Home > Beyond Just Us (Remington Medical #4)(6)

Beyond Just Us (Remington Medical #4)(6)
Author: Kimberly Kincaid

“Are you okay with this?” she murmured to Declan, whose vitals had improved remarkably since he’d fallen into her arms in the ambulance bay.

And oh, how his body was even harder and more well-muscled than it looked.

Way to violate no less than six different sections of the ethics code, came the nagging inner voice that sounded suspiciously (but not surprisingly) like her mother. But, come on. Tess had been embarrassingly attracted to Declan—or, at least, his image—long before he’d ended up in her ED. She wasn’t about to refuse the guy care just because her hormones had gone on a walkabout months ago, when she’d first seen him on a book cover.

“Okay with what?” Connor asked, depositing Tess back to planet Don’t Be A Dumbass.

Declan looked at her, giving up a slow nod and leaning back against the pillow on his gurney, resigned. “It’s why I came. Although, I wasn’t keen on him finding out like this.”

“Finding out what?” Connor huffed in exasperation, a muscle in his jaw tightening behind his auburn beard. “I swear to God, if someone doesn’t—”

“I need a kidney transplant, mate.”

Tess fought the urge—and it was strong—to let her jaw drop.

Connor? Didn’t even come close. “You…what? What the fuck are you talking about?” He swung toward her, emotion crowding his voice. “What the fuck is he talking about?”

She released a slow exhale and forced her adrenaline to mind its manners. Not losing her cool was the one thing she could do with decent skill, and right now, both Connor and her patient needed her to deliver.

“Why don’t we all take a deep breath and start from the beginning, okay?” Reaching behind her, she dragged a chair from the corner of the exam room and slid it in Connor’s direction. “I have to take an extended health history, anyway, and that should get us all on the same page.”

Again, Declan nodded, although, he looked less than thrilled about having to trot out his health history. Tess grabbed hold of the electronic chart, along with the situation, tapping the thing to life with her index finger. “So, you were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes two years ago?”

Connor made a noise of disbelief, and Tess mentally kicked herself square in the ass. “Two years?” Connor asked. “Jesus Christ, Dec! I’m a goddamned nurse. I run an entire wellness clinic! I could’ve helped you. I could’ve—”

“Treated me like a fecking adult and not a helpless weakling?” Declan bit out, and on second thought, maybe Tess sucked at having control over this situation, too.

“That’s enough, gentlemen.” She put enough edge on the last word to remind them that they were acting like anything but. “Were you active duty when you were diagnosed?” The physical exertion required for active duty military posts was hard enough for most. Add a chronic condition like type 2 diabetes, and…

“I was honorably discharged on disability a year before my second tour was up,” Declan said quietly. “Four days before my twenty-fifth birthday.”

Tess didn’t need an abacus to figure out that put him at a not-whopping twenty-seven, just like she didn’t need a psych degree to hear the pain knotting his voice.

Thankfully, neither did Connor. “Shit. Shit.” His massive shoulders slumped back against the chair that was two sizes too small for his frame. “I’m so sorry, Dec.”

“And that would be why I didn’t tell you.” At Connor’s questioning look, Declan continued, “If things were reversed, would you want my pity?”

Connor shook his head, looking ready to protest, but Tess lifted her free hand. She might not get all the testosterone the two of them were trading like baseball cards, but pride? That she understood in motherfucking spades. “Okay. So, you’re managing your glucose levels with diet and medication?”

“Yeah. I have…I guess had an endocrinologist at the VA. Saw her on the regular. She hooked me up with a nutritionist, who hooked me up with a trainer who specializes in clients with chronic health problems.” His shoulders, which were already making his hospital gown look better than the garment ever had a right to, hitched tighter. “I wanted to be proactive about staying as fit as possible.”

“I’d say it worked.” Tess realized—too late, naturally—that her musing had been of the out-loud variety, and she cleared her throat as if it could cover her idiocy. She had the better part of a decade on him, for Chrissake. Not to mention he looked like he’d been chiseled out of the Sexy Stone, rather than born like mere mortals. “I mean, you look…very fit.”

“Just not healthy, I’m afraid,” Declan said. “About six months ago, I started having trouble sleeping and my muscles got a little jumpy. I thought it was my workouts, but my trainer made me go see the doc, who stuck me like a damn voodoo doll.”

“Diabetic nephropathy?” Tess asked, her heart clenching for the guy. Kidney disease wasn’t rare in type 2 diabetics, but those patients were usually a lot older and a hell of a lot less fit than Declan. Still, he was right. Fit and healthy didn’t always match up.

“Jesus,” Connor breathed as Declan’s singular nod confirmed the advanced kidney disease. "How are your blood pressure and cholesterol levels?”

“Not bad. I do the checks and keep to the dietary restrictions like I’m s’posed to, but…”

“Once your kidneys start to fail, your options become limited,” Tess finished as gently as she could. “What about stronger medication? ACE inhibitors?” Sometimes they could slow the process and keep a patient off dialysis until a donor could be located.

Declan gestured to the duffel that had gotten relegated to afterthought status once he’d passed out. One of the nurses who had met them at the doors to the ambulance bay must’ve seen it and put two and two together. “They’re all in there, along with a copy of my medical records for the past two years.”

“That’ll be really helpful,” Tess said, her brain already turning over options. Okay, so his case was a little different than most, but maybe there was an alternate treatment they could try, or a clinical study, or something that would keep him from dialysis and kidney failure.

Connor had clearly gone the same mental route, because he asked, “Can we get Rosenthal down here for a consult? He can order an MRI, or maybe even a renal scan, to better see what we’re dealing with, here.”

Calling the guy in was definitely a start. “Dr. Rosenthal is our head of endocrinology,” Tess told Declan, who looked strangely unmoved.

“Great. So I can have yet another specialist poke me and scan me within an inch of my goddamned dignity just to tell me what I already know. If it’s all the same to you, I’ll pass. Plus, I’ve already had all of that done at the VA.”

She tried—she really, really tried—to keep her empathy hat on. “Look, I’m sure you got great care at the VA, but Dr. Rosenthal is one of the most respected specialists on the East Coast. He might be able to come up with a different course of treatment than your current doctor.”

“Course of treatment? I need a transplant. There’s nothing to be done for this but the waiting,” Declan argued, and Tess’s brows shot upward without permission from the rest of her.

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