Fallot answered instead of the pediatrician. "I'm sorry. You know why we have to. We couldn't get a reading. The WBC was too low." His slight French accent made the words sound pleasant.
Claudia leaned closer to Teddy. Their red curls mingled. Claudia's arm was tight around the child's shoulders. Everything about Claudia's posture screamed fear. Dooley thought her rigidity made Teddy even more frightened. There was nothing he could do about that, though, and in fact he was more scared than Claudia, because he knew what was coming next. She had no way to anticipate it, not really. Claudia was a lawyer, not a doctor.
Dooley had seen a lot of bone marrow aspirations.
Dr. Fallot asked Teddy to lie down. The nurse swabbed the child's hip with betadine and placed a sterile drape over it. Then Fallot swabbed the area too. "This is a topical anesthetic," he said, and Claudia looked relieved. Dooley wasn't. He knew that would be very little help. "This is more anesthetic." Fallot injected anesthetic next to the place they would go in for the bone sample. Teddy gulped and began to cry. "It'll be over soon, honey," Claudia said.
Dooley went to stand where Teddy could see him and be reassured. The nurse came closer to Teddy, too. She wasn't there to console. She was there to help hold the child down.
"Can't we give him a general?" Dooley whispered to Fallot.
"You know better than that, Dooley. Every general anesthetic carries some risk. It wouldn't be ethical for such a brief procedure." He reached for the punch biopsy bone tool. With it he would drill out a piece of Teddy's bone marrow.
Not brief enough, Dooley said in his head.
Claudia didn't know what Dooley was so upset about. She understood when Teddy started to scream.
"Mommy! Make them stop! Help me, Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"
"Dooley, do something!" Claudia had shouted, making Teddy even more frantic. The thick needle ground into the bone like a drill.
"Please!" Claudia begged. "Dooley! Help him!"
Dooley wanted to close his eyes. Instead he did what he had to; he held Teddy - held him down so that it would be as quick as possible, saying, "It's almost over, pal. Hang on Teddy, hang on there, kiddo."
"Daddy! Make them stoooooop!" And then he just shrieked and shrieked and shrieked and Dooley whispered words in his ear, thinking all the time that, if Teddy did have leukemia, there would be many, many bone marrow aspirations ahead for him.
The path lab was a long, bright room, with a lot of space for bench tests and high-tech equipment around the perimeter, in addition to the old standbys like microtomes and fluid baths to float sliced sections onto slides.
On a working day, Dooley might use most of these himself. Today he wouldn't be allowed near them.
"Go sit someplace, Dooley," Tony Groenington said.
Dooley sat at a binocular microscope station and stared at the bench top.
Felipe had allowed Dooley to come with them to the lab, on his promise to stay out of the way. Alison had come too. Dooley thought she had trailed along just to make sure he was all right, since as a pediatrician she would be no help to the lab techs or the hematologist.
Felipe Fallot carried the tray, covered with the sterile paper sheet, and under that bland sheet, the precious biopsy specimens. Dooley's colleague, staff pathologist Dr. Tony Groenington, had been waiting for them here in the lab.
Dr. Alison White said, "I've got a feeling it's going to be all right."
"Then we shouldn't have put him through this," Dooley said.
It was a stupid remark, born of frustration and fear. Alison didn't even try to answer.
Dooley's whole body buzzed with tension, so much so that he could hardly see or feel anything outside himself.
Copyright 2002 by Barbara D'Amato. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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