Susan W. Hudson
Angie ripped her surgical cap and shoe coverings off and threw them in the laundry as she headed out through the double doors. She didn’t even bother to change out of her blue scrubs. She noted, once again, that her ankles were immensely swollen and her feet felt like her sneakers were made of lead.
She smiled as she thought about arriving home, smelling the delicious concoction her husband, Luke, had come up with for their dinner, and enjoying his gentle massage of her ankles and feet.
She turned down the hallway towards the elevators. She loved this part of the hospital. The windows stretched all the way from a foot above the floor and faded into the ceiling above. There was usually a beautiful sight out the windows. Spring brought Cherry Blossoms and Dogwoods and soft gentle breezes, summer brought azaleas and gardenias (her favorite). Of course, fall brought a wildfire of reds, oranges, and yellows as the leaves began to die. She always found it sad that the leaves painted such a beautiful picture just before they died. In the winter the landscape was beautiful, but she resented the snow to a certain extent. It didn’t deal with death, just covered it in a blanket.
This evening she saw a ferocious storm outside. The rain gnawed at the windows forming huge sudsy sheets like ghosts trying to invade. The thunder whoofed like the crescendo of a bass drum, followed by angry, jagged streaks of rocket-force lightning.
She arrived at the elevators and pushed the down button. Down and then out. She stepped into the elevator with only one occupant. She thought, “I don’t even have an umbrella,” which was silly since her car was parked in the hospital’s garage. And, she had the remote for the garage at home in her car. “I’ll have to be very careful on the drive home,” she thought.” That was much more sensible.
In one second she surmised that her co-occupant was a well-dressed businessman. He was well-groomed (greying a little) and he was wearing an expensive-looking blue suit and a really nice tie. In the next second, she felt a vague sense that she had met him before. “Just a little deja vu,” she reminded herself that her hormones were playing tricks on her these days.
The gentleman carried a briefcase in one hand and a newspaper in the other. “I bet he’s got an umbrella in there,” she thought. She pushed the “G” button for the garage, and he had already pressed “1” for the hospital entrance/exit.
The elevator doors whispered shut. The elevator slid silently into the downward journey. Seconds later, with a thud, the elevator stopped between floors, leaving them in total darkness. Angie tried the emergency button. The doors were glued shut. She rifled through her bag, but could not come up with her phone. At that moment, her water broke. She looked around, and the well-dressed gentleman was perspiring profusely, and clutching his chest.
Angie watched the water dripping down her legs into a puddle, and she watched the gentleman in the car with her collapse on the floor.
This cannot be happening. Her due date was two weeks and three days away. Yes, she was down to counting days. When she started this pregnancy journey, she weighed just under 100 pounds. She had followed all the rules. She took vitamins every day, no smoking, or alcohol. She had gained very little weight, but she knew the baby was big. He or she (they did not know) was still active, but no longer played football inside her belly.
Ignoring the puddle at her feet, Angie got down on her hands and knees and administered CPR and chest compressions to the businessman. He finally coughed and came around and started breathing. Emily whispered, “What is your name.” “Chadwick Heartford,” he spurted. “Can you sit up?” she asked. “I think so,” he squeaked. Little did he know he was about to help deliver a baby.
Angie tried again, and finally located her phone. She called Luke. No answer. She dialed 911 and explained her dilemma. Within minutes many people were outside the elevator door. It was lodged between two floors, so no one could get to her. She could see their flashlights twinkling between the couplings of the elevator, and she could hear them, and they could hear her. Then she remembered the small flashlight that Luke insisted she carried in her bag. “Just in case,” he said. “In case of what,” she thought, “that I’m going into labor in a dark elevator.” She couldn’t contain her sarcastic little laugh.
When she tried to stand up, a brutal stretched out rubber band-like pain in her stomach brought her back to her knees. “Here we go,” she thought.
As her contractions came harder and more often, she became more and more frantic. Chadwick took off his expensive jacket and made a pillow for her head. He spread the newspaper out on the floor to improvise a “bed” for her.
More and more people gathered outside the door. Many of them worked together and they got the elevator to move up a few inches. That and her flashlight gave the car an eerie glow. Her gynecologist was there, but she could not squeeze through the opening. If she had tried, and the power came back on, she would be crushed to death.
Chadwick took over. He opened his briefcase and found a package of almonds and a fruit juice box that his wife insisted he had with him since he was diagnosed with type two diabetes. He ate the almonds to build his blood sugar up and he gave the juice box to Angie and insisted she sip on it.
Chadwick felt powerless. All he could do was hold Angie’s hands, whisper to her that it would be okay, and let her dig her fingernails into him. He counted the seconds between contractions and made her take deep breaths in and huff her breaths out. With another contraction and another gush of water, the slippery little infant landed in his hands. “It’s a boy,” he proclaimed. And for one second, he sounded just like her father. He took off his crisp white shirt and wrapped the little bundle in it. He opened his umbrella and improvised a cradle for the infant.
Chadwick went back to his briefcase and retrieved his wife’s small sewing kit. She was a stickler for tidiness (just like her own mother had been) and wanted him to be equipped to deal with a dangling button or any sewing emergency. He had already laboriously removed the lace from one of Angie’s tennis shoes.
He quickly tied off the umbilical cord with Angie’s shoestring. He found the small collapsible scissors in the sewing kit, and carefully severed the cord.
Right on cue, the emergency generator kicked in. The lights came on and the elevator geared up. When the doors opened, the neo-natal care unit rushed to get the baby into the incubator and sped off to get his newborn check and his APGAR.
The gynecology unit cuddled Emily up in warm blankets and took her to their unit to get checked out. In all the hub-bub, the cardiology contingent fell by the wayside. As soon as they could get themselves back together, they went in to get Chadwick and rush him to their unit for a total work-up.
When they entered the elevator, he was gone. How had he slipped out with everyone there? They noted that the ferocious storm had abated. It was now a slow trickling rain. They found Chadwick’s briefcase, umbrella, shirt, and jacket. They found the wrapper from the almonds, the fruit box, all the newspaper, and one wilted gardenia.
The maintenance crew came and rendered the elevator “out of order” until they could get back for a cleanup. They left everything intact. The police department came and collected up everything except the newspaper. They later reported that they found no identification.
The cleaning crew came in and found the placenta neatly wrapped in a part of the newspaper. One of the crew members noticed an obituary announcement on one of the sheets that had been spared. It was the obituary for Mr. Chadwick Heartford with a picture of a young man who looked only remotely like the man they had seen enter the elevator the evening before.
A statewide alert went out for the tidy, empathetic, and efficient co-occupant of the elevator. Nothing turned up. Emily’s description was sketchy and so was the description from the cleaning crew who had seen him enter the elevator. The man never came forward, nor was he identified. In her postpartum fog, Angie’s memories of her mom and dad faded in and out. As she had two older sisters, her dad wanted a little boy. When he took her in his arms for the first time, he insisted that they name her Angelica; she was his angel.
Angie and the baby boy checked out perfectly healthy. Luke had rushed to Angie’s bedside and did not leave her. Angie and Luke named their beautiful, healthy baby boy Chad Lucas Hodges.