"How much further?" Buck asked impatiently.
"Were almost directly over the signal," Taylor called from the co-pilots seat.
"Wed better find them soon or itll be too dark to do anything," Josiah said as he glanced at the darkening skyline.
"Hey, whats that over there?" JD called excitedly as he saw the sheered off treetops.
"Looks like something chopped off the tops of the trees," Buck said as he also surveyed the area.
"The signal is coming from just ahead," Taylor told them.
"Anywhere to land this thing?" Josiah asked anxiously.
"Nothing thatll get us close enough to do any good tonight."
"Hey theres a light down there," JD called as the chopper flew over a tiny clearing.
"It has to be them," Ezra said, for once using simple words to voice his opinion.
"We have to get down there," Nathan said.
"I agree brother Nathan," Josiah said and the others chimed in anxiously.
"Its gonna be too dark to do anything soon, and were gonna have to go back to base to get fuel," Taylor told them.
"Is there any way you can lower me down?" Nathan asked.
"Im going too," Buck said.
"We have time to get two of you down there maybe three. Will" Taylor said, turning to his pilot. "Get us over the clearing and hold her steady," he ordered as he got out of his seat. "Mr. Jackson has to go since hes the only trained medic. You guys decide who else goes but make it fast," he said as he unhooked the rope harness and began to set up the winch.
"You go with him, Brother Buck," Josiah said. "If theres time, Ill be right behind you."
The other men knew that Nathan had to go and they didnt argue about the other choices either. They knew Buck Wilmington needed to be near his friends and that Josiah Sanchez worked closely with Nathan Jackson and knew some first aide.
Taylor pulled out two emergency first aide kits and set them aside to send down after the medic was safely on the ground. They moved quickly and soon had Jackson dropped over the side on his way to the crash site.
+ + + + + + +
Vin heard the drone of an engine from above him and felt the wind whipping around the campsite. Hed stayed awake, keeping the fire going and worrying about his to still friend. "You hear that, Cowboy?" he asked as he heard the sound return. "I think they found us," and was rewarded with a weak whisper.
"I...I hear i...it," Chris said as he forced his eyes open. He lifted his head from Vins lap and gazed overhead. A large spotlight illuminated the crash area and he closed his eyes against the bright light. It wasnt long before he made out a form being lowered to the ground.
Nathan spotted the two men seated by the fire. He quickly released the harness and hurried towards them.
"H...hey, N...Nathan," Chris said weakly and was once again wracked by coughing.
"Easy, Chris," Nathan said worriedly. "Where are you hurt?" he asked Vin as he lifted Chris so he could breathe easier.
"Broke my ankle and cant see," Vin said, a tremor of relief in his voice now that help had arrived.
"Bucks on his way down now," Nathan said as he laid Chris back against Vin's uninjured leg.
"Is he all right, Nathan?" Vin asked.
"I...Im fine, Pard," Larabee said in a weak voice.
"Where are you hurt, Chris?" Jackson asked.
"His side's the worst, Nathan," Vin said before Chris had a chance to answer.
"Hey, Chris, Vin, cant you guys stay outta trouble without me here to protect ya?" Buck asked as he knelt beside his injured friends.
"Buck, get the first aide kits," Nathan said worriedly.
"Josiahs on his way down and theyll be sent right after him. How are they?"
"Vins ankle is broken and he cant see."
"Hes got a wound in his side and it looks infected. His left wrist is broken and his right hand is all torn up," he stopped as Chris dissolved into another fit of coughing. He helped the injured man sit forward, "Im pretty certain hes also got pneumonia."
"Damnit, Nathan, they were supposed to be on vacation."
"Easy, Buck, Im gonna need you level headed. Therell be time enough for anger later. Go see if Josiah is down yet," Jackson ordered.
Buck glanced from one injured man to the other before hurrying over to help Sanchez with the kits.
+ + + + + + +
Taylor took the megaphone and placed it to his lips, "We have to go refuel. Be back in approximately three hours," he watched as Sanchez removed the kits and signalled affirmative.
+ + + + + + +
Buck and Josiah took a kit each and hurried towards the wrecked plane.
"Yes, Brother Nathan."
