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Shoulder Pain

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Carina trudged wearily back through the hospital, heading towards her office on tired legs after dealing with an emergency delivery on the first floor. A distressed mother-to-be had walked through the main entrance of Grey Sloan and promptly collapsed. Since the mother was pregnant, Carina had been paged. What followed was a gruelling emergency C-section that included the young mother coding once during the procedure. Both mother and baby were stable now, but it had been a stressful way to end her 24-hour shift.

A tension headache was steadily building behind Carina’s eyes and her limbs felt heavy. She was exhausted. Pandemic stress, combined with visa stress, combined with work stress had all been taking its toll. She was more than ready for a break. Fortunately, she had the next couple of days off and fully intended to spend them resting, recuperating, and relaxing with Maya, who also happened to have the next two days off.

Carina sighed inwardly. Cuddling while binge-watching her favourite tv show with Maya was just what the doctor had ordered.

Still daydreaming about what the next couple of days had in store for her, Carina rounded the corner and saw Dr Teddy Altman, posture tight, standing near a distressed looking man. Teddy turned at the sound of Carina’s approaching footsteps.

“Dr Deluca, could you please assist me for a minute?” Teddy’s voice was deliberately calm and controlled as she talked to Carina, not taking her eyes off the man pacing 5 metres away from her.

Carina approached Teddy slowly, sensing both Teddy’s caution and the man’s unstable demeanour.

“Could you please call Frank for me and let him know that we will be needing some help here,” Teddy said, still not taking her eyes off the man in front of her.

The man looked up at the sound of Teddy’s voice and eyed Carina suspiciously.

Carina took a second to assess the man before her. His eyes were dilated, pupils blown so wide that the colour of his irises were barely visible. The man’s frame was thin and angular, skin sallow and covered in sores, hand gripping his straggly hair as he frantically paced from side to side. His right arm was clearly injured, blood seeping through his ripped, white, long-sleeved shirt. Carina had come across enough high and strung-out people during her time as a medical professional to know that this man was under the influence of drugs, likely on cocaine or methamphetamine.

She gave Teddy a quick nod of understanding and walked towards the unattended nurses’ station.  She watched the man carefully as she used the station’s phone to call Frank, the head security guard at Grey Sloan.

“Hi Frank, this is Dr Deluca calling from the first floor. We need some help dealing with a patient who is under the influence of drugs and displaying erratic behaviour. We may need you if the man becomes violent or delusional.”

Carina moved back towards Teddy, noticing that two nurses had joined Teddy and positioned themselves on opposite sides of the man. The nurses were flanking him at a distance and directing staff and public away to reduce any interactions that may cause an escalation in the man’s behaviour. Carina’s tension rose as she considered what might happen next. She had witnessed a patient have a violent, drug induced outburst before. A 5ft 3" woman had thrown a 6ft 1" security guard to the ground and attacked the nurse who had been trying to patch up the cut on her head. The nurse ended up with a fractured ulna and a concussion that kept her off work for 2 weeks. The last thing Carina wanted was for her or Teddy to be on the receiving end of aggressive, out of control behaviour.

The man was growing more agitated by the minute. His pacing had turned into short, sharp sidesteps. Hands that were once clamped in his hair were now moving with a mind of their own. Scratching at skin, picking at clothes, punching into his own palm. His speech had been reduced to paranoid ramblings that neither Carina nor Teddy was able to follow.

Suddenly, he whipped his head around, bloodshot eyes locking onto Carina.

“Did he send you?” the man demanded, taking a couple of steps towards her.

“Nobody sent me. I am a doctor, and you have a cut on your arm. We want to help you so that the pain in your arm stops,” Carina replied, keeping her voice calm and soothing, as she slowly stepped backwards to maintain distance between her and the increasingly aggressive patient.

“I knew he would tell them. I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!” the man punched the wall as he repeated himself.

“If you touch me, I swear I will kill you. I won’t let him get me. I won’t!” he turned and attempted to run down the hall, away from Teddy and Carina.

