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Bank Roll Excerpt







Rebecca sorted through the mail she had collected from the front desk at the hospital. She opened one envelope after another, carefully inserting the letter opener into the flaps so she would not damage any of the interior contents. She would begin to read the letter, realize that it was another appeal for funds, and nonchalantly toss it into the wastebasket that sat by her feet. It is terrible, she thought, to head for a wastebasket every time you open your mail. Why did all charities automatically assume that all doctors were an easy mark for making donations? It must be our reputation for being soft-hearted, she mused, or that they think all doctors are rich. If only they realized the thousands of dollars they had to repay for their student loans. She wondered if she would ever get them paid off.

“Dr. Rebecca Stanford. Dr. Rebecca Stanford. Emergency Room, stat!”

The announcement interrupted her thoughts. She began to throw the rest of her mail into the wastebasket, but shoved it into the oversized pocket of her stiffly starched white smock instead. She would look at it later.

She slammed her hand against the swinging doors of the ER, forcing it open almost before she had time to think about hitting it.

“What do we have here?” she asked hurriedly.

“Looks like a seizure of some sort. He doesn’t look very old. I would guess about eight or nine,” the paramedic from the ambulance observed. “We started an IV, then we brought him in right away for tests. A woman found him lying on the sidewalk just a couple of blocks away. She called 911 as soon as she saw him. Looks like he was on his way to school, since he has his backpack on.”

“Any idea what his name is?” Rebecca inquired.

“Nope. Too bad he didn’t have any homework last night,” the paramedic joked, but his countenance showed his real concern for the young boy.

“I hate these!” Rebecca yelled. “Somebody call Judge Wallerman. We will need a court order to do any workup on him.” Rebecca looked around. No one was moving. She pointed to a nurses’ aide. “You! Move it! Call Judge Wallerman—now!”

The young NA jumped, whirled around, and ran down the hall to the nurses’ station. Timidly, she asked the head nurse, “Mrs. Obregon, what do I do to call Judge Wallerman? Dr. Stanford said to call him right away. They have a little boy down in the ER and they don’t know who he is.” Her face was ashen. “She really yelled at me.”

Kelly, the NA, burst out in tears. This was her first day’s assignment in the hospital. It had all seemed so easy when she was in the classroom. She wondered if it would always be like this. She had expected the doctors to be somewhat overbearing towards her; all doctors had that reputation. She was relieved when she saw that she would be working with a woman doctor. She had expected that would make her a little more compassionate and understanding. For a fleeting moment, she wondered if she had chosen the wrong career.

Just as quickly as she had begun crying, she stopped. She was determined not to let it get the best of her. She was there to help the patients, and no doctor was going to stop her from succeeding.

Mrs. Obregon dialed a number and asked to speak to Judge Wallerman. Mrs. Obregon was a fifty-something-year-old woman, with slightly graying hair, and her well rounded figure commanded immediate respect. Even on the phone, her voice reeked with authority.

“I don’t care if he has four court cases going on at the same time! This is a matter of life and death. Now, put Judge Wallerman on the phone at once.”

She mumbled something about the insubordination of the young pipsqueaks who thought they were running the world.

“Oh, yes, Judge Wallerman. This is Mary Obregon. We have a sick little guy over here…No, no name…about seven or eight…Dr. Stanford…We don’t know until we have permission to start a workup on him…I will send Kelly Long over for it right away. Thank you, Your Honor. You are an angel.”

Kelly was amazed at how quickly the older nurse had changed from an ogre to a melting pot of honey, right before her very eyes. Her gruffness became love and compassion. She was obviously just exerting her pressure for one purpose and only one—to get the desired results as quickly as possible.

“Kelly, take my car. It is in Parking Spot 43. Get over to the courthouse on the double. Go to the judge’s office, Room 427, and get that court order and get back here as fast as you can.” She tossed her keys to Kelly.

Kelly was already on her way when Nurse Obregon called after her, “Don’t get a speeding ticket. We don’t have time for explaining the rush to some rookie cop. Take the back roads and they won’t spot you.”

Kelly jingled the keys in her hand as she waited for the elevator. Why was it taking so long? Should she have told Dr. Stanford she was leaving?