"I want you to look after Vin. Taylor said the bags are stocked with antibiotics and painkillers. Give Vin a shot of Morphine. Dont argue with me, Vin, I can tell by your face that youre in a lot of pain." Nathan said to ward off the other man's protests.
"What about Chris?" Vin asked worriedly.
"You just let Josiah look after you and Ill take care of Chris," Nathan said as he opened one of the well-stocked kits. He pulled out a filled syringe of antibiotics and gently plunged it into Larabees arm. He wished he could do something about the pain but the only thing they had to use was Morphine and if Chris were suffering from pneumonia, it would be dangerous if not deadly to give it to him. He felt the heat radiating from the man as his hands began to clean the wound in his side.
Chris felt Nathans hands on the wound and his body rebelled from the touch. He groaned as the medic pulled the blood soaked bandage from the wound.
"Take it easy, Chris, I have to clean the it out," Nathan explained.
"I know it does, Chris, but it has to be done," Nathan said as he began cleaning out the infected area as best he could with the limited supplies they had on hand.
Buck busied himself with the fire as Nathan and Josiah tended the injured men. He knew both his friends were hurting and swore each time one of them gasped in pain.
Josiah checked the splints Chris had placed on Vins ankle and decided it was best not to touch them. Vin had succumbed to sleep shortly after Josiah had administered the Morphine injection. He proceeded to clean the wound on Vins head.
Nathan finished cleaning the wound in Chriss side and began to take stock in his other injuries. He placed a steel splint around the left wrist, cleaned the two cuts on the palms of his right hand and the large gash on his elbow. It took nearly two hours before hed finally finished the wounds but he remained anxious, as the wheezing in Larabees chest grew worse. He moved to check on the other injured member of the team and was relieved to find no sign of a fever.
He sat next to Buck and Josiah. Josiah passed him a mug of coffee and they settled down to wait for the chopper's return.
Chris felt his chest constrict and tried to draw a deep breath. The effort only made him cough and he held his side as the agony shot through his body.
"Nathan," Buck yelled as he hurried to his friend.
"Sit him up, Buck, he cant breathe," Nathan Jackson said as he moved to hold Larabees other side.
"C...Chris," Vin Tanner called helplessly and tried to get to his friend.
"Nathans with him, Vin," Josiah told the worried man.
"Come on, Buck, hold him up. Josiah, keep Vin sitting down," Nathan ordered. "Vin, stay calm. I have to concentrate on helping Chris. Buck get one of the oxygen cylinders out of the kit. Hurry!" he said as he felt Chris fight to draw air into his lungs. Buck reached into the kit, pulled out a small canister and passed it to the medic. He held Chris in a sitting position with his other hand.
Chris continued to cough violently. He fought against Bucks hold as his friend held him against his chest. He cried out in pain as the wound in his side once more opened with the violence of the coughing.
"Nathan, hes so damn hot!" Buck yelled.
"Hes got a fever, Buck! Chris, listen to me. Im pretty certain youve got pneumonia. Thats why youre having trouble breathing. Im gonna put a mask over your face and I want you to take deep breaths."
"C...cant b...bre..." Chris said as Nathan placed the tiny mask over his friend's face. Chris felt the coolness of the oxygen as he fought to take in enough air to satisfy his deprived lungs.
"Keep him upright for the moment, Buck," Nathan ordered as he plied Chriss bloodied hand from the wound in his side.
Vin heard Chriss ragged breathing and tried to move closer to his friend. Strong arms held him back.
"Let Nathan handle it, Vin. He knows what hes doing," Josiah ordered.
"I...I need to help him," Vin said quietly.
"Theres nothing you can do for him right now, Vin. Nathan needs to concentrate on what hes doing. He cant do that if he has to worry about you too. Now just lie still, ok?"
"He sounds bad, Josiah," Vin said as his friends tortured breathing continued to invade his senses.
"Im not gonna lie to you, Brother Vin, Brother Chris is in a bad way right now."
"He sounds like Buck did when he had pneumonia last month," Vin said.
"I think so too," Josiah told him.
"Chris, Im gonna need to look at your side. Can you just relax against Buck for me?" Nathan asked talking quietly in order to keep his patient calm.
"C... cant br...breath V..."
"I know, Chris, just lean against Buck and be quiet. Your body is not getting enough oxygen and I need you to calm down and take in as much as you can."