Carina heard Teddy swear under her breath as they quickly moved to follow. She felt her body react, adrenalin kicking in.  At that exact moment, Frank appeared, blocking the man’s path.

“Stop! Sir, you need to stop and stay where you are or I will have to restrain you,” Frank held up his arms to halt the man’s progress.

But the man was beyond reasoning, his drug induced haze in full control of his actions. He spun around and charged towards Carina and Teddy. He pushed Teddy out of his way, and attempted to shove Carina as well, but she narrowly sidestepped his advance. Frank grabbed the man around the waist in an attempt to subdue him, but the man started to throw his body around, arms flailing, as he tried to escape. He propelled himself out of Frank’s grip and threw himself at Carina. Not quick enough this time, she felt the man’s fist collide with her face.

Carina tasted metal, lip and face throbbing as she staggered backwards. Her head was spinning as she struggled to stay upright. Suddenly, she felt rough hands latch onto her shoulders with a vice-like grip and she was thrown against the wall. Drug fuelled strength allowed the man to toss her aside like a rag doll as he tried to make a frantic escape. She felt her body hit the wall with a jarring thud. Pain exploded in her shoulder, agonising and intense. She crumpled to the ground, her shoulder burning and face throbbing.

Maya entered Grey Sloan Memorial hospital and walked in the direction of her fiancée’s office. For once, Carina and Maya’s shifts had ended at similar times, so Maya was able to pick Carina up from work. Their schedules had left them with little time to see each other lately, so she looked forward to spending some uninterrupted time with her fiancée. She couldn’t wait to cuddle up with Carina and spend the next two days relaxing together.

She heard a commotion up ahead. A couple of security guards were restraining a sickly-looking man who was ranting and raving loudly. A group of hospital staff, including Teddy Altman, were huddled around a figure on the floor.

Her stomach dropped as she recognised who it was.

“Carina!” Maya yelled as she sprinted over to where Carina was lying. Carina was lying on the floor, her face twisted into a grimace. A nurse supported her left shoulder which was sticking out at an unnatural angle.

“Maya?” Carina groaned, pain evident in her voice.

“I’m here, sweetheart,” Maya replied, trying to mask her extreme concern.

Carina’s gorgeous face was marred by bruising. Cheekbones, usually sculpted and prominent, were bruised and swollen on one side of her face. Her bottom lip was an angry red, a small cut splitting the usually smooth skin. The brunette’s eyes were unfocused, like she was struggling to concentrate.

“What happened? Is she ok?” Maya asked, her question directed at Teddy who was crouched near Carina’s head.

Teddy, who seemed a little dazed herself, glanced up to make eye contact with Maya and then resumed her assessment of Carina’s condition.

“Carina, Frank and I were dealing with a high and delusional patient. His behaviour escalated and he had a violent outburst. He hit Carina in the face and threw her against the wall which dislocated her left shoulder.” Teddy brought Maya up to speed quickly and efficiently.

“Maya?” Carina groaned again, eyes searching for Maya’s.

“I’m right here, baby. I’m not going anywhere.” Maya replied, a lump formed in her throat at the sight of Carina in pain.

“There doesn’t appear to be any neck or spinal damage which is good but we do need to move her so we can put her shoulder back in place. I also want to check her for a concussion.” Teddy said, finishing her initial assessment as she gestured nurses over to help move Carina.

Maya had always considered herself to be an ‘in control’ person. Thanks to the ‘eyes forward’ mentality that her father had hammered into her from an early age, she had always been able to maintain a tight seal on her emotions. But seeing Carina hurting, eyes watering and teeth clenched in pain as the nurses moved her, was going straight to her heart. Logically, she knew that Carina would be ok, her face and shoulder would heal with no major long-term side effects but seeing her hurting…

She finally understood what movies and songs and poems meant when they talked about feeling the pain of the person you love. She knew Carina was strong and capable and would heal with time but knowing this didn’t stop her from wanting to take on the brunette’s pain so she could bear it for her.

Teddy and the nurses finally got Carina settled into a nearby room and started prepping to reduce her shoulder.

