July 15, 1863
Hannah sighed at the tense sound of her husband’s voice filtering down the hall from the parlor to the kitchen. Though she clearly heard the urgency in Drew’s tone, she took a moment to remove the half-baked biscuits from the heavy iron stove, lest they burn before she returned. This would be the third batch of baked goods she would toss this week so she could assist Drew in the surgery with one medical emergency or another.
Biting back a second frustrated sigh, she removed her cooking apron to don a fresh one. Tying the apron strings around her back, she entered the chaos of Drew’s surgery room. The heavy shuffling of feet echoed in the small room as four men grunted under the weight of the injured man. The acrid smell of blood hit Hannah full force. She recalled the days when the odor and sight of blood caused her stomach to roil. Nearly two years working by Drew’s side cured her of some of that sensitivity. Heart pounding rapidly, she prepared the ether cone, anticipating the forthcoming request.
“Get him on the table.” Drew calmly instructed the men carrying the wounded bank manager, Mr. Davis. As he turned to face her, his tone remained steady, “Hannah, I need the ether now.”
Hannah’s breath caught in her throat as she looked into Mr. Davis’s panicked eyes—her earlier frustration vanished. Whispering words of comfort, she placed the cone over his nose and mouth, silently counting out the seconds. Around the third second, his thrashing stopped and his body relaxed into an unconscious state. She let out a shaky breath, relieved by the sight.
Drew’s lanky form bent over Mr. Davis’s left leg as he intently studied the blood soaked trousers. Hannah offered Drew scissors and he cut the pant leg to better see the wound. The bullet was lodged in Mr. Davis’s thigh. He placed a tourniquet above the gaping hole to stop the flow of blood. Hannah mopped up what she could with rags silently praying for their patient and for her husband’s skill. As he requested the small forceps, she handed them over. Watching, she could not help but admire his steady hand and careful movements as he removed the bullet with the forceps. Gently he removed the bullet.
As she administered another dose of ether, Drew threaded a needle with his long slender fingers, seemingly unaffected by the gravity of his task. He doused the wound to clean it before starting slow deliberate strokes with the needle to stitch the hole shut. His concentration was so intense that he barely noticed her dabbing the sweat from his forehead. Once he finished with the stitches, he wrapped the leg in bandages before checking for other signs of injury.
“I don’t see any other wounds,” Drew said meeting her gaze as he washed the blood from his hands. His expression remained unreadable. “Please sit with him for a minute while I speak with the men who brought him in.”
As Hannah pulled up a chair next to Mr. Davis’s still form, she caught most of the conversation playing out in the parlor, though slightly muffled from the distance.
“Bank robbery,” one of the men replied in response to Drew’s query.
Gasps echoed in the small parlor that served as a waiting area for patients, followed by the hiss of rapid whispering. Hannah, knowing who was scheduled for appointments, imagined their shocked faces at the unexpected announcement.
“Will you let Mr. Davis’s wife know he is here and resting comfortably?” Drew requested.
The men replied affirmatively before the sound of their feet faded behind the closed front door.
“Bank robbery,” Hannah muttered, surprised someone attempted such in the middle of the day in their peaceful town. She chided herself for thinking of Cincinnati as a town. With the large number of German immigrants arriving daily to work in the meat packing factories, her childhood home was quickly becoming a large city.
She checked Mr. Davis’s pulse again which returned to normal. The faint smell of ether hung in the air, intermingled with blood, causing her to take shallow breaths. Drew returned to the room with a deep frown on his face, obviously concerned by the news. As he listened to Mr. Davis’s breathing, she started cleaning and sanitizing the room and instruments, trying to hold her emotions at bay just a little longer.
As soon as she finished mopping up the trail of blood from the parlor to the surgery room, she jumped at the sound of the front door bursting open again.
“Phillip!” called out Mrs. Davis as she ran into the room. “Oh, Phillip!”
The frail woman gasped at the sight of her pale husband sleeping. Hannah breathed a sigh of relief that she completed the cleaning before Mrs. Davis arrived, fearful for the woman’s constitution. Glancing down at her blood splattered apron, she hoped to go unnoticed, certain the sight would send Mrs. Davis into a fit of apoplexy.
Drew spoke in calm soft tones as he clapped his hand over the older woman’s. “He will be just fine. He is resting now, but should be awake later this evening. I would like to keep him here for a few days to make sure he is doing well, and then I’ll send him home to your capable care.”
“Thank you, Dr. Anderson,” Mrs. Davis replied, blotting her tears with a handkerchief before taking a seat next to her husband.
Quietly exiting the room, Hannah paused inside the doorway of the kitchen. The intensity of the preceding hours drained her energy as the emotions rushed forward. Leaning her head back against the wall, she let the tears roll down her face. Please let the image of Mr. Davis’s fear-stricken face fade from my mind quickly. The look had been so intense that she felt his fear as if it were her own—not in the moment she looked at him, but now as she returned to the calmness of her kitchen.
Wiping the tears from her face with the back of her hand, she removed the stained apron and threw it into a bucket to soak. Picking up a clean apron, she returned to the now half crunchy half soggy biscuits next to the oven trying to push the morning from her mind. She threw the biscuits into the waste and started on a fresh batch.
Carefully, she measured out the flour and buttermilk. The familiar actions of baking soothed her edgy nerves. Using the technique her aunt taught her, Hannah rolled out the biscuit dough and cut round forms, repeating the steps until all the dough formed raw biscuits. Numbly she continued through the motions until lovely golden brown biscuits emerged from the oven.
As Drew saw his last scheduled patient for the day, Hannah started her afternoon routine of tidying the clinic. Starting in the parlor at the front of the house, she straightened chairs and dusted the furniture. From the parlor, she turned left into Drew’s office since both surgery rooms on the right were occupied, one by Mr. Davis and the other by Drew and his patient. Hannah dusted her husband’s desk and stowed the patient charts in the largest drawer at the bottom of the oak desk. Taking a seat, Hannah flipped through the stack of bills. There never seemed to be enough time to see to everything. She needed to spend some time updating the ledgers soon.
She listened as Drew escorted the last patient to the parlor. She entered the now vacant surgery room, wiping down all the surfaces. Once the room was cleaned, she checked on Mr. Davis again. He was still resting peacefully, his wife clutching his hand as she sat in the chair, her chin resting against her chest either in prayer or in sleep.
Walking down the hall to the kitchen at the back of the house, Hannah began supper preparations. She felt most at peace in her kitchen—her domain. Perhaps it was from the few years she spent by her loving aunt’s side learning how to bake and cook, those domestic skills her mother had not instilled before her passing.
Shaking off the mounting melancholy, she shifted her thoughts back to Mr. Davis’s care. Following the meal, she would send Drew upstairs to their bedroom to get some rest. She would take the first shift watching Mr. Davis and then, sometime in the middle of the night she would wake Drew to take over.
At times like these, she wished Drew would hire a nurse. Hannah barely kept up with the laundry, cleaning, and meal preparations without overnight patients. Whenever a patient required round the clock care, she fell woefully behind in other chores. What would she do when she had children to care for?
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