“Dr. Bell, how is he? Is he going to be okay?” Gabe asked from beside her, his words tentative and filled with concern and a touch of fear.
“He’s got a torn artery and a compound fracture. He needs surgery. They’ll have an orthopedic and vascular surgeon ready when we get to the hospital.”
“You’re a surgeon. What’s your assessment?”
She hated to even say the words. “He might lose the leg, but a good surgeon can stabilize the bones, repair the surrounding muscle and tissue damage, and give him a fighting chance to save the leg.” She tried to stay positive, even though his chances weren’t that good unless he got the best care possible. Out of her control. She wished she could do more. “He’s young and in remarkably good shape. He’s critical, but stable. His chances are good.”
They loaded Dane into the back of the bus. Bell jumped in, despite the looks she got from the paramedics.
“You call it in. I’ll keep him stable.”
The paramedic got on the radio with the hospital to relay Dane’s vitals and other information so the trauma team would be ready when they arrived.
Before they closed the back door, she looked at Gabe. “Get to the hospital. You’ll want to be included in all the decisions. Once we get there, his care is out of my hands. You need to talk to the surgeon before he does anything. Ask for specifics.”
The doors closed, cutting her off from saying anything more. Bell didn’t want to say it, but Dane’s catastrophic injury might be too far gone to save the leg. Dane needed an advocate. Someone to push the doctors to do everything to save the leg—as long as Dane remained stable.
Bell took Dane’s hand and squeezed. “You’re in for one hell of a recovery no matter what happens. You need to fight.”
Dane’s eyes fluttered open. He whispered something behind the oxygen mask. She pulled it away.
His deep brown eyes held her gaze. “My leg hurts. You have to get my dad.”
He’d said those words to her years ago, down by the river. Another time. Another state. Another girl. She wasn’t that castaway anymore.
“Dane, you’re going to be okay. Do you know what day it is?”
“Friday? No, Saturday? Where’s my dad? Get one of my brothers.”
“Gabe and Blake are on their way to the hospital. They’re right behind us.”
“Are you an angel? You disappeared?”
That made her smile. She placed the oxygen mask back over his nose and mouth. His eyes closed again, but he held tight to her hand. A nice strong grip that gave her hope he’d be okay.
She traced her finger over the feather tattoo. An angel. Ask anyone in her family, and they’d probably tell you she’d been sent by the devil. Her overzealous religious grandmother told her as much practically every day of her life.
The ambulance pulled into the ER entrance. The crew pulled Dane from the bus and rolled him inside the ER. The trauma team waited for his arrival, including the orthopedic surgeon.
“Dr. Bell, I’m Dr. Patterson. What’s your assessment from the scene?”
Bell filled in the doctor, giving him the details of Dane’s injuries while the trauma team quickly took X-rays to see if Dane had any other broken bones. Moving fast, they needed to get him upstairs to the OR.
“I’ll take a look as soon as they have him prepped, but it sounds like there’s no salvaging that leg,” Dr. Patterson said, so matter-of-fact that it sparked her temper.
“You can save it. It will be an effort, but I’m telling you it can be done.”
“The bone splintered and broke into multiple pieces. We’re talking more than a plate or two. It’ll be a miracle if it heals and he doesn’t have a permanent limp, or worse.”
“He’s an athlete in the prime of his life.”
“He’s a bull rider, hardly an Olympic sprinter or skier.”
Her anger flashed again. Her heart beat faster, and she fisted her hands so she didn’t wring his neck for dismissing Dane and his talent so easily. “I’m not going to argue the strength and skill it takes to ride bulls and broncos. I’m telling you, his leg is salvageable. You can do the job.”
“I’m telling you it’s probably not worth it with the amount of bone, tissue, and vascular damage.”
“And I’m telling you to save his leg.” Gabe stepped up beside them in the middle of the hectic ER. “If she says it can be done, then you better do it.”
Bell made the introductions. “Dr. Patterson, Gabe Bowden. Dane’s older brother. Next to him is his brother Blake, and this is Ella, Gabe’s wife.”
“Mr. Bowden, as I’ve discussed with Dr. Bell, the trauma to your brother’s leg is extensive. He’s in critical condition. We don’t even know if the artery and vessels can be repaired.”