Hi, everyone! As promised, here is part two of Sarah Nitsch’s and Kami Clements’s dramatic story of Faith saving the day. Can she do it?! Find out! And for Part 1, go to last Friday’s post.
Faith hastily exchanged little Dorothy’s old blanket for a fresh one, then dropped it in the large laundry hamper on her way to grab the quinine from the bar. It was time to administer another dose to everyone. Rosemary grabbed the other bottle to help out. Faith saw that that bottle was already half empty, and the bottle she herself held was past that. She was worried. She tried to think as she started giving everyone the quinine. If I don’t figure out what this disease is, and fast, I’m going to run out of medication. Fiona had informed her that some of the surrounding towns had gotten wind of some kind of epidemic in Hope Valley. They’d stopped all trains and stagecoaches, so Faith couldn’t order more medicine and expect delivery. What do I do?!
Breathe, she ordered herself, as she gave Carson his portion of quinine. He took it, but by reflex only. He’d gone in and out of a fevered sleep since he’d collapsed that morning, and he’d been unresponsive to anything Faith said. She lingered just a moment longer to dab his sweaty brow with a cool cloth. “I will figure this out!” she whispered determinedly as she tenderly traced his cheek with her finger. “I’ll make you and everyone else here well. I promise!”
His only reply was a shallow inhale and exhale. Faith blinked several times to keep from crying, then tore herself away from his side. Florence was there. She looked very sympathetic for her situation. “Why don’t you sit with him for a few minutes. We can handle things.”
Faith gazed longingly at the face of the man she cared for so deeply, but stubbornly shook her head, and insisted, “My patients need me.”
She stood in the center of the room where she could have a good view of all said patients, and concentrated on each in turn. She wasn’t a doctor, but she’d certainly been studying. Surely she could discern what sickness this was if she just stopped moving for a few moments and focused. Alright, her mind told her as she threw herself into the thought process, everyone has a high fever. Everyone has a sore throat, but not the same kind. Opal’s and Dorothy’s are red and enflamed; Maggie, Emily, and Mrs. McCormick have gray spots in their throats; Ned has gray spots, and gray film is starting to form; Cody’s and Robert’s film is starting to coat their throats…so is Carson’s. And Mr. Bartlett is the worst: his entire throat is so coated, he can hardly breathe. Everyone else is either at these stages, or somewhere in between.
Faith put her fist to her mouth, thinking hard. “Sore throat, high fever, gray film, shallow breath…” Faith’s hands flew up, and her eyes bulged with sudden enlightenment. That had to be it! She frantically scanned the room, and found Rosemary giving quinine to Benjamin Davis. “Rosemary! Can you ladies handle things here for just a moment? Mr. Bartlett and Robert are my only two left who need quinine.”
Yes, of course…” Rosemary assured her, but Faith was already racing out the door. “Don’t forget to scrub your hands well if one of you does laundry.”
Faith was running to the infirmary as fast as her legs would carry her when she heard Elizabeth calling to her. “Faith!” They were both gasping for breath as Elizabeth approached. “How is everyone in there? It breaks my heart that so many of my students are ill! Is there anything I can do to…?”
“ Don’t come any closer, Elizabeth!” Faith warned. “I know you want to help, and I’m truly grateful; but we can’t risk you getting exposed, and taking this home to Jack Jr. I don’t know that he’d live through it, and I can’t bear the thought of you losing him too. Please, go home. I’ll let you know if you can help in any way.” Then she kept running.
“But what…” Elizabeth started to yell, but Faith had disappeared inside, “…is it?” she finished to herself. Well, she’d find out soon enough. Right now, Elizabeth gave into the sudden urge to go home, and hold her son close.
Faith closed the door to the infirmary, reached for the medical encyclopedia, and tore through the pages until she found what she was looking for. “I was right!” She slammed the book down, and reached for the telephone, frantically jiggling the switch hook, and hoping Fiona wasn’t taking a break.
