“What a girl,” Alex commented to no one in particular, referring to George O’Malley.
“What else would I be?”
He looked over his shoulder to see one of his patients sitting behind him in a wheelchair. A girl. “What?”
“You said ‘what a girl,’ and I asked you what else I would be. I’ve got long hair, a high pitched voice, and boobs. Which one was your first clue that I’m a girl?”
“I wasn’t talking about you. I was talking about- Forget it. What are you doing out here? You shouldn’t be out of your bed.”
Kayna Mercer, sixteen years old, cardiomegaly, having a transplant tomorrow.
“I got tired of looking at those walls. The television shows the same thing over and over. Dr Phil, Dr Phil wanna-be’s, Oprah, Ellen. If there’s a chance that I can die in a few hours, I’d like for my last memories to be of something else besides pseudo-shrinks.”
“You’re not going to die in a few hours. I told you, the procedure is a common one, even if it is a little complex. You’ll be fine. And wasn’t your hair brown this morning?”
The girl laughed. “You noticed. My hair’s still brown. Izzy just brushed in some fake highlights with baby powder. It looks good, huh?”
“Whatever. You need to go back to your room.”
“Yeah. I do. I think I’ll stick with you, though. You could use the company.”
Jesus. Why was it so hard to get a moment alone to think in this place? If it wasn’t whining interns, it was nagging residents. If it wasn’t nagging residents, it was distracted chiefs. If it wasn’t distracted chiefs, it was flirty, underage, patients. And not always of the female kind.
“Look, Kayna, I’m going down for lunch. You can’t eat anything. Go back to your room.”
“I can watch you eat.”
“Because it’ll annoy you.”
“Fine. But you’ll watch me eat in your room.”
He stepped behind the girl and started pushing her towards her room. As he passed a candy striper, he asked her if she’d grab him a sandwich from the cafeteria and bring it to Kayna’s room. He kind of felt bad for her. Not that he’d ever admit it. The kid had been in and out of foster homes since she was twelve. What was it people said? There but for the grace of God…
Once they were back in her room, Kayna looked at Alex with a strange look on her face. “Hey, Dr Karev?”
“Can I call you Alex? Izzy lets me call her Izzy and Merideth lets me call her Meredith and George lets me call him a girl.”
A bit of milk squirted out of Alex’s nose when he heard that. “Call him what?”
“A girl. I tease him about being one of the girls. He lives with them, you know.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Can you what?”
“Call you Alex.”
“No. You can call me Dr Karev.”
“Hm. Tell me about your family.”
“What the- What’s with you, kid?”
“I’m just curious. Do you have brothers or sisters? Did your parents pay for your schooling? Did you have any pets growing up?”
“Come on. Let me live vicariously through you, ok?”
Why? Why did he always end up with these patients?
And for the next hour or so, Dr Alex Karev talked. He told his patient things that most other people would never know. He talked about his father being a drunk, his mother being a cold woman, how his brother died when Alex was just a little kid, how he worked full time while going to med school, how he cried when his grandmother died, and so much more. As he talked, he watched her grow tired. Eventually, she’d had enough.
“For what? Telling you what a shitty life I’ve had?”
“For trusting me. For showing me that you’re human. And you just said ‘shitty’ in front of me.”
“Yeah, well. At least I didn’t say fuck, right?”
The girl snorted as she laughed. “I’m tired, Alex.”
“No, I’m Kayna. You’re Dr Karev.”
“If you go to sleep now, they’ll just wake you up in twenty minutes to prep you for surgery.”
It was then that a voice from the door said “Actually, we’re going to prep her now.” They both turned to the door to find Izzy standing there. “So you, Dr Karev, need to give us some privacy.”
He was about to protest when his pager went off. He looked down at Kayna as he stood up. “Listen, I’ll come by and see you before you go to surgery,”
“And you’ll be here when I wake up?”
He hesitated before answering. Fuck it, he thought. “And I’ll be here when you wake up.”
He hurried out of the room to look for the Nazi. He found her intubating a patient who’d come out of surgery just an hour before.
“Karev, grab the rib spreaders and bust those stitches!”
With that, Alex lost all track of time as he worked with his mentor, rushing the patient to an empty theater to save a life.
Several hours later, he came out of the operating room and discarded the gown he’d worn during the operation. Looking at the clock, he realized that Kayna had probably been out of surgery for at least an hour. He started towards recovery to check on her. As he turned a corner, he literally bumped into O’Malley.
“Watch it, girl!”
“Me? You’re the one that had your head down! You- You should watch it. And I’m NOT a girl.”
“If you say so. Hey, what bed is Kayna Mercer in?”
“Kayna Mercer. Heart transplant.”
“Oh. Izzy’s patient? She didn’t make it. Reaction to the anesthesia.”
Alex felt like someone had just punched him in the stomach. He didn’t say anything as George started walking away.
Suddenly, George turned around. “Oh, by the way, Alex?”
Alex looked up without saying anything.
“Happy birthday, man.”
Turning back to walk down the corridor, George O’Malley never saw the tear that fell on Alex’s cheek.
“Yeah. Happy birthday to me,” Karev whispered to himself.