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It had been almost six months since my divorce and although I was lonely I still forced myself to keep from letting anyone get close to me again. After working the same job in a local hospital for the past 15 years I had established many friendships among my co-workers but even they were unable to really understand how I felt. It wasn’t until a new employee started working in my department that I began to find myself contemplating a relationship once more. Kelly was a tall and beautiful red head with a demeanor unlike anything he had seen before. Quiet most of the time yet aggressive beyond reproach when faced with situations involving her patient’s health and well being. Her caring attitude was unlike any other nurse I knew before her. It was as though she actually worked for the satisfaction and not the pay that made her so different. Untouched by the frustration of administrative decisions and patient loads, she always found time to spend with her patients no matter how busy things became on her unit. Her patients were themselves the best example of her dedication. Each of them possessing by far both the greatest attitudes as well as much shorter recovery times than any other group within the hospital. Could it be that her love for her job and her patient’s health actually helped speed their recovery I wondered?

For several months I tried to gain the courage to ask her out for dinner. The thought of being rejected now weighed more heavily than ever on my mind. Instead of a direct approach I decided to put in for a transfer to her floor so that I could get to know her better professionally before attempting a personal relationship. My career in medicine had begun as a technician and orderly in the critical care unit. I wanted to go back to school to get my nursing degree but my wife was constantly discouraging me and insisting that I be satisfied with what I was. Now after many years I was actually the head of non licensed assisting personnel for the hospital and made as much if not more than a beginning nurse which gave me even less of a desire to start over again.

In my first few weeks on the fifth floor, I worked diligently to learn the ropes. Having spent many years in critical care, it was difficult for me to adjust to the pace of a surgical recovery unit. The unit was divided into two separate wings. One wing was used for medical and general surgical patients such as appendectomy and gallbladder surgeries and the other was designated for the postoperative orthopedic patients. It was decided that I would orient in both units but I was soon assigned to the orthopedic wing due to my mechanical aptitude and easy understanding of traction and other such equipment they used. On my last day of orientation the charge nurse asked me into her office for a short appraisal on my orientation and then proceeded to make me an offer I just couldn’t refuse. I have been talking to Kelly she began, and she has asked me if it would be possible to assign you to her schedule now that you are finished with your training. She is obviously impressed with your abilities Bill she continued, and till now has found fault with the majority of personnel that she has worked with. If you are interested in committing to at least six months on her schedule we will also be willing to reward you with an additional pay incentive as well.

It took no more than 10 seconds for me to answer and accept my new position. Once I had agreed to stay, Kelly was also asked to come into the office. This is Kelly Hart my supervisor Michelle said as Kelly reached out and shook my hand. She is one of the finest nurses we have on this wing and I think that the two of you will work well together. After introducing myself, I thought to myself that the decision I had made was probably the best thing to happen to me in years. Now with that out of the way, I would also like to introduce the two of you to someone else that admires your dedication here at the hospital as well. Dr Jones would you please come into my office she said through the open door. Walking into the room was a petite young blonde wearing a full-length white lab coat. Dr Jones has been doing some research on our patient population and is about to unveil a new project that has been in the development stages now for several months. Would you care to explain your program to Bill and Kelly Dr Jones she asked? I certainly would she replied after a short pause. My colleagues and I are in the process of opening a new outpatient surgical center in a neighboring community and have asked the hospital to recommend staffing solutions for our new facility. It would seem that they have chosen the two of you due in part to your dedication and knowledge as well as Kelly’s unique quality, which tends to shorten patient stays following difficult procedures by more than 50%. Now let me get to the point she said with a hurried tone. What I am proposing for the two of you is that you begin working with my group on the interior design of our facility and once completed you consider coming to work there full time. The financial rewards will far exceed your expectations and the work will be very rewarding as well. Here is a business plan that I would like the two of you to review, and I would like to meet with you both at 7pm tonight at the address written on the back of the plan. Dress casual and bring your appetite because the dining is fabulous. With that Dr Jones had left almost as fast as she had entered the room. Our meeting was adjourned at about the same time as our shifts had ended and we both just stood there looking at each other in total surprise.

