First Do No Harm
Posted on Sun Feb 25th, 2018 @ 3:25pm by Specialist Jamie Perth
Edited on on Sun Feb 25th, 2018 @ 3:28pm
Location: Raptor Medic 226 - En Route to Solaria
Timeline: Backpost: PCH-14 1020 Hours
It was Jamie’s first retrieval job since the attack. Some kid with a nasty chest infection on the Mah-Jong, which made him wonder what exactly a sixteen-year-old boy was doing on a fuel storage ship. The on-duty paramedic dispatcher had seemed just as confused, having received sparse information from the Mah-Jong’s captain. The kid appeared to be a lone traveller, perhaps caught in the midst of the nuclear chaos, somehow having found his way into the Fleet.
“Just take slow, easy breaths, Taron,” Jamie reassured the boy. He was young, way too young to look this sick. Out in a sweat, fatigue strewn across his face, his breaths laboured and fogging up the oxygen mask over his nose and mouth.
He had said nothing aside from short answers to several questions Jamie had for him while on the Mah-Jong, having found him isolated by the rest of the crew in separate quarters, out of fear that he had something contagious. The ship’s captain was hesitant to explain the details of how the kid actually came on board his ship, claiming he’d been taking in small craft escaping the colonies and their passengers as refugees. Further questioning was met with either a shrug or a grunt of sorts, after which Jamie felt enough time had been wasted, and that he needed to focus on Taron’s clinical needs.
Almost eight litres per minute of oxygen flowing through the mask, and the kid’s blood oxyhaemoglobin saturations still read in the low 90s. Under normal healthy conditions they’d be 98 to 100, and without any supplemental oxygen support. Taron would occasionally and abruptly become consumed by coughing fits, each of which sounded awfully congested, at times forcing him to either vomit or spit out green sputum.
“Taron, I know you’re tired, but you need to tell me how long you’ve been sick for,” Jamie said. He slowly pressed on the plunger of a syringe, pushing a dose of antibiotics through the intravenous cannula he’d inserted into one of the veins over the boy’s forearm.
Another series of coughs. “Dunno… few days. Three or four.”
“Do you have any family with you? Parents? Siblings?” Jamie asked, although cautiously, knowing there was a good chance that, like many others, his family may have been lost or killed in the attacks. He couldn’t imagine anyone who hasn’t lost a loved one.
“Mum… didn’t make it off Sagittaron. Dad’s… probably looking for me. He’ll still be on the Skyport,” Taron said in between shallow breaths. He looked up at the medic to make direct eye contact. “Don’t send me back to him, please.”
Jamie’s heart sank somewhat. He knew exactly what he was dealing with. A young boy essentially seeking asylum. What from, was obvious – most likely fleeing the iron grip of what remained of his religious household. Just by looking at the kid, Jamie could piece together bits of his upbringing. Calloused hands that belonged on a farm, the quiet and well-mannered persona stereotypical of a Sagittaron fundamentalist. Clearly Taron’s had enough, deciding to take his chances to live the rest of his life as a sinner under the interpretations of his people, but to continue living nonetheless.
“Does he not… believe in modern medicine?”
Taron shook his head slowly. “I had rheumatic fever… when I was younger,” he said. “No medicine… the bug got to one of my heart valves… Mum and dad thought prayer would fix it. And… I guess it did. I was lucky. Got better somehow. Made their faith stronger. But I’ve still got a bit of a… dodgy heart.”
“Frackin’ hell…” Jamie muttered.
Rheumatic heart disease had been all but eliminated in every progressive colony, thanks to the extensive use of antibiotic therapy to treat streptococcal infections. The illness would often begin in the throat, before spreading to other parts of the body several weeks after the initial infection, causing damage to joints and invading cardiac valve tissue. Subsequent erosion of the affected valve(s) would then cause other problems with heart function, often culminating in cardiac failure if progressed far enough.
Jamie looked away, over to the small monitor that displayed the boy’s vital signs. They were stable, but he knew if he turned off the oxygen the numbers would dip, before plummeting.
He didn’t like the idea of potentially becoming embroiled in a medico-legal catastrophe. Sagittaron ‘refugees’ were not common, but neither unheard of, as they’d often turn into controversial high-level court cases made known through the media, forcing the immigration policies of other colonies under the spotlight, generating much public debate. But as a medic, he had one job – young Taron was clearly seeking treatment, and there was nothing to indicate that the boy failed to demonstrate decision-making capacity. Keeping the kid alive was his current priority.
“We’ll take you to the Solaria. We’ll get you treated, and sort the rest out later,” Jamie said. He gave Taron a quick squeeze on the shoulder, one of reassurance.
“Okay. Just… don’t let dad know… I’m here.”
“I won’t,” Jamie said, despite knowing that was something he could not promise yet. Hopefully it might be someone else who’d have to make that call.