Friday, August 19, 2011

Chapter 31: Life

The doctor came in a few minutes later. He took one look at Nora then motioned for her and Tristan to follow him. Tristan helped Nora stand up and they began to slowly walk out of the room. The doctor walked ahead of them at a much faster pace, his white coat trailing behind him. He led the couple around corners and down hallways, and there were a few moments where Tristan was sure that the doctor had purposely left them in the middle of a corridor.

Finally, they reached another room, one that Tristan was sure was on the opposite side of the hospital. There was a large cylinder, tipped over on its side and standing up on four legs, in the middle of the room. The ends of the cylinder were made out of what appeared to be metal, but the majority of the body of the cylinder was either plastic or glass. Tristan couldn’t tell which from his position. There were quite a few buttons, knobs, and wires poking out from the cylinder.

“This is called a hyperbaric chamber. We use it on patients--divers, mostly--who suffer from decompression sickness, or ‘the bends’.” The doctor explained, walking over to the chamber. He began pushing a few buttons on it, apparently turning it on. Tristan stood there, watching him, with Nora leaning on his arm. The doctor looked up at them, remembering they were there. “Oh, she’s going to need to change into a hospital gown.” the doctor said casually. Tristan’s eyes widened and he glanced over at Nora. She shot him a glare.

“I can do that myself, moron.” she muttered, standing up straight.

“I’ll just…um…wait outside…” Tristan said. He slowly made his way out of the room while Nora staggered over to the doctor.

Tristan found a chair out in the hallway and decided to sit there until the doctor came back out. Tristan bided his time by counting things, such as the tiles on the floor or the bricks on the wall in front of him; smiling at everyone who passed him, patient or doctor; and, eventually, pacing up and down the hallway. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the doctor emerged. He walked over to Tristan briskly and didn’t wait for a greeting before he began speaking.

“You’re friend,” he paused to look down at his clipboard, “Nora, will be staying in the hyperbaric chamber for a few hours. She will be checked on periodically to ensure that nothing is going wrong, and if you like you can be in the room with her. She will not be able to communicate with you, though, so I imagine it would be a rather uneventful wait. However--”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Tristan interrupted the doctor’s businesslike speech. “We have to go back a step. Why is she in there in the first place?” Tristan asked.

“Well, I was going to come and ask you what happened that caused her to come to the surface of the water so quickly. She obviously was not following the proper diving procedures.” the doctor said in reply.

“That doesn’t answer my question. Why does Nora have to be in that hyper-whatever-chamber-thingy?” Tristan asked, a little more forcefully this time. The doctor sighed.

“Decompression sickness is the most common illness we see in divers. It occurs when the body is exposed too quickly to a low pressurized area after being in a high pressurized area. As you dive into a higher pressurized area in conjunction with breathing the nitrogen-oxygen mixture in an oxygen tank, your body absorbs the nitrogen in order to keep the pressure in your body stabilized with that outside of your body. However, the body cannot metabolize the nitrogen, so it takes a while for the nitrogen to go away. If you do not give the nitrogen time to leave the body before going to a low pressurized area, nitrogen bubbles will form in the blood stream or body tissues. To fix this, divers are put into a hyperbaric chamber which helps remove the nitrogen bubbles by putting the patient into a completely oxygen environment with a higher pressure level.” the doctor explained quickly. Tristan didn’t understand half of what the doctor had said, because most of the language he used was completely foreign to him. So, Tristan stared at the doctor blankly for a moment, trying to process that which he did not understand.

“Okay… So, is she going to be okay?” Tristan asked finally.

“Yes, she’ll be fine. She’s one of the more mild cases we’ve seen.” the doctor replied, an disinterested frown on his face.

“Mild? She looked like she was about to pass out!” Tristan exclaimed.

“Yes, a common symptom for decompression sickness.” the doctor said matter-of-factly. Tristan stared at him for a moment, amazed and annoyed by this man at the same time. He was acting as if Nora’s near-death experience meant nothing to anyone. Finally, Tristan sighed.

“Okay… But you’re sure that she’s going to be all right?” Tristan asked once more, a worried look still in his eyes. The doctor sighed then nodded.

“Yes, I’m positive.” he replied quickly. Tristan stood there for a minute before he nodded.

“Okay, then I guess I’ll just go in and see her, then…” he said softly, walking towards the door. The doctor began walking away but quickly stopped after a few steps.

“Oh, by the way,” the doctor began as Tristan opened the door. “It’s completely all right for her to get a bit of rest. She’s been through a lot, and the possibility of dry drowning at this point in time is very slim.” he finished. Tristan nodded again. The doctor turned briskly and walked away, moving once more at his fast pace. Tristan took a deep breath then walked into the room with the hyperbaric chamber. He walked over to it and saw Nora laying in it, her eyes closed peacefully. Tristan sat down in a chair nearby and rested his chin on his hands. He stared at Nora with eyes that were full of pity. Their first date had turned into a nightmare…

“At least she’s still alive…” Tristan whispered to himself, trying to look on the positive side of the situation. Oddly enough, having to say something like that about a first date made the positive side seem more negative…

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