Sunday, December 23, 2012

Judy George, Student Nurse

By Patti Stone, ©1966
Cover illustration by Lou Marchetti
For Judy George, nursing is full of challenge and drama. When an accident case is brought into emergency, Judy is strangely attracted to the gaunt, red-haired victim known only as Joe Smith. Though his recovery is quick despite a persistent loss of feeling in one thumb, Joe is depressed. To help him overcome his handicap, Judy convinces him that the best therapy is to work at the hospital. He surprises everyone with his care and concern for crippled children. Judy wonders just what he did before the accident, but Joe mysteriously guards his past. Soon Judy realizes that, despite the fact he is still a stranger to her, she is in love with him. But how can she plan the future with a man who refuses to discuss his past?
“I bet you’re a first-year intern. They’re the only ones I know who go around bragging they’re doctors.”
“Our theme song is the ambulance siren.”
“It’s surprising how much courage a touch of lipstick can give a woman.”
“His chart shows he’s been having the delirium tremens for 24 hours.”
“Yes,” Joe said soberly.
“It wasn’t easy to stop nursing, Judy. But my husband—and now my son—work long hours under tension. They want to put their problems aside in their home. I suppose most nurses daydream of marrying a doctor and working by his side. Well, that wasn’t the kind of wife my husband wanted. But, by creating a calm, pleasant atmosphere, I feel I am helping him in my own way.”
“You’ve studied so much in the past few weeks that pretty soon you’ll be up in surgery as a patient being operated on for strabismus—which, in case you’ve forgotten, is crossed eyes.”
Judy George is yet another nurse-orphan, raised by yet another country GP grandfather, Grandpa Noah, along with her sister and three younger brothers. Anne is now working as a nurse back in Wheatville, married and expecting a baby of her own, while still raising their brothers. Judy is finishing her final year of training at Bonifacio General in Kansas City, and as the book opens she is trapped in the service elevator with Dr. Harry Jennison, an up-and-coming OB/GYN whose father is chief of staff at the hospital. They immediately start dating, but Harry seems more into it than Judy. She’s bound to go back to Wheatville after she graduates, and Harry, she knows, is just not meant for a small-town practice. “Harry considered Wheatville just a wide place in the road,” so that cools Judy’s ardor somewhat. “She was committed to going home as soon as she finished training. She didn’t dare fall in love.” Famous last words.
Then this man is brought into the ED when Judy is working there. His arm has been damaged in a car accident, and he has no identification on him. When he wakes up, he gives his name as Joe Smith—gee, I wonder if that’s an alias?—and is a charity patient on the ward, though his clothes and car were expensive, and he is clearly well-educated. He tells everyone that he has no friends or family, and he is grumpy as all get out because his right hand is partially paralyzed from the accident. Judy, who is now working on the men’s medical ward, takes him on as a personal project. Why is he so bad-tempered? Then a briefcase is brought in, and Judy takes a peek and finds out it contains sketches, and so concludes “Joe Smith” was an artist. She decides that what Joe really needs is a job, so she orchestrates a position as an orderly for him when he recovers. When she sees him pushing a small boy in a wheelchair, “elation swept through her. She had no idea why, but she had never in her entire life felt so happy.” Well, I don’t know about you, readers, but I can take a guess why. Can you?
He’s still irritable as ever—when Judy exclaims that she’s surprised to see him working, he answers, “I have a funny habit. I like to eat,”—but Judy persists in her friendly way and over time he warms up. Eventually he even asks her out. But he’s still a very angry young man, shouting at Judy and breaking her pencil when she’s all excited that he was able, with his left arm, to draw the bones of the arm when he’s helping her study for her exams. “They teach anatomy in art schools, too, you know,” he growls at her. She grovels for his forgiveness, and he’s kind enough to give it. He’s a swell guy, is Joe Smith.
Then he becomes obsessed with a young boy whose hand was scarred by burns and is now a useless claw. The boy has become virtually catatonic, and Joe is convinced that if the hand is repaired, the boy will get better. He persuades Judy to persuade Harry to persuade his father to persuade his friend Dr. Carter, who specializes in children’s plastic surgery, to take the case. Joe watches the surgery, which is a huge success, of course, but afterward he’s pale and sweating, and he refuses to talk to Judy, “shoved her violently aside,” and runs from the OR. “Before her eyes she had seen a man go to pieces, and she didn’t know why.” Two pages later, Joe has resigned his position and gone AWOL.
Not to worry, there’s nothing like a natural disaster to bring two star-crossed lovers together. Judy is working in the decrepit geriatric wing when the tornado hits and destroys the building. She, in typical VNRN fashion, is the last one out, having gone in to check for any more patients, and Joe shows up the day she is discharged. He drives her home—but guess what, her sister is in labor and not doing well, and the Green River is over the road in a couple of places and one of the bridges isn’t in very good condition, and the phone lines are down so they can’t call a doctor. “She needs a doctor now,” Judy declares, when she and Joe finally arrive and find Anne struggling. Now, prepare yourself for this shocker! “There’s me,” Joe says quietly, and he’s not joking! He’s a plastic surgeon from the very top residency program in the nation, with nine years’ experience! I was pleased that in the end, he doesn’t remember anything about the dosages of medications for birthin’ babies, which would have been a stretch for a plastic surgeon. Mostly he just assists Anne with the labor and then delivers the baby with forceps, with nothing but a tiny bruise on her head to show for it. And he’s so excited by his success that he wants to become a GP in Wheatville! Really? Wheatville? asks Judy the dunce. “This is the only town you’d consider living in,” he answers, and follows that up with his marriage proposal. She accepts, and then he tells her that his name isn’t Joe Smith at all! It’s Jason Sibley!!! Who knew?
This book seemed a bit familiar, as the GP grandfather and the disaster at the end of the book are straight out of Patti Stone’s Big Town Nurse, as is the fact that Patti introduces us to about every single person in the hospital—in this book, we meet 57 medical professionals as well as half again as many patients. And it does bother me when the heroine nurse can’t see what’s been clearly obvious to the reader since, oh, page 18. At 160 pages, this book is too long to contain what little it does, and if it’s not overtly irritating, it doesn’t have a whole lot to recommend it, either, apart from the excellent Lou Marchetti cover.

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