The elevator door opened and Kelly hurried into it and was on her way to the assigned trip. She had never driven over the speed limit, but somehow she knew Nurse Obregon’s car would take her to the appointed site in record time. She glanced in the rear view mirror, half expecting to see flashing red lights.

In a matter of twenty minutes she was back at the hospital, the treasured order in her hand. She smiled as she pushed the elevator button. She had done her best. As she reflected on Dr. Stanford’s earlier barking orders, she felt certain that it would not be good enough for her.

As she left the elevator and headed down the hall, Nurse Obregon hollered after her, “Hey, throw me the keys! Never know when we will need them next.”

Kelly threw the keys towards the nurse. They fell several feet short of her outstretched arms and landed with a crash to the floor.

“Next time aim a little farther. My arms aren’t as long as they used to be.” She laughed.

Kelly flew into the ER and thrust the papers into Dr. Stanford’s hands.

“Good work, missy,” Dr. Stanford said. “You must have followed Mary’s directions on how to get to the courthouse. That woman knows more back streets in Boston than a lawyer knows loopholes.”

Kelly smiled at the approval she received. She waited for her next orders, not nearly as apprehensive as she had been just a few minutes earlier.

Rebecca worked feverishly over the young boy for most of the morning. He gave every indication of being epileptic. If only they had a medical history. If it was an epileptic seizure, why wasn’t he coming out of it?

The results of the lab tests came back, showing that he was diabetic. Why were there no needle marks from insulin? She began to give him an IV of glucose. He opened his eyes, slowly, but at least he was responding to the medication.

Kelly watched Dr. Stanford in awe. She was so gentle in the way she handled him. He didn’t seem frightened. Kelly thought that if she woke up in the hospital she would have been scared to death, and he was so much smaller—so much more frail—than she was.

Suddenly a thought hit her.

“Dr. Stanford?”

“Yes, what is it?”

“I just had an idea. Didn’t the paramedic say they found him out in front of the school? Maybe if we called the school, someone could come over and tell us who he is.”

Rebecca grinned. “That is a brilliant idea. If you keep up at this pace, you may just replace the whole staff in this joint. Go call the school. There can’t be too many within a two to three block radius of the hospital. Come back here when you have something to report.”

Kelly left once again for the nurses’ station. Nurse Obregon was busy filling out charts and holding the phone on her shoulder and talking at the same time.

“Nurse Obregon,” Kelly said, “will you be on the phone long? I have a call to make for Dr. Stanford.”

“Sorry, Jake. I’ve gotta run. See you tonight.”

“There you go, Kelly,” she said as she handed her the phone. “By the way, that was a fair piece of driving you must have done. Don’t think I could have done any better myself. Go ahead and make your call.”

Kelly wondered if everyone in the entire hospital was schizophrenic; they all seemed as changeable as the proverbial chameleon.

She brought Google up on the computer screen and typed in the address of the hospital, then “schools within a 1-mile radius” and got only one listing. She clicked on it to get the phone number.

As she dialed the number, she wondered if they would know the small-framed boy in the ER. She prayed silently that they would be able to help him.

“South Elementary,” the school secretary answered. “May I help you?”

Kelly hurriedly related the tale of the young boy, asking as she finished, “Do you have any idea who he might be?”

The secretary said she was not sure, but if it would help she would be glad to go over to the hospital to see if she recognized him.

“That would be great!” Kelly exclaimed. “Can you come right away? I will wait for you downstairs at the main entrance.”

“Be right there,” came the reply, and the phone clicked dead before the sentence was even ended.

In almost no time at all the secretary ran through the revolving front doors of the hospital. “Are you Kelly?” she asked, out of breath from running from the parking lot up to the front door. “Let’s go see our boy.”

Before she could even reply, the two of them were in the elevator on their way up to the ER.

“Never could figure out why this crazy hospital put the emergency room clear up on third floor,” the secretary commented. “Isn’t that just about the dumbest thing you ever heard of?”

Kelly started to reply. “I hadn’t really thought about…”

The elevator doors opened and they rushed to the room where Dr. Stanford was leaning over the young boy’s body.

