I knew I wanted to be in the medical field since I was young. It all started out when my childhood best friend, Sarah, fell and scraped her knee. I had watched enough ER with my mom, that when I was done bandaging Sarah up, you would have thought she had sliced her leg in half. Even if it was a little over kill, I had still be proud enough of it that I insisted Sarah’s mom take a picture of me and Sarah with the bandage on.
It was after I shadowed a nurse my junior year of high school that I decided I wanted to become one. Before that, I had been seriously contemplating med school, especially since my parents were constantly dropping hints about it. My grades showed that I could handle it, but my heart told me I was too caring to become a doctor. Besides, it was obvious a good nurse is what made a good doctor.
I finished at the top of my class in combat nurse school. They were already trying to recruit me for officer school as soon as I graduated, but I wanted to be a peon for a least a year or two. It only took a week after being over here in
for me to experience my first dealings as a nurse in the war zone. Unfortunately instead of caring of my own, I was caring for an innocent civilian child. An IED went off in a playground. My patient didn’t make it after taking the brunt of the blast. I cried for two days straight. They didn’t teach you how to deal with things like that in school. However, I now understood why as I nurse I needed to be carrying a gun and learn how to shoot it accurately. I was no longer in Afghanistan . Edmonton, Alberta
My given name is Alexandra Fletcher. My nickname is Fletch. My drill sergeant gave it to me on my first day of boot camp, saying that Alexandra was a name for a princess and there was no room for princesses in the Army. The nickname stuck and I’ll never forget the look of horror on my mother’s face at my nursing school graduation when they announced the name as they handed me my diploma. I’m fairly sure over half of my platoon was unaware of my real name and to be honest, I only knew a few of their first names. However, I know more about these 10 people in just 8 months than I know about some of the people I’ve called best friends that I’ve known for practically a lifetime.
“So what did Kramer say to you last night?” Susie asked as we jogged around the barracks at 0500hrs. The sun hadn’t shown its ugly face yet, so it was still cool enough to get in some good exercise without sweating profusely.
“He was just being Kramer,” I fluffed it off.
“You were blushing,” she persisted, elbowing me playfully.
“And you are way too perceptive.”
“He has it bad for you.”
“Every guy has it bad for every girl around here because we are all deprived from getting any ass…”
“You know damn well everyone could get a piece of ass around here if they wanted it bad enough,” Susie chirped, raising an eyebrow at her truthful statement.
“Come on Susie, I’ve heard him make comments to you too,” I tried to remind her.
“There is a difference between the comments he makes to me and the comments he makes to you. Besides, I’ve heard him talking to Race more than once about things.”
Race was the head of our platoon. He was also married to a woman who had served under him the last time he was over here in the sandbox. “What kind of things?” I asked innocently, knowing damn well what she was going to say.
“He wanted to know how Race and his girl made things work and how they got around the whole no relationship thing in the platoon. I guess they had played it quiet and once they were back on Canadian soil she put in for a transfer and things were history from there.” Sure, they weren’t over here together and they were separated for long periods of time, but it was well known that Race was head over heals for his woman and was a model husband. I had noted a lot of the guys going to him for advice over the last several months, whether it was about marital problems or just personal struggles, Race was there for all of us.
I sighed and shook my head, unable to hide a sly smile after feeling the butterflies begin to churn in my stomach. So he wasn’t kidding last night, he was being very serious about us. I had dated my fair share of guys in high school, but nothing was ever serious because I was having too much fun being me. Even now I wasn’t sure if this was something I would want. “This is still all absurd,” I laughed nervously.
“Meh, even in this crazy land, happiness can still be found,” Susie said cheerfully. Her optimism was always something I clung to. There were many days that happiness was tricky to find in all the chaos.
“Fletch! We need some help over here!” One of the Captains yelled out of a hum-vee window as they came speeding back into the barracks. It was later on in the day and I was playing volleyball in the yard with a couple people from my platoon. “We have some shot-up guys…”
I ran over and opened the rear door, finding a soldier that was probably about my age, bleeding out everywhere. I instantly applied pressure to the soldier’s thigh; it was obvious he was quickly bleeding out from his femoral artery. “What the hell happened?” I breathed.
“An IED got us ‘Mam,” one of the other guys piped up. “It’s shrapnel in his leg.” And a big piece of shrapnel it was, I actually almost cut myself on it while I was holding pressure. Soon we were in the barracks medical center and I was helping care for him. We always seemed to be short staffed and today was no different. Before I knew it, I was gowned up and in the OR, assisting with the surgery. Eight hours later I came out to find my day completely gone and the moon lighting the desolated desert. My patient was still very critical and would be shipped out to
in the morning. The doctor was unable to save his leg, but his life was saved. Even after seeing this result time after time, my mind was still unable to process how losing a limb to save a life was justifiable. I had decided that if it happened to me, I would rather die. Life, in my book, would not be worth living if I wasn’t able to be “normal.” Germany
I leaned up against the cement block building, allowing the heat of it to sink into my skin. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, letting the silence overtake me. Tonight I found myself very homesick.
