My apologies to Kate Chopin for parodying the title of her brilliant story (read it! it’s very short!), and also to anyone who reads this for my silliness. Just having fun – please forgive me.
“I’ve checked it over and over, Doctor. I don’t understand what has happened. I was watching throughout the procedure, and in my professional opinion, you did everything correctly. But somehow, it’s still come out all wrong! Just look at her! What are we going to do? Should we leave the patient as she is, and simply apologize and hope she doesn’t sue for malpractice? Or – and this is immoral, but if we are desperate – we could simply lock her up in a dark place, never to be seen again. Nobody would have to know! I don’t think she can handle being opened up again. And you look tired – I’m not sure if you can handle opening her up again.”
“Keep your whiskers on, Nurse,” said the doctor. “I’ll decide what to do if you can just stop meowing at me for a few minutes.”
It was midnight, and the doctor was tired, it’s true, but she was also determined. She had never given up on a patient, and she wasn’t about to start now. Still, this particular patient had been so difficult lately; Irish’s dark suggestion of simply hiding the evidence was tempting.
No. She couldn’t. If she did, she could never call herself a doctor again.
“I’m going in, Irish,” she said. “I’m going in now. It’s perfect timing, actually. Everyone is asleep. No noise and bouncing around from the children’s ward; that man doctor is snoring in the lobby, so he can’t come hovering and second guessing my procedures. Go scrub in – and bring the surgical implements.”
“Yes, doctor,” purred the nurse. His green eyes flashed. “If you’re sure.”
The doctor turned her gaze from the deformed patient and looked at the nurse. “I’m going to open her up and amputate two inches. Then, provided that there’s anything left of her skin after this second operation, I’m going to recreate her toes in the proper position. It’s just not right that anyone should have to go through life with mismatched feet – not when I could have done something to fix it. Imagine all the shoes she will miss out on if I can’t make this right. I could never live with myself.”
The nurse was horrified. “No! Not the shoes! Oh, Doctor. Quickly – you must operate!”
The doctor resolutely picked apart the stitches that she had made earlier that day to sew the patient closed. She thought bitterly of all the time that she had already spent on this patient, when she had so many others that were waiting for her expertise. Still, she knew that if she sent this one to the back of the line and took care of someone else first, she would never agree to see this patient again. It would be so easy to just forget her and all the accompanying troubles and shame from the botched procedures she’d already been through – first the incorrectly formed heel; then the tiny hole at the ankle; then the knot (although, to be fair, there was nothing the doctor could have done to prevent the knot); and now, one foot longer than its twin. Bad enough that the twin had had her own share of difficulties: the small surface deformity that wasn’t discovered until much too late. The inexplicable hole in the leg that smelled of sabotage. No, the doctor had to do this now, even if she was tired, even if she would rather do math problems (horrors!), even if she would rather knit with barbed wire fencing than sit here and try to fix this patient again.
She loosened the last stitch and carefully pulled until she had removed the foot down to the marker she had placed before beginning. The patient was quiet; Nurse Irish stood by, flicking his tail and watching anxiously, not daring to interrupt. If the doctor’s calculations were correct this time, she should be able to reinsert her tools into the damaged area and slowly rebuild the toe from there, so that the entire foot would be two inches shorter, and thus, the correct size. If her measurements were incorrect… she smiled cynically as she envisioned turning the patient into a purse.
Editor’s note: Due to their graphic nature, pictures of the surgery in progress have been respectfully removed.
An hour and a half later, she had successfully completed stage one of the operation. It had been a bold move. The old stitches around the damage had been stubborn, some having to be chased with a tiny metal hook before being gently placed onto a needle for safekeeping. But, in the end, the doctor had won. She looked with relief at the work she had done, knowing that the most dangerous part of the surgery was over. Had she not been able to salvage those stitches, all would have been lost, and she would have been checking the clock for “time of death” rather than simply recording the length of the procedure.
The nurse, the doctor, the patient – all were tired and in dire need of a break from surgery. The doctor’s nerves were shot. She wanted to get this done, but she also knew that continuing on without first getting some rest would only result in catastrophe. After all that painstaking work, it was a risk she was unwilling to take. She checked the patient’s vitals once more and then carefully tucked her into bed, whispering a promise before she left for the night: “I will finish this, first thing in the morning. You will be able to lead a normal life.”
The nurse swished his tale in small, graceful swoops, exhausted but happy. He squinted at the doctor and purred. “Nicely done, Doctor,” he said simply, before walking down the hall to begin his nightly guard against marauding insects.
1. I made the larger size and cast on 84 stitches.
2. I’ve read elsewhere that some people have trouble pulling this sock on over their heels, but once it’s on, the sock is comfortable. It’s true!
3. More of a note to self – in the future, I will definitely make sure that my notes are more precise (I thought it might have been a row counter with slippy numbers that caused me to make this one two inches too long, but on further reflection, I think it really was just that my notes were vague).
4. The first skein of this yarn was great. The second had a knot to hold the two pieces of the skein together, and quite a few “slubby” areas. I was surprised by this – bad skein? I hope that’s all it is, because I have two more skeins of this yarn in my stash!