Editor’s note: Suspended Aggravation is an original, Wheeling-centric novel by Nora Edinger and is published exclusively through Weelunk. While some of the places mentioned in Suspended Aggravation are real (or nearly real), the storyline and most characters (with the exception of a few cameo appearances by actual city residents) exist only in the author’s imagination. For the backstory, read our Q&A with the author.
Location: Wheeling General Hospital, 40.0637° N, 80.7200° W
Emotion: “I am in misery.”
Allie reached out in sheer terror. She was stopped by a jolt of pain through her shoulder that was so intense it made her yelp. The pain wasn’t the only thing that stopped her. There was also the brawny young man with a blonde buzz cut who held her firmly to the stretcher with one forearm while he fiddled with an IV pole with the other.
“Where is Gabe?” she moaned.
“If Gabe is your husband, he’s in another ambulance, ma’am. You’re both on your way to Wheeling General.”
Her husband? Oh. Yes. Her husband. Allie remembered that and almost smiled. But, that was all she remembered.
“The two of you were hit by a car outside the county courthouse,” buzz-cut guy said. “We’re taking you to the hospital to get you fixed up.”
“Everything hurts. I think … I think I’m going to vomit.”
“I’m working on that right now, ma’am,” The young man smiled and scooted the IV stand closer to her side. “Just make a fist for me.”
Where on earth am I? Gabe looked around the room, blinking hard in the bright fluorescent light. He raised his right hand to his face and saw that a needle and a tube were attached to his wrist. Whaaat? His brain began to slowly work out what was going on. That’s when it hit him.
“Allie!” he cried out.
A nurse with short silvery curls immediately poked her head around the curtain that surrounded his bed and put a restraining hand on his arm. “Shhh, now, Mr. Morelli. Your wife is here and she’s OK, for the most part. You are, too.”
For the most part? What does that mean? “Where is she?” he demanded.
“She’s getting ready for surgery. She has a broken leg that needs to be dealt with right away.”
“I want to see her.”
“I know you do,” the nurse said calmly but firmly. “But, you can’t right now. She’s already in surgery. You’re in the emergency department and you’re being admitted. We’ll bring her to your room as soon as she’s out of recovery.”
Gabe’s head slumped back against the pillow. He didn’t like it, but he’d have to take the nurse’s word for it that Allie was OK. It’s not like he was able to get up and run around checking for himself. Man. He really wasn’t feeling so hot.
“My head hurts,” he said, not entirely sure whether he had spoken the words out loud or just thought them.
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“I’m surprised your whole body doesn’t hurt,” the nurse responded. “That car did a pretty nasty job on the both of you even though it sounds like the driver was really trying hard to stop from what the police said. You have a concussion, a broken nose, three broken ribs and several in-line fractures in your left hand. You’ve been drifting in and out for the last couple of hours.”
Gabe raised his left hand and winced at the pain that shot through both it and his torso at the motion. The very tips of his fingers were all that peeked out of a splint.
“Allie’s leg is broken?”
“Her right femur. That’s her thigh bone. There are two breaks there, actually. The bone came through her skin. That’s why she’s in surgery already. There’s too much chance of infection. She also has in-line fractures to her left collarbone and her right wrist. Neither of those will require surgery, fortunately.”
The engineer in him tallied up his wife’s injuries quickly in spite of the throbbing in his head. One leg and both arms were out of commission. His thinking was fuzzy, but he knew that wasn’t good. “She’ll need a wheel chair?”
“For a while. And a boat load of help, at least at first. But, she’ll get better, baby. You will, too. God must have been looking out for both of you. Getting hit by a car with nothing to protect you — it could have been a whole lot worse. So, don’t you start worrying now. The worst part’s over. Just get some rest until they come to take you upstairs. You’ll see your wife again soon.”
With that, the nurse with the silver curls was gone.
Gabe prayed for Allie — wherever she was, whatever was happening to her — until he, once again, drifted back into a restless sleep.
INSIDE THE STORY:
•Until late 2019, Wheeling had two, independent hospitals. There was the Ohio Valley Medical Center (which also operated historically as Ohio Valley General Hospital and City Hospital) and Wheeling Hospital. In a story that is much too complicated to share here, OVMC closed and the management of Wheeling Hospital moved into the hands of a secular university health group. There are still hard feelings about the closure and the rapid changes, hence the introduction of a hybridized Wheeling General Hospital for this story.
•This story also places the fictionalized hospital downtown, the original home of both real-life hospitals. There, they survived the Civil War, the 1918 influenza pandemic, the Great Depression, wards loaded down with polio patients on iron lungs and so on. Open or closed, Catholic or Protestant, serving the rich and the poor, they both did good work for a very long time. Thank you!
• A long-time journalist, Nora Edinger also blogs at noraedinger.com and Facebook and writes books. Her Christian chick lit and faith-related non-fiction are available on Amazon. She lives in Wheeling, where she is part of a three-generation, two-species household.