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Part of USS Galaxy: M0: Moments in the Woods

One liver, two livers, no livers, who cares

Starbase 72 - Sickbay Ward #11
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V’Rel continued to root around the drawer of medical tools; one of the sickbay nurses hovering behind her nervously.

“Doctor, if you tell me what you need I can get it for you. Regulations do stipulate that visiting doctors need to defer to base staff for any treatments.”

V’Rel shot the Andorian man a look. “I have been practicing medicine for longer than you’ve been alive, I can handle this. Go and treat someone who needs your help.” With that she turned back to the drawer, pushing aside various tools until she found what she needed. 

She had brought Lieutenant Brex here without bothering to alert the medical staff, which was something of a common courtesy if you wished to treat a patient when you weren’t on staff. V’Rel didn’t particularly care; she had a patient, he needed treatment, and she could administer it. End of story. Someone else had already tried a few weeks back and failed miserably.

She turned to Brex, osteo-reginerator in hand. “Alright Lieutenant, shirt off and lay on your stomach.”

Brex’s eyes widened for a moment before he undid the hidden snaps on his upper uniform shirt, removing it from his upper body before pulling off the back undershirt and stretching out on the biobed. “You sure you can fix it without running me through the scanner?”

V’Rel let out a dismissive grunt. “Of course. We might have all this technology but a few old-fashioned techniques still have their place. You can have all the knowledge in the world about anatomy and medicine but when you rely on technology instead of. going hands-on once in a while, you lose something.” She placed a hand on the man’s lower back, pressing in at a specific angle. She had long ago learned how to manipulate tissue and keep her claws retracted at the same time, but even at this angle it was tricky. She had a suspicion that a particular muscle and ligament had been strained or even outright damaged based on how the Lieutenant described his pain. If she got the angle right she’d easily be able to feel the swelling. 

Brex let out a sigh. “If you say so, doc. Technology and I are best friends but I’ll go with what you say.”

“Smart choice.” She angled her hand just a few more degrees and pressed in further, instantly feeling a region of swelling and knotting. “Got it, just like I thought.”

Brex jerked as pain shot up his back. “Shit! Yeah, I’d say you found it doc.”

“I never aim to cause pain, but discomfort is part of medicine and healing. People forget that these days.” She said, disinterestedly switching the osteo-regenerator on. “You likely tore a ligament that attaches to a long muscle in your lower back. The last doctor probably aimed to soothe the muscle but left the ligament alone. I think the Betazoids call it the coclacostium banroum muscle. Humans call it the Iliocostalis lumborum. Vulcans call it something I can’t begin to pronounce. The main muscle runs all along your back, attaches to your ribs at multiple points, and ends right above the buttocks. A literal pain in the ass when it acts up. Funny how all you humanoids tend to be built nearly the same way; makes my job easier.”

Brex shrugged. “If you say so. It’s been a long time since I took an anatomy class and I skirted by with a C.”

V’Rel hummed as she placed the instrument on Brex’s lower back. “I’ll tell you a secret, almost every doctor and nurse you run into skirted by in anatomy class.”

Brex turned his head to face the Catian, an incredulous look on his face. “That doesn’t inspire much confidence here, doc.”

V’rel shrugged, focused on fine-tuning the osteo-regenerator. “Medicine is a field where it’s as much of an art as it is a science. You can’t teach the entirety of medicine in school, much like engineering. I can assure you that for as long as I have been doing this, I know where all the vital organs are and how many you’re supposed to have.”

Brex laid his head back on the table. “Still not inspiring a whole lot of confidence but I’ll take what I can get.”

“Considering you’ll be pain free by tomorrow, it’s a good idea to take what you can get right now. If it makes you feel better, I know you have one liver and you aren’t supposed to have more or less than that.” She reached over and grabbed a small patch, placing it near the osteo-regenerator. “Unless of course, you want more or less of that; one liver, two livers, no liver, whatever floats your boat. At my age I don’t care, I can keep you alive no matter what you choose.” She pressed a small control on the pad. “You’re going to feel heat, it’ll loosen things up in there.”

Brex let out a content grunt as he felt heat spread across his lower back and the pain receded into the background a bit. “I’ll keep my original configuration of livers, please, and thank you.”

“Fine with me.” V’Rel mumbled. “Less paperwork.”

A silence settled in over their small area of sickbay, the only sound being the soft beeps as V’Rel adjusted the regenerator.

“How long have you been doing this, doc?” Brex inquired. “From the way you talk, you’ve been  around awhile.”

For a few moments, there was only silence, to the point that Brex thought he had offended her, but she was just gathering her thoughts. “I graduated Starfleet Academy with my doctorate when I was 26; that was 59 years ago. I’ll let you do the math.”

Brex did the mental math for a moment. “85? That impressive doc, you don’t look a day over 60.”

He didn’t see the eye roll she gave him. “My species doesn’t show age the same way most do. Having a layer of fur has its benefits, if you care about how you look as you age. We’re just about as long lived as other humanoid species, sometimes a bit longer and we remain in fairly good health into our 90s. 

“You must have seen a few things over the last 60 years.”

V’Rel looked away from the Biobed for a moment. “I have. Some might say too much. The galaxy has been through a lot of death over the last 60 years. The Borg, the Dominion, the Cardassians, the Klingons, and countless other squabbles. I’ve seen them all, I’ve treated them all, I saved a lot of them, couldn’t save some of them. Made peace with it a long time ago. Love the days when someone comes in with nothing more than the Levodian flu.”

Brex inhaled. He wanted to ask the question but he couldn’t decide if it was the right time and place; he didn’t know the doc all that well but she didn’t seem like the type to shy away. “Can I ask you, doc, what you did to make peace with the ones you couldn’t save?”

