An Apple A Day

April 18, 2011
By Jglicks BRONZE, Scottsdale, Arizona
Jglicks BRONZE, Scottsdale, Arizona
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

The ground quivered as a black SUV raced down the empty street. Heavy enough, I thought, Just do it. I stepped forward, and in an instant the world disappeared.

Stupid car, I thought as I pushed the monstrous vehicle even further over the speed limit. The engine groaned, but I wasn’t stopping. My small, conservative Toyota Camry inconveniently died just 40 minutes ago giving me no other choice but to borrow my sister’s mom-mobile. Not only was I twenty minutes late to work again, but I also had to listen to annoying teenage bopper music along the way. The high-pitched voice of a boy who hasn’t hit puberty blared through the speakers as I reached down to fiddle with the knobs and dials on the radio. I glanced back up at the road but the only person nearby was an inconspicuous teenage girl standing on the sidewalk. Uninterested, I diverted my attention back to radio. Moments later, I heard a sickening crunch and felt the car jerk violently to the side. The brakes squealed and I lurched forward. My heart beating rapidly, I turned to look out the window. An incoherent moan resonated from the depths of my throat when I saw what I had done.

I flitted in and out of consciousness, catching fleeting glimpses of the craziness around me. EMTs bustling around, a near hysterical woman crying into her cell phone, swirling colors brightening the street; the busy energy was overwhelming.

“Oh, sweetie, you’re awake! Bill, go get the doctor.”

As soon as the room came into focus I recognized it as the hospital. Beeps and hums of machines surrounded me and the mint green walls were blinding. Mom was sitting on the edge of my bed, her hair wild and clothes wrinkled, unlike her usual put together look of all around control. She was holding a newspaper.

“Ari, are you alright? You––” A young, handsome doctor strode into my room followed by my frazzled dad. The man, dressed in a crisp white coat, looked like one of the well-groomed doctors straight from the medical dramas on TV. His short brown hair accentuated his piercing blue eyes and he was tall, looming inches above my father.

“Ariel, I'm Dr. Greenberg. How are you feeling?”

Those eyes of his focused in on me and suddenly, for a reason beknownst to me, I felt comfortable. Those words I had heard so many times over my years of bad luck and klutziness; this man was like any other doctor I had been to, and there have been many. “I’m feeling okay. My leg hurts and I’m still kind groggy, but that’s it.”

“Good, good.” He scribbled something on his clipboard and asked, “Do you remember anything about what happened?”

“Uh, well yes. I remember bits and pieces.”

More scribbling. “Okay, I’ll fill you in. When you were waiting for your bus this morning you were hit by an SUV. Luckily, the car swerved just in time and only clipped your leg, but you still have a pretty bad break. We already took some X-Rays and the results showed that you have a tibial shaft fracture. Basically what that means is that you have a fracture in your tibia, the bone that connects your knee and ankle joints. As far as leg injuries go, this kind of fracture is extremely common and usually can be treated with a long leg cast, but severe displacement may require surgery.” Dr. Greenberg pulled a picture of an X-Ray out from behind his clipboard. He pointed to a long break below the kneecap. “You see how the fracture causes extreme angulation in the tibia? The procedure to align the bones is called Intrameduallary Rodding, or IM. A metal rod is placed down the center of the tibia to hold it in place. The main concern is infection, which may require removal of the rod. You would be under general anesthesia, which in itself carries its own risks, but IM is generally a relatively low-risk procedure.”

“Let’s do it,” Ariel said with ease.

Dr. Greenberg looked pleasantly surprised with her response. Most kids probably don’t react well to the news that a metal rod is going to be jammed into their leg, but Ariel has always been very relaxed about medical procedures. More out of necessity than anything though; the girl has the worst luck. My mind wandered back to all the times I sat in the doctor’s waiting room for all sorts of injuries: falling off the swing-set, endless colds, bruises, bumps, scrapes; I could probably be a nurse myself from all the experience I’ve gotten over the years. I gazed over at Ari and wondered how my little girl got herself into so much trouble.

