“Why do you focus so much on the heart doctor?” Nurse Pritchard asked- her corkscrew curls springing around on her head as she spoke.
“Because the heart, my girl” explained Dr Corocottas, “is where the money’s at. The heart, is what we need to invest in. Kidneys- no good anymore. Chronic dialysis means people can live for years without a working kidney. The lungs are very complicated and the liver, there’s tonnes of liver donors out there.”
He paused for a second, rubbing the stubble under his chin.
“Besides,” he continued, “people are attached to their hearts, they don’t want to donate them. They get all sentimental. But, if you are on the other end of things, the person needing the transplant, you’ll do anything if it means you survive.”
A tentative knock sounded on the doctor’s office door. Nurse Pritchard hopped off the chair she perched on to open it. A nervous couple, greyed by their sixties hung in the doorway. Dr Corocottas gestured for them to sit.
“So doctor, is it ready? The heart?” the man whispered the word heart. His belly peeped over his jeans- his face red with high blood pressure. The obvious appearance for a coronary heart disease sufferer.
“Yes. I’ve scheduled you in for next week Mr Kelling” Dr Corocottas replied, looking over his glasses at some paperwork.
“Who… who did it come from?” stammered Mrs Kelling.
“Maureen!” hissed Mr Kelling.
“I remind you both that one of the conditions of your heart transplant is for no questions to be asked and no details to be disclosed to anyone- before or after the operation is complete,” asserted Dr Corocottas, still looking at his paperwork. Nurse Pritchard shook her head disapprovingly at the couple.
“I’m sorry doctor, it’s just, Ted and I, we re-mortgaged our house for this.” She smiled timidly and reached shakily for her husband’s hand.
Dr Corocottas’ eyes flickered up and fixed on the pair. “A small price to pay for your husband’s life, I’m sure, Mrs Kelling.”
He clicked the lid onto his pen and slid it across the desk, along with the paperwork he was previously looking over.
“The disclaimer” he said, without removing his hand from on top of the papers. “Before you sign, I’d like to remind you, that what you are taking part in is illegal. If anybody finds out, it is not only me that would go to prison, but the both of you too. I can save your life Mr Kelling, but only in exchange for one-hundred-thousand pounds in cash and your silence.”
The couple signed the disclaimer in multiple places, thanked the doctor and left. That’s how easy it was. No lengthy waiting list, no hoping and praying for a heart donor to become available. Just a patient’s silence and a lot of cash.
“Now, Mr Kelling, count backwards from ten for me,’ said Nurse Pritchard, placing a mask over the patient’s mouth. The bright operating lights beamed down onto his squashed tomato face.
“Ten, nine, eight… “
“That’s it, deep breathing.”
“Seven, six… six, seven.”
Mr Kelling slowly slipped into oblivion as Dr Corocottas arranged his instruments. Nurse Pritchard fiddled with the ventilator tube- trying to get it into the unconscious Mr Kelling’s mouth and down into his lungs- in order to aid his breathing throughout the transplant. After wiping down Mr Kelling’s chest with antiseptic, Dr Corocottas sliced down from his Adam’s apple all the way to his belly button. As the blade ripped through the flesh, the blood seeped out. His ribcage was carved down the centre and then with one almighty cracking sound, the doctor pulled each side apart. Tubes were put into Mr Kelling’s chest, so that the bypass machine could manually pump his blood round his body.
After disconnecting Mr Kelling’s diseased heart from his body, it was discarded of and Nurse Pritchard went to fetch the donor heart. She returned with a cylindrical container and plunged her gloved hands into the icy preservation liquid- fishing around for the organ. The hums and grumbles of the bypass machine were still sounding in the background. The donor heart was sewn in place and the arteries connected up. After sewing up Mr Kelling’s chest, the doctor cleaned up the massacre of blood that had pooled on the sides of the operating bed.
Once the incision was covered, still attached to his ventilator tube, Mr Kelling was wheeled down to the doctor’s private recovery suite. He was left to sleep for several hours, Nurse Pritchard checking on him at regular intervals. Eventually, Mr Kelling began to bustle and his eye lids began to flicker. After a few hours of being awake, his ventilator tube was removed and he let out one humungous snort.