"K," Chris said and closed his eyes. His chest heaved with the effort it took to breath and Nathan wondered if there wasnt something besides the pneumonia causing the discomfort.
"How is he, Nathan?" Vin asked worriedly, feelings of helplessness swarming over him.
"Not good, Vin, he needs...," before Jackson could continue he heard the sounds of the chopper returning. Suddenly a bright light encompassed the crash area and three men breathed a sigh of relief.
"Thank God," Josiah said as he raised his head towards the light.
"Nathan, were gonna lower one stretcher at a time," Taylors voice called from above.
"Josiah, get Vin ready to go," Nathan ordered.
"No! Get Chris out of here!" Vin yelled.
"Well get you both out, Vin, I just need a little more time to get Chris ready."
Within ten minutes, Vin had been strapped in the basket stretcher and was being lifted towards the chopper. Josiah watched as the basket spiralled in circles as it ascended. He waited anxiously for the second stretcher to be lowered.
As soon as the stretcher hit his hands, he unhooked the stretcher and hurried over to Nathan. "Brother Vins safely onboard. Its time to get Brother Chris out of here," he said.
"You still with me, Chris?" Nathan asked.
Chris didnt have the breath to answer so he just nodded his head slightly. Nathan placed the backboard next to Chris and between the three of them they were able to roll the injured man onto it. They strapped his head, shoulders, waist, and legs to the board and then placed him in the stretcher.
Chris gritted his teeth through the ordeal and continued to do so as he was lifted to the waiting chopper. Once onboard, he searched for his friend. "V...Vin," he said as he found the object of his search.
"Im here, Pard," Vin said, relief evident in his voice.
"I think so, You?" Vin asked him.
"N...never b...better," Chris stammered.
"You dont lie very well, Mr. Larabee," Taylor said as he unhooked the stretcher.
The other members of the team had been left back at the base in order to carry a fully trained paramedic. Hed been checking over Vin Tanner and now moved to help secure the new patient.
Chris watched as the man moved to stand over him. He continued to struggle to get enough air into his lungs and the paramedic knew the man was in serious trouble. Chris tried to move his body to alleviate the uncomfortable feeling in his stomach but was stopped by the straps that held him in place. Pain made him grit his teeth in agony.
"My name is Tom Reynolds, Mr. Larabee, I want you to relax and breathe slowly. Your body is not taking in enough oxygen right now and its probably making you feel pretty bad. No, dont try to talk just lay there and breathe. Taylor pass me a new oxygen cylinder," Tom ordered and quickly changed the one on Chriss face. He saw the lines of pain on Chriss face and knew the man needed help fast.
"You Jackson?" Tom asked as a man knelt beside him.
"Yes, howre they doing?" Nathan asked as he looked from one injured man to the other.
"Mr. Tanners stabilized. Im working on Mr. Larabee. How long since he had anything for pain?" Taylor asked as he began setting up an IV line.
"The only thing I had was Morphine and I couldnt give him that with the pneumonia."
"Chris, youre gonna feel a tiny prick right now. Dont worry about it. Im just starting an IV. Ok?"
"K" Chris said weakly through the mask.
"We need to get him to the hospital, Stat," Tom said as he finished taking Chriss vitals.
"Pulse is weak and thready, respirations shallow, blood pressures dropping. Hes going into shock," Tom said as he continued to work on the patient.
"Damn," Buck said as he stepped into the chopper.
Taylor quickly dropped the cable over the side and waited for Sanchez to attach it to his body. He continued to watch the ongoing struggle to save the life of the injured man. Soft sobs reached his ears and he looked to the second injured man. Tears rolled freely from his sightless eyes.
As soon as Sanchez was aboard and everyone secure, Taylor turned the chopper and headed for the nearest hospital in Cooke City.
"Whats our ETA, Brian?" Tom asked, his voice tainted with worry.
"ETA thirty minutes if we push it," Taylor answered.
"Push it!" Tom ordered as Chriss condition continued to deteriorate.
"Nathan, youd better look at Vin," Sanchez said from his position kneeling at his friend's side.
"Go ahead, Nathan, Ill take care of Larabee," Tom explained as he continued to take vitals on the injured man.
