arguing with his pushiness in the middle of a busy Saturday night shift. And he knew he’d told Davie who was in charge, and he’d only let this nurse through as a favour based on his superior judgement. When he told the other doctors in the doctors’ mess that he’d already wowed the new male staff nurse, they’d all be so impressed. And, despite Davie’s tendency to bossiness, as Leo showed him the staff room, nursing station, the doors to the four side rooms for complex cases and the open ward for normal cases, he admitted to himself Davie was very handsome.
Davie’s red hair and fair skin with its light dusting of freckles on his face went perfectly with his bright green eyes. Despite wearing a baggy hoodie that came down beyond his waist, his jeans showed off a pert bottom and narrow waist contrasting with his broad shoulders.
Glancing behind at Davie from, Leo gestured to a chair, “Sit here, would you.” He raised his eyes at the nurse who was nearby indicating for her to keep an eye on Davie. “I’ve got to see a parent and then I’m on my break, so I can show you the cafeteria if you want. Unless you’ve got better plans for a Saturday night.” He shrugged, embarrassed at how pathetic his own plans sounded out loud. “I’m on all night, so it’s jacket potato in a polystyrene box for me.” He laughed nervously at his bad joke, for some reason finding himself keen to impress this man but not wanting to come across as too strong too early. No way was he interested in Davie that way, far too bossy.
“Once—” Davie bit his lip and paused. “—when I was on nights for a fortnight, I lived on Corn Flakes, Mum’s pasties, and toasted white bread and butter. I’d just finished uni, so I’d moved back home and, well, it was the only thing I could make for myself in the staff room in the middle of the night without leaving the ward. I brought me own butter and bread in, I didn’t wanna take the wotsit, you know.” He shook his head. “Sorry, what must you think of me? Only just met me and here I am going on about taking the wotsit. Yes. I’d love to come to the canteen with you.”
Davie was gabbling a bit. He must be nervous. First day. New job. All that. Pleased he’d allowed Davie to talk himself round, Leo gestured for him to sit at the nursing station, handing him the off-duty chart. “Write down the shifts you’ve got if you want.”
A female nurse arrived at the nursing station. “Doctor Westbury, I have the parents of the boy in bed two wanting to speak to you.”
Leo left to meet the parents, directed them into a private room specially set aside for this purpose and began explaining to them the options for their son, Peter. Peter had been waiting for a kidney transplant for two years, and it was his only hope of living a normal life without three weekly trips to the dialysis unit. It was affecting Peter’s schooling and his ability to make friends because he was spending so much time in hospital rather than at school learning and socialising like other nine-year-olds.
“We want to do all we can, but if his body rejects a donor kidney again, we will have to look at alternative options.” Leo swallowed, preparing himself for the next difficult piece of information he’d have to share.
“What alternative options?” the father asked.
“We’re not there yet. I just wanted you to know we can’t keep putting him through operations. It’s not fair on Peter. Each operation carries a significant risk. Not just of the operation itself but infections afterwards. The last infection he had after his body rejected the kidney was very serious. I have a duty of care to Peter.”
“But he can’t carry on having the dialysis three times a week! It has become his whole life. He does nothing else.”
“We may have to wait. There is another kidney that may become available, but I’m not sure it’s right to offer it to Peter.”
“Why not?” Peter’s mother folded her arms across her chest and shook her head.
“Peter has only just got over the last infection. We’re keeping him on this ward for observation and because all the staff know him. Really, he should have been transferred to an ordinary children’s ward, but we thought it best to leave him here. Continuity of care.”
“So, he’s not waiting for the next kidney.” Peter’s father sat open-mouthed.
Leo shook his head. “I’m sorry. Not this time. It would not be in his best interest. When he has recovered, we will be discharging him home.”
“Only to come back two days later for dialysis.”
“That is one of the options. We could look at putting a machine into your home. Having people come to your house. There are other options.”
“He needs—” The woman paused, blinked back tears and wiped them with her sleeve. “—a new kidney. Can’t we give him one of ours?”
Leo shook his head. “We tried and neither of you is a likely match.” Leo stood, shook their hands. “Stay here, as long as you want. I’ll ask the nurse on duty to give you some leaflets about home dialysis. Think about it.” He left the room, raking his hand through his hair, he caught his reflection in a window. He noticed he not only felt like he’d not slept all night, he looked it too. He walked back to the nursing station.
Now, back to the new nurse, Davie really was very attractive now Leo noticed. But he’d never allow himself to have any sort of a relationship, however brief, with this nurse. Not since… He shook his head. Never again. Relationships were never worth the pain of losing the person. Never.
He told Davie briefly about his conversation with Peter’s parents, without going into much detail as he was mindful Davie was, strictly speaking, not yet employed by the trust. “Ready?” Leo asked as he stood close to him. “I need some carbs after that.”
Davie looked up, his green eyes sparkling at Leo. “Is it always that hard? I was warned about this in my interview. They asked me if I had any kids of my own. I said not yet, but someday.” He shook his head. “I know it’s not all good news, but there must be hope.”