Inside the office, the sound of papers gently rustled, under the breeze of the fan. The blinds across the windows littered the floor and surfaces with shadow rectangles. Doctor Corocottas sat at his desk fiddling with the key that hung round his neck. Nurse Pritchard’s voice got closer and closer until eventually she was outside his office door. He stuffed the key into his shirt as she entered- hanging up the phone she was nattering into.
“That was Mr Kelling,” she informed him.
“And how is he doing?” asked the doctor, pretending to be organising some of the rustling papers.
“From the sounds of it he’s making a great recovery- his appetite is flourishing and he feels twenty years younger” the nurse beamed, “although, I’m not too sure about his breathing, he made a few strange snuffling noises on the phone- almost like a snort.”
“Good to hear,” replied the doctor, “his breathing will clear soon enough.”
“Where do you get your hearts from doctor?” the nurse asked.
“What have I told you about quizzing me!” scowled the doctor.
There was a moment’s silence.
“Mr Henson confirmed he is ready for his transplant next week, they said they will be bringing the two-hundred-thousand pounds cash with them. Doctor- why are you charging the Henson’s double what you charged Mr Kelling for his transplant?”
“Mrs Henson insisted she wanted the best heart available for her husband, regardless of the cost. Obtaining such a fine quality heart required some… extra effort,” explained the doctor.
“Aren’t all hearts the same?” she asked.
“Absolutely not,’ replied Dr Corocottas, “you won’t find better than this heart my girl I can assure you that.”
The nurse stared at the doctor, her mouth hung open slightly. Curiously, she twirled a curl around her finger.
A pointed nose woman, with protruding cheekbones, sat on the plumb sofas in the clinic waiting room.
“Mrs Henson,” Nurse Pritchard called “your husband’s waking up.”
“Finally,” huffed Mrs Henson, as she followed the nurse down to the recovery suite. Here, her husband lay stirring in his gown.
“Oh Robert!” she gasped “how are you feeling my dear husband?”
Mr Henson turned his head slightly to look at his beloved wife. She stared down at him- a look of concern and compassion on her face. Mr Henson opened his mouth as if he were going to say something, but he simply looked away and scratched his backside.
Mrs Henson looked horrified for a moment before screeching at Nurse Pritchard to leave the room- obviously her husband needed some privacy.
The nurse, as instructed, left the recovery suite. As she walked to the doctor’s office her phone rang. Mrs Kelling could be heard stuttering nervously on the other end of the phone. Nurse Pritchard tried to calm the nervous, old woman and told her not to worry about her husband’s snorts- his breathing should clear up in good time, as advised by Dr Corocottas.
After Nurse Pritchard hung up the phone, she continued to stroll down the hallway, her curls springing with every step. She walked past the door with the ‘only for the entry of Dr Corocottas,’ sign stuck to it. Upon passing this door, the nurse could have sworn she heard one of Mr Kelling’s snorts. She paused for a second and looked over her shoulder- Mr Kelling was nowhere to be seen.
“Please!” Mr Bradley sobbed, “It’s all we have.”
“Twenty-five-thousand pounds?” scoffed Doctor Corocottas, “I charged quadruple that and more for my first two patients.”
“My wife, she’s dying, please there must be something you can do doctor! We’ve sold our house, I’ve lost my job to take care of her and we’re living in a caravan,” He continued hysterically, ignoring the doctor’s comment.
“I’m sorry, I would be making a loss if I performed the operation for that amount of money”
“We’ll do anything!” the man cried, dropping to his knees in front of the doctor’s desk.
“You really will do anything if it means your wife will survive, won’t you Mr Bradley?”
“I just want my wife to have a chance of living- if we wait on the donor list, she will most certainly die,” he nodded.
“Well, there is one thing I could try for that amount of money, but I can’t guarantee it will be a success,” confirmed the doctor, “I’ve wanted to try this for a while but haven’t had any opportunity.”
Mr Bradley almost had a heart attack when the doctor said this. He was so relieved and the doctor’s warnings of the transplant possibly being unsuccessful seemed to fall upon deaf ears. Luckily, he recovered himself- the couple certainly couldn’t afford two heart transplants.
Dr Corocottas popped his head out of the door with the sign that forbid entry for anyone but himself. He was attempting to exit discretely. He looked left down the clinic hallway, then right and then just has he looked left again, Nurse Pritchard appeared instantaneously. The doctor startled, but before he could lock himself back in the room, the nurse put her foot in the doorway. Dr Corocottas scowled in an irritated fashion but Nurse Pritchard simply cocked her head to the right in a look of suspicion- her corkscrew curls tipping sideways too.
