A GIVING HEART • by David J. Rank

Swathed in bandages, his patient waited for the next surgery.

“What have I done?”

From the other side of the bed, “Did you say something, doctor?” the nurse asked.

“What? No.” Dr. Peter Hyde forced a smile.

His patient stirred.

“Three milligrams morphine. To keep her comfortable.”

The nurse adjusted the drug pump.

His patient was a remarkable woman — a unique human — a freak of nature, really: An immune system that overwhelmed any infection, recuperative powers that defy explanation. No wound remained unhealed. Removed a kidney, another grew to replace it. Took most of her liver, a lung, they regenerated. Peeled off skin and she survived — growing new, blemish free. Her parts were perfect transplants, a universal donor, never rejected, immuno-response suppressants not needed. Her spine let others walk again.

Her fame had made him famous. Dr. Hyde discovered her, brought her remarkable curative powers to the attention of the world. She was called Hyde’s Patient so often now he had to remind himself she had a name, Mia Lanier. There was a time he forgot entirely, which shamed him to think he could do that.

Institutions studied her for cancer cures, to comprehend perfect immunity, cell growth that regenerated hands, limbs, brain tissue. Bits and pieces of his patient had saved hundreds, her tissues restored body function to multiples more. Organ transplants alone covered the entire cost of this research hospital. There was great demand.

Three years ago, Hyde’s Patient had been just another traffic accident victim, without insurance, without a home. Her out-of-work parents killed, their car pulverized by a skidding semi, all the family she had in the world. Only sixteen, her condition had looked hopeless, body shattered, organs crushed, flesh seared.

With no family to consult, Hyde decided that night how hard they would fight to keep her alive. “Just keep her comfortable.”

Over the next few days Hyde watched dead flesh slough off her body, replaced by russet muscle, skin fresh as a newborn’s. Bones, once granulized, knitted and reformed. Her lungs, blackened by flame, regenerated. Within a week Hyde’s Patient was taken off the respirator. And that heart, that powerful heart, never ceased beating.

Hyde wondered if his patient still knew what good she gave humanity. Brain cells regrow, but do memories return, personality survive? Kept now in a constant state of recovery, his patient’s mind rarely rose above stupor so he did not know.

Three weeks after the accident, Mia Lanier had regained consciousness, her body nearly healed, a medical miracle. She was groggy and perhaps not yet fully capable of understanding. Still, Hyde told his patient about the accident, the death of her parents, of her incredible recovery. His patient said she did not remember any of it.

Nor could she recall ever being ill more than a day or two. She remembered falling off a swing once, hearing her wrist crack. It swelled, but with ice and a couple of days rest it was fine. That was all Hyde’s Patient knew about her body’s unmatched recuperative ability.

In the following days, a cotillion of doctors, administrators, and lawyers for the research hospital clotted her recovery room, told Hyde’s Patient how important she was, what was in the best interest, how much she could give the world if she would sign this, that, here, and here, and here. “Let us take care of you, study your gift; you can save so many lives.”

She was only sixteen and alone.

It was not difficult, given the circumstances, to convince state, nation, and the world that the best course would be for the research hospital to become Mia Lanier’s legal guardian.

For his discovery, his reward really, Hyde was reassigned as Lanier’s primary physician, the gatekeeper for her well-being and the research. Then came the book deals, media appearances. He was consulted by the best minds in the world about what medical wonders she could next provide. He never said no.

“What have I done?” There were nights now when he dreamed Mia Lanier asked him why.

A surgical nurse entered the room. “They’re ready for the heart.” Hyde nodded.

His staff prepped his patient for another trip to another surgical suite. Hyde wondered if his patient could even care any more. “Mia. Her name is Mia.”

They would remove her heart this time, that remarkable, powerful heart, a first. Mia would die, technically speaking, machines pumping blood for her, filling lungs with oxygen, until her heart regenerated; a month at most, they thought. Then the world-famous Hyde’s Patient would be ready for another transplant, more experiments. That was the expected routine.

So much good… so much healing…

Perhaps, though, not this time. Hyde touched the pocket of his white jacket, within it a syringe full of a neurotoxin, capped, and ready for him to decide it was time to end this, trash his career, and probably spent the rest of his life in prison.

How long can a body give until it finally gives out? How many tissue samples did the world’s research facilities need from this one-of-a-kind woman? How long can someone remain a sum of parts until the whole says no more?

Hyde wondered. Do no harm…

And then there was pain. Was there constant pain, too?

He could end this. Plunge the syringe into that remarkable heart and the toxin would ensure it never beat again. The thought wormed deeper into his mind with each passing day, ever since his patient regained her name in his soul. Mia Lanier.

Not today, Hyde thought. This surgery was too important. That heart, it offered the world so much…

“I’m sorry.” Hyde squeezed Mia’s hand as the surgical team rolled her out of the recovery room, her permanent home.

The door closed. Alone, Hyde felt a tear slide down his cheek. Her name is Mia… Mia Lanier… I am her doctor… Hyde kept telling himself that as he fingered the syringe.

David J. Rank is a working journalist in eastern Wisconsin esconced in the glacial hills between the Green Bay Packers and the Milwaukee Brewers. He often finds himself peering into shadows and reports what he sees. His flash fiction and micro fiction stories have been published in AlienSkin, MicroHorror and Apollo’s Lyre ezines.

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