“Great going,” she said. “He seems to be losing ground again. Hope you can help us out. Any idea who he is?”

The secretary walked over to the weak, almost breakable-looking lad. “Oh, dear, yes! That is Philip Norwood. He has missed so much school lately. I am not surprised to see him here. I will get back to the school and try to locate some information on him. I’ll call you back just as soon as I have anything.” She disappeared out the door faster than you could blink.

Dr. Stanford gave directions to the nurse, then turning to Kelly she said, “Let’s go take a break. Do you know it is almost one-thirty and we haven’t even had a coffee break yet? Come on, let’s go. By the way, I haven’t seen you around here before. What did you say your name is? Is this your first day in the ER? They should have put you up here a long time ago.”

“Kelly,” she replied. “This is my first day on duty anywhere. It is my first time inside a hospital since I left as a newborn baby.”

“Oops, sorry,” Rebecca said and smiled. “Guess I was a little rough on you, wasn’t I? Didn’t mean to be, but my one purpose in life is to make sick people better, and woe to anyone who gets in my way!”

Kelly laughed. “You sound just like me.”

As they made their way to the cafeteria, Kelly dropped, exhausted, onto a chair. “Whew! I didn’t know how tired I was. I think I will just sit here for a couple of minutes before I get anything to eat. You go on ahead.”

Rebecca reached her hand into her pocket to get some money out. She had forgotten about the mail she had stashed there earlier in the morning.

“Maybe you have a good idea. I never did get a chance to look at my mail. There is probably nothing important, but I might as well see what I’m throwing out. Do you mind?”

Kelly laughed. Imagine a doctor asking her for permission to read her mail.

Rebecca opened one letter after another, carefully folding each one and putting it back into its envelope and folding them in half for later disposal.

“Hmmm,” she said. “Now that is a different approach. All of these letters have been from somebody who wants money for something or other. This one says they are not interested in my money; they want me.”

Kelly wasn’t sure if Dr. Stanford was talking to her or if she was merely thinking out loud. She hesitated a moment, then carefully, so as not to appear too nosey asked, “I don’t understand. What do you mean?”

Rebecca handed the letter to Kelly. It was from some Foundation in New York City.

“Esteemed Doctor,” it began. “The clinics which have been established in Venezuela, South America by our donor, Dr. John Wesley Blackstone III, are desperately in need of additional medical personnel.”

It sounded interesting, and Rebecca noticed that Kelly’s eyes sparkled with the intrigue of the letter.

“We would like to invite you to consider giving one year of your time, talent and life to this wonderful undertaking. The Foundation would underwrite all expenses for your transportation to and from Venezuela, would provide you with housing and a generous monthly stipend during your time served. If you are interested, please contact us for further details. It may be your chance of a lifetime to serve the less fortunate in the Third World and give you valuable experience which could be found in no other way.”

Kelly beamed. “Well, are you going?” she asked Rebecca.

“Don’t be absurd!” Rebecca snapped. “I don’t know anything about this Foundation or this Dr. John Wesley Blackstone III, or for that matter, about Venezuela except that it is in South America and it has a lot of oil.”

“Well,” Kelly volunteered, “if you can find out about the Foundation and this Dr. Blackstone, I can tell you all you need to know about Venezuela.”

Rebecca flinched. “Don’t tell me you are a geography nut. Is there anything you don’t know about?”

Kelly was embarrassed that she appeared to be bragging. “No, I am not an expert on many things, but I do know Venezuela. My parents were missionaries in Venezuela. In fact, they are still there. I hope to go back some day too, as a missionary nurse. Being a nurses’ aide is just the first step on my way there. I need the money to be able to go to nurses’ college. I have two years completed, but I had to drop out to earn more money to be able to finish. I was born in Venezuela. It is my home. I think you should go for it!”

Rebecca could hardly believe what was happening. She was a Christian, but she had never thought about a serious commitment such as this would involve. Missionary service was something for the high and mighty—the saintly—the holy ones. She certainly didn’t feel that she qualified in any of those departments. Why, just this morning she had yelled at the daughter of missionaries! The girl suddenly seemed to be a saint herself. No wonder she had been so quick to respond to emergency situations. She had help from a Higher Authority than Rebecca could provide.

