PERSONAL BAGGAGE
A Tale of Marriage, Medicine and Murder

Chapter Nineteen

This is a preview to the chapter Chapter Nineteen from the book PERSONAL BAGGAGE by Margaret McMillion.
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“Complimentary Reindeer Exams” proclaimed the sign in front of the veterinarian’s office as Penny set out for Jacksonville Oncology on Christmas Eve. Given her choice of Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Christmas night, she had chosen to be off on Christmas night so that her children could come for supper after their own separate family celebrations that morning.

Christmas wreaths decorated every door in Jacksonville Oncology, and a tree adorned with white angels stood in the hall near the nurses’ station. The tree’s electric cord was plugged into a socket inside Maureen’s door and its multicolor lights shined into her room. First-place prize in the inter-departmental decorating contest would be dinner at Shoney’s for the entire winning department’s staff, and the Oncology nurses aimed to win.

Barb was off tonight, and Penny flipped through the Kardex while Janet, one of the other night nurses, put on a scrub uniform.

“Now Penny,” Janet said, “Barb told me that you would want to take care of your friend, but she’s really gone down hill. We’ve given her enough blood to float a mattress, and she’s on her third antibiotic, but her blood culture still grew out bacteria. I just want to be sure you understand that I’ll be glad to take care of her tonight.”

“Thanks, Janet, but I want her. Maureen claims she’s getting better. She insists on using a bedside commode, even though she’s too weak to stand up.”

“That’s how she was last week,” Janet said. “Dr. Benson made her a No Code this morning.”

Penny’s other patient, Mrs. Hattye Hall, a seventy-year-old with ice-blue hair and severe back pain, was eating supper so Penny pulled on isolation garb and entered Maureen’s room. The drastic change in her appearance was a metamorphosis: a coach into a pumpkin.

After chemotherapy, scanty hair, soft as feathers and the color of stone, had taken the place of Maureen’s black pageboy, and tonight her skin was the color of earth. Her respirations were noisy with congestion as she breathed five liters of oxygen from a nasal cannula.

“I’m going to put the cuff on your arm and check your blood pressure.” Penny’s voice sounded loud in the small room.

“You’re here,” Maureen whispered.
Penny pushed back tears. Tomorrow she could be sad.

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