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            Eligibility
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       Page Four

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It was after 10:00 a.m. when the medical examiner came to get Jennifer's
body for the autopsy.

Karen Overstreet had words to share with him.
"I can tell you that fourteen hours of hard labor is nothing compared to the
pain we feel right now, doctor. I don't want to give Jennifer up, but we both
want to know what happened to take our baby girl away from us. She was
so healthy. She....she was current on all her immunizations, she always
slept on her back and is...was..breast fed. Every precaution the experts
advise you of, we followed. And it still didn't help." said Karen leadenly
with a low anger.

But her hands were soft as she touched her daughter for the last time.

"I promise, I'll find the answer for you." said the M.E, taking
the blanketed bundle.

Then he and little Jennifer, were gone.

------------------------------------------------------------------

The Overstreets slept very little for the next week. Bit by bit,
details came back to them.

Karen mulled over yet another untasted cup of tea. ::I still have problems
sleeping now a month later. I notified family and friends. I remember
one of the firemen, Chet Kelly, the prankster, telling me the news hit him
so hard he wanted to puke. That coming from a fireman who is trained to
remain calm in most fiercesome of situations, seemed appropriate and
were just the right words to describe that time. Was it the day of the
funeral that I found out Jennifer died from SIDS? In a small way, it's a
relief because I don't think I could handle her death occurring due to
accidental abuse or neglect coming from one of us.::  

There had been three ambulances and Engine 51 at baby Jennifer
Overstreet's funeral. The entire fire station had turned out in uniform.

Jeff commented. "The town must think a fireman had died."

Karen smiled. "I carried Jennifer all through paramedic school
and she was born in between station clinicals. G*d, what those
station boys must think of me. Then, I was a real b*tch. In a way,
I think a paramedic did die."

Jeff Overstreet laughed out loud. "Really.."

Karen slapped his arm and hugged her daughters closer to herself.
"Think about it, honey. Jenny frequently attended class with me, and her
daddy kept her on the days I had clinicals. She probably knew more
about para-medicine than I do. She changed our lives, Jeff. She
drew us closer together, made the world a wonderful, exciting place in
vibrant colors. And now, it seems like everything is in black and white
and fuzzy. But I know someday there will be color again and clarity,
but that's still a long way down the road."

"We'll all be happy again, Karen. I promise you that." said Jeff with tears
in his eyes. He kissed her head tenderly.

Karen sighed sadly. "She was with me and I was with her..
She is not with me anymore, but there is such a part of me that is still there,
Jeff, where we were."

After the funeral, at home, Jeff talked with the medical examiner over
the phone.

The doctor replied, "If I were to give you my opinion on what happened
to Jennifer, it is that her heart just stopped, Mr. Overstreet."

Later that night, Fallon, Karen's youngest said, as she was
falling asleep, "Jennifer knew she was going to die, Mommy.
She talked to God about it. She just had something inside of her
that went up and down...and up and down ...and up ...and down..
and then it stopped."  

Karen's sadness almost burst out of her chest. But then her mind smothered it
absolutely with a question. ::Now, how did my five year old see that in Jenny?::

The answer came on the soft wind blowing in from the lacy window.
::Because they were bonded together, more deeply in love by their
thoughts, than later spoken words could've ever hoped to achieve.::

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It had been a grueling week, and Cap still hadn't gone in to get
evaluated in a sleep lab for his bad snoring problem. So one
afternoon, Roy and Johnny and the rest of the gang decided to stick
him to it with a little artful persuasion in a joint effort.  

They started by discussing the emotionally charged atmosphere
surrounding all SIDS calls like Jennifer Overstreet's.

"Handling the scene in such a case involves much more than our normal
protocols, Cap." said Johnny passionately. "I don't think we have the
resources in place yet to cope with that."

"How do you mean?" asked Cap, sipping his coffee thoughtfully.

Roy spoke up, quickly. "Some in EMS do not realize that when we treat
a patient, we treat the whole family."

