Dr. Kim Seojun washes his hands in the industrial sized sink, sighing aloud with the exhaustion of a near 24 hour shift. He arches his neck to work out the crick that had been bothering him for the past hour. The ER had been swarmed this evening, stemming from a major pile up on the interstate caused by an overturned tank truck. The closest (and in this cause not-so-luckiest) hospital had been theirs, and with over 16 passenger vehicles caught in the collision, all the staff from nurses to physicians to emergency responders had been bombarded nonstop. The death toll was three, two individuals from the first car struck and the truck driver himself. Most admitted weren't in critical condition, sporting mild injuries from broken limbs, minor concussions, or shallow lacerations. There were few that did have cause for immediate concern, eight in total who needed surgery.
Finally clean of discarded surgical gown and red stained gloves, he heads into the ICU ward to check on the patient he was first assigned to. The surgery itself lasted around four hours, a careful and time sensitive operation due to the assumption that the optic nerves and surrounding areas could have been potentially damaged in the collision. The patient had been young male in his early twenties, who had taken the worst of the impact when their car rolled. When Dr. Kim had been prepped for the OR, he wasn't given a name nor told anything pertaining to who the young man was. Backstories, personalities, and achievements mean little in this environment, because in the end, it comes down to three simple things: what's wrong? how did it happen? and how do we fix it?
So when the rush has died down and the last critical case has been wheeled out of surgery, he gives into the desire to see who he had been treating. It might seem like physicians can be cold, stone faced individuals when confronted with trauma and grief, but deep down they all care deeply for the lives that are placed in their hands; every loss is a heavy burden to bear, every triumph is a inward swell of levity and reassurance.
His sneakers squeak against the vinyl tiles as he passes by each occupied bed, most patients willingly sleeping or knocked out from the pharmaceutical drugs. As he nears the last bed where the young man lays, he picks up the clipboard attached to the end of the bed frame, scamming the documents one of the ER nurses filled out prior and post surgery. At the very top corner of the document is a picture of the man, unhurt and looking too young for the troubles of today.
Patient Name: Yoo Kihyun
Age: 23 yrs. old
Blood type: B
Admitted for: probable head/eye injuries due to car accident
Diagnosis: Minute fragments of metal and polycarbonate plastic struck into the cornea on impact. Optic nerves intact but patient sustained minor surface scarring of the lens.
Treatment: Immediate eye surgery [successful]; full recovery expected after carefully designated recuperation period
Dr. Kim sets down the clipboard, looking at the thick gauze bandaged around Mr. Yoo's head that lays directly over his eyes where two cotton squares are held in place. The young man remains prone in the stiff sheets, still under the heavy anesthetic from earlier. There's minor scratches near his hairline and the corner of his mouth, faint red lines now that they're cleaned of blood. The scattering of a visible bruises along the arms is to be expected, given how everyone was tossed around like rags dolls; most of the passengers in their vehicle weren't wearing seat belts. It's something that makes him feel frustrated, as both a physician and a father that such a common sense rule would be ignored. But then again, the two people in the front car were wearing their seat belts, and that didn't save them from the jarring impact of crashing headfirst into the tipping tank truck.
He exhales a somber breath, knowing that what's done is done, and he's done all he can to remedy the situation. With time and rest, the man can make a full recovery, he's sure of it. He places a hand on the blanket covered ankle, giving it a gentle reassuring squeeze before he turns and heads out back into the hallway. He makes his way towards the ER, already trying to decide if he'll nap while he has the off chance or grab a cup of coffee from one of the vending machines. The sun should be coming up soon, which means he's almost home free.
Of course both ideas are scratched when he nears the full waiting room located close the ER entrance and sees law enforcement officers conversing with people, the noise level able to be heard from down the hall. Now usually this isn't a problem, given that when such an accident that occurred almost give or take 8 hours ago happens, police want to get the full picture to find the clear cut cause. But the hairs on the back of his neck are standing up because this is no ordinary routine questioning; people are going a bit wild, hysterical even as the officers try to calm the situation. A tall man in a dark jacket is on the phone, conversing rapidly while another officer beside him is jotting down notes. Someone of the men, looking around the same age as Mr. Yoo are pacing or frantically speaking with staff. Some of the surgeons on call tonight are seemingly being interviewed along with other hospital staff. With each step towards the chaos, the dread he feels sinks into the bottom of his soles, causing him to drag his feet unsurely.
He waves over a nurse hovering off to the side, and she quickly scurries over. "Minseo, what's going on?" he asks, keeping an eye on the loud mass of people.