“This is ridiculous,” Rebecca said. “I am going to go get something to eat and I think you should too. I think our lack of food is causing us to get some pretty crazy ideas. A cup of the good old cafeteria java will bring us back down to earth in a hurry.”

Rebecca took the mail and put it back into the pocket of her smock. She took the letter from the Foundation, and for reasons that she couldn’t explain even to herself, she put it in the opposite pocket.

As the two young women, so different from each other and yet forming an immediate bond with each other, exchanged their life histories while they ate. They came to thoroughly enjoy the strange, mysterious friendship that had formed, as if from nowhere.

“Dr. Rebecca Stanford. Dr. Rebecca Stanford. Please call Extension 300.”

“That’s the ER,” she told Kelly as she headed for the phone on the wall. “I hope Philip is okay. Better get ready to run in case he’s not. Be right back.”

Rebecca pushed the buttons on the phone to 300. “ER. Nurse Obregon speaking.”

“This is Dr. Stanford. You had me paged…Really? We’ll be right up. That’s terrific! Keep her there.”

Rebecca grabbed Kelly’s hand, pulling her along as she sped out of the cafeteria.

“That was Obregon,” she said. “They have Philip’s mother upstairs. Maybe she can shed some light on this mystery for us. Sure don’t know how come there are no needle marks from insulin injections, as bad as his diabetes is. Hope she’s got a good answer for me.”

“Down here, Doctor,” Mary Obregon called out. “Hey, no need to go that fast! You and Kelly will both get a ticket for speeding today, and you don’t even have a car around you. But there is good news. Philip is awake and talking and his vitals are more stable.”

Rebecca felt like shaking Mrs. Norwood, but when she saw the tears spilling over her thin, bony cheeks she felt more like crying with her—or for her. She walked over to the woman, who hardly seemed much bigger than Philip, and gently put her arm around her.

“I think we have everything under control, Mrs. Norwood. Your son is much better now than he was when they brought him in. Did you know he is diabetic? He almost went into a coma, but thanks to some woman who called 911—God bless her, whoever she is—we got to him in time. With the proper diet and medications he will be perfectly fine.”

“I didn’t know,” Mrs. Norwood almost whispered. “I knew he was sick, but I didn’t know what was wrong with him. I couldn’t take him to a doctor. I tried once, but the woman at the clinic said I owed too much money for my husband’s bill. They wouldn’t even look at Philip. Are you sure he is going to be okay?”

“Like I said, he will be just fine. We want to keep him here for a day or so to make sure, but we will give you a list of the things he can eat and the things he shouldn’t eat, and we will see that you get him started on the proper insulin. We will teach you to give him the shots.”

Her eyes filled with fear, Mrs. Norwood asked, “This insulin, is it very expensive?”

“Is money a terrible problem for you?” Rebecca asked.

“Ever since my husband died we have had a pretty rough time of it. They say I make too much money from the cleaning work I do, so I can’t get any welfare. Then they say if I quit my job so I can get welfare they won’t give me any welfare because I am refusing to work. God help me, I don’t know what to do!”

Mrs. Norwood sobbed helplessly, like a person who was completely broken of any spirit they had ever had.

Rebecca promised her, “I will talk to the social worker tomorrow and we will see what we can do. Now, go in and see Philip, but dry those eyes first.”

Together they walked to the room where Philip was hooked up to tubes and needles. He looked so helpless lying there, but Mrs. Norwood was strong and brave as she faced her son. She walked to the bed, and burying her head in his chest she cried out loudly, “Thank God, Philip, you are okay. I have been worried about you for so long. Dr. Stanford says she can help you get well.”

Rebecca left the room, leaving the mother and her son to face life together. As she walked down the hall, a nurse came running up behind her.

“Dr. Stanford! We have a ruptured spleen in ER 4. Can you come right away?”

As she ran, she spotted Kelly. “Kelly, come on. I may need your quick thinking on this one.”

Kelly joined the other two in their own private marathon to get to the injured party.