Nathan knelt beside Vin and touched his forehead. "Damnit, Josiah, get me another oxygen cylinder. Taylor, advise the hospital that both patients are going into shock," Jackson said as he took the cylinder from Sanchez and placed it over Tanners face.
"Buck, I need your help. Nathan, start an IV on Vin," Tom called as Chris began to thrash in the confined area of the basket stretcher.
"C...Chris," Vin cried.
"Stay calm, Vin. Tom and Buck are with him," Jackson explained and took the second IV kit from the paramedic's bag.
Vins breathing became more erratic and his skin felt cool and clammy as his worry for his friend took precedence. He struggled against the confines of the stretcher as his breathing became more tortured.
Nathan knew they were in danger of losing both men. Vin had all the signs of going into Psychogenic shock and needed to be treated accordingly and Chris showed all the signs of going into hemorrhagic shock. The problem was there was very little they could do in the confined quarters of the rescue chopper.
"Did you give them anything, Nathan?" Tom asked as he continued to fight to keep Chris Larabee alive.
"Gave Chris a broad spectrum antibiotic. Gave Vin a shot of Morphine," Nathan said as he fought to hold Vin in place. He looked back at his patient as Vins body suddenly stopped his struggles and lay still. "Taylor, how long?" he asked as he inserted the IV into Vins arm.
"Fifteen minutes," came the reply from the front.
"Too long," Tom said. "Nathan, the only thing you can do for Tanner right now is keep him warm. Buck go help Josiah. I need you here now, Nathan," Toms voice was filled with worry.
Nathan knelt beside him and looked into his eyes, "What is it?" he asked Reynolds.
"Theres more going on here than pneumonia. What caused the wound in his side?"
"I dont know. It wasnt in him when we got there. Why?"
"Looks like it did some damage on the inside. Theres some internal injuries here and I think hes bleeding into his abdominal cavity. Theres definitely infection," Reynolds explained.
"Peritonitis?" Jackson voiced the thought hed been holding since finding Chris and Vin.
"I think so," Reynolds told him.
"That means he nicked something inside," Nathan said.
"I know. Taylor, how long?"
Suddenly Chriss body bucked in the stretcher.
"Damnit, hes going into cardiac arrest," Reynolds said. "Nathan, Im going to have to bag him. Hold his head," he said as he pulled a wrapped packet from his bag. He pulled out the plastic tubing that Nathan recognized as something used for Nasopharyngeal airways. He held Chriss head while Reynolds inserted it into the right nostril. As soon as he had it in place, Reynolds attached the bag there and ordered Nathan to take over delivering the oxygen to the patient. Once again, he used his instruments and took vitals on Chris Larabee.
"You guys better strap in. Were about to land," Taylor called.
"Just get us down there," Reynolds ordered as he continued to work on Chris Larabee.
"Damnit, Tom, you know the regulations!" Taylor yelled.
"Forget the regulations, Brian, this man doesnt have time for them. Just get us down!" Reynolds yelled back.
Taylor turned away from his friend and concentrated on getting the chopper safely down on top of the Cooke City Trauma centre.
Nathan continued to deliver the oxygen to his friend as the chopper set down and emergency response personnel came forward. Stretchers were hurriedly rolled towards the chopper and the two patients were placed on them.
Nathan, Buck, and Josiah followed the stretchers as they were transported inside. Tom Reynolds voice was heard as he rattled off the statistics for both men.
"Put Mr. Tanner in Trauma three and see whats taking Dr. Mercer so long. Get Mr. Larabee in Trauma two. Any of you guys family?" he asked the three worried men that followed him to the doors.
"As close to family as those two have," Buck replied.
"Then go fill out the papers at the nurses station. I need all the information on them you can give me."
"Will they be all right?" Sanchez asked.
"I wont know till I check them out," the doctor said and he hurried into Trauma two.
An older woman hurried to the desk and was pointed to Trauma three. She rushed past Nathan, Buck, and Josiah and entered the room.
"Thats Dr. Mercer. Shell be looking after Mr. Tanner," the nurse at the desk explained.
Three men looked at each other as they helped fill out the papers for their injured friends. When the paper work was finally finished, they walked into the waiting area to wait news of their friends.