“We’re going to set your shoulder first before tending to your face,” Teddy said, rounding the bed to stand on Carina’s injured side. “I’m not going to lie, this is going to hurt but, as you know, your shoulder will feel considerably better once it is back in place.”

Carina gripped Maya’s hand, taking some deep breaths to try and calm her body in preparation for what was to come. Her shoulder hurt terribly but she was not looking forward to what she knew Teddy and the nurses had to do next.

Maya placed a soft kiss on the Italian’s forehead, running her hand up and down Carina’s good arm, trying to comfort her.

Teddy and the nurses were quick and efficient, managing to reduce her shoulder on the first try. Carina’s body relaxed slightly, the pain fading a little now that her joint was back in place.

With her shoulder fixed and in a sling, Teddy and the nurse began working on Carina’s face.

Maya watched, unconsciously worrying her lip and clenching her jaw, as Teddy tended to Carina’s facial injuries and checked the brunette for a concussion.

Bambina, you might chew right through your lip if you keep biting it like that and I would very much like to keep your lips intact,” Carina teased, her eyes gentle, concern for Maya evident despite her own injuries.

Maya huffed out a laugh “You’re worried about my physical wellbeing right now?” Gaze moving from her fiancée’s injuries to her chocolate brown eyes. 

“I’m ok, bella.” Carina said gently, “Sore but ok.”

Maya took a deep breath, exhaling through her nose as she willed some of the tension and anxiety to leave her body.

“She’s right.” Teddy said, picking up on their conversation.

“The good news, Carina, is that you don’t have a concussion and there are no signs of any other serious injuries so, after we do a couple of last checks, you’ll be free to go home.” Teddy confirming that Carina was indeed ok.

Teddy was right and they were out of the hospital and on their way home within the hour, Maya driving carefully to avoid jostling Carina’s shoulder.

Carina let out a sigh, “This is not what I pictured when I imagined spending our days off together in bed.”

Carina was propped up in their bed, leaning back against some pillows with her shoulder in a sling. Maya was sitting on her uninjured side, holding Carina’s hand, as she softly stroked it with her thumb.

“You mean being thrown into a wall by a high, delusional patient didn’t feature in your fantasies?” Maya teased Carina gently.

Carina’s lip quirked up in response, her nose scrunching when smiling reminded her of her split lip and bruised face.

“I hate this. It’s only 6pm and I already feel like I need to go to sleep,” grumbled Carina.

“You and I both know just how much an injury can affect the body. Couple that with a stressful 24-hour shift and it’s no surprise that your body is telling you to rest” Maya replied, as she brought Carina’s hand to her mouth and kissed it gently, soft lips lingering on warm skin.

“I was really looking forward to lying on the couch with you and doing absolutely nothing.” Carina said with a pout.

“Well, now you can look forward to having me at your beck and call for the next week.” Maya replied.

“A week?” Carina asks confused, “Bambina, you don’t need to take time off work, I’ll be ok by myself.”

“I love you and I want to be here to help so that you get the rest and healing that you need. Besides, I will never say no to spending more time with you.” Maya replied as she stood up from the bed.

“So, fiancée, love of my life, battler of meth heads, what would you like for dinner?” Maya accompanied her question with a flourish and a comical bow.

Carina’s eyes crinkled in amusement, her mood immediately lifting at her fiancée’s playful manner.

“I’m not that hungry so maybe just some leftovers and then we can snuggle up in bed? Maybe you could read some of that poetry book Travis lent us?” Carina asked.

“Sounds like a plan.” Maya replied, as she gazed adoringly at Carina.

And that is exactly what they did. The rest of the night was spent together in bed, Maya quietly reading to Carina as she gently ran her fingers through her hair, massaging Carina’s head and neck as she went.

Carina’s shoulder ached and her body was exhausted, but she knew that having Maya by her side, caring for her, loving her, would make the pain and inevitable frustrations of recovery bearable. Her mind and body relaxed as Maya’s voice and caresses soothed her to sleep.