“The world is ready to welcome the New Year, and here at New York City, we’re reporting live from the Times Square where hundreds of people from all over the globe have gathered to see the Ball drop at midnight,” the reporter was saying on the live broadcast from the Times Square as Mr. Duncan watched the news on the TV set in his hospital room.
“Excited for the New Year, Mr. Duncan?” the young surgeon asked her patient as she entered the room for her regular rounds.
“It depends. Do you have good news for me, Dr. Evans?” Mr. Duncan asked his doctor.
“As a matter of fact I do. UNOS called us this morning, they have a new liver for you. Congratulations, Mr. Duncan, you’re going to get your liver tonight!” Dr. Evans squeezed her patient’s hands gently as Mr. Duncan cried his happy tears while processing this piece of information.
David Duncan was diagnosed with a severe case of liver cirrhosis over 2 years ago, and was admitted to St. Peter’s Memorial Hospital, New York. Over the past 2 years Mr. Duncan had faced too many near-death experiences, he had been in and out of the hospital and had been through multiple surgeries, but every time the bottom line was the same, he desperately needed a new liver. David Duncan was almost 70, but one could tell he was not done with his life quite yet. He still dreamt of finishing his bucket list and to watch the Knicks win the next basketball season for the City.
When Dr. Katherine Evans was assigned to Mr. Duncan’s case she was a senior resident at St. Peter’s. All these years of medical treatments, surgeries and hospital visits had made Katherine to grow a close bond with Mr. Duncan. It was more personal than a doctor-patient relationship. Katherine had been with Mr. Duncan through all his past surgeries, post-op cares and those various medical tests. For Mr. Duncan, Katherine was more like the daughter he never had than his doctor.
Over the last few months, Mr. Duncan had somewhat accepted his final fate, but it was Katherine’s tenacious attitude that had given him the last ray of hope. Katherine was adamant in finding a new liver for her patient, so when UNOS called her that morning, she had felt like all the prayers and the struggles of the past 2 years were finally being answered.
“You’re scheduled for surgery tonight at 9:00. Sounds good?” Katherine asked her patient.
“Sounds perfect,” Mr. Duncan replied smiling widely.
Katherine let the nurse prepare Mr. Duncan for his pre-op care and left the room as her pager beeped, it was 911. She ran to the ER and saw series of ambulances filing outside the ER. She was stunned for a moment, working at a trauma hospital always had its perks.
“What happened?” Katherine asked the first paramedic who stepped out of the ambulance carrying a gurney.
“A New Year party gone wrong. Fire shows near an open bar, not a pretty picture,” the paramedic said breathlessly as he carried a severely burnt victim on the gurney.
“Okay, got it. Take him to Trauma 1, the nurse will page the on call plastic surgeon right away,” said Katherine urgently as a nurse followed the paramedic to the trauma room.
“28 year old, female, Emily Stevenson, with severe injuries to the stomach and the spine,” said another paramedic carrying a gurney out of the second ambulance.
“I got this,” Katherine ran towards the ER door and took the gurney from the paramedic. She took a look at the patient and told one of the ER nurses, “Page Neuro and Ortho to Trauma 2, ASAP!”
“Emily? Emily, can you hear me?” Katherine asked the patient as she pushed the gurney to Trauma 2.
“I… I was standing near the bar, and then suddenly everything was on fire….” Emily sobbed, “And… and everyone was running, but… but I couldn’t… I couldn’t run! The ceiling, it… it fell over…” Emily couldn’t even finish her sentence, she was in too much pain and completely beyond any comprehension.
“Okay, okay. Emily, I need you to calm down, I’m going to give you some morphine for your pain. You’re safe now, you’re at St. Peter’s Memorial Hospital, and we’ll do everything to save you, alright?” Katherine assured Emily as she checked the patient for a steady heart rhythm.
“The heart sounds alright,” Katherine said after a while to the nurse who was attaching the IV drip to Emily’s arms, “But still page Cardio, just to be sure,” she said finally readjusting her stethoscope.
“Someone paged Neuro?” asked a young male doctor entering the trauma room.
“Ethan, good you’re here. This is Emily Stevenson, 28, with severe spinal and abdominal injuries. I paged Ortho and Cardio as well,” Katherine said to the young male neurosurgeon Dr. Ethan Watson as she continued checking the patient’s abdomen.
“Okay, Emily, I am Dr. Ethan Watson, will you please follow my finger,” Ethan motioned his right index finger in different directions and checked Emily’s optical response. “Can you wiggle your fingers and toes for me, Emily?” Ethan asked the patient, further checking Emily’s motor responses.
“Her brain activities seem fine to me, but still it’s better to get a head CT just to be completely certain,” Ethan informed Katherine while updating Emily’s chart.
“Okay, then order a head and an abdominal CT for Emily.” Katherine told the nurse.
“Hey, you guys paged Ortho and Cardio?” asked the two female doctors entering the trauma room as Katherine and Ethan briefed them on the case.
“Okay, so page me if you need me in the OR, but right now. I’ve got to run, I have a craniotomy scheduled,” said Ethan before rushing off to his OR.
“Well, the heart sounds good,” said the Head of the cardiothoracic surgery department Dr. Sarah Andrews after checking Emily thoroughly, “But still if you need me during the surgery, page me,” she said before leaving the room to attend other patients.
“Yeah, the spine needs surgery,” Dr. Amanda Davies, Head of the orthopedic surgery department, finally said after looking at Emily’s spine and ordered some spinal scans for further study, “I’ll be there in the OR with you, Katherine.” Dr. Davies confirmed.
“Okay, so get Emily’s test results right away, and then prep her for surgery as soon as you can, book OR-3,” Katherine instructed the nurse as she continued updating Emily’s medical chart.