+ + + + + + +
"Mr. Larabee, just relax. Im Dr. Matt Weaver. Were going to take good care of you," Weaver said, trying to reassure the patient. "Get another line in him and run it wide open. Weve got to get him stable! I want him typed and cross-matched. I want x-rays, blood gases..." he smiled as the things were done almost before he issued the orders. "Find out if hes allergic to anything. I need to get him started on antibiotics for the pneumonia."
Chris could hear everything that was happening around him. He knew he was in trouble as he tried to get more air in his lungs and nothing happened. Suddenly he was overtaxed with another bout of coughing.
"He's not getting enough air. Put him on a 100% rebreather and let me know what his pulse oxymeter reading is....Mr Larabee? I need you to try and rest. Take deep slow breaths. You're safe and in good hands. Just relax
"V...Vin, Chris cried.
"Who?" the doctor asked as he watched the nurse place a needle against the man's hip and push the plunger. He knew she was giving him the low dose of Demerol hed ordered. It wouldnt take the pain away completely but it would take the edge off.
"I think thats the man who came in with him," the red haired nurse told him.
"Mr. Tanner is being taken care of Chris, and I need to take care of you. Try to relax," the doctor said as he watched the nurses quickly remove the last of the restrictive clothing from the injured man.
"V...Vin," Chris said breathlessly.
Dr. Weaver began examining the wound in Chris side. He could tell that the man had been bleeding internally but until they had the results of the tests there wasnt much he could do. They needed him stabilized to get him to surgery.
Chris felt as if his body belonged to someone else. He felt hands on his intimate area and tried to move away from the intrusion.
"Its ok, Chris, were just attaching a foley to you. Just relax and everything will be ok," Weaver explained.
"S...sick," Chris said as what little was in his stomach rebelled.
Weaver gently turned his head and a nurse held a kidney shaped bowl in front of his mouth.
"Give him Gravol," Weaver ordered. "I think wed better get a Nasogastric tube down him as well. It looks like weve got some internal bleeding. The faster we get him stabilized the faster we get him to surgery. Get a central line in him as well."
"Ive got the results of his blood tests, Dr. Weaver," a pretty, petite, raven-haired nurse told him as she hurried into the room. She carried two bags of whole blood in her hand and at a signal from Weaver soon had it dripping into Chriss arm.
A technician came through the door with a portable X-ray machine and began taking the films of the critical patient on the bed. Although the technician did not know the circumstances, she knew the extent of injuries must be massive for the doctor ordered a full skull, chest and abdominal series of scans. Looking at the patient as she worked, she knew she was right and said a small prayer as she worked.
"Get them to me as soon as you can," Weaver ordered as the technician finished.
+ + + + + + +
Vin Tanner opened his eyes to darkness. He was confused about where he was and tried to move.
"Easy, Mr. Tanner. My names Dr. Eileen Mercer. Youre at Cooke City Trauma centre. "Do you remember what happened?"
"Plane c...crash?" Vin asked, his sightless eyes on Mercer.
"Thats right. How do you feel?"
"L...lousy," suddenly he tried to sit up but felt gentle hands push him back on the bed. "C...Chris is h...hurt."
"If youre talking about Mr. Larabee, hes in good hands. Dr Weaver is with him now," Mercer explained to her patient.
"I...is he ok?"
"I dont have any details right now, Mr. Tanner, but if you relax Ill have one of the nurses check for you," Mercer signalled for one of the nurses to do as she asked.
"K," Vin said.
"Ive ordered some tests for you and Ill let you know what were going to do as we go along, ok?" Mercer asked. Shed always liked having her patients informed about what was to happen to them.
"Ok," Vin said. He wanted to ask about his eyes but was afraid of the answer.
"Are you in any pain?" Mercer asked.
"A little," Vin said.
"A little meaning you dont need anything or a little as in give me something?"
"G...give me something," Vin said as the pain in his leg flared and he groaned loudly.
"Give him a shot of Morphine," Mercer ordered the nurse.
"I need you to turn on your side a little, Mr. Tanner," the nurse ordered and Vin watched as she placed a syringe into the IV line.
"C...Chris," Vin asked again.
"Thelma hasnt returned yet, Mr. Tanner," Mercer said as she continued to examine the young man.
"H...hes d...dead is...isnt he?" Vin asked through tear filled eyes.