As we left for our lockers Kelly stopped me in the hall and asked if I would like to travel to the meeting together with her later that evening and so she and I made arraignments for her to pick me up from my house at about five o’clock. On my way home I could not help but wonder about the days events. I was excited about the new opportunity and only wished I had someone to share it with. After showering and changing clothes I waited with anticipation for Kelly’s arrival. She arrived promptly at five and stayed in her car while I gathered my briefcase for the meeting and locked up the house. On the way to dinner we engaged mostly in small talk and discussed the offer between us extensively. Kelly seemed even more excited over the prospect than I did. She almost appeared nervous at the very thought of the upcoming meeting with Dr Jones. I on the other hand felt interested but with some reservations, especially about leaving the hospital environment that I was so accustomed to.

After a wonderful dinner lasting over two hours Dr Jones began for the first time addressing the reason for the meeting. We have received a grant to study new techniques of fracture management both surgical and non-surgical she said. The clinic will be the first of it’s kind to actually manage complicated fractures on both an outpatient and a limited inpatient basis. With your help in the design process I believe we can eventually present hard data showing the benefits of our system. It combines a holistic approach to patient management, which combines the normal medical treatment plan with a personal, spiritual, as well as an emotional component, which is very hard to measure much less, produce. All that I really need from the two of you is your commitment for the next six months. The hospital has agreed to allow each of you to be on a temporary leave of absence while we do the research. You will still be paid and receive your benefit package from the hospital but will also receive an additional check from our group. If you’re interested in the proposal, all I have to do is make a phone call and your immediately working with us. So what do you two thinks? After a moment of silence Kelly spoke up and said in a positive voice, “We’ll take it”. I sat there just nodding my head and in a mild voice said, “sounds like fun” That settles it then said Dr Jones as she raised her glass to ours. Tomorrow you can meet me at the center; here’s a map and directions for the office. If you have any problems feel free to give me a call. My numbers are on the back of the direction sheet and I can be reached 24 hours a day. She then excused herself and suggested we get some sleep before morning because we had a busy day planned.

Bright and early the next morning I called my supervisor to notify her of my decision. I already heard that you accepted the job said Michelle. Dr Jones called about an hour ago. Congratulations! She said. We will miss the two of you around here but I expect to be keeping an eye on your progress. I’ll keep you up to date I said before thanking her for the opportunity and then hanging up the phone. It was about a forty five-minute drive in to the orthopedic clinic so I left a few minutes early to avoid any embarrassment from being late on my first day. As I pulled into the parking lot I noticed that Kelly’s as well as Dr Jones’s car was already there. Once in the building I was struck by the fact that there seemed to be no sign of construction work taking place at all. For all practical appearances the building was completed with the finest of detail. What possible help in the design process could I be if it were already complete I wondered. Just then I saw Kelly sitting in another room and she motioned me over to her location. Once inside I was also greeted by another woman named Gretchen who introduced herself as Dr Jones’s secretary. We were both given a stack of forms to fill out and sign for the payroll department and once completed with that task I was asked to follow Gretchen down the hall to meet Dr Jones. I was led to an exam room where she explained that I would be getting a physical exam and blood test in order to qualify for the job. It’s just a preliminary screen to make sure that you’re not suffering from any diseases and that you’re not taking any Illegal drugs. There are gowns in the closet she said, and you can put your clothes on the chair in the corner. A few minutes later there was a knock at the door. Are you decent the voice said before the door opened? Yes but a little bit chilly in this paper gown I replied. Dr Jones entered the room with a nurse at her side. This is Kathy she said as she stepped in. Sorry about all the confusion concerning the physical exam. I forgot to tell you that it was required by the foundation that has offered the grant money for the study. They have a really strict policy for research subjects. So then let’s just get this thing over with as quickly as possible. Kathy will be drawing a blood sample for the lab and leaving a heparin lock in your arm so that we can recheck your blood sugar after lunch. After I’m through with your physical exam and we have you scheduled for a pulmonary function test, which is done just two doors down the hall. They will explain that test to you in just a few minutes. Dr Jones began what turned out to be a normal physical exam or screening like the ones you would get for pre employment testing. Within about fifteen minutes she left the room while Kathy drew my blood and inserted the IV catheter in the back of my hand. When all was done she asked me to follow her to the pulmonary lab where she would be giving me instructions for the next test.