“Hope Valley Central. Number, please?” came the voice. Faith had never been so happy to hear someone speak.
“Fiona! This is Faith Carter. Please connect me to Dr. Burns at the Union City Hospital.”
“Of course, Faith. Did you figure it out?”
“Feel free to listen in, and find out.”
“Alright. Trying that number now.”
The line seemed to ring endlessly, but someone finally picked up on the 5th ring. “Dr. Burns’s office, this is Nurse Everston. May I help you?”
“I have a call for Dr. Burns from Hope Valley.”
“Oh, please put it through.”
“Melinda? Is that you?” Faith asked.
“Faith! Hello! I certainly do miss you here! How are things in Hope Valley?”
“Not so good at the moment, Melinda,” Faith answered impatiently. “I need to speak to Dr. Burns right away.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Faith, but he’s making his rounds right now.”
“Right now?” Tears sprang to Faith’s eyes, and panic seized her heart. “But this is an emergency! Isn’t there anything you can do?”
“I’m sorry, but you know there’s no way I can reach him when he’s on rounds.”
“Oh!” Faith whimpered. The walls of her composure were cracking. Every moment ticking away was precious time wasted. What could she do?
“Oh, wait a moment, Faith! He just arrived back.” Faith wanted to sob with relief, but she held her ground, and strained to hear the exchange in the background. “For you, Doctor. It’s Nurse Carter.” Then some noisy feedback as he picked up the receiver.
“Nurse Carter! Faith! How are you faring with Doctor Shepherd?”
“You know, we had a new arrival from your dear little town not too long ago: Mrs. Ramsey and her lovely dress shop. My wife frequents it quite often.”
“Dr. Burns! I’m in a huge predicament, and I need your help.”
Dr. Burns’s tone immediately sobered. “What’s the matter, Faith?”
Her lip quivered, knowing she was about to admit it out loud. “We have an epidemic…of diphtheria.”
Faith heard a female gasp on the line. She’d almost forgotten that Fiona was listening. She would talk to her later. Right now, she had work to do. “Doctor, I need to know what the latest and most effective treatment is, because it’s been around too long already. I don’t know how much longer my patients can last.”
“What do you mean, ‘your’ patients? What’s happened to Dr. Shepherd?”
“He caught it as well. One of the patients coughed directly in his face then his resistance was low when he was trying to care for everyone.” Faith bit her lip to control her tears before she added, “He’s quite ill, actually.”
“Oh, Faith, I’m so sorry! If I could, I would come help, but I’m afraid I just can’t get away right…”
“No, Doctor, I wouldn’t dream of asking. The town is pulling together. I just need to know the treatment. Has something new been found in the last three years or so?” Faith rolled her eyes at the insanity of her question. That was highly unlikely.
“ Actually, there is,” he revealed, and Faith wanted to scream in delight. She allowed herself a little silent hop instead.
“As you know, there’s been an anti-toxin since the 1890’s using the blood of horses, but it’s always been so expensive to get into Canada.”
“Of course, I remember! We couldn’t even keep it stocked in Hamilton.”
“Well in May of 1914, a Dr. John Fitzgerald created a kind of ‘Anti-toxin Laboratory’ at the University of Toronto, in a stable of all places! Can you send someone to Toronto to retrieve some for you?”
“I will find someone. Thank you, Dr. Burns. Oh, and the next time you see Dottie, please tell her not to come home for a visit until this is all over.”
“I will. Good luck, Nurse Carter. Faith…you’re very good at what you do. You’ll get through this.”
“Thank you, Doctor. That means more than I can say. Goodbye. “
He hung up after giving her one more well wish. “Fiona?” Faith asked. “Are you still there?”
“I’m here,” Fiona’s voice was shaking. “Diphtheria?”
“It’s alright, we’re going to make it through. Will you please call Sheriff Avery and tell him to meet me in front of the saloon?”
“Of course! Anything else I can do?”
“Stay by the telephone. We need to make sure we don’t miss any calls, and we need you to stay healthy. And Fiona? Pray!”