An hour had passed, the crisis was over, the patient was safely in the operating room and under the careful knife of Dr. Roberts. Rebecca breathed a sigh of relief. Looking at Kelly, she marveled that the girl could still look so fresh and alert after a day like they had put her through. Her long blonde hair curled slightly around her face. Even her uniform seemed crisp and sharp. As Rebecca looked down at her own smock, which had started the day as a crisp white piece of perfection, now looked like a limp, well worn, blood-stained rag. It hung from her shoulders in a non-fitting fashion, looking almost as if it belonged to someone three sizes larger than Rebecca. 

“Well, Kelly,” she said, “what do you think after your first day on the job? It is quite a mad house around here. I remember when I first started in the ER. They told me there would be days like this, but that there would be days when almost no one would show up. Well, if they try to hand you that blarney, don’t pay them any attention. I’m still waiting for one of those quiet days—and I have been in the ER here for more than six years.”

Kelly smiled at the obvious warmth of Dr. Stanford. She was glad she didn’t usually form firmly established first opinions of people. It was one of the things she had learned from her mother. “Always give them a second chance,” her mother had told her countless times. If she hadn’t, she would not feel the close friendship that had already developed between herself and the doctor.

“It is okay,” Kelly replied. “I like it when things are busy. I get bored when there is nothing to do. I was afraid I would spend the whole day emptying bed pans and taking temperatures. I like your kind of day much better.”

Rebecca reached into her pocket, extracting the mail she had stuffed there earlier. She hastily dumped it in the wastebasket. She placed her hands in the pockets and realized that the other letter—the one from the Foundation—was still there. She took it out, turned it over to study the address of the Foundation, and headed again for the wastebasket.

“No! Don’t do that!” Kelly cried out. “Why don’t you at least think about it? That can’t hurt anything, can it?”

“You’re really serious about this, aren’t you?” Rebecca asked the girl. “I will go to the clinics in Venezuela…when…when…when…well, I don’t know when.”

“I know,” Kelly said, a twinkle in her eye. “You will go in el aņo verde.

El aņo verde? What on earth is that?” Rebecca questioned.

“Well,” Kelly began to explain, “in Venezuela there are many different climates and geographic areas. The Venezuelans, years ago, said that they would do something the year the desert turned green. Now any fool knows that the desert, even when it is in bloom, never turns green. The ground is always a dry, reddish sand. The saying eventually was shortened to just the green year, which in Spanish is el aņo verde. Well, sure, and someday it will rain in the desert!”

Rebecca took the letter and pushed it into her purse. She didn’t want it, but something, or Someone, seemed to be stopping her from getting rid of it. It was just Kelly and her silly obsession with Venezuela, she reasoned.

“Think I will sign out and head for home. Are you through too?” she asked Kelly. “You have put in one long day.”

“I am going to have to catch the bus since I gave Mrs. Obregon her car keys back,” she said, chuckling. “It doesn’t come for another twenty minutes. I might as well take my time.”

“No sense in that,” Rebecca said. “Go sign out and I will give you a lift home.” She winked as she said, “Unless, of course, you are too good to ride with a doctor in an old Volkswagen. I know I should get a different car, but I just can’t bear to part with it. It is just like one of the family.”

Kelly felt uneasy. “I didn’t mean to hint…” she said, playing nervously with her purse handle.

“Relax. My bark is much worse than my bite. Come on, we might as well cut out of here before somebody comes in and we get stuck and we can’t leave.”

The two women made their way together to the nurses’ station. Kelly noted that the nurses were all new faces. They had worked right on past the change of shifts, and even Nurse Obregon, with her shiny red, fast car was probably home by now. Rebecca took the log book, signed her name, checked the time on her watch, wrote it in, and handed the book back to the nurse at the desk.

Kelly stood there, wonder on her face. She didn’t know what she was supposed to do, but she was ashamed to admit that.

Noticing her puzzled look, Rebecca pointed to the time clock. “Just get your time card from the file beside the clock and punch your card with the time.”

Obediently, Kelly did as she was instructed.

