Part 4
By Kat

Luka was stable, but still critical as Peter wheeled him from Recovery to the I.C.U. for the second time that day. He'd been able to stop the bleeding and re-suture Luka's lung and pulmonary artery, but they'd barely gotten him to the O.R. in time. Just a minute later and Luka's gurney would be in the morgue right now. Peter tried to clear that thought from his mind. He called Kerry from the I.C.U. “I thought you'd want to know Kovac made it through the surgery. I'm here with him in the I.C.U.”

Kerry breathed a deep sigh of relief on other end of the line. “Peter, I'd like to come up and talk to you about Luka's condition before you head home. Can you give me a few minutes to finish up here in the E.R.?” Peter replied “Sure, no problem Kerry.” He was anxious to talk to Kerry. There hadn't been time before he rushed Kovac into surgery, and he wanted to know what had gone wrong.

Kerry had barely set foot in the I.C.U. when Peter began firing questions at her. “What the hell happened to rupture his sutures?” Kerry hadn't seen that one coming. She was so worried about Luka that she hadn't thought ahead, hadn't realized Peter was bound to ask that question. She took a moment to gather her thoughts before answering “He sat up too quickly when he regained consciousness.” Not satisfied with that explanation, Peter fired back “And why did it take so long for someone to notice?”

Kerry hated lying to Peter, but felt no need to tell him -- or anyone else -- that Luka had known he was bleeding internally and wanted to bleed out. “Peter, come on. When Luka regained consciousness he was extremely disoriented. He didn't even know where he was at first, let alone that he'd been shot. He had no idea he was bleeding internally. And I didn't know anything was wrong until he started coughing up blood.”

“He could have bled out, Dammit! He won't survive another surgery if it happens again. His body just can't take any more.” Peter studied Kerry's face as he spoke. He wanted to be sure she understood the severity of Luka's condition. Eager to change the direction this conversation was taking, Kerry said “Peter, thank you for getting Luka through this -- both times!” She quickly added “I'm off until tomorrow morning. I'll stay with him for a while. Don't worry, I'll make sure nothing happens to tear his sutures again.” Relieved that Kerry would be staying with Kovac, Peter sighed and headed for the door “OK, I'm going to pick up Reese. Page me if his condition changes.” Kerry replied “I will, of course.” She was grateful that Peter had finally stopped asking questions.

Luka slept very fitfully for the next several hours. Kerry watched in silence as he tossed and turned, half-forming words, some in English, but most in Croatian. She wished she could do more for him. The poor man had been through so much -- more than she'd imagined. She hated to see him relive such painful memories at a time when he was so vulnerable. But she knew she couldn't take any of that pain away. Luka had said it plainly enough - no one could bring his family back. All she could do for Luka right now was be there when he regained consciousness. She didn't want him to wake up alone. So she sat beside his bed well past midnight, dozing occasionally, but always waking up whenever Luka moved.

Shortly after 4 am, Luka regained consciousness. He tried to sit up but couldn't. His arms and legs were restrained! Who would do this to him, and why? Luka struggled, fighting back the panic that was rising quickly. Finally, as he forced himself to calm down, his eyes adjusted to the darkness and he saw Kerry sitting beside the bed. That meant he must be at County. A wave of relief washed over Luka … everything would be OK!

“Kerry, is that you? Can you please remove these restraints? I can't move.” Kerry hesitated a moment before answering, “I'm sorry Luka, I can't do that.” Luka stared at her in disbelief, then stammered “Wh… what do you mean you can't?” Kerry took a deep breath before she spoke again “Luka, a few hours ago you asked me to let you bleed out. You clearly wanted to die. It would be very easy for you to rupture your sutures again. I can't take that chance. The restraints are the only assurance I have that you won't hurt yourself.”

Luka thought back to the last conversation he'd had with Kerry. The memory was fuzzy but he forced himself to remember. He HAD to clear up this misunderstanding. “I didn't tear the sutures deliberately, Kerry. It was an accident. Come on, you KNOW that!” Kerry shot back “Yes, I know it was an accident. But when you realized what was happening, you tried to conceal it from me. You didn't want me to know you were bleeding internally because you didn't want me to be able to stop it. Be honest Luka. You wanted to die.”

“Yes, I admit I WANTED to die, but I didn't do anything to cause the bleeding. Kerry, I told you before -- I will NOT commit suicide! To do so would keep me from my family forever. I… I couldn't bear that. I can bear the loneliness the rest of my life -- as long as I know I'll see my family again when I die. Kerry, you must believe me!”

“It doesn't matter whether you caused the bleeding. What matters is that you begged me to let you bleed out. Do you remember that Luka? Do you honestly think I can just forget about it?”

Luka tried to explain his actions, hoping Kerry would understand. “I'm very sorry, Kerry. I shouldn't have asked you to do that. I was desperate, I admit it. It's just that… suicide was never an option for me. I admit I thought about it more than once… wished it were possible. But I knew it would keep me from my wife and children forever. Then yesterday…when I realized I was bleeding internally, it….it seemed there might finally be a way to be with my family after all these years…. a way to die that would not keep me out of heaven.”

As Luka spoke, Kerry felt her heart breaking. She was afraid to look at him for fear she'd start crying. But she knew she couldn't let her heart overrule her head. Luka wasn't able to think rationally - not right now anyway. She had to be the voice of reason for him. Still avoiding his eyes, she told him “Luka, I can't remove the restraints - not until your sutures have healed.”

Luka looked at Kerry incredulously and asked “You really believe I'm a danger to myself?” Kerry finally met Luka's gaze as she answered “I don't think you would CONSCIOUSLY hurt yourself. But you've experienced a lot of flashbacks since the shooting -- very vivid flashbacks. I've been here since you got out of surgery -- I've watched you toss and turn in your sleep for the past few hours. Without the restraints, you could easily tear your sutures thrashing around like that. It happened once already.”

“It's not standard post-op procedure to restrain a patient. Does everyone think I'm crazy now?” Luka asked, not really wanting to know the answer.

“Of course not Luka. I didn't tell anyone that you asked me to let you bleed out. That conversation -- all of our conversations - are confidential. They remain between you and me. It's nobody else's business. But I'm very concerned about some of the things you told me -- the fact that you considered suicide in the past, the fact that you feel your life is so empty. I'd like you to talk to someone about those feelings. But I would never violate your confidentiality. I told the staff that restraints are necessary because the violent flashbacks and nightmares could make you tear your sutures again. That's all they know.” Kerry touched Luka's arm reassuringly as she added “Only you and I know the truth.” Then she asked “Luka, please tell me you understand why you have to stay in restraints for now?”

Luka looked Kerry straight in the eye and managed to choke out the words "Damn you, Kerry" before turning away. Realizing Luka was too upset to have a rational discussion, Kerry simply said “I'm so sorry Luka, but it has to be this way for now.” Then she turned and left the I.C.U.

Several hours later, Kerry returned but she wasn't alone. Standing next to her was Dr. DeRaad from Psychiatry. Kerry spoke gently "Luka, it's been nine years since you lost your family…” She hesitated a moment and DeRaad stepped in “Dr. Kovac, we want to help you put the pain behind you." Luka felt anger rising inside him. Kerry must have betrayed his confidence to DeRaad! Staring at her with cold eyes, he shouted "You said our conversations were private! I trusted you! How dare you, Kerry? Go to Hell ... and take him with you ... NOW!" Still restrained, unable to move, Luka turned his face away from them and closed his eyes. Kerry and DeRaad left the I.C.U. without saying another word.


To part 5

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