“Nurse, I command you to move your foot,” he pouted.
“When are you going to let me see what’s in this room doctor? I know the secret to where you get your hearts lies behind this door! I keep all your other secrets, why not trust me with this one?” she nagged.
“There are some things you don’t need to know.”
“What was that?” she asked, her eyes narrowing.
“What was what?” he forced his way out of the door and locked it hastily behind him- returning the key to its rightful place around his neck.
“It sounded like somebody tapping on a pane of glass.”
“I don’t know nurse, perhaps the stress of the job is tiring you out- why don’t you go home for the day?” the doctor suggested.
Nurse Pritchard looked down at the silver key that hung round the doctor’s neck. He hurriedly tucked it back into his shirt.
“Doctor, he’s eating six meals a day and snacking constantly in between,” Mrs Kelling’s voice shook with concern -or maybe it was nerves- on the other end of the doctor’s phone.
“Mrs Kelling,” sighed Dr Corocottas, “this has got to be the fourth time you have called either myself or Nurse Pritchard this week, try to relax, you should be more worried if he wasn’t eating.”
“But, he’s eating like a, like a… pig,” she whispered.
“Your husband’s just got his appetite back so let him enjoy it.”
Doctor Corocottas hung up the phone. He never did have much patience for his patients.
He made his way down to the operating theatre to where Nurse Pritchard had wheeled Mrs Bradley ready for her heart transplant. Her face was tinged with blue due to her oxygen deprivation from her underperforming heart.
The usual procedure was performed and the doctor sliced in between the woman’s breasts. As Nurse Pritchard fished for the donor heart she commented on how each heart seemed slightly different to the rest.
Doctor Corocottas ignored the nurse’s remark- realising that she was probing him.
“What makes this heart so cheap? I don’t understand why this transplant might be less successful than Mr Kelling or Mr Henson’s transplants. It looks healthy to me,” she continued, squelching the heart in the palm of her gloved hand.
“You ask too many questions,” replied the doctor snatching the heart from her.
When Mrs Bradley came round from her operation her husband waited eagerly at her bedside with their young daughter. She opened her eyes lazily and looked at the pair- the ventilator tube still in her mouth. Mrs Bradley lay still for a few moments and then began to whimper.
“Daddy!” cried the little girl, “mummy sounds like Nanny Mary’s doggy!”
A violent knocking started on the clinic door. Nurse Pritchard looked through the peephole and found Mr and Mrs Henson awaiting on the other side. The nurse opened the door and Mrs Henson stood holding her husband’s arm, teeth clenched and face flushed with rage. Mr Henson, however, stood gormlessly, still scratching his backside like the last time the nurse saw him.
Conscious of the fact that Mrs Henson may cause a scene on the street, the nurse invited the pair inside. As they walked down the hallway Mr Henson behaved rather strangely. He took big gaping strides and walked with his knees bent. His posture was slouched and his arms swung loosely by his sides with every step. This proud, middle class man had now turned into a slummock. When he passed the door of the secret room, that only Doctor Corocottas could enter, he stopped. He lifted his head in an instinctive way and appeared to be listening for something. Mrs Henson pulled his arm and he grunted and continued walking.
The pair were lead into the doctor’s office and Mrs Henson sat on one of the chairs in front of the desk. She tugged at Mr Henson’s arm to get him to sit on the chair next to her. Mrs Henson demanded that something was not right with her husband. Whilst in the middle of her rant, her husband began to run his fingers through her hair as if he was looking for something. She smacked his hand away and insisted to the doctor that this was the exact kind of strange nonsense behaviour she was talking about.
Mr Henson picked up the banana that lay on the doctor’s desk and began to examine it. He looked as though he was about to peel it open until Mrs Henson snapped “Robert! Stop this monkeying around!”
After half an hour of Mrs Henson shouting, Mr Henson exhibiting strange behaviours and Dr Corocottas trying to convince Mrs Henson that her husband’s strange behaviour had nothing to do with his heart transplant, the couple eventually left. No sooner than the Henson’s had left the clinic did Mr Bradley arrive with his wife. Mr Bradley also complained that his wife had begun doing strange things after her transplant. When Dr Corocottas extended his hand to Mrs Bradley she licked it.