He heard the Catian inhale sharply. “It’s difficult to quantify. Death is different in the medical world; we don’t view it with the negativity others do. We try every last thing we can to stave off death but it’s unbeatable, in the long run. I served with a nurse on the Eindhoven back in the war and she told me that every last person there was willing to go toe to toe with the reaper himself, without fear or hesitation, and drag someone back from the abyss but we had to know when to pick that particular battle. It was an overly superfluous and dramatic way of saying we fight death every day, willingly, unless it doesn’t make sense but the point stands. That changes you, Lieutenant. There are fates worse than death Mr. Brex; I’ve seen those fates too many times. It may be my job to keep people from leaving this mortal plane but it’s also my job to know when to stand back and allow them to pass beyond their mortal life. It’s a balance we doctors spend years struggling to learn.”

Brex was quiet for a moment. It was a perspective that, admittedly, sounded almost unfathomable from the outside but there was a grim logic to it. He wasn’t sure what to think of it but it was the sort of thing that needed to sink in; something to ruminate on. “Thank you, doctor. In light of recent events, I’ve struggled with the fact that so many have been lost in such a short time. I even lost a few old friends from my Academy days and it’s just been like a massive Gretnay cat laid itself on my chest and refused to move. I don’t know what to make of it, honestly.”

V’Rel turned off the regenerator, it’s beeping indicating the job was done. “You don’t have to know what to make of it right now. I have age and a unique worldview on my side, you don’t. I can offer you no real advice beyond the fact that you don’t have to figure this out on your own; there are abundant resources and people who can help you with this. I’m just not one of them.” She removed the regenerator from Brex’s back, tucking it back into the drawer near the biobed. “Sit up.”

Brex sat himself back up, his back protesting but nowhere near as much as it did before. “Thank you doc, for the treatment and the talk.”

V’Rel handed him both his uniform shirts. “That’s my job.” She turned to pick up a PADD before turning her head back around quickly. “The treatment, not the talk. I fix bones, not psyches.”

Brex chuckled as he snapped his yellow uniform overshirt back together. “Understood doc.”

She turned back around, handing him the PADD. “Discharge instructions. No exercise or strenuous activity for 48 hours. That particular regenerator is great with ligaments and the bones they attach to but isn’t particularly great for muscles so things will be tender for a bit. If you have any excess pain just find me on the Galaxy and I can give you a local analgesic.”

Brex tried to take the PADD, offering the woman a kind smile. “Thank you doc.”

She held onto the PADD for a moment longer. “And I went ahead and added a list of those resources I talked about; use them if you need them.”

He nodded, his face expressing how grateful he was. “I will doc. Thank you.” He hopped off the biobed, giving his back a small stretch. “Almost as good as new.”

“Damn right Lieutenant. I do quality work.”

He gave her a nod and made his way out of the ward.

V’Rel to a look around the large ward; like most of the wards on the Starbase it was at near full captivity. Various officers and civilians sat on the biobeds and nurses and a few doctors made their way around. A loud sneeze drew her attention to one of the beds; a Saurian woman rubbed her face as a doctor stood in front of her, looking horrified as a large amount of bright orange mucus began to drip down from her face to the top of her white lab coat.

V’Rel rolled her eyes. “I really should have retired years ago.” She muttered as she walked out of the ward.

Comments

  • "One liver, two livers, no livers, who cares" - if this post wins no other awards in the FA, then it's surely in the number one spot for contention for the "Best Title in a FA Story Ever" category! Talk about an attention - grabber! When I logged in - it just LEAPT out of the list of today's alumni and DEMANDED that I read it (and who am I to say no - in the face of such invention?). And the quality doesn't stop at the cover! I enjoyed V'Rel enormously as a character - I can't say that I can recall a Vulcan Physican before (a great and obvious choice - when you come to think of it really) and what a unique bedside manner she has!! Vulcans are a great foil for dry irony and V'Rel is written to type for a Vulcan - yet you bring a wonderful and refreshing take to her character foibles and personality. Too often the trap is to write a Vulcan with the emotional candor of a domestic refrigerator - here you have created a memorable and engaging character - who really does have a "unique worldview"!!! Weltanschauung indeed! I'm definitely returning to the USS Galaxy for a 'Second Opinion'!!

    June 20, 2024
  • And I'm an Idiot! I just checked V'Rel's bio and saw that she is a Caitian! That aside - what I said stands! A superb title and a brilliantly - pugnacious CMO!!

    June 20, 2024
  • I came for the title, and I stayed for the doctor. My first reaction to V’Rel was shock at the apparent lack of bedside manner, but that all changed as they got real about death. She said they look at death differently as doctors, but in a way, her perspective is one that could be helpful to all. Similarly, at first I wondered why this doc was being so averse to technology, but it ultimately proved a nice way both in-character to demonstrate developed experience over such a long period, and out-of-character to fuel a dialogue about the dichotomy of art and science within the field of medicine. A very enjoyable read!

    June 20, 2024
  • This title was superb and the whole reason I opened the story at first, but then you drew me in with V'Rel. She seems to have no regard for the rules or even being nice to her patient for that matter. The way you showed a doctor who didn't need technology to preform her job was also great.. In most post you always see the technology saving lives, but your portrayal was great. This was an awesome read! Stellar job!

    June 21, 2024
  • This is a brilliant piece of writing and I enjoyed every part of it. You really bring the characters and situation to life. V'Rel might be a little unorthodox in her approach, but she certainly knows what she's doing, and what happens when the fancy modern technology isn't working, you go back to basics. So this doctor would be perfectly fine in that situation. Great work.

    June 22, 2024