Excerpt from White Male Infant by Barbara D'Amato, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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White Male Infant

by Barbara D'Amato

White Male Infant
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2002, 336 pages
    Jul 2003, 336 pages

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Chapter One

White male infant, health perf. 6 mo., hair blnd. Eyes bl., bidding ends 1/19, avail. 1/26

Beekman Hospital
New York City
Early November

There is nothing stranger than a familiar place turned strange. Dr. Dooley McSweeney was in his accustomed place of work, which had been his home away from home five days a week for nine years, but today everything was changed. Dooley was a surgical pathologist at Beekman Hospital in Manhattan. Like most hospital surgical pathologists, he dealt primarily with tissue samples –- chunks of necrotic tissue from patients in the emergency department, swabs of infected material, biopsy specimens, tissue taken from patients in operating rooms where the surgeon was looking for a tumor-free margin and wanted to know quickly whether there was any malignancy in the specimen, and hundreds of other pieces of flesh from living people where his analysis made a difference to their survival. Hospital pathologists generally didn't do lab tests -– the chemical bench tests, hemocults, PSA levels, blood typings and so on. There were thousands of chemical analyses these days. Surgical pathologists didn't do analyses for the medical examiner. They also did not do exotic analyses, chemical or biological. These were sent to specialized labs around the country. What they did primarily was high-pressure work that had immediate life-or-death implications for real people present at that moment in the hospital.

Because Dooley had worked as a pathologist here for nine years, he had a lot of friends, a great deal of respect, intimate familiarity with the workings of the huge medical complex, and a certain amount of seniority.

Today, only the fact that he had friends was any help to him. He stood shifting from foot to foot in a minor surgery room in the pediatric wing. On the stainless steel table was his four-year old son Teddy, dressed in a blue and white surgical johnny. Dooley's wife Claudia had her arm around the little boy. Their pediatrician, Dr. Alison White, held Teddy's hand. A nurse and Dr. Felipe Fallot, the hematologist, busied themselves with a tray of instruments, which they had positioned behind Teddy, out of his sight.

Despite light sedation, Teddy sat rigidly upright, elbows close to his sides, hands in tight fists. He knew this wasn't going to be a good thing. Teddy looked tiny and vulnerable in the limp hospital gown. Dooley marveled at how much alike Teddy and Claudia were, an adult female and small male version of the same basic human form, with their curly red hair, pale skin and green eyes. Big, frightened green eyes.

Dooley saw the figures in the hospital room as if they were a teaching tableau, frozen in time and place, patient, nurse, doctor, worried relative. Back when he was in med school, and later going through his senior rotations, he had treated many thousands of patients. Now that he was a pathologist, he dealt with tissues, not the people the tissues had come from. He was much happier this way. He hated hurting people. He thought possibly he had gone into pathology because he found it so difficult to keep the necessary distance from patients so as to treat them objectively enough. You needed a certain blend of ruthlessness and empathy to do clinical work. Some patients had just stolen his heart, and his fear for them made it hard to do his job properly.

But it had never been as bad as this. This was his son.

Dr. Fallot had allowed Claudia and Dooley to stay here in the room. Their pediatrician, Alison, had told them that Fallot usually let parents stay with their children for what she called "minor procedures."

"He believes having mom and dad around consoles them."

"Do we have to do the aspiration?" Claudia asked nervously.

"Yes, Alison, do we have to?" Dooley asked. "You didn't find any leukemic blasts in the smear." A blood smear had been done a week before and repeated yesterday. Maybe he could stop this, even now.

Copyright 2002 by Barbara D'Amato. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.

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