“Now, let’s make a run for it,” Rebecca challenged Kelly. “Beat you to the elevator!” Dr. Stanford seemed to have a renewed vitality which appeared from nowhere now that she was going off duty.

As they drove out of the parking lot in the little yellow Volkswagen, Rebecca turned to Kelly.

“Do you know, I can’t explain it, but I feel like you are the little sister I always wished for. I am so glad you are working in the ER the shift I’m on. You will make a mighty fine nurse one day. You sure do react quickly under pressure. That is one of the most important virtues of anyone in the medical profession. That was absolutely brilliant to call the school to try to identify Philip. You are to be congratulated, my dear.”

Kelly found it much easier to deal with Dr. Stanford’s harsh, critical yelling, as she had done earlier in the day, than with her praise. She never had been very good at accepting compliments, and she certainly wasn’t getting any better. She found herself at a loss for words, something that did not happen to her often—not in either of her languages. When you come from a family of seven children you learn very early in life to speak up every chance you get or you will never survive. “Survival of the fittest,” her dad used to tease them. “The one who throws the loudest fit survives the longest.”

“Do you have to be anywhere at any certain time?” Rebecca asked Kelly.

“No,” she replied. “Why?”

“I am too beat to go home and cook. How’s about if I spring for a pizza? Are you game?”

“Sure,” Kelly said enthusiastically, “but I hope it doesn’t cost too much. I am not the richest person in the city, you know.”

“You don’t listen to me too well, do you?” Rebecca teased. “I said I would spring for it. That means I will pay for it. Comprende?

Rebecca smiled, very satisfied with herself, that she remembered a few words from her high school Spanish class.

Surprised, Kelly began rattling off Spanish faster than the wheels rotate on A.J. Foyt’s race car.

“Whoa!” Rebecca called out. “I can only remember about fifty words. You lost me before your first word. Guess that will teach me to try and show off. Whew! You are good!”

“Remember, I grew up speaking Spanish more than English. I may get stumped on some of the English phrases you use too, like ‘spring for it.’ Now that doesn’t even make sense.”




Rebecca sat in her apartment later, reflecting on the events of the day. The emergencies had been fairly routine. She would have to be sure to call the social services department tomorrow to see what could be done for Mrs. Norwood and Philip. She had heard so much about people who “fell between the cracks” of the welfare system. Was this one of those cases? She said a quick prayer that there would a way—some way—to get them some help.

She picked up the keys from the table, opened her purse to put them in so she would not have to spend hours looking for them in the morning, and spied that letter. Why was it so persistent in capturing her attention? She pulled the letter out, opened it, and re-read it.

“What a crazy, hair-brained idea,” she said to herself. “You, working in a clinic in Venezuela! That is about as absurd as thinking that I could fly.” She sat in silence, staring at the letter. “I will go to Venezuela—what is it Kelly said? Oh, I will go to Venezuela in el aņo verde—the green year!” She sat back and laughed.

Rebecca got into her lounging pajamas and curled up in her big recliner to relax. She picked up a Medical Journal to read, but before she had finished the first paragraph she was sound asleep.




“Rebecca, you have asked for a way to serve me.” There was no visible figure in her dream, but the Voice was clearly that of the Lord. “You say you want to find yourself. This is your chance. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself. Go, lose yourself in the clinics in Venezuela. There you will truly find yourself.”




Rebecca awoke with a start. Her entire body was drenched in sweat. Her hands were shaking violently. What had happened to her? She knew she dared not question what had just happened. She knew what she had to do. She went to the phone and dialed the number that was on the letterhead she had received in the mail in the morning.

“Hello? This is Rebecca Stanford. I am a doctor at Mercy General in Boston. I am calling to offer my services for the clinics in Venezuela. Do you still need volunteers?”

Rebecca could hardly believe what she was doing. Somehow, she knew she could not argue with herself, or with God. She had never felt this way about anything in her life before. She thought about Mary the night the angel came and visited her, telling her that she was to bear that very special baby—Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.




“Kelly! Wait for me!” she called out in the morning when she saw her heading through the front door of the hospital. “I need a crash course—quick. Teach me all you know about Venezuela. I only have two weeks until I leave!

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