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Poem: "Always Repay the Cost" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Always Repay the Cost"
This poem is spillover from the December 6, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from DW user Curiosity. It also fills the "surgery" square in my 7-16-16 card for the Hurt/Comfort Bingo fest and the "WILD CARD: Come Healing" square in my 12-1-16 card for the iPod Shuffle Music fest.  This poem belongs to the Dr. Infanta and Antimatter & Stalwart Stan threads of the Polychrome Heroics series.  It follows the poems "More Anxious to Agree" and "Never Carry Them Forward," so read those first.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them.  The rate is $.50/line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
So far sponsors include: DW user Librarygeek

650 lines, Buy It Now = $325
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Verses posted = 66 of 197

Amount remaining to fund fully = $205
Amount needed to fund next verse = $.50
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Warning: This poem contains some touchy topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers.  It features an expected death (which does not actually occur), a hospital visit, anticipatory grief, superhero/supervillain relationship challenges, bioethical issues, requesting help from a supervillain, messy medical details, several people donating lifeyears to save a friend, expected memory loss of the accident as a side effect of treatment, sharing secrets, negotiating secrecy, and other angst. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


Always Repay the Cost


When Stan got word that Fiddlesticks
was in the Freeman Family Hospital
and not likely to leave it alive, he went
right over to Lawrence's house, and
then both of them went to visit.

They stopped at the flower shop
on the first floor, where Lawrence
carried out a brisk conversation with
the florist which produced a fine bouquet.

Three tall yellow gladioli -- flowers of healing
and warrior spirit -- rose above mixed carnations
for energy. A nest of foliage at the base included
cedar for strength, sage for health and long life,
and blue spruce for hope in adversity.

Fiddlesticks had been moved to
the palliative care wing, because
there wasn't much more the staff
could do for him, which was sad.

Stan set the vase of flowers on a table
and then turned to Hefty. "Hi," he said.
"We're here if you need us for anything.
Do you want to tell us what happened?"

"Hi," said Hefty. He looked exhausted.
"We were busting up a ring of car thieves,
and one of them rammed Fiddlesticks."

"He couldn't dodge?" Stan wondered.

"He was moving the original target out
of the way," Hefty said. "The other officer
is fine except for a few minor fractures,
but Fiddlesticks is just -- they don't --"
His voice broke and trailed away.

"He's Christian, right?" said Lawrence.
"Have you called a priest, or whatever?"

"Been and gone," Hefty said, nodding.
"They're Episcopal. Their pastor sat
with Diamond through the surgery. We
had hoped for better results, but well --
Fiddlesticks got hit by a truck."

"I'm surprised she's not here," Stan said.

"I ran her off after the first six hours.
Somebody has to watch the kids, and
Roger took a shift, but they need
their mom," said Hefty. "I promised
to call her if he -- when -- "

"Yeah, I get it," Stan said,
and reached over to lay
a hand on Hefty's shoulder.

"Thanks," Hefty said.

Then Stan noticed that Lawrence
was running his hands back and forth
just above Fiddlesticks. "Hey," he said,
"aren't you supposed to get permission first?"

It was a delicate process to separate
Lawrence from all the bad habits that
he'd picked up as a supervillain.

"He doesn't have time," Lawrence said.

"Nevermind, Stan, we all know that
Fiddlesticks let Lawrence look before,"
Hefty said. "If he can help again, I'm
happy to give proxy permission for it."

"This is way past what I could fix, but
he's got other options," Lawrence said.
"I saw the I.O.U. that Fiddlesticks had
after he wrecked his knee earlier, and
I recognized the handwriting on it."

"That's very private information,"
Hefty said. "For various reasons,
we don't want that incident getting
a lot of publicity, please."

Lawrence shook his head.
"I wasn't planning to talk with
anyone else about it," he said.
"I just wanted to know if you
called her yet, because if you're
ever going to cash that favor,
now would be the time."

"There's no contact info on it,"
Hefty said. "We checked.

"Nuts," said Lawrence. "Then
she either forgot to include it, or
put that part in UV ink and forgot
that naries can't read it without
a special light. Maybe she meant
it as a one-way pickup, but that
doesn't make much sense."

"I'd take her help, if I had
any idea how to get it, and
to hell with the risk," Hefty said.

"Let me see what I can do,"
Lawrence said cryptically,
and slipped out of the room.

"Do you have any idea where
he's going?" Hefty asked Stan.

