From Bachelor to Daddy

By: Meredith Webber

CHAPTER ONE

EMMA CRAWFORD LOOKED anxiously out the kitchen window as she added milk to two small bowls of cereal. Above the tree-line she could see smoke growing thicker but the latest news broadcast had assured her that the bushfires raging through the national park on the outskirts of Braxton were still many miles away, and the town itself wasn’t in danger.

Bushfires were the last thing she’d considered when she’d agreed with her father that a return to the town where he’d been born and grown up would be a good thing. Being able to bring up the boys in a country town had seemed like a wonderful idea, but it had been the thought of the spacious old home, recently left to her father by an aged aunt, that had held the most appeal.

Well, that and a kernel of an idea that had been germinating deep inside her…

Forget that for the moment! The move had been practical and that was what was most important.

City living was all very well, but the prices in Sydney had meant the four of them—her father, the two boys and herself—had been crammed into an apartment that had shrunk as the babies turned to toddlers—growing every day.

No, Braxton, with its district hospital willing to offer her a job in its emergency department, the surrounding national park, a beautiful beach an hour’s drive away, and best of all the rambling old house in its magical, neglected gardens just perfect for two adventurous little boys, had been extremely appealing.

And they had bushfires in Sydney, too, she reminded herself, to shake off the feeling of foreboding the smoke had caused.

She deposited the bowls of cereal on the trays of the highchairs and smiled at the angelic faces of her three-year-old twins, Xavier and Hamish. She was off to work and it was her father who’d be cleaning up the mess that two little horrors could achieve with bowls of cereal.

A quick kiss to each of the still clean faces, a reminder to be good for Granddad, a kiss for her father, as ever standing by, and she was gone, her stomach churning slightly at the thought of the day ahead. Although she’d already spent a few days at the hospital, meeting staff and watching how their system operated, this was her first official work day.

‘It’s called plunging right in,’ Sylvie Grant, the triage nurse on duty, told Emma when she arrived. ‘The fire turned back out Endicott way and some of the firefighters were caught. It’s mostly smoke inhalation—their suits keep them well protected these days. This one’s in four.’

Emma took the chart and headed to the fourth curtained cubicle along the far wall, surprised to find the occupant was a woman.

‘Your working hours must be worse than mine, especially at this time of the year,’ she said, when she’d introduced herself.

The woman smiled then shook her head, pointing to her throat.

‘Sore?’ Emma asked as she checked the monitor by the side of the bed. Blood pressure and heart rate good, oxygen saturation normal, though the oxygen tubes in the woman’s nose would be helping there…

‘Let’s look at your throat,’ she said, using a wooden spatula to hold down the tongue so she could visually check what she could see of the pharynx.

‘I can see why it’s painful to speak,’ she told her patient. ‘You’ve had cold water?’

The patient nodded.

‘No difficulty swallowing?’

Another nod.

‘Okay, then I’ll sort out a drink with a mild topical anaesthetic that should dull the pain, but don’t try to talk. The hot air you breathed in obviously reached as far as your larynx so it’s likely your vocal cords are swollen.’

She explained what she needed to the nurse, wrote it up on the chart with instructions for it to be given four-hourly and was talking to the patient via questions and nods when Sylvie came in.

And the day became just another day in an emergency department—a child with an ear infection, a woman with chest pains that turned out, after an ECG and blood tests, to be a torn pectoral muscle, a child from the school who’d fallen off a swing and gashed his forehead—stitches and possible concussion so she’d keep him in for observation—an elderly man with angina…

Until, at about two in the afternoon when, as often happened in an emergency department, the place emptied out and one of the nurses suggested they all take a break.

Well, all but Sylvie, and a nurse who’d come on duty for the swing shift.

Emma said goodbye to the firefighter, whose husband had arrived to take her home, and made her way to the small room they all used for breaks, coming in as Joss, one of the nurses she’d met the previous day and also on swing shift, bounced in through another door.

‘Hot goss!’ Joss announced, grabbing the attention of the three women already in the room, while Emma fixed herself a cup of tea and pulled a packet of sandwiches from the small fridge, pausing to listen to the tale.

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