It was Luka's turn to accompany the EMTs. The main thoroughfares had
been cleared somewhat. Calls were now coming in from distraught wives
on behalf of stricken husbands who failed to realize changing
channels takes considerably less energy than shovelling snow. There
were also stranded motorists, plus elderly citizens whose heating
systems had failed. Luka and Kerry checked out the supplies he would
need. Since the emergency vehicles couldn't travel as fast as usual,
Luka was preparing for doing procedures in the field that are
normally done when the patient is brought to the hospital.
John had caught cold, so he stayed indoors. It was his turn to be
guinea pig for the newest med students. Wearing a surgical mask, he
was poked and prodded as they learned the correct ways to take
patient histories as well as perform routine exams. Carter couldn't
believe how young they were. In their turn, his students thought *he*
looked too young to be an attending.
"Try that again, you missed the lower left quadrant." John told a
young woman who was palping his liver. "And don't be afraid to really
put the pressure on." The young woman blushed and tried once
more. "That's it. The edges should be soft. Hard ridges indicate the
"Calcification resulting from liver disease, a tumor, or a patient
with hepaticus ferrus: one made out of cast-iron.", another female
student replied quickly as John grinned and nodded.
"Tests to firm up the diagnosis?..."
Kerry Weaver smiled as she watched from the hall. Carter was shaping
into a fine teacher. He was patient but did not spare the unprepared.
Two of this latest batch of babies had already requested to be
assigned to the ER. Nodding to Lydia, who was there to maintain
propriety, Kerry went to the lounge. "Kitten's" constant crying had
soon resulted in the nursery staff sending her back downstairs to the
ER. A basinette had been set up and Kerry's Crew was fighting over
whose turn it was to watch the infant.
The foundling was asleep on her tummy, a stuffed grey kitten tucked
in beside her. The gift shop staff had donated the floppy toy. They
didn't have anything to do either. Connie was sleeping on the couch.
She had kids of her own, so Kerry knew the least abnormal sound would
instantly awaken her. Pouring a cup of coffee, Kerry went back out to
the desk. "Can I see the book, Jerry?"
"Sure, Dr. Weaver." Jerry produced a kid's speckled notebook.
Running her finger down the page, Kerry noted most of her staff had
already selected dates when John and Luka would be permitted to adopt
Kitten. John's nickname for her had been picked up by everyone
else. "Okay, put me down for June 15th." Kerry said and added the
baby's probable height and weight.
"Do you want to get in on the side bet?" Jerry asked as he pocketed
Kerry's twenty dollar bill.
"What side bet?"
"The date those two tell us they're gonna petition to adopt."
"They haven't yet?" Kerry was surprised. Every spare minute John and
Luka had were spent with the baby. John's cold prevented him from
getting too close so he became her official photographer. The gift
shop staff happily sold him a disposable camera every other day or
so. Luka had purchased a pink binder to put the pictures in when they
"Nope. It's only a matter of time though. I overheard Dr. Carter
talking about colleges yesterday." Jerry chuckled.
"Oh brother! They're both goners. How long do you think it will take
for social services to get someone over here?" Kerry asked.
"At least another four days."
"Okay, put me down for the day after." Kerry grinned and handed over
* * * * *
Sneezing, Carter went to the lounge. It was time to feed the baby.
Before going in, he put on a disposable gown, gloves, and a fresh
mask. Connie had warmed the bottle. John sat on the couch with the
infant. She eagerly drank her formula while gripping John's gloved
finger. Connie watched approvingly as Carter stopped the feeding
frenzy after five minutes to burp her then resumed. When the bottle
was empty, he put the baby against his shoulder and began patting and
massaging her back.
"Come on, Kitten. I need at least two more burps before you can take
your nap." He spoke softly, but in a normal tone of voice. Neither he
or Luka had been caught thus far using "baby talk". The first burp
was followed quickly by a muffled sound from Kitten's other
end. "Easy come, easy go." John smiled at Connie. She got out a fresh
diaper and the changing equipment. After the second burp, John got up
and put Kitten on the changing mat. "For once, I'm glad I have a
cold." He laughed as Connie wrinkled her nose.