“There’s always hope, that’s why I always return. Children are hope.” Leo strode off towards the ward entrance, shouting to the passing nurse that he had his bleeper and would be in the canteen with Davie, the new staff nurse.
“Bet you will be!” the nurse replied with a laugh.
“What’s that about?” Davie asked as he ran after Leo.
“Ignore her. She’s just annoyed because I’ve asked her to do something she doesn’t want to do.”
Davie laughed nervously. “What’s that then?”
Leo didn’t reply because he realised his lie had been so thin as to be transparent. He hoped this new nurse hadn’t seen through it too easily. It was Leo’s choice that none of his relationships stuck. He couldn’t help it if he worried about losing loved ones as soon as he started to feel for them. Was it any wonder after what had happened? Much simpler to keep things on a physical basis—he was a man with needs after all.
In the canteen, Leo had shown Davie to a table by the window that looked onto a small courtyard of plant, with benches facing a little water fountain.
Davie crossed and uncrossed his legs waiting for Leo to bring their drinks over. He noticed Leo’s broad shoulders and slim waist and the confident way he spoke to people and couldn’t help admitting to himself how handsome he found Leo.
Leo sat next to Davie, pushing his coffee in front of Davie and sipping his own. “It’s hardly coffee shop quality, but it’s hot, black, and keeps me awake.”
“When will the other people in my flat arrive, do you think?” Davie sipped the coffee and thought it tasted all right actually, similar to what he’d been used to back at Cornwall Hospital.
“Not sure. I didn’t stay in hospital accommodation. My parents bought a house and me and some chums lived in it together. I’ve my own place now. Can’t be relying on my parents if I want to be a medical director by fifty.”
Chums? Davie coughed. “Do you think you’ll manage it?” Davie asked, surprised that anyone under sixty-five still said chums.
“Dad was a director at forty-five, so I reckon I stand a good enough chance.” Leo turned the coffee cup between his hands. “What brings you to beautiful Acton, from somewhere beyond Bristol, judging by that accent.” He smiled.
“Is it that obvious?” Davie removed a stray red hair from his eye and smoothed it down with a hand.
“As obvious as my accent. I used to think I didn’t have an accent, but everyone else had one. Until I started work here and this receptionist asked if I’d been to Eton.”
“And have you?” I bet he has. Eton. And then Oxbridge. Punting down the what’s the river called again?
“Back home, if you say you’ve been up to Bristol or Exeter, then it’s like you’ve flown to the moon. I’ve got some school friends who’ve never left the dutchy.”
“Cornwall. Never say it’s a county.” Davie shook his head and tutted loudly. “Anyway, I’d done a few years in medicine wards. Medicine of the elderly, then a cardiac ward, and I saw all these people with broken hearts, and it just broke my heart. I came home one night and collapsed on the sofa at Mum and Dad’s—yes, I was still living at home. Mum asked if I was OK. I said I was sadly broke. She asked what was wrong, and I said I was so broke I couldn’t even talk about it.”
“And you thought a children’s transplant unit would be wall-to-wall laughter?”
“No, but yeah, I thought, like, it would be happier when it was happy…. I didn’t want to be one of those people who never leaves where they’re born. I wanted to work in a bigger hospital with more opportunities. I’d been at Cornwall Hospital for three years as well as doing my training there, and there was nowhere else for me to go. And…” Davie trailed off, having never fully considered this before and not wanting to start talking about the doctor he’d been dating back home too. The doctor who had been the final deciding factor for why Davie had left.
“I can’t go into details as you know, but the conversation I had with the little boy’s parents wasn’t easy. I have to remember I’m doing the right thing for the patient, but it doesn’t stop it being hard.” Leo put his hand next to Davie’s, just touching.
Davie felt a shiver moving up his spine as he stared at Leo’s blue eyes and dishevelled hair. He had a sudden urge to brush it back while listening to him telling how he’d dealt with the ups and downs of Twinkle Ward every day.
“If ever you need someone to listen, I’m always here.” Leo coughed. “I mean, as a more experienced colleague who’s encountered similar problems before.”
Davie pulled his hand away from Leo’s. Very smooth. Very obvious. Very not happening. “Very kind. All my friends back home said everyone in London was rude and unhelpful and unfriendly.”
“Some of us are.” Leo laughed. “What is your flat like? Did you want a hand unpacking? I’m working all night, but I could pop round and help you.”
Davie smiled and nodded. “That’s very kind.” A man I’ve just met, in my bedroom. Not likely! What will colleagues think of me? You must think I came down with the last shower. “All unpacked already. I reckon I’ll see you Monday.”
Leo leant backwards on the chair, putting his hands behind his head, his shirt tightening around his chest. “I think you should go back to your flat and relax until Monday. Once you start, it’s full on here. We’ve been short staffed for ages and it’s a godsend you and the other new nurses are finally here.” Leo’s pager bleeped, and he checked it. “Look, I must go.” With a wave, he left.
“That’s why I came here,” Davie said to himself. And I’m not making the same mistake again of dating someone at work. Even if he’s really cute and way out of my league. Besides, he’s far too arrogant and full of himself to be attractive anyway.
Chums—what’s that all about?