Life After Perfect(7)

By: Nancy Naigle

“Not too busy if we don’t get many emergencies. A couple rechecks, labs, oh, and Jeb Crossley put his back out again. I told him to come in whenever he could make it.” She lifted a stack of charts and handed them to him.

“Of course he did.” Derek shook his head. Jeb Crossley had been the wrestling coach back when Derek was on the team in junior high and that man refused to give in to the aging process. “What’s that? The third time this month?”

“Fourth. He came in and saw your dad last week.”

Jeb should ask for a frequent visitor discount. Derek would almost be obliged to consider it.

Derek flipped through the first two charts. Routine stuff. Then he glanced at the next file. His gut twisted. “I’m going to look these over. Let me know when the first appointment arrives.”

 “Yes, sir.”

Back in his office he looked closer at the file on Kelly Jo Keefer. She was one of his dad’s patients. Cancer. Stage four. Derek’s teeth clenched. When cancer took Laney from him, he’d made the decision to transition back to a general practitioner.

Researchers had made a lot of progress since he started in the field, but for all the new discoveries that would someday save lots of lives, the truth was the disease was relentless. For those needing a cure right now . . . it was hard to deliver the news that there still were not a lot of answers.

Now his days were filled with vaccines, scrapes, and the occasional stitch or two. Things that would put a bother in your day, but for the most part weren’t life-threatening. And that was a much better place to be in his life right now.

He sat back in his chair and read Kelly Jo’s chart until Wendy knocked on the door to let him know his first patient was ready.

Just reviewing Kelly Jo’s chart, so like Laney’s, was already chafing those still unhealed two-year-old wounds.

He saw the first four patients. A cold. A case of jock itch. Chiggers, and one sprained ankle.

Then he tried to calm down his next patient’s mother, who was clearly more upset than her son was about his predicament.

“I bet he can bear-ly breathe with this gummy bear up his nose,” Derek said, trying to put a light spin on the situation to calm down Ryan’s mom while he dug out the culprit. Finally, he got a grip on the squishy piece of candy and tugged it from the boy’s nostril. “A green one at that.”

“Ryan? Why in the world do you keep doing this?” She gave an exhausted sigh. “Why couldn’t I have had girls?”

Derek smiled at the irritated mother. “I think there’s a misconception that boys do this more than girls, but that’s not the case,” he said. “It’s common in kids under six. For items found in the ears, girls equal boys, but for the nose, it’s a two-to-one ratio in favor of girls.” He laughed. “It could’ve been worse.”

Derek gave the five-year-old the speech about sticking foreign objects up his nose and then sent them on their way. Before seeing his next patient, Derek headed straight to his office, pulled open the left desk drawer, and chucked the bag of gummy bears stashed there right into the trash. “Won’t be eating any of those again for a while.”

The nurse knocked on his office door. “Mrs. Keefer is here. Room seven.”

“Thanks, Wendy. I’ll be right there.” Derek took in a deep breath and counted to five.

With the chart tucked under his arm, he walked down the hall and gave the door to Room 7 a quick double-knock. “Good morning, Mrs. Keefer.”

“Hi.” The dark, bruised-looking rings under Mrs. Keefer’s translucent skin made her look fifteen years older than her thirty-one years.

“Dr. Hansen is off today so I’ll be seeing you. I’m his son, Dr. Derek Hansen.” Derek’s being back allowed his mother to spirit his father away from the clinic on any number of couples’ trips.

“Nice to meet you.” Even her smile took an effort.

“You’re new in town?” he asked.

“Staying with my Great-Aunt Naomi. She lives down at the creek.”

“Mrs. Laumann is your aunt? I’m surprised you and I never met. I grew up around here. All of us used to hang out at the falls down near her place. Good lady.”

“She is,” Kelly Jo said. “I only spent a couple of summers here. She speaks quite fondly of you, and your dad, of course. He’s been great.” She fidgeted, seeming to be as uncomfortable as he was.

“Thank you. I think he’s pretty amazing. Now let’s take a listen to that heart.” He placed the ear tips of his stethoscope in his ears and pressed the diaphragm to her chest. “Good. Now a deep breath in.” He moved his stethoscope and closed his eyes, listening. “Another.

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