"Four kids and I *still* haven't figured out how such small bodies
can make such awful smells." Connie was pleased to see her pupil's
progress. John expertly cleaned Kitten's diaper area, while teasing
and tickling her. After putting on baby oil and powder, he slid the
new diaper under her and taped it up.
"She's really a good baby. Considering all of the people around her,
she hasn't made much of a fuss. Have you?" John had her in his arms
again. Kitten smiled sleepily at him, then yawned. Placing her in the
basinette, John sat down and began rubbing the small back. "Once upon
"Bedtime stories, Carter? Don't you think she's a little young for
"Actually, Dr. Keaton told me once, the sound of a voice speaking
slowly and softly is what sends them off. I could recite the
Gettysburg Address with the same effect." John grinned as Kitten
yawned again. "...there was a baby princess who liked her milk so
much she purred. Two hard-working woodsmen had found the baby..."
"I don't think I know that one." Connie said.
"I'm making it up." Carter said in the same tone of
voice. "...because of the small noises she made when they fed her,
they called her 'Kitten'..." The star of the story was asleep.
"Has anyone found out about her parents?" Connie asked as John tidied
up the "changing table".
"Nope. Al said no one has reported an infant girl missing. I'm just
hoping when the snow melts, we don't find her mother's body. I didn't
see any footprints when I found her. But it was snowing hard, so that
doesn't mean much. We faxed her hand and foot prints to other
hospitals to see if we could trace her that way. So far, all of their
babies are accounted for. Alcohol and drugs didn't seem to be a
factor in her mother's abandoning her."
"Yeah. If the mother had been using, traces should have been in her
system." Connie shook her head. Both of them had seen alcoholic and
addicted mothers whose habits had affected their infant children.
"She couldn't have been out there for much longer than fifteen
minutes. Whoever left her, must have done so just before I went
outside. Sleep tight, Kitten. I'll be back in a couple of hours."
John removed the gloves, gown, and mask. It was time to check on his
other young charges.
* * * * *
Luka's ride-along was blessedly uneventful. The major traffic
arteries were almost clear of snow and abandoned vehicles. Most of
the patients were treated on-site for incipient hypothermia and
dislocated joints. They returned to County four hours later bringing
in a elderly man whose electricity had failed resulting in
hypothermia. Luka gave Kerry the bullet and went to put away the un-
used supplies. He was surprised to see a small crowd gathered around
the supply room.
"Here's a good one. Does anybody know why they call it 'Lasix'?" It
was John's voice. He'd managed to turn cleaning out the supply room
into a session of prescription "Jeopardy". Silence followed his
question. "Guesses anyone? Don't be afraid, I didn't know the answer
either until the Chief of Staff took pity on my ignorance." John
grinned at their mystified faces. "Okay, I'll spare your pride. It's
called 'Lasix' because the effects of a standard dose last six days."
Now what is it usually prescribed for?"
Luka smiled as he squeezed into the room. "Excuse me, folks. I've got
some meds to check in." The students made room for him as the star
pupil replied to John's question.
"Alright, Ms. Samuels has made a thorough study of the PDR. The next
five questions are for everyone else." John smiled at the young
woman. She was showing signs of great promise. He nodded to Luka and
continued the impromptu exam. Luka quickly returned the medicines and
other supplies to their proper shelves and went to the lounge for
Kerry was sitting in front of a lap-top working on an article she'd
planned to submit to JAMA.* Kitten was in her basinette kicking in
her nightgown sack and occasionally making small happy noises. Luka
had washed his hands and put on a disposable gown. "Is my little girl
ready for her dinner?", he asked bending over the infant who smiled
up at him. Kitten kicked her feet with renewed vigor and gurgled
something. "I'll take that as a 'yes'." Luka grinned and went to
fetch her formula from the refrigerator.
"She really responds to you two." Kerry observed, looking at Luka and
the baby over the top of her glasses.
"Any word from Child Welfare Services?" Luka removed the bottle from
the microwave and sprinkled a few drops on his wrist. Like Papa
Bear's porridge, it was too hot.
"Yes. They're sending someone out tomorrow morning. I'm releasing
some of the staff at the end of the evening shift. The main roads are
passable and the El' has resumed service to all stations."