"Yeah, amen to that, brother." said Chet ruefully. "Boy, did I learn about
that. Never leave a grieving family alone without emotional support after
the death of a child."

Cap began to look uncomfortable.

"What's the matter, Cap?" asked Johnny. "Thinking about Karen's baby
again?"

"No, I was thinking about what killed her. This SIDS.. uh, do adults ever
get that?" he asked, thinking about his apnea.

Roy was about to answer when Johnny stopped him with a touch on
the foot with his heel. Gage put on a straight face. "Well, the experts
don't rightly know, Cap. Uh,.. you see, not a whole lot of money ever
makes it in committee to devote itself to that topic of study."

Roy caught on instantly. "Yeah, the only way to find out for sure is
to study people who are at risk for that sort of thing." he said
vaguely.

"Meaning...people who're like.....me?"

The gang all disassembled and stared at different parts of the room
without giving away the whole pot of beans. No one said a single word.

Finally, Cap sighed and said, "Ok, Gage. Gimmee the phone and
what's the number?"

Roy and Johnny both spoke up quickly.

"Five, five..uh." stuttered DeSoto.

"Five five four...three. " parroted Gage.
"No Roy, you tell him. I'm gonna go stow Cap's latest drained oxygen
tank in the side squad compartment and out of the front cab. If we're
getting him to Rampart to get sleep evaluated this afternoon,.."
Gage said happily. "..we're gonna need to make room if we're taking
him in ourselves."

"So soon?" Cap gaped.

"Yeah, why not?" counted Roy. "The sooner the better." he glared back.

The rest of the gang muttered pretty much the same thing in various
shades of emotions.

"Ok, guess I've been out maneuvered and out numbered."
Hank told them. "But I wouldn't count on Rampart having any bed
space open for me since it's already Saturday. I might not even
get in today.."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Fifty minutes later, Cap was face to face with Dr. Brackett
and Joe Early. And they were both smiling.  

Hank was asking plenty of questions, still feeling like a cold
germ under the microscope. "What is a polysomnogram?"

Joe warmed up to the subject. "Sleep apnea is
diagnosed using a special test called a polysomnography.
Polysomnography involves sleeping overnight with various leads
or wires attached to your head, face, chest and legs. Stretchy bands
are placed around your chest and stomach to detect breathing effort.
Polysomnography testing is usually carried out overnight in order
to get a polysomnogram reading. Or PSG." he answered.

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Brackett continued. "All the leads will detect how you are
breathing and sleeping. Leads and bands gather information to
assist the doctor in making the diagnosis. A video camera assists
the doctor or his tester in knowing your sleeping position.
While you sleep, data is gathered about the number and length of
apneas or other problems that disturb your sleep. The morning
after such a test, we'd be able to explain the results of any PSG
and suggest the best treatment."

"What's the catch?" Hank asked warily.

Brackett's cheek twitched, when he realized that he would
have to share a less than popular factual detail about the apnea
lab. "In some sleep disorder centers, a "split night" study is done
when continuous positive airway pressure (C.P.A.P.) is placed on you
at some point during the night. The tester explains before you go to
sleep what will happen and fits the mask before the test begins."

"Wait a minute! Johnny, Roy, you didn't say I'd have to wear
another mask for all this monkey business. I'm getting outta--"

"Now Cap.. hear them out. It's not as bad as you think." Gage
started up, putting his hand square against his chest to
stop him.

"He's right, captain." said Brackett. "That kind of testing is
not bad at all. During a test you will find that:
None of the leads or wires hurt, you can sleep in any position,
you can go to the bathroom, sleep is disturbed as little as
possible by the test itself, and based on your test results your
doctor may suggest lifestyle changes that can help with mild
sleep apnea or treatment for a more moderate to severe type
of condition."

"Really, doc. I'm sure it's not the easy street you make it
out to be or else it wouldn't cost eight hundred dollars to
get yourself evaluated.." Cap scoffed right back.

DeSoto and Gage whistled in feigned shock, then
started cackling.