"I've learned not to ask," Stan said.
"Sometimes Lawrence needs
to handle things his own way."

"Smart man," Hefty said.
"Every couple needs to think
about handling their differences.
You boys are doing pretty well."

"Thanks," Stan said. "That means
a lot to us, coming from you. I don't
think we would be doing half as well
if it weren't for you and Roger."

For a few minutes, it was quiet except
for the soft hum of medical equipment.

Stan glanced at the displays, but they
were bad and getting worse, so he
looked away. There was nothing
that he could do, thus no point in
tormenting himself by watching.

Instead, he tilted his head back and
stared at the ceiling tiles as his eyes
traced the smooth, meandering path of
grooves that led from square to square.

Lawrence came back in and said,
"Okay, I've passed the word. We
should hear back pretty soon,
one way or the other way."

"How quick?" Stan said,
peeking at the screens again.

"An hour at the outside, probably
more like half that," Lawrence said,
reaching toward Fiddlesticks again.
"Until then, it's up to him and me."

Hefty held up a hand. "Wait
a moment," he said. "What are
you planning do here, Lawrence?
Fiddlesticks has a real firm stance
on no heroic measures in situations
where the prognosis is poor."

"I know better than to bowl
a gutterball!" Lawrence snapped.

"Not exactly what I asked,"
Hefty said calmly. "There's a limit
to what I can permit as his proxy,
and that one isn't a line I can cross,
because he drew it in advance.
So you need to unpack for me,
or we are about to disagree."

"This kind of work doesn't qualify
as heroic measures," Lawrence said.
"It's just ..." He turned both hands palm up
and patted the air with them. "... bolstering."

"I thought you said that this was more
than you could fix," Stan said.

"It is," Lawrence said. "I can
buy him some time. Mostly it's
just pouring extra energy into
his body to help keep it going
for a little while longer."

That might, just might,
let Fiddlesticks hold out until
backup arrived, if it was going to.

"Sounds like a good bet to me?"
Stan said, looking at Hefty.

"Good enough for me too,"
Hefty said, and sat back in his chair.
"Go ahead, Lawrence -- but after this,
if there is an after, you and Fiddlesticks
need to discuss advance directives.
I don't want to be left guessing,
and neither would Diamond."

"Agreed," Lawrence said shortly,
and focused all his attention on
Fiddlesticks, spreading both of
his hands over the too-still form.

Stan made a mental note to talk with
Lawrence about advance directives
for more than just Fiddlesticks, because
it was an issue likely to come up again,
and Lawrence was in no shape
to think of that right now.

Watching Lawrence work, Stan
wondered exactly what he was doing
with that careful pattern of touch and release.

Lawrence had learned quite a lot of tricks,
from blood clotting to speed-healing, but with
this much damage spread all over a body,
Stan wasn't sure what would help.

He prayed that Lawrence
had a better idea than he did.

It hadn't even been twenty minutes
when the door swung open, admitting
a little girl in a River-and-Simon t-shirt and
a brown skirt the same color as her hair. 50

She made Hefty sit up at attention.

Behind her came a man built like
an offensive tackle, and Stan really
hoped this was not about to turn into
a fight, because he felt pretty sure that
this guy would wipe the field with him,
regardless of their superpowers.

The man palmed something against
the door, which stuck and lit up blue.
"The door is secure, miss," he said.
"Shall I remove the audience?"

"I don't think that will be necessary,
Lorry," she said. "Hi, Hefty."

"Hello, Miss Martins, thank you
for coming," Hefty said.

"Actually, it's Dr. Infanta
today," she said. "I'm doing
the work, I wear the title."

"Okay, cape names it is,"
Hefty agreed, "even if that one
is stretching it a little bit."

"I am a doctor," said Dr. Infanta.
"I have a medical degree -- actually,
I have several. Most of them are
a few centuries out of date, but
those things don't expire."

Hefty blinked, and Stan felt like
he'd just gotten tackled into the grass.

"Understood, doctor," Lawrence said,
smoothly picking up the thread of
their conversation, and Stan was
grateful for his assistance.

"So, can you help?" Hefty managed.

"I can," said Dr. Infanta. "You were
smooth with me, and I really didn't mean
to wreck his knee that time. I owe you
a favor, and I always repay the cost."

"What do you need?" Hefty said.

"As much medical information as you can
give me," said Dr. Infanta. "I can see what I see,
but the gear this century adds a lot of detail."