"If it's okay with you Dr. Weaver, John and I will stay the night."
Luka tested the bottle again and satisfied with its temperature,
began feeding the little girl. "That way Kitten can stay down here.
Besides, John and I have some things to discuss."
"I'll bet you do." Kerry said wryly. It looked as if she would win
the side bet. Grinning, she went back to her article. Twenty minutes
later, she looked up. Luka was singing to the baby in a soft
baritone. The words were Croatian but she recognized the familiar
tune: Brahms' Lullaby. The sight of Luka, seated on the dilapidated
couch, his face bent towards the sleepy child, stopped her breath.
There wasn't anything mawkish or sentimental about the tableau they
formed; only a matter-of-fact tenderness of which Luka seemed totally
unaware. His two daughters must have been very fortunate to have this
man for a father. She hoped Kitten would be as lucky.
* * * * *
John stuffed the last of his clothing into the satchel. He and Luka
would camp out in the lounge tonight. Hospital beds would be needed
to accommodate all of the postponed elective surgical cases. The ER
was virtually deserted. After spending nearly a week there, most of
the staff who could be spared went home to their families. Mark
Greene had been at home during the storm. When he came on duty at
nine that evening, he was surprised to see a sign on the door to the
lounge: "Quiet, please. Kitten is sleeping." Opening the door, he saw
the basinette and two of his colleagues sitting on the couch. John
looked up and waved as Mark went over to the basinette.
"Where on earth did she come from?", he asked quietly. Luka and John
got up and gestured for him to follow them outside. John explained
how the baby had been found and how she had turned the cynical ER
staff into a bunch of saps.
"Yeah, babies will do that." Mark grinned. He and Elizabeth were two
months away from their second child.
"Most of the guys are in the cafeteria playing bocce ball with the
urine bottles." Luka said. "Randi's on break, so John and I are
monitoring the phones from in here. There are no patients and we're
probably not going to get very many tonight."
"Great. I've been reading this novel, written by a friend of
Elizabeth's. Looks like I'll get the chance to finish it after all.
As you were, guys. I'll take the desk until Randi gets back." Mark
went up the hall and the two men returned to the lounge. One lamp was
turned on, its light aimed at a corner. Seated in the semi-darkness,
John resumed their quiet conversation as if there'd been no
"I know raising children the right way is hard work. That's not the
issue. I'm more concerned about the effect our relationship will have
on Kitten when she's older. People can say cruel things. It's
different for us, we're adults. The occasional snide comment or rude
remark doesn't have the power to wound us too deeply. However, how
would you feel if you were constantly teased about your parents and
told that their relationship was sinful?" John looked over at the
"John, people say mean things no matter what. As Kitten grows up
there will be plenty of well-meaning folks who'll make negative
statements about anything that comes to mind. Between the two of us
there'll be enough love to give her a pretty strong self-image. Would
your grandfather's cruel remarks have hurt you as much if your father
and mother had been there to reassure you?" Luka asked gently. "Your
childhood wasn't a very happy one yet you managed to survive, even
flourish. I'm always amazed you didn't turn out to be one of those
spoilt jet-setting brats with a mink-lined insular attitude. What
John thought for a moment. "I suppose it was dear old grand-dad.", he
grinned suddenly. "I'm sure he'd have a stroke for real if he knew
his continual harping on my short-comings made me all too aware of
pain in other people's lives. I promised myself when I grew up that
I'd never make someone feel bad about themselves just to make myself
feel good. I've slipped up here and there, but I was younger and
"Precisely. It's true your first instinct is to shield your children
from all hurtful things. But if you do, you wind up with a pretty
pathetic excuse for a human being. Bad things happen to everyone.
With the grace of God and the love of family and friends, we manage
to get through the rough spots. Kitten won't be any different. People
may intrude with the odd nasty comment, but I think we'll be able to
support her and get her to see that ignorance and prejudice hurt the
ones who harbor those feelings far more than the victims."
"You're right, Sascha. I would have said something about adopting her
earlier but I wasn't sure if you could stand losing another child if
we were turned down." John said very quietly.