“Alex?” he spoke quietly, obviously trying not to startle me. Even though I wasn’t expecting anyone to be out here, his presence instantly soothed me; I’m fairly sure I’ve never met anyone who could do that.
“Danny,” I whispered, not even bothering to open my eyes, I was too exhausted to.
“Is he going to make it?” he asked, sounding scared. “We went through basic together…”
“He’ll make it, but he’s lost his leg,” I said plainly, flinching when I spoke of the amputation.
“If that ever happens to me, please tell them just to let me go. Do you understand?”
“Alex…that’s ridiculous,” he left out a nervous laugh. I finally opened my eyes when I felt his hands gently clasp my wrists. He was standing in front of me with a furrowed brow.
“No, it’s not. I do not want to live like that,” I said plainly. “We all have things we want done for us if things go wrong and this is my wish, so please follow it out.”
“Why me?” he asked, taking a step closer to me. I could feel his warm breath on my face and the smell of his manly shower gel filled my nose.
Unable to tare my eyes away from his I whispered, “Because I trust you.”
“Would it have anything to do that you have feelings for me?” he asked with a cocky smile.
“Don’t be full of yourself,” I attempted to joke, but the words came out as a plea for him to just take me. He too must have heard it because soon we were frantically kissing each other.
Fate seemed to have a cruel way of dealing bad hands when we least expected it. Of course with anything in life, it was a given that anything could happen despite believing it could never happen to you.
“Fletch! We need you!” Race yelled loudly over the gunfire that suddenly rang out in the generally quiet streets of the town. I had a feeling something wasn’t right when none of the kids we normally stopped to give candy, were not out playing and waiting for us.
My stomach was unsettled the moment I awoke this morning, but I just likened it to the fact that I had been tossing and turning all night after the impromptu make-out session with Danny. It was slightly awkward sitting next to him in the hum-vee today during our patrol and I could have sworn everyone was whispering about it, despite the fact that neither of us had told a single soul. Every now and then errant glances were made towards one another, but I could feel myself blushing every time, so I made it a point to not even look at him.
Everyone was a little on edge today and watching what was said or done because we had a report from the AP tagging along with us. This was never something a crew wanted to have with them. They were always nosey and seemed to get in the way during the most inopportune times.
We turned the corner, triggering the first IED to go off. I watched in horror as the Hummer in front of us blew up and people rolled out, engulfed in flames. Susie had been the driver and her door never opened. We abruptly stopped and we all exited our Hummer, quickly taking defensive positions. That was when the first of the gun shots rang out and Race began yelling for me.
I hopped into action, feeling as if everything was moving in slow-motion. Kramer was already up with Garrett, putting out the flames on his badly burned body. Garrett was the machine gun operator for his vehicle and was one of Kramer’s best buds. They had enlisted together after high school. “Fletch, tell me what to do,” he cried as I began assessing Garrett’s wounds. “What you were trained to do,” I said calmly. “You need to cover me as I run and get the stretcher.” Danny nodded and soon I was running back to my Hummer and grabbing more supplies. I was on my way back to Danny and Garrett when I saw the dirt in front of me getting shot up. I remember putting my head down and running just a bit faster. Sliding in next to the two boys I began working, ignoring Kramer’s gun firing and focusing on my own job. Garrett was burned bad, but had a chance; the other passengers of his Hummer were not very lucky. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of that right now, all I could think about was helping Garrett.
I had just gotten Garrett strapped to the litter and was about to call for assistance in getting him back to our Hummer when I heard the dull, but distinct sound of a round piercing flesh. Danny immediately grabbed for his shoulder before another bullet hit him. Reacting, I threw myself at him, looking for where the bullets had made their entrance and soon I found myself in unbearable pain.
“Fuck, Alex,” Danny cried, seeming to know before me that I too had been hit.
I wanted to say something, but no air would come from my lungs. Even if I wanted to breathe, I couldn’t because soon Danny was kissing me there in the middle of the dust-bowl street as gun fire rang out around us. His last breath was wasted on me. My last thought being, this was not how life was meant to be.
“She’s going to need to get back to
for surgery,” a strange voice spoke. “We have removed the bullet and the bone fragments, but she’s going to need more surgery to fix that vertebra.” Toronto
“Do you think she’ll ever be able to walk again?” Another voice asked.
“If she gets the right surgeon, maybe, but it’s doubtful.”
“Such a shame…” the other person said. I didn’t even have the time to think about it as the darkness and silence overtook me once more.