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Her Lucky Cowboy(5)

By´╝ÜJennifer Ryan

“I’m Dr. Bell. I’m an orthopedic surgeon out of Bozeman. I need a clamp to pinch off this artery.”

The medic handed over the instrument. She fixed it to the artery just above her fingers and let go, knowing time was of the essence. The knock to her head made her thinking slow, but she tried to keep her focus, relying on her ER training to get her through and think step by step.

“We need to stabilize this leg. Get a neck brace on him. Check his vitals. Run a line.”

The paramedics cut Dane’s shirtsleeve to his shoulder, revealing the blue feather tattoo on the inside of his forearm. She read the words below. “An angel watches over me.” She sucked in a startled breath.

“IV’s in, Doc. How’s the leg look?”

Bell refocused her attention on his mangled leg. “Scissors.” She held out her hand and accepted the instrument. She cut off Dane’s sock and slit the leg of his pants up to midthigh, spreading the bloody material wide to get a better look at his leg. She didn’t like the looks of his foot. She pinched the skin near his big toe. Man, the guy had some big feet. The skin turned white and took several seconds to turn pink again. Not enough circulation.

“We need to move,” she coaxed the paramedics, who worked to stabilize Dane’s head in a collar. “I need a splint, some bandages, gauze. Come on. Move.”

She’d spent six months in the ER. Controlled chaos. With trauma victims, every second mattered.

“What’re his vitals?”

“Breathing is shallow, but steady. Clear airway. BP one twenty over seventy-seven. Heart rate eighty-nine.”

“Dr. Bell, what the hell are you doing here?”

She glanced up and caught Gabe and Blake Bowden standing over the paramedics. They’d flown in from Montana to see their brother ride. At one time or another they’d both brought in a woman to the Crystal Creek Clinic for her to treat. They didn’t know her. Not really. But she knew all about them. She’d grown up right next door, but they’d never known it.

She plunged ahead, not taking the time to answer. “Does Dane have any allergies to medication?”

“None,” Gabe said.

“Any surgeries or illnesses in his past?”

“He had his tonsils out when he was a kid. A torn ligament and muscle in his shoulder repaired two years ago. Laparoscopic surgery on his knee three years back,” Gabe added.

“Is he taking any medications?”

“Not that I know of. Blake?”

“Maybe some ibuprofen. It’s been a tough couple days of competition. He’s sore, but in good health. He probably went out drinking last night, though he doesn’t usually have more than two beers when he’s competing.”

“Any drug use?”

“No,” Gabe and Blake said in unison.

“You’re sure. A little pot, maybe some coke when he’s out partying?”

“No,” Gabe growled, protective of his little brother.

“When was his last tetanus shot?”

“Who knows? It might be on file at the clinic,” Blake said.

She irrigated and cleaned the wound with sterile saline–soaked gauze pads, then she packed and wrapped the wound. She and the paramedic put Dane’s leg in a splint and secured it so they could move him. Done, Bell grabbed Dane’s good leg. One of the paramedics took his head, the other his shoulders, and they rolled Dane to his side, sliding the backboard under him so one of the guys could strap him down.

“Light.” She took the penlight from the paramedic and checked Dane’s pupils. All good. She unstrapped his chest protector and pulled it free. She ran her hands over his ribs and checked for any broken bones. Nothing. She rubbed the heel of her hand over Dane’s chest, checking for a cognitive response.

Please, you’ve got to be okay. Usually she didn’t know the patients she worked on. This man held a special place in her mind and heart. Even if he didn’t know it.

“Dane. Hey, Dane. Can you open your eyes and look at me?”

He let out a halfhearted moan and tried to open his eyes. Relief washed over her from her head down, loosening her tense muscles.

“Good, Dane. We’re taking you to the hospital now. You’re going to be fine.”

She helped the paramedics get Dane on the stretcher. She took his feet, and they took each side near his head, walking off across the arena to the waiting ambulance. For the first time, she became aware of the crowd of people around them and in the stands. Sound, muted, returned to the world around her as a hush remained over the crowd, waiting to see if Dane would give them a sign he was okay. Unfortunately, with the beating he’d taken, it wasn’t likely he’d wake up anytime soon. He was stable for now. She’d done what she could for his leg. They needed to get him into surgery.