The Blood Farm: Teaser

It wasn’t a surprise that Ethan Bellasario was such a beautiful liar.
Practice makes perfect, after all.
Not that he aspired to telling lies. Given the option, there were many other things he would have rather been good at. But he was good at it, and no Bellasario ever neglected to perfect a talent.
Still, it hadn’t come easily. He would always remember the first time he lied to a patient.
“Did he…suffer?” the boy’s father asked.
Did he suffer.
A simple question. Three words. Ethan thought of all the things he could say.
He could describe again how difficult the operation had been, how—more than once— they thought they would lose the boy. How they worked for more than eight hours, with only staggered catnaps caught on abandoned gurneys to sustain them. He could recount how they transfused twelve units of blood before eventually getting him stable. Closing him up. Congratulating themselves.
Ethan could describe, in detail, how the artery ruptured twelve hours later, flooding the little boy’s chest with blood, slowly crushing his heart and lungs while he fought for every shallow, agonizing breath.
“No,” Ethan said. “He didn’t suffer.”
Later he threw up in the doctors’ lounge. This wasn’t why he’d gone into medicine: to lie to grieving fathers about their sons.
But the next time it was easier. He reminded himself that sometimes lies were kinder. And as the months wore on, the stab of his conscience faded to a twinge and, finally, to nothing at all. He began to forget they were lies.
So when the Medical Director of the Chicago Transplant Center accosted him in the surgical ward and demanded to know why he was in her facility after she had expressly forbidden it, he didn’t blanch in fear as another medical resident would almost certainly have done; he simply lied.
“Sanders called in with strep and there’s no one to do rounds. They asked if I would cover.” Ethan had no idea whether Sanders had called in or not, but it was a tedious story to disprove and Doctor Ferrar was a busy woman.
The Director, a waspish woman in her early fifties, pursed her lips. “I don’t care who asked. I told you to take a few days to get your head together.”
“I appreciate the concern, but I’m fine. Really. I want to be here.”
“I’ll keep that in mind when we’re sued for malpractice.”
Ethan flinched. Law suits weren’t a joking matter, particularly to residents whose fragile reputations could be obliterated and their medical pursuits ruined before they began. “You know I would never let my personal life affect my work.”
“I’m not concerned about your personal life, as exciting as it might be; I’m concerned about our patients. Did you clear this with your supervising physician?”
“Of course.”
“Mmmhmm.” She took three steps to the nurses’ station, lifted a stack of manila file folders from the counter and handed them to Ethan. “Since you’re here, you can help free up the time of doctors not on suspension by filing these patient reports.”
He was a fourth year surgical resident and she was assigning him scutwork? “Dr. Ferrar,” Ethan protested, “I have patients waiting.”
“I’ve heard. You have a neonatal referral from Memorial?”
“How far along?”
“Thirty-one weeks.”
As head of the Center, Doctor Ferrar had access to all the patient files. She didn’t need her residents to confirm new patients. He wondered why she was asking if she already knew. “You have a diagnosis?”
“Lung hypoplasia.”
“Hypoplastic left heart syndrome.”
The line between the Director’s eyes deepened. “So you did read the file. I was curious to see whether you’d done any research or just jumped in like an idiot.” Ethan wisely decided to stay silent. “I have a board meeting in an hour, Bellasario, shall we get to the point?”
He wished she would.
“When we’re finished here, you are going to call Doctor Santiago and drop the case.”
“On what grounds?”
“On the grounds that you’re not in obstetrics and Mrs. Albright isn’t your patient. You’re lucky they don’t cite you for department interference.”
“I wasn’t interfering. The hospital asked for a consult.”
“I’m sure they did.” She didn’t sound happy about it.
“It’s my job.”
“No, your job is to take patients we can save, not serve as a scapegoat for local clinics that need somewhere to dump their terminal cases.”
“One of those boys lived,” Ethan reminded her.
“And the other one died.” There was an edge to her voice. “Do I have to explain to you what happens when our patient fatality rate increases? We lose funding. We have to limit staff and resources. We have to turn patients away.”
“I understand that Director but—”
“Wonderful. I’m glad we had this little chat. Enjoy your filing.”