After a tiring day of getting sneezed upon by flu patients, having one little girl get sick all over his shirt and another man spill tea on his spare scrubs, dealing with a woman who was convinced her child was dying from a rare tropical disease that had turned out to be chicken pox, and setting the broken thumb of a very surly, impatient elderly woman absolutely plastered in cat hairs, John was looking forward to a nice hot cup of tea and a few precious hours of sleep upon his return home.
Despite his exhaustion, the day had been rather slow. A few broken bones, some treatable illnesses and two or three moderate wounds were found in the A&E that sluggish January evening. Nothing John and his coworkers couldn’t handle; God only knew how busy they could get. It wasn’t quite Afghanistan, but John wouldn’t go so far as too say it wasn’t exciting. The rush of adrenalin that came with especially challenging injuries certainly helped with his limp on bad days.
John hoisted his bag over his shoulder and flicked off the lights to the exam room he’d been using, debating between going straight home and taking a quick detour to the break room to snag a cup of coffee. In the end, his body’s need for sleep won, causing John to bypass the break room and head straight for the exit.
“John! John Watson!”
The doctor turned at the sound of his name. Catching sight of a rather large, bespectacled man hurrying towards him in the hall, John stopped and waited patiently for him to catch up. The bloke looked sort of familiar, but he couldn’t put a name to the grinning face.
Once he reached John, the man stuck his hand out. “Stamford. Mike Stamford. We went here at Bart’s together, remember?”
Mike. Right. Sat next to him in at least two classes during back when they’d been students together. They hadn’t been the best of friends; Mike was the sort of bloke who was mates with almost everyone, while John preferred to maintain a few close friendships.
“Yes—sorry, yes, Mike, hello.” John shook the offered hand and managed a small half-smile.
“Yeah, I know, I’ve got fat,” Mike joked, to which John offered a quiet denial, “I heard you were abroad somewhere, gettin’ shot at, what happened?”
John paused, unconsciously leaning his weight on his left leg, lips pressed into a thin line. He made a small motion towards his leg. “I got shot.”
Mike’s smile dropped. Realizing he’d unknowingly touched upon a somewhat uncomfortable subject, he stuttered out an offer for coffee in the break room—on him, he’d said to lighten the mood. John only accepted out of pity for the other man’s expression.
“You still in trauma, then?” John covered his grimace in another sip of coffee. He was rubbish at small talk.
“Yeah, teaching the trainees now. Bright young things like we used to be,” he rolled his eyes, “God I hate ‘em.”
John chuckled in agreement. The two men chatted about inane things like the weather and rugby teams, traded humorous and frightening stories from working at Bart’s. John learned all about Mike’s home life; Mike was treated to the tale of the desert lizard and the soccer ball from a quick station in the outskirts of Kabul. They walked as they talked, coffees in hand, rounding back to the A&E reception desks. John was just about to leave when one of the phones rang. A moment later, one of the receptionists called out to him.
“Watson! Incoming opioid overdose patient arriving by ambulance, ETA ten minutes. Possible code blue.”
“I’ll leave you to it,” Mike said as John leapt into action, tossing his half-full cup into the nearest rubbish bin and hurrying to Triage. He hated getting overdose patients; they reminded him too much of his sister. But he loved the thrill of this, the adrenaline pumping through his veins, the knowledge that there was someone who needed help that he could provide spurring him on into the thick of battle. Every time a case like this came in, John was reminded of his first day in the A&E after leaving the mundane checkups and dull works hours at the clinic. A man had been rushed in via ambulance, bleeding heavily, and suddenly he wasn’t just Dr Watson, GP; he was Captain John Watson, MD, of the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers. The sterile hospital corridors were then a battle ground, the patient had been wounded soldier and John would be damned if he let him die.
The same scenario was applied here.
When John reached the entrance, the distant sound of screaming sirens could be heard, getting louder, closer. It was only a matter of minutes before paramedics wheeled in a man on a stretcher, shouting out commands. John immediately saw what the major concern was: unlike most overdose patients, the man was awake, and struggling violently, or at least trying to. The drugs in his system were slowing down his movements.
John’s brain accessed this information. Patient was still awake; that meant the full effects of the overdose hadn’t hit yet—someone had obviously been there immediately after whatever he’d taken had entered his system. Based on what the paramedics were shouting—weak pulse, slow breathing—they had limited time before whatever drug it was majorly impacted him.
“Sir,” he said, arriving beside the stretcher, “Sir, calm down. We need you to be calm if we are going to treat you.”
Pale, clouded eyes pierced his, green and blue and grey all at once. Pinpoint pupils further confirmed the drug was an opiate. John was left stuttering under the man’s harsh gaze.
“Afghanistan or Iraq?” he rumbled in a deep, baritone voice.
That hadn’t been expected in the least. “Sorry?”
“Which was it, Afghanistan or Iraq?”
Beyond the initial shock, John’s first thought was, Jesus, he’s close to dying and he’s asking about my past. “Afghanistan,” he managed, “Sorry, how did you…?” John trailed off, clearing his head and focusing on keeping the man before him alive rather than figuring out how the bloody hell he knew about Afghanistan, “I need you to tell me what you’ve taken so we can get treatment underway.”
The man snorted. “I observed. I know you’re an army doctor and you’ve been invalided home from Afghanistan. I know you’ve got a brother who’s worried about you but you won’t go to him for help because you don’t approve of him, possibly because he’s an alcoholic—more likely because he just recently walked out on his wife. And I know that you have a slight psychosomatic limp mostly cured by working in the hospital. Anyway, I’ve no need for treatment, Doctor. I know my limits for morphine.” Even as he spoke, his words became thick and quiet, eyelids drooping. A paramedic called out that his pulse was slowing, as was his breathing, and John knew time was limited. “I am th’ worl’s on…only consultin’ d’tective.”
“Doctor, he’s slipping!”
“I need 100 mg of naloxone, stat!” John barked, slightly unnerved, “Get him to Trauma, have him intubated and put on an IV. Do not put him on a long-acting sedative. Midazolam or propofol only. We need to clear these drugs out of his system.”
He addressed the nearly catatonic patient next. “Sir, I need you to stay awake. Stay with us for as long as you can,” he said, steering the stretcher as it was hurried into the trauma bay.
“Th’ name’s…er…Sherl’ck Holmes,” was the last thing the man said before slipping into unconsciousness.
Shit. John hastily fitted an oxygen mask over the man—Sherlock’s—mouth, keeping two fingers over his weakening pulse.