She wrings her hands, eyeing them anxiously. "I just arrived for my shift, so I'm not exactly sure. Apparently some of the people caught in the accident are part of an idol group."
'Idol group?' he thinks, already imagining the headlines splashed across newspapers and social media.
"Excuse me, doctor," an officer approaches the two of them. Nurse Minseo excuses herself to flock back to the others. "Hate to interrupt, but I'm Officer Park Junho," the man sticks out his hand.
"Dr. Kim Seojun," he reciprocates the handshake.
"I was told you were one of the physicians working in the OR tonight, is that correct?"
He nods, crossing his arms. "Yes. I was mainly in charging of performing surgery on a young man who had some head and eye trauma."
"And would that man happen to be a..." he looks down his notepad. "Yoo Kihyun?"
Surprised, he nods confused. "Yes. How did you-"
"I asked the other doctors for patient names. The man you worked on is part of a seven piece idol group called 'Monsta X'. I assume by the look on your face you haven't heard of them?"
He shrugs, a bit embarrassed at lack of knowledge in pop culture. "You're correct. With the hours I work, I'm afraid I'm not able to keep up with the trends. Plus, out here we don't really get a lot of the big city Seoul business."
The officer nods with a brief smile. "Can't blame ya when you have busy nights like this one. Now, is Mr. Yoo currently in the ICU?"
He nods. "Yes, as well as other patients who went under the knife."
"While since you confirmed Mr. Yoo's whereabouts, the problem we're facing at the moment is that there are only six idol members accounted for. We can't locate the last one. " Dr. Kim frowns, a bit of a sickly feeling welling up in his gut because he doesn't like where this is going at all. The officer continues onward. "Now the emergency responders said that all victims of the crash were brought to this hospital, including the deceased. Do you think that there could have been a mix up and one of the guys was sent to another hospital?"
Immediately he shakes his head at that idea. "No. We're the closest hospital to the site of the crash, within 15 miles. The next one is a whole town over, I'd say at least another 50 miles away. Since some of the victims were in critical condition and had to be admitted as soon as possible, there's no way a first responder would take the chance of traveling a longer distance. Plus, as you can see our hospital is big enough to accommodate larger groups."
Officer Park sighs, jotting down something. "That's what I was afraid of. We sent some troopers to check just in case, but most of the staff is repeating your statement verbatim." He then motions towards the cluster of guys near the tall man and another with a buzz cut, speaking to them with worried expressions. "The men they're speaking to are their managers who are trying to get in touch with the higher-ups of the company. Apparently in the chaos of the accident, no one in his party was aware that young man wasn't picked up along with the rest of them. Many other people involved in the crash, who weren't injured too bad mind you, ran to aid the kids out the car; the boys assumed the other one was helped out as well, but everyone we've questioned was only able to point out the five here or mention Mr. Yoo. No one recalls seeing the last one."
Dr. Kim shifts his eyes down at the floor, thinking of the injured man lying in the bed without an inkling of what else has happened to his friend. The horror of someone being left behind after the hell of tonight, for possibly 8 hours is unimaginable. He straightens back up, steeling himself. "But how did they miss him? I mean, surely someone would have spotted him. And what happens next?"
"My guess is that when their car rolled, he must of somehow been tossed out of the vehicle and ended up somewhere off the beaten path. And because the accident happened so late, it was just too dark for civilians without flashlights to spot him. When first responders arrived, they went by the word of those present," he says all this slowly as if he's repressing his anger, not directed at anyone but the situation. "Right now we've sent out some of the squad to the crash site, and a few of the responders are hightailing it back as well. We also put out an APB on the kid, in case someone spots him. Either way, if we don't find him soon, this situation is going to turn real messy."
They both pause, knowing that despite their professions, they both feel helpless as ever.
Officer Park shakes off the mutual feeling, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small square, before handing it to him. "This is a his picture. I'll leave it with you so you can let staff and others knows to keep an eye out for the guy. If you spot him, let us know right away."
He nods. "I will."
The officer then walks away, heading back into the massive fray. Dr. Kim looks over at the group of male idols, and feels a deep swell of sympathy for them as a few appear close to tears. He sighs, gazing down at the photograph with that sick feeling settling permanently in his gut. The boy is young, younger than the one before and he's out there somewhere. Is he hurt? Is he cold? Is he alone? Is he...dead? So many questions run through his mind and for once, there's no answer he can conjure up. There's no quick fix nor remedy to solve this problem. All he can do is wait. Wait and pray that this won't end badly. He stares down into the young brown eyes, frozen in a time much simpler than now.
"Where are you, kid?"