Chapter One Thousand Nine Hundred Fifteen
18th July 1969
The stated mission of the hospital ships was to help stitch the Empire together, to make even people living in the most distant portions of it feel like they were a part of something bigger. There was also a substantial amount of international goodwill that they generated by responding to disasters regardless of politics. It was said that SMS Antonia and her sisters were worth a thousand Divisions for the work that they did, more than paying for themselves. Kiki was reminded of that by how busy she had been since the Antonia had arrived in Western Samoa.
The patient was huge, two meters tall and a hundred and forty kilograms. That was the first thing that Kiki noticed as she introduced herself to him. His paper file had been transferred from the clinic on the island and a fresh X-ray had been conducted that morning. So, they had all information was up to date.
“You broke your hip last year in a fall and were treated aboard the Marie Cecilie?” Kiki asked.
“You’re really a Doctor?” The man said with a disbelieving smile.
“Yes, and it only took me a decade” Kiki replied, “It says that we are removing the screws that have held your femur together.”
With that she looked back at the X-Ray that had been taken that afternoon and saw a healed fracture with orthopedic screws that were dwarfed by the size of the patient set into it. This time, when the SMS Antonia arrived, he had come aboard with a letter from his regular physician saying that he had had persistent pain and a negative reaction to the screws set in the bone of his hip and that removal was recommended due to the risk of future infection. She couldn’t imagine the support structure required for a man this size to recover from such an injury, or what he would need in the coming days as the holes left by removing the screws would present a weakness until they were filled in with new bone growth. Cases like this were exactly the reason why she had wanted to go on the hospital ships in the first place though.
“Now, you’ve followed the instructions?” Kiki asked, “No food for the last twenty-four hours?”
The man’s smile vanished, and Kiki heard his stomach growl. Apparently, he had followed the instructions, but he didn’t seem so happy about it though.
“My brother is planning a feast for me when I get home in a couple of days” The man replied.
“Really?” Kiki asked, “What are we talking about here?”
The man seemed delighted to tell Kiki all about the spread of food that his family was preparing. Her understanding was that the people who lived on these islands considered even relatively minor surgery to be huge deal and that she needed to respect that. Keeping the man talking made getting him through the preparation easier until Kiki handed him off to the Anesthesiologist. It was her lot to prepare the patient because the Orthopedist she would be assisting said she was better at that sort of thing. It took a few minutes to thoroughly wash her hands and arms, but the nature of the SMS Antonia and her means of propulsion meant that hot water, electricity, and even the live steam that was used by the operating theater’s autoclaves were in abundant supply. So, Kiki understood that she wouldn’t need to act as if this were really in the field.
Both Sophie and Ziska smelled of chlorine when they came into Marie Alexandra’s bedroom. They had gone swimming after school and were chattering excitedly about how they were going to camp over the Summer Holiday this year. There had been a bit of disappointment when they had learned that they wouldn’t be spending the holiday at Hohenzollern Castle this year, but being at a lake high up in the Alps and living in a cabin was almost as good of an adventure. They were leaving in a few days and Marie wished that she were going with them, as strange as that sounded. Instead, she was going to Canada to spend August with her grandparents. For the life of her, she couldn’t understand why her parents were making her go. Marie knew that Oma Blackwood hated her for some reason. The few times that she had met her paternal grandmother that much had been perfectly clear. Marie’s father said that was the exact reason why she needed to go, because his mother didn’t really know her and that needed to change. He also mentioned that both his parents were getting on in years and the time for petty nonsense was over. So, she was going to Canada for the summer and that was that.
What was proving to be the most difficult part for Marie so far was that her mother had said that she could only bring one suitcase. That was why she was trying to pack only the basics, or her idea of the basics anyway and her mother kept telling her to try again. It wasn’t as if her mother hadn’t offered to help, but the thought of excepting that help was infuriating. Marie wasn’t a little girl and didn’t want to be treated like one.
So, Marie was once again packing the suitcase as Sophie and Ziska messed about with her extensive wardrobe. They seemed to be rather delighted by the prospect.