By Karen Gilleland © 2014
I wondered about the “Doc’s” early days as a surgeon and what case might have
sent his career into high gear. My imaginary journey took me to Belgravia, the most exclusive district in London, if not the world.
This FanFiction is dedicated to my husband, who was fortunate to have a surgeon of the caliber of the “Doc” when he experienced a heart condition similar to the patient’s in this story.
If you have watched “Doc Martin” Series 6, this story would fall between Episodes 1 and 2. It is the type of story I would like to have seen in S6 before the relationship between Martin and Louisa began to unravel.
I’m posting this story on my birthday as a thank-you treat for all of the great viewers who have been so encouraging in their comments about my FanFiction.
Martin sat reading the Clinical Medical Journal at the kitchen table, occasionally making notes on a yellow tablet. Louisa stepped behind him and massaged his neck and shoulders. “Nice,” he murmured, setting down his pen.
“Dad read the paper at the table. I used to rub his neck when he was feeling low after Mum left. He’d say, ‘Princess, one day I’ll take you to Buckingham Palace, and you’ll fall in love with a prince.’”
A sharp rap at the front door caused Martin to look at his watch. “Nine o’clock. I’ll get that.”
He opened the door to a petite woman, whose beautifully coifed, silver hair shone in the moonlight. She stood ramrod straight, and her intense, green eyes reflected the shimmering diamond-and-emerald broach she wore at her neck. “Martin,” she said, extending her hand.
Martin took her hand, a puzzled look on his face. “Do I know you?” he asked, gesturing her toward the consulting room. She sat in the chair, and Martin walked around and sat down at the desk.
“You may not recognize my face, but I expect you would recognize my scar,” she said in a deep, throaty voice with a posh accent. “I am Lavinia Hemingsford-White. About fifteen years ago, doctors diagnosed me with inoperable lung cancer. Dying on the operating table seemed preferable to living a few more months in agony. A friend, Robert Dashwood, recommended one of his gifted, new surgeons. Thanks to that young man, I am here to request help again.”
“My first patient. Of course, I remember the case. What can I do for you today?”
“The problem concerns my husband, Yardley. We were aboard our yacht headed toward Spain yesterday when Yardley complained of chest pains. The nearest hospital was in Truro, so we had a helicopter fly him there. The result is that he requires a quadruple bypass. Unfortunately, there are complications that render the surgery dangerous.”
“I’m no longer a surgeon –” Martin began, but she cut him off with a wave of her hand.
“I am an extremely wealthy woman, Martin. I have made it my business to keep track of the man who saved my life. I know about your haemophobia. I know you overcame it and were offered a position as head of vascular at Imperial.”
She leaned forward, planted both hands on his desk and riveted his attention with those radiant green eyes.
“Martin, I came here, in person, to beg you to handle Yardley’s surgery.”
“I’m not on staff at Truro,” protested Martin, shaking his head. “Not to mention that I haven’t operated a long time.”
“Robert has promised that, if you agree, he will arrange to waive formalities.”
Martin stood up and paced the floor. He stopped, leaned against the desk, bent toward her and said, “What you are asking could put your husband’s life at risk.”
“My husband’s life is already at risk.”
Martin began pacing again, arguing with himself. “I can’t promise,” he said finally, “but I will go to Truro tomorrow and talk with your husband’s physician.”
“Fair enough.” Mrs. Hemingsford-White stood up and handed Martin an engraved card. “You will find me at the hospital.” Martin escorted her to the door, where her driver helped her down the steps.
“Emergency?” asked Louisa, raising her eyes from the papers she was grading as Martin came into the kitchen.
Martin handed her the card. “Belgravia?” Louisa said. “Very upper crust. Do you know her?”
“She was my first patient and, undoubtedly, responsible for my rapid success. She glorified me to her friends, and word got around.”
“Why is she in Portwenn?”
Louisa listened without comment as Martin explained about Yardley. When he finished, she asked, “How do you feel about operating?”
“I’m not sure. It’s a very risky case, but I promised I would talk to the doctors in Truro tomorrow. I’m going to call Robert.”
Martin went into the office and reached Robert at home. The lengthy conversation ended with Robert’s agreeing to be part of the surgical team.
At Truro in the morning, Martin met with Yardley’s physician, who had been briefed by the man’s London doctor.
“A year ago, Yardley had been diagnosed with a blood vessel anomaly in his brain and put on blood thinners to reduce the risk of stroke. No need to tell you, the blood vessel issue elevates the risk of surgery.”
Martin went to a consulting room and studied scans of the man’s heart and brain on the computer. Then he ordered several new tests. About three o’clock, Martin went into Yardley’s room. Mrs. Heminsford-Whitesat in an easy chair near the bed.
“Mr. Ellingham,” said Yardley, “what do you think of my chances?”
Martin raised his eyebrows, taking a moment to frame his concerns. Then he answered crisply. “Your heart is still in a state of arrhythmia, but the Metoprolol is beginning to take effect. Your white blood cell count is marginal, but not dangerously low. You have one artery that is ninety-eight percent blocked. Another is ninety-six percent blocked, and the other two are ninety-five percent blocked.”
