When I was nineteen years old, my little girl dreams of a husband, two kids, and a cute little house in the suburbs went up in smoke. I was attacked by three men outside a bar, kidnapped for three days, and this was followed by three years in hospitals recovering. Whoever said good things come in threes was dead wrong.
It was a life-altering experience that ignited a fire inside of me to help others the way my nurses had helped me.
I’ve been a nurse at Seattle Trinity Hospital for ten years. Ten years of being single and focusing on just my career and my family. My life has become one long cycle of work, sleep, rinse, and repeat, but that’s the way I like it.
I make my way down the corridor to the ICU where I work and prepare myself for the long shift ahead.
“Hey, Imani!” Courtney shouts from the break room. Courtney is one of my closest co-workers, and she’s also designated herself as my own personal cupid.
“I’ve got something special for you tonight!”
Oh, great, she sounds excited, that is not a good thing. She’s either found me another prospective suitor or she’s made one of her famous ass-augmenting chocolate fudge cakes. Neither of which do I need, at all.
“So, what’s up? A new patient?” God, please let it be an interesting patient with a crazy diagnosis she thinks I’ll be fascinated with.
“Yep, and you’re gonna love him.” Great, it’s a him. Courtney loves to try and set me up, but with a patient? That’s going too far, even for her. She doesn’t know about my past, nobody other than my family does. She has good intentions, but I have my reasons for not dating, and I don’t want to talk about them with her.
“So, is he crazy or combative?” I hope it’s one of the two, but I suspect it’s neither. “Let me have it, what am I dealing with for the next twelve hours?”
“The guy in bed eight was in a car accident this morning, his passenger was DOA, and he’s in rough shape. He has a fractured leg and a head injury, swelling of the brain, you know, the usual. He hasn’t regained consciousness yet though.”
“Yeah, so? Sounds like a typical patient for the ICU.”
“Oh, there is nothing typical about this guy. You’ll see when you go in there. I made sure he was assigned to you. His family hasn’t been here yet. The house supervisor found out he has a sister that lives out of state. We called her, she’s supposed to be on her way.”
“Okay, Courtney, I’m confused. What are we talking about here, Hunchback of Notre Dame or something? I’m curious why this guy is such a big deal?”
“I’m not saying another word, but I am going to stay until shift change. I want to see your face after you’ve gotten report on him and done your assessment,” she sings ‘assessment’ like a little kid.
I roll my eyes, “Alright, but don’t expect me to fall in love with a comatose patient. Even I’m not that desperate.”
“Mmhmmm, sure.” She pretends to turn a key on her lips and throws the imaginary key over her shoulder.
Working in a small private hospital has its advantages. All of our rooms are private, we have excellent staffing, top-of-the-line equipment, and we take care of elite patients who are wealthy and almost always famous. I’ve cared for professional athletes, movie stars, singers, and business moguls, so to say it’s not easy to impress me after ten years is an understatement.
You wouldn’t know you were in a hospital if the sign out front didn’t say Seattle Trinity. There are water fountains in the waiting rooms, and the walls are adorned with beautiful artwork made by local artists. Most of the time it feels more like a posh hotel than a hospital.
I sit outside room eight and listen to Lola, the day nurse, as she gives me report. When she’s finished, I’m wondering if Courtney’s lost her marbles. This guy seems like a typical MVA patient to me.
I walk into the large spacious room where the bed is placed in the center of the room surrounded by all of the equipment we need to keep people alive.
Monitors beep and hum as they read the patient’s vital signs and heart rhythms. Behind it all are floor-to-ceiling glass windows that look out over one of the many thick plush green forests of Seattle, Washington. It’s a breathtaking view, even if most of the patients here never get to see it. The mystery man in bed eight is named Marcus Castillo.
Being a veteran nurse, I begin my assessment the second I enter the room, but I pause midstep when I see his face. My breath hitches in my throat, and my mouth is parched. My pulse quickens, and the tips of my fingers tingle with a mind of their own that longs to touch him.
I feel like I’m one end of a life-sized magnet being pulled toward him. Mr. Castillo reminds me of one of the Greek Gods from the movie 300, all muscles and brawn smeared with dirt and blood from battle.
Abrasions cover his face and bruises have begun to show up dark and ugly across his cheek. A softball-sized knot mars his otherwise perfect forehead but the most disheartening injury is the cut that slices through the bow of his ample top lip. Whoever is lucky enough to kiss those lips will be sad to see it blemished.
During report, I learned that he drove his car over the side of the I-90 Bridge into Lake Washington. His passenger died before they could get the car out of the water. How this man survived is a miracle.
As far as nurses go, I am pretty confident. I can handle most personalities, but something about this man emanates power and danger. Even with a severe head injury and unconscious, something about him demands my attention and makes me feel uneasy.
I round the bed and attempt to stay focused on assessing just his injuries, but it’s not easy. I don’t know how I’m supposed to think about the well-being of this man when I’m so distracted by his looks and something else I can’t quite put my finger on.
He’s athletic and lean, his powerful square jaw is covered with a five o’clock shadow. His hair looks like it’s thick and dark brown when it isn’t full of blood and glass shards. If I had to guess, I’d say he is of Latin descent. His skin is a deep bronze, and he has a Mediterranean look about him. Most impressive is Mr. Castillo’s size. He is at least six feet four inches of solid, lean muscle. His body fills the hospital bed from top to bottom and then some.
I shake myself from my stupor and lean over to assess his injuries as I would with any patient, although I know already that he isn’t going to be just any patient.