“But, Dr. Evans, you have a liver transplant scheduled for 9:00 pm, and it’s already 6:30,” the Head ER nurse reminded Katherine, after checking Katherine’s schedule, as two of the junior nurses took Emily for her scans.
“Shit!” Katherine exclaimed cursing her memory and her circumstances.
Katherine was a single mother, she was 32, and she had adopted a beautiful baby girl earlier that year whose biological mother was a 16 year old teenager. Katherine could still remember the day when that 16 year old girl had begged Katherine to adopt her baby, because she was in no way ready to be a mother. The girl was living in Brooklyn and her family was in no condition to raise a baby, neither financially nor emotionally. The father of the child was a raging 18 year old drug addict who had no idea that he had a daughter. Katherine knew that it was killing the girl to let go off her child, but the girl understood it very well that she couldn’t raise a baby, but Katherine could, after all Katherine Evans was a successful general surgeon living in Upper East Side, Manhattan. Katherine fell in love with the baby girl the moment she led eyes on her, those beautiful blue eyes made it impossible for Katherine to let the adoption agencies take her away, Katherine couldn’t help but feel protective about the little angel, and so, she decided to adopt the baby girl. Katherine named her Alex, short for Alexandra, after her birth mother.
It was New Year’s Eve, the whole world had been preparing for this final countdown for the past month as they welcome the New Year with renewed joy and enthusiasm, with promises and vows for all the new beginnings. It was supposed to be Alex’s first New Year’s Eve, and Katherine wanted nothing more than to go home and spend it with her 11 months old daughter and her mother who had visited Katherine for every New Year’s Eve ever since Katherine had moved to the City.
“Should I reschedule Mr. Duncan’s liver transplant for tomorrow morning then?” the Head ER nurse asked Katherine.
“No, the liver is already here, it has to be tonight. Okay, reschedule it for 12:00 in the midnight. Hopefully we’ll be able to finish up with Emily’s surgery by around 11:00 pm,” Katherine said doing a quick mental calculation.
“But, Dr. Evans, it’s New Year’s Eve,” the nurse said hesitantly.
Katherine chuckled softly, “Don’t worry, Mary, I’ll page the on call nurse. I know it’s your first New Year’s Eve with your son since he has returned from Iraq after 5 years,” Katherine said with a warm smile.
“That’s not it, Dr. Evans, I was talking about your daughter,” Mary said with a motherly smile.
“Well, I’m sure she will have loads of fun with her grandma. Her mother’s got lives to save,” Katherine said with as much enthusiasm as she could gather at that moment.
Before Mary could say anything else, Katherine’s pager buzzed. “Emily’s scans are up,” Katherine said checking the message, “Get her to OR-3, Dr. Davies and I will go look at the scans,” Katherine said to Mary as she paged the orthopedic surgeon and went off to look at Emily’s scans.
30 minutes later, at around 7:15 pm, Katherine and Dr. Amanda Davies scrubbed in for Emily’s surgery. It was almost a 3 hours long surgery, Emily had a massive renal bleed in the left kidney and a ruptured spleen, Katherine had to get rid of the spleen, but she was able to repair the kidney, and Dr. Davies was able to fix Emily’s spinal fractures, but Emily would be going through a long and painful post-op recovery period and months of physiotherapy sessions.
It was around 11.30 pm when they left OR-3 finishing up with Emily. Katherine made a quick round to Mr. Duncan’s room before his surgery to see how he was doing. She had never seen David Duncan so happy, his eyes were filled with sheer joy and immense happiness, and it felt like he had just found a new sense of hope and purpose in his life. He was about to get his new liver, he was about to live his life again rather than just surviving it.
Before being taken off to the OR, Mr. Duncan held Katherine’s hands and said in a trembling voice with a soft smile and teary eyes, “Thank you for gifting me this new life, Katherine. I promise I won’t disappoint you.”
As Katherine stood there in that empty hospital room, Mr. Duncan’s words kept on playing inside Katherine’s head. Those words reminded her of the reason she had decided to choose this profession all those years ago, she was reminded of the oath she had taken in med school, she was reminded what it meant to be a surgeon and to hold someone else’s life in your hands. She had the power and the knowledge to save people’s lives, and with that knowledge, comes the responsibility, and she hoped that one day, Alex would also be able to feel extremely proud of her mother’s work.
Katherine let out a heavy sigh and wiped off the single tear that had rolled down her cheek, and said to herself, “Get it together, Evans. You’ve got a job to do.” And with that, Dr. Katherine Evans cleared her voice, squared off her shoulders, and headed towards the OR to scrub in for her liver transplant surgery.
“It’s almost 11:59 pm on the 31st of December, 2017. The whole world has started the countdown to the New Year. Few seconds are left on the clock to welcome the New Year. Everyone all around the globe is ready to celebrate this moment with their loved ones, and here at New York Times Square the Ball is about to drop,” the reporter continued reporting live from the Times Square,
“10… 9… 8…”
At St. Peter’s Memorial Hospital, Dr. Katherine Evans entered OR-1. She smiled and said to her patient softly, “Go to sleep, Mr. Duncan, you’ll be as good as new when you wake up,” and the on call anesthesiologist put Mr. Duncan under.
“7… 6… 5…”
Katherine looked around the OR at all the assisting nurses and interns, and said, smiling warmly, “Okay, everyone, let’s get started. It’s a beautiful night to save lives.”
“4… 3… 2… 1… Happy New Year!” as the whole world cheered and celebrated, Dr. Katherine Evans looked up and stretched her right arm towards the attending nurse of her OR, and asked, “Ten blade?”
“It’s a beautiful day to save lives.” – Dr. Derek Shepherd, Grey’s Anatomy.