When the stable patient dies
The second victim, Jalen, is stable but has a bullet lodged in his spinal cord, near T1. He needs an MRI, but Dr. Bloom won’t send him for one without parental consent. Max manages to get the young man to call his mother. Despite his agitation over personal issues, Dr. Kapoor checks in on Jalen. Dr. Kapoor is a puzzle master, he quickly assesses vertebral instability causing ascending paralysis. When he is challenged by the neurosurgeon, Dr. Hartman, he uncharacteristically raises his voice, stopping the whole area. We see the unflappable Dr. Vijay Kapoor clearly less together on this day. Dr. Hartman concedes and asks Kapoor if he will be joining them. While in the OR, Jalen has a clotting issue and Dr. Sharpe is called in. She offers some treatment measures to hold while she runs additional testing.
Just as Helen thinks she can get the scope to check the Nutella for Max, he responds to a skirmish in the ED between Jalen’s brother and security. The conflict escalates, and Max takes an elbow to the face. This allows Helen to perform the scope on Max’s throat, but also prompts her to realizes that Jalen’s clotting issues are related to anabolic steroid usage. Once the intervention is started, the surgery is a success and as they finish scrubbing out, Helen and Floyd share a poignant conversation about the realities of having brown skin in this country.
Rather than forcing disciplinary measures, Max takes Jalen’s brother up to see him but is alerted to the code blue before reaching Jalen’s room. Drs. Kapoor, Gomez and Goodwin all work with the nurses to save Jalen from the cardiac arrest. As usual, Max is unwilling to give up the fight. Continuing his unusual personality of the day, Kapoor yells at Max to stop and finally gets his attention. A defeated Max is forced to call the time of death as Jalen’s brother looks on. These days at the Dam take their toll on each of the doctors.
Nutella (or The Secrets we Keep)
Despite the various lies Max used to explain his voice throughout the day, it takes a punch in the face to slow him down enough for Helen to get the laryngoscope done. The Nutella has not spread. Max finally faces reality and knows it is time to call a spade a spade on his diagnosis: cancer. While delivering the news, Helen confides that she wants a baby. Her fertility will be a challenge, there are social constructs that make it more complicated, but in the end the only way to live is to choose life. Dr. Frome asks his husband to cancel their planned date night so he can spend time with him and the kids. On a day like this, Iggy Frome needs his support system too. Dr. Kapoor tries to mend his heart by looking in on his estranged son. We believe the relationship to be permanently severed, but this viewer hopes that not to be the case. Drs. Bloom and Richards are still navigating a post-personal relationship as colleagues while still challenging each other to be better and to recognize their own weaknesses. The Dam is lucky to have both of them.
As Max finishes reading the newspaper article, he acknowledges that each of these world-class physicians could work anywhere for better pay and easier hours. He is grateful they are at the Dam and bids them to move forward from the events of yesterday, today is a new day. Go.
This episode had a little bit of everything in it. Hot button social issues, deep character development, and yes, medical drama. Every week this show gets better. As a viewer, I agree with Dr. Frome, this crew is starting to groove. The show doesn’t shy away from hard topics but genuinely treats them with respect and I, for one, truly appreciate it.
I think that despite the hard edges, the difficulties in their personal lives, these doctors truly embody what we all hope from the health care system. More importantly, they embody the best of what humanity has to offer without reaching perfection. These are, in my opinion, some of the most authentically written characters in a medical drama in quite some time. I look forward to my next appointment, but I have learned, bring tissues to the Dam.
You never know when you might need them.
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