Fiona was quiet a moment, as if considering the concept for the first time. “Sure thing.”
Faith hung up, and scurried back to the saloon. She found Rosemary bathing Mr. Bartlett’s face. “Rosemary, where’s Lee?”
Rosemary looked a little confused. “He’s on a traveling business trip for the mill. He’s been gone for a week.”
“I won’t know where he is until he calls to check in. I told you all this four days ago. Remember?”
Faith dug her knuckles into her forehead. She did now. One more thing in the way. “I need someone with an automobile,” she muttered.
“Did you say ‘automobile’, Faith? Henry Gowen has one. What do you need it for?”
Faith opened her mouth to explain, but saw Bill through the window. “I’ll explain later,” she said, and headed out the door.
“Sheriff! Thank you for coming so quickly. Don’t come any closer. We don’t want you exposed.”
Bill stopped just short I found the steps, and put his hands on his hips. “Did you figure out what it is?”
“Yes, it’s diphtheria; which is why I need your help. Do you think Mr. Gowen is willing to drive you somewhere?”
“And where might that be, young lady?” Henry Gowen appeared only a few yards to her right. She hadn’t heard him approach.
“ Oh! Mr. Gowen! Stay back please. Thank you. There’s an anti-toxin for diphtheria at the University of Toronto that we need right away. There are no trains or stages coming or going from Hope Valley, and I thought the safest way to pick it up would be with a law enforcement officer. And neither of you have been exposed. You could drive to Hamilton, then take a train to Toronto, maybe?”
“I can drive myself. I’m not going on a road trip with Henry,” Bill insisted.
“If my automobile is involved, Sheriff, there’s no way I’m staying behind,” Henry fired back.
Faith watched the interchange, wondering if maybe she made a mistake. Fortunately, at that moment, Rosemary opened the door, and stood beside her. “I couldn’t help but overhear. I telephoned Hickam, and he should be right over.”
“What for?” But just then, the door to Lee’s office opened, and Mike made his way across the street.
“What’s going on?” he asked. “How is everyone in there?”
“Everyone is very ill, actually,” Faith answered. “But that’s going to change very soon. Sheriff Avery has kindly agreed to go get a diphtheria anti-toxin from the University of Toronto, and Mr. Gowen has graciously offered to drive him.” She was careful to not have her tone turn too skeptical. She needed them to do this, and as quickly as possible. “And Mike, you’re going to…?” Faith didn’t know that part, so she looked at Rosemary.
“You’re going to make sure these two don’t kill each other,” Rosemary finished. Both men turned to her in protest. “Oh, don’t look at me like that! You know perfectly well you two need a chaperone, and who better?”
That’s when Mike inquired, “How much do we need to get?”
Faith thought a moment, then said, “Better get enough for twenty-five. We have fifteen sick now, and it might go up. I can see how much money is in the infirmary…”
“We can settle that when we get back,” Bill grumbled, still not excited to travel with Henry.
Mike looked very hesitant, but dutifully said, “Well, alright! When should we go?” He clapped his hands together, trying to look certain.
“The sooner, the better,” Faith said. Rosemary took it a step further, and actually shooed them away, flicking her hand at them. “Go on now, get going.” The men dispersed to get ready to leave.
Then Florence opened the door, and shot her head out. “Faith,” she urgently beckoned, “we need you in here.”
Florence led them back inside, and over to Old Man Bartlett’s cot. He was lying still…deathly still. Florence began to stammer nervously. “I…I….I…I don’t understand. I was giving him a sip of water, and he started choking. That’s when I came to get you.”
Faith felt his neck for a pulse. She closed her eyes, and shook her head. “He’s gone,” she whispered. “I lost him.” A wave of fear overcame her. Now what would she do?
I hope you all have a marvelous Easter, or whatever you’ll be celebrating this weekend! See you next week! This is Hooked Heartie, signing off! May your heart let your hope blossom!