"Mr. Larabee is alive, and being treated in the next room, Mr. Tanner. Ill talk to you as soon as Thelma returns. She turned from her patient as the door opened and Thelma beckoned to her.
"Ill be right back," she said as she hurried to the worried woman. "Well?" she asked.
"Theyve got him stabilized and are going to take him to surgery."
"Whats the extent of the damages?"
"Internal bleeding into the abdomen, pneumonia, possibly peritonitis," Thelma explained.
"What does Weaver say?"
"Hes not giving him much of a chance. He says it depends on how strong Mr. Larabee is."
"C...Chris is s...strong," Vin told them
"You have very good hearing, Mr. Tanner," Mercer said as she returned to the patient.
"Hes bad i...isnt he?"
"Im afraid he is, Mr. Tanner. Ive got the results of your X-rays and it looks like were gonna have to put a pin in your ankle. The break is a bad one and wont heal properly without intervention."
"Doctor what..." Vin paused taking a deep breath that still did nothing to calm his fears. It was best just to get the bad news over with. Sighing deeply he continued, "What about my eyes?"
"Well theres some swelling behind the optic nerve and that could be causing the blindness. Im going to have the ophthalmologist have a look at you after surgery," Mercer said.
"C...can I s...see Chris?"
"Im afraid not. Thelma said they were getting ready to take him to surgery. Im going to arrange a room for you. I want Dr. Beattie to look at you tomorrow and then well put that pin in your ankle," Mercer said as she tapped his shoulder. "Ive also ordered something to help you sleep and I want you to take it."
"Not till I hear how Chris is doing," Vin said.
"Ill make sure he takes it, Doctor."
"Thats right, Vin. How you feeling?"
"Im fine," Vin told him.
"Sure you are," Jackson laughed.
"Who are you?" Mercer asked.
"Nathan Jackson, Maam. Im a friend of Vin and Chris."
"Mr. Jackson, can you stay with Mr. Tanner? Make sure he doesnt do anything foolish."
"I sure will, Doctor. If I have to Ill get the rest of the team in here to sit on him," Jackson said.
"Just dont sit on his ankle," Mercer laughed as she left the room.
As she opened the door, she noticed the door to Trauma two being opened and a stretcher being wheeled out. From the grey pallor of the skin and the amount of leads running from the man, she knew theyd have to fight to save his life. She took one last look in the room that housed her patient and hurried to the desk to leave instructions with the nurses.
+ + + + + + +
"Buck, how are they?" JD asked as he hurried into the waiting room. Standish and Travis followed him.
"Vins gonna be going up to his room soon," Buck told them. "Hes gotta see a surgeon tomorrow and have a pin put in his ankle. They dont know about his eyes yet."
"What about Mr. Larabee?" Ezra asked, he was unable to hide his worry behind his usually stoic demeanour.
"Theyre getting ready to take him to surgery. Thats all we know so far. The doctor is supposed to come see us before he goes up. Here he is now," Buck said as he jumped to his feet and hurried to meet the man. "Hows Chris?" he asked.
"Mr. Larabees condition is critical. On top of the minor injuries, he has pneumonia, which were treating with antibiotics."
"Nathan said something about peritonitis," Josiah said.
"Mr. Larabee has been bleeding internally for at least twenty hours. We dont know what caused the wound in his side but it looks like it nicked the large intestine. Were going to have to flush his abdomen and get rid of all the waste thats been seeping into the abdominal cavity. If possible, well repair the damage but if its too extensive we may have to do a resection. I have to go and get ready for surgery. I promise Ill let you know as soon as we know anything."
"Will he make it?" Buck asked worriedly.
"I cant say for sure right now, Mr. Wilmington but be advised that I will do everything in my power to see that he does," Weaver said as he stood up to leave.
"Thanks, Doc," Sanchez said as the man hurried away.
"Chris is tough," JD said to no one in particular.
"Yeah, he is, JD. Ive seen him come back from some pretty bad injuries before and I know hell come through this one," Buck said quietly.
"I think its time to visit the Chapel and ask for a little Devine intervention for our friends," Sanchez said. "Would any of you care to join me?"
"Ill come," JD said.
"Never was much for praying but right now I feel its long over due," Buck said.
"I shall join you once Ive checked on our Mr. Tanner and Mr. Jackson," Standish said.
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