“Is that all?” Yardley smiled.
“No, you have been taken off blood thinners in preparation for surgery. The pulsating blood vessel in your brain could erupt and kill you instantly.”
Yardley blinked, looked at his wife and back at Martin. “A long shot then?”
Martin nodded. The room filled with silence before Yardley drew his shoulders square and said, “You will operate yourself?”
“I would fail in my duty if I did not encourage you to engage the surgical team here at Truro. They have more recent experience than I have, and Robert will be assisting.”
“Martin,” Mrs. Hemingsford-White stood up to her full height of five feet, “we understand that you have not operated in quite a while. Nevertheless, Yardley and I would like you to take charge.”
She held out both hands. Martin looked at her and Yardley and came to a decision he hoped he would not regret. “I’ll schedule surgery for nine in the morning.”
Lavinia smiled and held onto Martin’s arm as she walked out of the room with him. “I do realize that Yardley’s chances are slim,” she said quietly, “but I am relieved that he will be in your hands – whatever the outcome.”
Next morning, the surgical team, scrubbed and in position, stood by as Yardley was wheeled into the operating theater. Martin looked at Robert, who grinned and said, “Good to have you back.”
Martin nodded, looked at the anesthetized patient, checked vital signs and said to the team, “Ready.”
The nurse handed Martin the scalpel. He breathed deeply and made the initial incision.
Six hours later, Martin, still in scrubs, approached Mrs. Hemingsford-White in the waiting room. “Your husband has survived surgery. The next twenty-four hours will be critical, but I think his chances are very good.”
Mrs. Hemingsford-White sank into the chair, eyes closed. She wiped at a tear before saying in an even huskier voice than usual, “Thank you, Martin. I am now indebted to you for saving two Hemingsford-Whites. How can I repay you?”
Martin raised his palms and shook his head.
“I know you won’t accept money, but if there is ever anything I can do, please ask.”
Martin thanked her, turned to leave, but stopped. “There is one thing—“
Back home, Louisa was putting away the supper dishes. “I have a plate warming in the oven,” she said. “How are you?”
“Fine,” he said, sitting down at the table, as Louisa put on an oven mitt and pulled out the dish.
“Martin, a little more, please. How did you handle surgery?” She sat down across the table from him.
“Umm,” he murmured. “No nausea. The operation was delicate and challenging, but everything went smoothly.” His eyes rested on the medical journal he had set down on the table. “I felt as though I’d never left.”
Louisa reached over and touched his hand. “I’m glad. How is the patient?”
“Yardley will be airlifted to London in a few days and will recuperate at home. His wife has already arranged around-the-clock nursing care. She’s a very persuasive lady, Mrs. Hemingsford-White.”
Four days later, Mrs. Hemingsford-White came to the surgery in Portwenn. She and Martin stood together in the consulting room. “Yardley has done so well that the doctors are allowing him to fly home today,” she said. “I came to thank you in person for saving his life.”
The woman took both of Martin’s hands into hers, her green eyes flashing a smile of gratitude.
“I expect he will make a full recovery, Mrs. Hem–”
“Lavinia, please. I count you as one of my most valued friends.”
“I brought this for you,” she said, taking a large manila envelope out of the suede tote slung over her shoulder and handing it to him.
He pulled out the enclosure and said, “Thank you.”
Lavinia smiled and said, “I must hurry. The helicopter will be in Truro within the hour.” At the door, she beckoned Martin to come closer, and she tiptoed up to kiss him on the cheek. “Good bye. I hope I won’t be seeing you again professionally, but you and your family are always welcome in our home.”
“Yes,” said Martin, his face reddening.
That evening, Louisa, who had made a habit of giving Martin a neck massage while he was reading, was running her hands through his hair. “Nice,” he murmured and reached for her hand before she walked away. “I have something for you.”
He took out the manila envelope tucked inside his journal and handed it to her. She walked over to the chair and sat down.
Louisa reached into the drawer, pulled out a knife, and slit the envelope carefully so as not to disturb the seal. “An invitation to Buckingham Palace!” she breathed.
“I told Mrs. Hemingsford-White you would enjoy that evening tour of the palace that you weren’t able to get tickets for when we were in London.”
“Martin, this invitation is not for a tour. It’s an invitation to tea!”
“What!” he walked around and read the invitation over her shoulder. “How did she manage –“
Martin sat down next to Louisa, whose eyes sparkled. He looked wistful and said, “When you have tea at Buckingham Palace, I hope you won’t regret that you never fell in love with a prince.”
“I won’t regret,” Louisa said, kissing him lightly. “I did fall in love with a prince — and I married him.”
— THE END –
“Doc Martin” is owned by Buffalo Pictures.
Thanks Karen, enjoyed this one also. That Edith! Look forward to your next publication ie FanFiction.
Wonderful little vignette!