Over the next few days, every second felt like an eternity. Ariel slept as Bill and I switched off staying in her hospital room. Talking with doctors and eating Jello out of the tiny hospital kitchen served as our only entertainment. Eventually, it was time for her to go into surgery. I cannot describe the waves of terror coursing through my body as my only daughter was rolled into the operating room, smiling and waving back at me as she went.

Poor mom, I thought. Her face, stricken with fear, was the same every time I went into the operating room. Smiling and being reassuring was the only thing I could do, although I wanted to run over and comfort her. The nurse retreated back to the doorway after rolling me into the middle of the room. The bright lights and doctors in scrubs were almost soothing by now, considering how often they surrounded me.

Dr. Greenberg and another doctor, introduced as Dr. Segel, came over to the side of my gurney. He would be the one doing the procedure and would I be comfortable with a couple medical residents looking on? Yes, Yes, Yes. I blocked out their blathering.

Before long the doctor and a couple nurses were leaning over me in their gloves and masks. “Are you okay, Ariel? Do you need anything before we begin?” Dr. Segel asked.

“No, I…” Suddenly the room felt cramped and I was starting to feel feverish. All of the sudden the IV in my forearm was unbearable; I clutched at the wires, trying to pull them out. My breathing was ragged and small drops of sweat were forming on my forehead and upper lip. The once comfortable lights were now blinding. I shielded my eyes and choked out, “Uhm, actually, could I have a moment alone?”

They exchanged looks of concern. “Sure, anything to make you more comfortable,” the doctor said after a moment. They filed out of the room one after another.

I twirled a chunk of hair around my finger, a habit out of nervousness. I took deep breaths and turned my face away from the lights. On a metal table next to me sat all the instruments for the operation. My breathing quickened.

I held the metal rod in my hand and inspected the girl’s opened up leg. The placement would be one of the easiest I had seen. “Hey, Connor?” I motioned at one of the residents watching the procedure from the cameras overhead. He walked over cautiously.

“You’re sterile, right? Do you want to place the rod?”

“Uh, sure, that would be great. Am I allowed to?”

“Yeah, yeah.” I shrugged it off. Connor was one of my best students; he would do it flawlessly. I handed him the rod and nudged him forward.

“But it has been a week since the surgery and she is still feeling sick!” I countered. I had been in the doctor’s office with Ariel for 30 minutes and all we had done was go in circles.

“Are you absolutely positive she is okay?” My motherly instincts were buzzing. Ariel has had several procedures done but never has it taken so long for her to get back to normal. She moaned from her chair in the corner.

“Fatigue and fever are the textbook symptoms of surgical infection, but I just don’t see how I could justify removing the rod. It still hasn’t been long since the surgery and malaise is normal shortly after. How about if she is still feeling down a week from now I will check it out, okay?” Dr. Segel tried to compromise.

Reluctantly, I gave up. “Alright. Sorry to waste so much of your time.” We left, but I was not satisfied.

For the next week, I took care of Ariel. Her fever remained at 101°F and she was exhausted all the time. She got chills and lost her appetite leading to dehydration and headaches; this was not normal. On her request, I found myself yet again in Dr. Segel’s office discussing potential surgical infection.

“It’s up to you, Ariel. Would you rather wait a couple more days to see if this fades, or go right in to remove the rod?”

Curled up in a blanket, she poked her head out. She was pale and her eyes looked glazed over with that distinct sick look. “Please, just take it out,” she whimpered. “These have been the most horrible two weeks of my life.”

“Of course. My soonest opening…”
“Girl, you have the worst luck,” Claire said. My best friend since second grade, we even had rituals for when I was in the hospital. For the past five years, every time I was in the hospital over a Friday night she would come visit me and we would eat pizza and watch movies and do each other’s hair.
“I know,” I laughed. “All the nurses here are like old friends.”
We talked and laughed until it was so late that Claire’s mom couldn’t stay up any longer and had to come pick her up. It was for the best anyway; I had to get well-rested for the surgery tomorrow.
Washing up for the operation, I was still dumbstruck. How could she have a surgical infection? The procedure went perfectly and I myself made sure everything was sterile. No matter, the mother was convinced.
Eager to see what was going on, I prepared quickly. Before I knew it, I was inside. How could this be? Her whole tibia was infected and filled with pus. I took a closer look and noticed a spiraling pattern that was particularly irritated. Carefully, I removed the rod and cleaned off the clear goo. A brown hair was wrapped around the length of the rod. My stomach sank: Connor.