"It's too late for that, John. We both love Kitten. If the social
worker takes her away tomorrow, both of us will grieve. One week, one
month, one year... time doesn't allow us to love each other *more*;
only *better*. I love you just as much as I did that day we had lunch
at Magoo's. However, over the years, I've learned to love you as a
mature adult---to love you better. Besides, even if I'd known I was
going to lose my little jewels, I still wouldn't have passed up the
chance to love them for as long as they were with me."
John hugged his husband. "How did I manage to fall in love with such
a wise man?"
"Atheists would say, pure dumb luck. Believers would say it was God
working. Either way, the matter was not in our hands to control.
Sure, we did what we could to help things along, but in the end,
neither of us knew what the future would hold. We still don't."
"Okay, you've explained away all of my reservations. When that social
worker comes tomorrow, let's tell him or her that we want to adopt
Kitten and will be willing to act as foster parents until our
petition is granted."
* * * * *
Ms. Sarah Nicholson trudged her way over the piles of dirty snow. The
blizzard had created several piles of paperwork on her colleagues'
desks. Between that and the approaching holidays, the social services
folks were cutting as many corners as they could. Stamping the snow
from her boots, Ms. Nicholson walked up to the admit desk. "I
understand you people found a baby?"
"Yeah." Randi's gum popped. "I'll page the guys who are taking care
of her. Why don't you take a seat over there?" Randi went back to her
sketching. "Randi-Wear" was actually beginning to show a profit.
"You paged us?" John and Luka appeared a couple of minutes later.
"Social Services is here. She's over there." Randi pointed with her
"Good afternoon." Luka extended his hand. "Ms.?"
"Follow us." John smiled as the woman got to her feet. They ushered
Sarah Nicholson into the lounge. "Here she is." John took Kitten from
Haleh. Sarah Nicholson was mildly surprised to see a smiling baby
dressed in a pale yellow nightgown sack.
"Are those her clothes?"
"They are now." Luka smiled. "When she was found, she was wearing
the 'Chicago Tribune'. We bought a few things for her from the
hospital gift shop."
"Here are her medical records. She's in excellent condition
considering she'd been abandoned outside in the middle of a
blizzard." John handed Ms. Nicholson a folder. "We contacted the
police. Their report is attached to the folder. So far, no one has
come forward to claim her." John explained while rubbing Kitten's
"Ms. Nicholson, we would like to keep her with us as a foster child
until we can legally adopt her." Luka took the plunge.
"You two are living together?"
"Yes. We've been married for just over five years. We lived together
about a year before that." Luka replied.
"I don't know... Both of you are working here?"
"Yes, but we've made arrangements to provide competent care for
Kitten while we're at work." Luka took the baby from John.
"My family's former housekeeper has an apartment in our building. She
has offered to stay with the baby while we're at County. She's a
retired nurse and practically raised me from when I was Kitten's
age." John added.
"I was the father of two daughters." Luka said slowly.
"Where are they now?"
"They were killed in the Bosnian war along with their mother. I, we,
love this child. And if you interview the staff who've helped us care
for her, they'll tell you that she responds well to us."
"I see... Usually we place infants in the foundling home run by the
Sisters of Mercy. However, they are over-crowded as it is. Have
either of you been foster parents before?"
"No." John and Luka replied.
"I don't know..."
"Please, Ms. Nicholson. I know we are not your organization's idea of
a 'normal' couple. Nevetheless, we are deeply committed to each
other. The Human Resources department has all of our records. It's
only four days 'til Christmas. We'd like to have Kitten spend it with
us. She deserves the best we can give her. Please?" John asked. He
rarely resorted to what Luka called his "whipped puppy" look, but
this was too important. He didn't hesitate to use his most powerful
weapon. His large brown eyes turned the trick once again.
"Okay." Ms. Nicholson smiled at Carter. "But don't get your hopes up.
We're short-staffed right now and not many foster families would be
willing to accept an infant so close to the holidays. Fill out these
forms while I talk to your Human Resources people. We can grant you
temporary custody... *temporary* until after Christmas." Sarah
Nicholson pulled the complicated forms from her bulging briefcase
then left to meet with John and Luka's supervisors.
"See? It never fails.", John grinned and batted his eyelashes at Luka
who shook his head.
* JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association