This test she went on, is primarily designed to measure the volume and overall function of your lungs and is helpful in determining early effects of disease of the respiratory system. All of our research subjects are subjected to this same test when they enter the program. I was asked to take a seat in a chair where electrodes were attached to my chest arms and temples and a braided series of wires were connected to the electrodes and then to a small portable monitor. Then while carrying the monitor, Kathy led me across the room to a strange looking Plexiglas cabinet that appeared to be designed for someone to sit inside. She opened a door on the front of the cabinet and had me climb inside. I know this thing looks small she said with a smile but you’ll fit just fine. What we’ll be doing is connecting you to some additional sensors and closing the door to the cabinet with you inside. The dimensions of the cabinet are of exact specification and it allows us to measure the exact diameter that your chest expands with each breath that you take. Now once you’re inside, every movement you make displaces the air in the chamber and we measure the displacement and subtract it from the total capacity of the cabinet and viola, we have our exact specifications. Now while you’re in the chamber you will be breathing through a special tube that allows air only from outside the chamber to enter and leave your lungs. If at any time you feel anxious during the test all you have to do is motion me and we can stop the test and open the door. Kathy then placed a tight fitting elastic cap over the back of my head that fastened with Velcro straps beneath my chin. Several smaller straps dangled down from the cap in front of my face and she explained that they would be used to secure the tube and other instruments for the test. Next I was given a mouthpiece and asked to insert it between my teeth just like the protective guard that’s used in football. Once in place I was instructed to bite down as hard as I could on the soft rubber block while she secured 4 of the straps hanging from the cap to the mouthpiece. She had me sit straight up in the cabinet as she slowly began to close the door. This is where it gets a little tricky she began you will only be able to breath through your mouth for this test so I am going to put this soft clip on your nose to prevent you from getting any air from anywhere else. As the door was nearly closed she then connected a short tube that was coming through the cabinet door to the mouthpiece I was biting on before closing me completely within the cabinet. Although the cabinet was made of clear Plexiglas I started to feel a little uncomfortable from just being enclosed in such a small space. OK she said this is the last step. She picked up a wide piece of Plexiglas from the counter. It had a wide groove running right through the center of it and appeared to be about as wide as the cabinet. She began sliding it through a slot in the front door of the cabinet, at about the height of my shoulders until it effectively crossed under my chin and locked in place behind my head. Although padded around the edges it’s snug fit made me feel quite uncomfortable. Just a couple more minutes she said and we will be able to get started. She turned a few knobs and pressed a few buttons and the cabinet began to pressurize. Then my breathing became easier as fresh air began flowing through the tube attached to my mouthpiece. I can handle this I quietly thought to myself. But only if it’s quick because just the thought of being in this confined space is enough to drive a person crazy.

Kathy pressed a button on the console of her equipment and spoke into the microphone as the test was starting. We’re ready with subject number one doctor she said with a grin. About a minute later the door opened and in stepped Dr Jones. Then to my surprise just behind her walked Kelly and then Michelle. Now that’s a research subject Kelly said with a smile. It took about a minute for me to start questioning what they were all doing in the same room together but within that time they began to explain themselves for my benefit. My first reaction was to spit out the mouthpiece which by then I found to be securely affixed within my mouth by the straps Kathy had applied. I then reached up with my hands to yank the tube from my mouth only to be prevented from reaching above my shoulders by the additional Plexiglas shield that Kathy had inserted just below my neck. I soon discovered that trying to free myself was of no benefit. Dr. Jones then stepped up to the cabinet and peered down at me through the glass. I know what you’re probably thinking by now she said with a grin. Unfortunately you really have no clue at all as to what has just occurred or even about what will occur next. You see she replied the assistance that you will be giving us for this research is really something quite different than you had imagined. You are going to become our first test subject. Dr Jones then motioned for Kathy who then came over to the console and began making additional adjustments to the machine. I became frantic as I detected a sweet smelling odor being introduced through the tube in my mouth. My eyes began to blur within seconds and I began feeling as though I was about to pass out. Don’t worry Kelly said with an evil grin. You’re going to get a little sleepy from the gas I am administering but you won’t be passing out. We sure wouldn’t want you to miss out on all the fun that we have planned for you. You’ll be getting plenty of sleep after your first treatment this morning and believe me, That’ll be the one thing that you will be the most grateful for.

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