While Hefty and Lawrence launched
into a gruesome discussion of what
the truck had done to Fiddlesticks' skull,
spine, ribcage, and assorted innards,
Stan sidled over toward the door.

"Can you let me out for a minute?" he said.
"I want to raid the vending machines; I get
a feeling that we're going to need the fuel."

* * *

Notes:

Dr. Infanta -- Alicia Martins is a world-class supervillain who looks like a little girl about 7 years old, but is actually centuries old. She has hazel eyes, shoulder-length wavy hair of light brown, and slightly tinted skin. She has a heart-shaped face. She admires altruism and loyalty, hence the makeup of her minion contingent. She isn't malicious, just ruthless. She is effectively asexual, due to her biological age. In French she is called la Petite Mort ("the Little Death"); in Italian, la Angioletta ("the Little Angel").
People tend to mistake her title for nothing more than a cape name, but it is real -- Dr. Infanta earned her first medical degree at the Schola Medica Salernitana in Salerno, Italy. Small wonder people forget; the school has languished in obscurity for centuries and has been a Mob facility in recent decades, Her other degrees come from schools including the Medical College of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, England; the University of Montpellier in Montpellier, France; the University of Vienna in Vienna, Austria; and the Studium Generale in Alcala de Henares in Madrid, Spain. Dr. Infanta is currently working with the Maldivian government and health care industry to establish both a full-scale medical school and way to incorporate healers into the mainstream system instead of the fringes.
Dr. Infanta is extremely well-protected by other super-villains and many wealthy naries because of her powers. She always travels with a "nanny" and bodyguards, masquerading as a rich young heiress. She can't be killed, has rarely been captured, and it never takes long for her to escape. She is that powerful and connected.
Dr. Infanta often uses her influence to quash legislation that could harm soups. She is a key reason for how little institutionalized oppression there is, given the amount of informal oppression. This makes even some superheroes secretly appreciate her, if they haven't personally had to fight her or watch her give their archenemy a new face.
Origin: Alicia was a peasant child purchased by a noblewoman for experiments to extend life. They worked. She killed her owner and ran away. When Alicia discovered what she could do with her powers, she soon gathered adult protectors and traded her skills for what she needed.
Uniform: street clothes, usually whatever is fashionable for children of her apparent age.
Qualities: Master (+6) Children's Folklore, Master (+6) Wealth, Expert (+4) Intelligence, Good (+2) Cute, Good (+2) Gunplay, Good (+2) Living History
Poor (-2) Pint-sized
Powers: Master (+6) Time Control (Signature Stunts: Erase Memories, Transfer Lifeyears; Spin-Off Stunts: Danger-sense, Precognition), Expert (+4) Healing (Signature Stunts: Plastic Surgery, Regenerate Lost Body Parts), Average (0) Immortality
Average (0) Minions: The Guardians are a set of 7 trusted grownups, in charge of the collective personnel. They protect Dr. Infanta and usher her through the adult world. They are all relatives of people whose lives she has saved, thus all sharing the Poor (-2) Fanatically Devoted to Leader quality. In addition, each has a Good (+2) profession (usually Nanny or Bodyguard), another Good (usually social for Nanny, physical for Bodyguard), and one Average (0) superpower (often Teleportation, Invulnerability, Super-Gizmology, or Sorcery). They currently include Nanette, Cheval, Lorry, and Melissa.
Motivation: Survive and prosper.

Among the oldest medical schools in the world, the first recorded was the Schola Medica Salernitana, in Salerno, Italy which had its height in the 11th to 13th centuries. In local-Italy, it is now defunct; in Terramagne-Italy, it is still running, just a Mob facility now. This is where Dr. Infanta earned her first degree. Having entered the field long before licenses existed, she doesn't think much of them due to the serious drawbacks, and thus doesn't always bother to have some. But she does make a point of updating her medical knowledge every few decades to keep up with advances. Medical degrees don't expire; licenses usually do; and information can change quite rapidly.

* * *

"Nothing great is lightly won, nothing won is lost. Every good deed that's nobly done will always repay the cost."
-- Anonymous

In Terramagne-Omaha, the Freeman Family Hospital is on the corner of 15th and Farnam.  This is the closest hospital to the Gene Leahy Mall, Stan's house, and Lawrence's house. Freeman Family Hospital opened in 1890 as a colored hospital. It was named after Daniel Freeman, a Nebraska physician and homesteader, also a Civil War veteran. Freeman Family Hospital started out as a hospital for colored people -- the first of its kind in Omaha -- and has kept up with covering underserved populations. This is the only hospital in Omaha with experience treating soups.