“These people are supposed to be professionals and they can’t even manage to sterilize the operating room? This is ridiculous. I’m pressing charges.” My voice boomed through the hospital hallway but I didn’t care. Ariel was so sick–it broke my heart to see her-merely because of a mistake in cleanliness? She was hit by a car and had a metal rod put into her bone but what put her through the most pain? A hair. The rules they teach on the first day of medical school were overlooked; the actual procedure was no problem at all! I pulled my phone from my pocket and pressed the number five speed dial – my lawyer.

I was getting more and more excited as Bill told me about the case. Although the Clarks have been a major source of business over the past couple years, their cases were not usually won. But this one, this one they may have something! I told him so much. By the end of the phone call, I was so adrenalized that I started the research right away.

My anger had been building up for weeks and when Dr. Segel told me about the mistake it spilled over. “How could this happen?! For God’s sake, she was hit by a car! I can’t imagine the stress and pain she is going through and you put her through even more because of a silly oversight!”

“I know–“

“Don’t tell me you know what she–or any of us, for that matter–are feeling because I guarantee you don’t.”

The doctor was speechless. “I…I’m sorry.”

“Expect to hear from our lawyer. We are pressing charges.” I walked away and didn’t look back.

With my hood pulled over my head and my eyes pointed down at the floor, I weaved through the loud kids, into the classroom, and sat down into my seat in the back. My attempt at being invisible failed miserably as a gaggle of girls approached my desk. I was really getting sick of the intrusive questions.

“Hey, Claire!” The one in the middle, and the obvious queen bee, squeaked with sickening sweetness.

The Claire in my mind desperately wanted to retort, Do you need something? But the real Claire responded, “Hey,” in a small voice I’m not proud of.

“What have you been up to lately?” Ava said. Stop stalling and just ask me, already, I thought.

“Not much. How about you?”

“Just the usual. So, I heard about Ariel’s accident; that really sucks.”

Ahh, smart girl. Leave the subject open for me to give her the dirt without cornering me with questions. “Yeah it does. But she’s going to be okay.”

She gives in just like all the rest. “I also heard that her parents are suing the doctor for malpractice. Are they really going to? Again?” she asks eagerly.

Maybe not so smart. “I’m not really sure. We don’t talk about that stuff.” I look her straight in the eye and let her know she’s not going to get anything out of me. She doesn’t catch on. Ava continues to grill me until the bell rings and she is forced to retreat.

The spread of high school gossip continues to amaze me in its speed and unreliability. Some think Ariel died, some think both her legs were cut off, some think the surgery was done on the wrong leg; yet others had the story right. And they knew it. And they were determined to find out more.

I pulled out my phone and shot a quick text to Ariel discreetly under my desk:

Claire: Hey Ariel ? How ya feelin?

Ariel: Ehh, okay. Little bit better today. Having fun at school?
Claire: hahah have they brainwashed you over there? its just as horrible as usual but now every wants to know what is going on with you too. I have seriously been asked by everyone in the school and its only third period.
Ariel: Man, news travels fast! what do you say?
Claire: i dunno. I just tell them that you haven’t said anything to me yet.
Ariel: hahaha yeah right, like anyone believes that!

We continued on like that and by the end of the class I felt better than I had all day. Best friends are miracle workers.

While stuck in traffic on the way to the hospital, extreme boredom lead me to thoughts about my life’s achievements, the few that there were. I had expected to do much more than I had at the ripe age of 40. What kid dreams to be a sub-par lawyer for a malpractice insurance company? Not one. Except, of course, the kids lying to make their fathers feel like they have done something worth aspiring to. Want to know why? Because it is remarkably monotonous. Paper work and more paper work, case after boring case; they are all the same. At the moment, I was following protocol for the millionth time; going to the Saint Barnabas to get the surgery video. Surgical infection? Ho hum.

