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Monday Morning Hitchhiking
It was early Monday morning and I was off somewhere in dreamland when I was awakened by a jazz band. Of course, it wasn’t a real jazz band, but instead it was a recording of “When The Saints Go Marchin’ In” that I had set as the ringtone on my phone. I felt around on the night stand until I located the loudly ringing phone. It was the hospital. I looked at the clock and groaned, it almost 3:00 A.M., I knew that there wouldn’t be anymore sleep for me that night.
When I was fourteen, my mother had suffered a bad fall and severely injured her head. Her life had been saved by the steady hands of Doctor Alan Robinson, a brain surgeon at the Louisiana State University Medical Center. Doctor Robinson didn’t know it but he’d made a big impact on my life and from that point on, I set my sights on becoming a brain surgeon.
My parents supported me greatly throughout all of college and then medical school and after I was finished, I was offered positions at several major hospitals around the country. I accepted a position in Boston but after several years there, I decided to move back to my home state of Louisiana and accepted a position with the New Orleans Metropolitan Hospital. I was making significantly less money at the Met as it is called, but it was well worth it. Being a Cajun from the bayous of Louisiana, I was tired of the big city life and people not being able to understand my accent.
I listened intently as the voice on the other end of the line notified me that a nine year old boy had been involved in a terrible car accident on his way home as he and his mother had been on their way home after spending the weekend in Atlanta and that if the boy didn’t have surgery soon, it was possible that he wouldn’t survive another hour. I had been in many of these types of situations before but never with a patient who was so young so as I quickly showered and dressed, I prayed that the boy would somehow make it and that I would be able to help him.
I lived only about twenty minutes from the hospital so I hurried outside and cranked my Jaguar, opened the garage door, and quickly backed down the driveway and out into the street. Streetlights shown on the street as I quickly steered the car through the streets of my subdivision and then toward Interstate 10.
As I drove, I looked around me, noting all of the progress that had made following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Gulf Coast region had suffered a lot with hurricanes, then the oils spill in the spring of 2010, and the floods and tornadoes in the spring of 2011.
I reached the interstate and began accelerating down the highway. I looked down at my speedometer and noticed that I was nearly out of gas with the needle resting directly above the empty mark. I had meant to fill up the next morning on my way to the hospital but there wasn’t any time for that now and all I could do was pray that the car would get to the hospital but then the engine began to sputter and then died. I coasted to the shoulder and brought the car to a stop.
I got out and looked around. For a city that supposedly never sleeps, there weren’t many vehicles on the interstate. Everyone must’ve been taking a rare night off.
I reached inside the car and turned on my emergency lights and began to try to flag down a passing driver. A few sped past me without even tapping their brakes but then a battered pickup truck pulled up to me and stopped. The passenger side window rolled down with considerable effort and inside sat a tired looking man in his thirties.
“Car trouble?” he asked.
“I ran out of gas but I need to get to the Met quick!” I almost shouted back to him.
“Well, hop in then,” he replied.
I locked the car and opened the passenger side door and climbed in. He gunned the engine and we sped away in a cloud of smoke.
“Thanks for stopping, I’m a surgeon and there’s a nine year old boy that needs emergency surgery or he may not make it,” I said.
“I hope we get there in time,” he said as he braked for the exit that led to the hospital. “I have a kid that age. Don’t know what I’d do if something happened to him.”
His name was Raymond Arnoux and he had just finished his shift as a security guard at a local mall. His wife had recently divorced him and the son was staying with her for a week and then spending the next week with Raymond.
“Nasty thing to happen to a kid,” he said, “Don’t know what I would’ve done if my parents would’ve split up.”
He told me more about his son as he steered us through the streets toward the hospital. He seemed to be the typical proud father as he described the boy’s athletic feats on the baseball diamond.
We pulled up to a set of doors that a sign brightly proclaimed to be the main entrance for the New Orleans Metropolitan Hospital. I climbed out and shut the door.
“Thanks for the ride,” I said.
“I’ll drive back and put some gas in your car and if you can’t get a ride back to it, just give me a call,” he replied. He quickly wrote down his cell phone number while quieting my protests with a wave of his hand.
I thanked him and jogged inside to do my best to save the life of his son.