Here is the key to the floor plans.  See the first floor plan and second floor plan.  The palliative care wing of Critical Care is the T on the left side of that section. Instead of putting all the superpowered patients together in a "soup ward," this hospital has equipped one or two rooms for soups in each major category of care, usually located at the end of a hall. There is one in the palliative ward at the bottom of the T on the left side of that section, one in the regular part of Critical Care at the far end, two in Psychiatry, and two regular rooms at the bottom left of the map where the hallway juts below the stairs.

The main entrance hall leads to the gift shop hall and then the gift shop itself.  The offerings include cards, flowers, and other items.

The Memorial Café serves breakfast, lunch, and supper. The most nutritious items are marked with "Healthy Choice" icons. They are always cheaper than the less nutritious options. During breakfast hours, a short-order cook makes fresh, healthy omelettes and other customized items. There is always a sandwich bar, a salad bar, and a soup-of-the-day bar open during lunch and dinner hours. Fruit cups offer fresh seasonal produce instead of conventional desserts. Meals draw from many different cultures, and a meat alternative is often available. There is customarily at least one Healthy Choice and one Food for All dish, and usually one considered comfort food by some culture(s).  Various Healthy Choice programs exist in local-Earth including ones in America, the Netherlands, and Singapore. The accuracy varies.  Food for Life is a program that offers recipes and other information on eating for health.  Here is a sample menu and meal.  The hospital has an organic garden that provides much of the food.

See the critical care hallway and patient room.  A similar style of room is used for the intensive care unit, surgical recovery, critical palliative care, and other sections.

This is the main lounge and waiting room near the nurses station on the second floor, which also holds the mini-mart of vending machines. Large full-spectrum light panels mimic windows for the benefit of tropical plants and visitors.

T-American hospitals make generous use of volunteers to comfort patients, keep them company, and soothe families.

The history of African-American people in Omaha includes religious institutions such as the Episcopal Church.  Read about the history of the Diocese of Nebraska.

Terramagne-America retains more widespread use of the language of flowers. People who buy cut flowers, or who grow their own for bouquets, typically know at least one flower type corresponding to common messages (e.g. baby's breath wishing a safe delivery). Not many people know more than a handful of meanings by heart, although some do. Florists customarily have a card, poster, or more rarely a big book of meanings to assist in composing bouquets. Specialty shops may tune their offerings for romance or whatever, hence the hospital flower shop offering a wide range of things related to health and comfort. The flower names and their meanings often appear printed on the card.
Carnation, Mixed Colors -- Health & Energy
Cedar -- Strength
Sage -- Long Life, Esteem, Health
Pine, Spruce -- Hope in adversity

The name "gladiolus" comes from "gladius," a short sword, as the sword-like leaves have long linked this plant with warriors.
Healing, Strength of character, Faithfulness, sincerity and integrity, Never giving up
Yellow – Cheerfulness and compassion

While the bouquet may sound extravagant, it's not all that expensive. Carnations and gladioli are among the cheapest, most plentiful flowers; T-America also makes wider use of foliage, because many herbs and evergreens are easily grown. Cedar, spruce, and sage all appear in this guide to Christmas arrangements. The bottom of this page lists more types of foliage.

Compared to L-America, T-America has a similar stack of people who can give proxy permission for medical care if someone is unable to communicate their wishes. Among the differences are that they cannot countermand a person's properly filed wishes (which means a Do Not Resuscitate order can be made bulletproof), it is much easier to add people to your personal list by filing appropriate paperwork, and you can set your own stack in any order you wish. The standard stack is just there for medics to use with people who haven't documented alternative preferences. Fiddlesticks put Diamond, then Hefty, then Hefty's husband Roger. If there's ample time to plan ahead, protocol calls for starting at the top of that list; but if time is short and someone on the list is present, they're activated as proxy. So with Diamond out of the room, Hefty can serve as health proxy for Fiddlesticks. It's reciprocal: Hefty's list is Roger, then Fiddlesticks, then Diamond.

