Healing Hearts

By: Syndi Powell


APRIL SPRADER WANTED one moment of sanity. Just one minute when she didn’t have to run between examination rooms because she didn’t have enough staff, which she didn’t. Her emergency department was shorthanded. Again. Half of the doctors and nurses out with the flu. Again. And the patients kept coming. She listened to her current patient’s breathing sounds. “Another deep breath, please.”

The older man sucked in air. She could hear the distinctive wheeze of infected bronchial tubes and removed the stethoscope from her ears. “I can run more tests, but it seems you have bronchitis.”

The man had a scrunched expression. “Not pneumonia, then.”

“Like I said, I could run more tests, but you’re wheezing due to inflamed lungs. They don’t have the liquid buildup of pneumonia.” She made a note on his chart and took a prescription pad from the front pocket of her lab coat. “You need to drink plenty of fluids and get some rest.” She wrote two prescriptions and ripped the slips from the pad before handing them to the man. “You can either fill these here at the hospital or take them to your local pharmacy. One’s for an inhaler, the other for a stronger cough medicine. If things don’t improve in a week, see your regular doctor.”

He thanked her and stuffed the prescriptions in the front pocket of his flannel shirt. One down. Only twenty-two more or so to go before she could take fifteen minutes for herself.

She left the curtained area and returned to the pit, where she checked the charts of waiting patients. Her head nurse, Janet, had prioritized them in order of urgency, so she only had to grab the top one and walk away. Heart palpitations in curtain five. Yep, that would be a priority.

She pushed the curtain aside and double-checked the chart. “Antonio Johnson?” She glanced at the African American kid sitting on the hospital bed. He looked no more than eighteen, although his chart gave his age as twenty-two, so why was he having heart issues? The kid offered her a weak smile as she stepped forward. “What brings you to my ER tonight?”

“He complained of chest pain and passed out at practice today.” A good-looking man with artfully messy dark hair in a charcoal-gray business suit and light blue tie, with a cell phone plastered to his ear, moved closer to Johnson. “I need to know. Is his football career over? Is it his heart?”

She raised her eyebrows at this. “And you are?”

“His agent.” He then ignored her and spoke softly into his phone.

April tried not to roll her eyes at him and focused instead on Antonio. “What were you doing before you passed out?”

“We were trying a five-ten-five shuttle run, which I’ve done a million times. And when I hit the forty-yard line, things got fuzzy and the next thing I knew, I’m lying on the field and the coach is yelling at me to get up.”

The only words she had understood were that he’d passed out on a sports field. “A five-ten-five?”

“You know. It’s a drill we run at practices. But this was a tryout.” Antonio gave a one-shoulder shrug. “I’ve never had that happen before.”

“Your…” She glanced briefly at the man hissing into the phone. Really? “Your agent mentioned chest pains?”

Antonio shook his head. “That was before. I felt fine. Well, dizzy but fine. But you know. So is it my heart, Doc?”

She removed her stethoscope from around her neck and used the earpieces before pressing the chest piece to his back. “Take a few deep breaths for me.”

The kid complied, and she could hear normal breathing sounds. She then placed the chest piece over his heart. She could hear the rhythmic beating as well as a distinctive click. She removed the earpieces and placed the stethoscope around her neck once again. “Have you experienced these palpitations and chest pains before?”

“No, he’s in perfect health. This has never happened before. Like we said.”

April was taken aback at the agent and tried to keep her lip from curling. “I was asking Antonio. My patient.” She turned back to the kid. “Has this ever happened before?”

The kid looked at his agent, then shifted back to her. “Maybe a couple times, but then it was okay. And I didn’t pass out or nothing.”

“You never told me about that.”

Antonio shrugged off his agent’s comment. “It didn’t seem like a big deal. I could feel my heart beating out of my chest, but then it would calm down. Besides, I was in the middle of a workout and your heart is supposed to be pumping that hard.” He focused on her. “Right?”

She gave a nod and made some notes on his chart. “I’d like to do some tests to be sure I understand what’s going on with you.”

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