“You see doctor, my wife keeps feeling the urge to lick things,” Mr Bradley explained, “at first, when she started to lick my face in bed, I thought maybe it was to do with her libido. I thought that since feeling better after the transplant, maybe she was in the mood, and had developed a new fetish. But then she started to lick other people, I’m sure you can understand why I’m concerned. She’s also started making a terribly high pitched noise at night- almost like a howl, she must be having terrible nightmares.”
“Mr Bradley, with the amount of money you and your wife paid for this transplant, I am just impressed that the operation was a success at all- you really should count your blessings,” Dr Corocottas dismissed the couple.
Whilst being escorted out of the clinic by Nurse Pritchard, Mrs Bradley too stopped outside the secret room. She wiggled her nose for a second and then began to whimper, much like she did when she came round from her transplant.
When the nurse returned to the office the doctor flew into a rage. “Why on earth would you let them in?”
“Did you want Mrs Henson making a scene on the public street? For passers-by to hear what we are up to?”
The doctor did not reply, he didn’t have to, he was saved by the ringing of the phone. However as soon as he answered it and heard the voice on the other end, he wished he had not answered. Mrs Kelling was yet again ringing to voice her concerns. She told the doctor she was certain her husband was going to eat himself to death and that when out for a walk the previous day, he had jumped into a muddy puddle and rolled around on his back.
The doctor feigned some sort of medical emergency and promptly put an end to their phone call. He put his head in his hands and exhaled sharply. When he looked up, Nurse Pritchard stood with both hands pressed on his desk, glaring down at him.
“What is going on?” she asked in a shrill voice. Perhaps her voice was no more high-pitched than it normally was- but rather it just sounded so to the doctor’s tired ears.
“Purely coincidence,” declared Dr Corocottas.
“Rubbish!” she snapped, “don’t tell me all three of your patient’s have just simultaneously gone nutty!”
“Mr Kelling is so nervous he’s probably suffering from some sort of breakdown due to the trauma of the surgery. Mr Henson lives with Mrs Henson- wouldn’t you go crazy if you lived with that woman? And I would hardly call Mrs Bradley crazy- more a sort of sex maniac, with a licking fetish, who’s been having some bad dreams,” argued the doctor.
Nurse Pritchard was about to protest but the Doctor refused to answer any more questions and asked her to leave him alone- he was tired and stressed. The nurse exited the room and went to make herself a coffee. A while later, when she expected the doctor would have calmed down and may have been more approachable, she went and knocked on the office door. When there was no answer on the third knock she decided to enter uninvited.
The doctor’s legs were crossed on top of his desk and his head rolled back in his chair- an empty banana skin on his lap. Nurse Pritchard almost turned and left but a silver glimmer caught her eye. Hanging out of the doctor’s shirt was the key he had used to let himself in and out of the secret room. Dubiously, Nurse Pritchard walked over to the doctor and gently reached for the string that the key hung upon around his neck. Slowly, trying not to disturb him, she pulled it over his head.
She padded softly across the office floor and out of the door, pulling it carefully behind her, but not shutting it all the way in fear of the sound waking him. With every step, her curls sprung a little more than usual, as excitement rose within her. She approached the door of the secret room and inserted the key into the lock. With one deep breath she entered the room and what she saw made her lose her breath all together. Nurse Pritchard darted from the clinic- selling hearts was one thing but now that she knew where they came from, she had to hand herself in.
The detectives looked around the room, examining the steel table with the leather straps across it. The table was littered with a range of medical instruments. Next to it was a tank labelled ‘Ketamine’- a type of general anaesthetic. Attached to the tank was some sort of oxygen mask.
“My god” one detective exclaimed, “The man’s a genius!”
“I’ll say” said another, “he’s perfected what scientists were trying to do for years.”
The group of detectives stood, bewildered, looking at the three glass boxes in front of them. Behind the glass, looking back at them was a pig, a chimp and a dog. Doctor Corocottas had found the secret of animal to human transplants. He raised the animals to harvest their hearts and donate them to his buying patients.
The group of psychologists stood, bewildered, looking at the three glass rooms in front of them. Behind the glass Mr Kelling snorted and oinked like a pig- deprived of food to stop him eating himself to death. Mr Henson screeched wildly whilst trying to swing from the top of the lightshade and Mrs Bradley chased her invisible tail around and around.
Humans will behave like animals if it means they are able to survive.