Lawrence's "gutterball" remark refers to the risk of saving a life only to trap the person at a minimal level of function: the gutter between a fair recovery and a clean death. This is a serious hazard in L-American medicine. In T-America, the social aspect is better -- more people are aware of it so they know to avoid it -- but the higher technology makes that end of it worse. Just because you could save someone, doesn't always make that the best idea. Violating someone's documented wishes to do so is downright selfish, and constitutes malpractice. Sometimes heroic measures are contraindicated, as in catastrophic trauma or lengthy drowning, with little chance of maintaining quality of life even upon survival. Palliative care protects comfort when death is expected and recovery unlikely or impossible. Such service is far more available in T-America than in L-America, and people use it more due to better education about health outcomes and options. Given that Fiddlesticks was healthy and active prior to sustaining massive trauma, the possibility of a very marginal recovery is plausible -- and it's one he explicitly acted to prevent. Lawrence doesn't have enough bioethics under his belt yet to understand all the nuances of this stuff; fortunately Hefty is prepared to cover it. Notable on Hefty's side is approval for temporary measures to buy time, with a specific treatment goal in mind and an exit plan. That's very different from life-prolonging measures without a limit that are unlikely to restore quality of life.

Loud noise in hospitals consitutes abuse and malpractice because it directly undermines the health of patients, visitors, and staff. T-American hospitals use various methods to keep sound at a low, agreeable level. There are quiet rooms insulated from outside sound, but most areas maintain an auditory baseline intended to cushion sudden loud noises and provide conversational privacy. The Memorial Café usually plays relaxing music at a low level; lounges and waiting rooms may use music, nature sounds, or white noise generators. Moving waterfall pictures with aquatic sounds are especially popular. Actual waterfalls, aquaria, and potted plants also help. Medical equipment uses more visual or tactile alerts targeted directly to caregivers, rather than general audio alarms, to avoid unnecessary distress of patients and guests. Other design factors make hospitals more comforting places that help staff work better and patients heal faster, while welcoming visitors for moral support.

L-American hospitals are so appalling that they often cause traumatic stress in patients and relatives.  The rate can run up to 60% -- as bad or worse than that of a warzone.  Some hospitals are working on ways to reduce this problem.  Because the sense of helplessness is a prevailing cause of PTSD and other mental injuries, and this is something which can readily be influenced by compassionate care, that's a key focus point.  The environment should be bright and comforting. The design and layout matter too.

Acoustic panels muffle sound, providing peace and privacy. These ceiling tiles come in many patterns and several colors. They're as nifty as classic tinprints only more practical. These panels come in one wavy pattern and many bright colors. Check out these decorating ideasAcoustic Art offers ready-made panels in many popular categories as well as custom options.  You can also make your own sound-absorbing panels.  Much artwork in T-American hospitals is printed on acoustic panels.

Acoustic ceiling tiles may be printed with decorations.  One popular option is a puzzle path.  It gives people something to follow with their eyes while staring at the ceiling..  A simple set of straight, corner, and T lines will enable many different designs.

Dr. Infanta's T-shirt has this image of River and Simon from the television show Firefly.  (It ran for six seasons in T-America, by the way.)  This is her brown skirt.

Offensive tackles tend to be the biggest, beefiest guys on the football field. Lorry is a big guy and a bodyguard, so this is how Stan thinks of him.
OFFENSIVE TACKLES
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 300 lbs
40-yd Dash: 5.2 sec
Arm Length: 32”
Hand Span: 9”
Intelligence: Superior
Characteristics:
Awareness, Balance, Recovery, Strength, Intelligence

A palm lock is a small puck-shaped gizmo or super-gizmo, typically a few inches in diameter, which acts as a portable lock to secure any door when pressed over the crack.

[To be continued ...]

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4 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 16th, 2018 08:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
It is always interesting when Dr. Infanta shows up.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 16th, 2018 11:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes ...

She is a popular character. :D
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 18th, 2018 05:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Not gladiator, but gladius 'sword'.

gladiolus (n.)

"wild iris," c. 1000, from Latin gladiolus "wild iris, sword-lily," literally "small sword," diminutive of gladius "sword" (see gladiator); the plant so called by Pliny in reference to its sword-shaped leaves. The Old English form of the word was gladdon. Form gladiol is attested from mid-15c.; the modern use perhaps represents a 1560s reborrowing from Latin.

-- Etymonline (https://www.etymonline.com/word/gladiolus)

-- Dr. Whom

PS: Is this on DW anywhere?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 18th, 2018 05:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Fixed!

Thanks.

No, it's not on Dreamwidth. I put the microfunded poems here because LJ has better editing features.
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