I debated taking a nap instead of watching the tape handed to me by the nurse manning the desk. Experience told me that the doctor did nothing wrong and the kid was so prone to infection a microscopic piece of dust would do the job. It wasn’t even my area of expertise; I’m a lawyer, not a doctor! Even if something were done visibly wrong–as my boss told me to watch out for–I probably wouldn’t be paying enough attention to notice. He’s just too cheap to hire a medical professional, I thought. But I might as well watch this one. It saves me from doing an hour and a half of paperwork. I shuddered at the thought and turned on the video. All was going as planned (as I could tell from my jaded eyes, anyway) until the girl suddenly asked them to leave the room. I leaned forward. Don’t get too excited. If they check all the instruments when they come back, they are still following the rules. The doctors left and the girl they called Ariel looked as if she was having a panic attack. How strange, since she looked so calm–more so than most patients–just moments ago. I could not believe my luck when I saw what happened next; this case was nothing like I had initially thought.

I felt giddy as I logged onto my work email account. The defense’s witness list was supposed to come today and I fully expected to have a brilliant cross-examination for every single one. I opened the email as soon as I saw it, smiling as I read through.
Witness List
From: Carl Lane <>
To: Jake Bank <>
Mr. Bank,
This list consists of the witnesses I plan on examining and their relation to my client/the case:
Rachel Graff, Colleague
Carly Gelband, Surgical nurse
John Mottesi, Psychiatrist
The grin on my face was wiped away and my breath caught in my throat. I knew that psychiatrist, I knew his area of expertise, and I knew what their defense was. What I didn’t know was how to deal with it.

The anger that I felt towards Dr. Segel was pure contentment compared to what I was feeling now. If I hadn’t known that Jake really was a good guy, I would have shouted some carefully chosen words and hung up on him. Since we had been working together for so long, I decided to hear him out despite my outrage.

Jake: “Now you have to understand, this is not my opinion nor do I expect it to be yours, but we have an important decision to make. Do you want me to continue with our plan and deny it, or agree with him but prove its irrelevance?

Bill: “No way, I am not admitting to this. Not one aspect of it is true, our little girl isn’t like that.”

After Jake calmed me down, I was able to speak about the decision rationally, putting my fury aside.

Bill: “I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to be completely honest with your answer, okay?

Jake: “Of course.”

Bill: “What plan of action do you think would most benefit our side?”

Jake: “Truthfully, agreeing with them will be most helpful. Looking back at the file, I realized that they have some pretty solid evidence. Denying it will just make the jury feel like we have something to hide and the last thing you want is a distrustful jury. Ariel is a 14-year-old girl who has been through a lot; sympathy in the jury is our friend. No offense, but we want to make Ariel seem like a feeble, naïve kid who doesn’t know better. With this new finding, the heart of every mom in the jury will go out to her because it’s not her fault. I’m not saying that it’s true, not at all, but for our purposes in court, it can help us out. Although the news may have come as a shock, in my mind it actually strengthened our arguments.

Bill: All right, do what you need to do. I trust you. Just one thing: don’t make my daughter look like a fool.
~Six Months Later~

The past few months were among the strangest I’ve ever had. Not only did I have surgery twice, which is unusual enough, but I was also hit by a car, became deathly ill, became well again, and now have a lawsuit going on. I was interviewed by several psychiatrists and questioned by countless doctors and lawyers. Unlike most malpractice lawsuits, ours actually was going to court. In the car ride over, my lawyer gave me a pep talk.

“Now, we want you to seem younger than you are, so make sure to act nervous. Look every single juror straight in the eye, especially the older women. Eye contact will make you seem more like a real person rather than just a name on paper. Here,” he leaned over towards me and pulled out my ponytail. “Put your hair in braids. It’ll make you look younger.”

He continued to coach me while I tried to take it all in. We got out of the car with both of my parents and walked to the courthouse together. I didn’t know why, but I was scared. Not about winning or losing, I honestly couldn’t care less, but more about what I would find out. A group of adults who have been examining me for months are about to discuss their findings. What if I learn something really horrible about myself? I took a deep breath and stepped into the courtroom.

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