A to Z Challenge: Fade

Character sketches that are fictional but based on real characters, like us.

We were standing around the operating table, gowned and masked, working on a late evening emergency case – a young guy who flipped his motorcycle. The doctors were calmly discussing vacation plans. I was stabilizing a leg while they did major reconstruction on it.

“I’m going to Wisconsin. We have a fishing cabin up north. It’s one of those out of the way places on this great lake. Going catch a musky.”

“Oh yeah?” the other doc said. “Where exactly?”

“Probably Hayward.” I said, deciding to join the conversation.

“You know the place?”

“It’s my hometown. I grew up there. I’m due for a vacation there too.”

“Well, what are the chances of that?” He said.

And so began my acquaintance with Fade. He wasn’t the doctor. He was the guy whose leg I was holding.

After surgery he was one angry young man. His leg was in traction with pins at the knee and the ankle. He was on his back in bed and would stay that way for quite a while. He was lucky that walking again was even a possibility, but the sudden change in his plans didn’t make him feel lucky. Formerly cute, popular, and definitely on the cocky side, he was now in pain and trying to learn how to manage a bedpan. He was my patient, on my primary care unit, which meant that we were going to be spending a lot of time with each other.

At first he was in no mood to have visitors but it didn’t take long for his room to be named “the party room”. His group of close friends started showing up often, regularly breaking visitor rules. Fade would charm his way out of trouble with whoever was in charge. He was so sweet when he wanted to be, and almost abusive when he stopped caring. I never knew which guy I’d be dealing with when I went in the room. But, things were working in my favor – I was young and fairly good looking.

One day I arrived on the unit and noticed an unusual smell. I imagined it was coming from Fade’s room, and even thought I saw a bit of smoke seeping out from under his door. Laughter sounded from inside, and when I opened the door I saw it was indeed a party taking place. His friends were sitting around the bed and Fade was there in the middle, smoking weed. Pain medicine, he called it. I had to agree he looked pretty comfortable, but it was still illegal in California, our state at the time. I wasn’t sure what the Catholic nuns who ran the hospital would think of it either. Turned out they were way ahead of their time, agreed with him, and allowed it. I became familiar with that smell.

Over time, the adaptability of youth worked it’s magic. Fade got used to us as we cared for him. We were his encouragers and were able to develop solid friendships with him. He healed and walked out of the hospital eventually, a more thoughtful, careful and experienced young man. It was a long time before I heard from him again, but that’s another story.

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