Hank ignored them."I'm still not entirely convinced that the two of
you are for me." he said looking back at the two doctors
with abject ambivilence. Cap narrowed his eyes and got back
on the exam table. "What's the worse case scenario, if- if- if..
I go ahead and listen to you guys?" he asked nervously.

"Come on, Cap. You're not terminal." chuckled Gage.

Cap made a face.

"....at least, not yet anyway.." added Roy with a hint of the devil.
He disarmed Cap by winking at him.

"Quit teasing me!" roared Cap.
"Quit teasing him.." roared Brackett at the same time.

Both men looked at each other and laughed.

"Now where were we?" asked Kel.

Joe told him.

"Ah, yes. Treatments for sleep apnea. There's the
C.P.A.P. machine..." Brackett began. "While sleeping,
the patient wears a plastic mask or nasal prongs connected
to a positive pressure device with provisions for adjunct therapy
with supplemental oxygen or humidification of inspired air. Positive
air pressure is delivered through the nasal passage forming an air
splint of the upper airway to provide air exchange during the patients
sleep. Flow rates ranging from 20 to 60 L/min generate pressures of
2 to 20 cm H2O pressure. With monitoring by PSG, the pressure level
is titrated to a level that restores airway potency, improves arterial
oxygenation, and ensures uninterrupted sleep. Patients must be followed
regularly to assess treatment efficacy and to verify compliance.
Part-time or inconsistent use of the device does not adequately control
OSA. The C.P.A.P's sure proved it's worth over recent years."

Cap's eyes started to cross in incomprehension. "Let's start that
last bit from the beginning.. Excuse me,.  a ..C.P.A.P?

"Uh, that's - Continuous Positive Airway Pressure." elaborated Joe.

"Thank you, doctor." bowed Kel graciously at Early.

"No problem, doctor. You're welcome." said Joe, equally charming.

"Would you two cut that out! You're talking about something that might
potentially effect my life here. And I find it's no joking matter!" Hank
yelled at them.

"Your life's already been effected if that tape we just heard is any good
kind of indicator. Just ask your men here." Brackett shrugged blandly,
crossing his arms together.

Both Roy and Johnny nodded vigorously, clamming up so they wouldn't
say anything else that was offensive.

"Then there's always the dental devices,.."

"Soccer mouthguards.." hissed Roy helpfully.

"....the radio frequency procedure.."

"Melts your uvula.." Gage added sotto voce.

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"...and other various kinds of surgery that makes throat structure
corrections that either eases or eliminates sleep apnea entirely."
Brackett concluded. "The most common one's called a U.P.P.P."

"Sounds complicated." Cap frowned. "What happens if I
don't do anything at all?  I mean, I've survived just fine for
years with the condition so far without risking anything or anybody."

Gage and Roy both cleared their throats meaningfully.

"Well, almost fine." Hank amended under their less than
subtle hinting.

"Hank," said Joe no nonsense.. "The results if left untreated:
high blood pressure, " he ticked off on his silver ringed fingers,
"heart problems, heart attack, stroke, car accidents and
work-related accidents due to sleepiness, a poorer quality of life.
Especially marital wise." he nodded seriously.

Brackett nodded in agreement, "Umm hmm and obstructive sleep apnea,
O.S.A., patients, prior to diagnosis and treatment, use 2 Ĺ times more
health care resources than patients without O.S.A. because they
usually have more doctor visits racked up because of nagging fatigue
and lingering, unexplained pain-like symptoms."

Right then, the hospital chaplain played his trump card by
coming in the door at the appropriate moment.

Cap took one look at him and just threw his hands up into the air.
"Ok, here comes the speech. Lay it on me.." he said with fluffed up
sarcasm.

Father O'Malley's eyes just twinkled. "This is for your charming wife.
Remember it and share it with her, won't you?" Eh- hem.. Helping a
partner with sleep apnea. Wife or husband, you can help your partner
be successful with the treatment for sleep apnea. The following are
a few ways to help:
Reassure your partner that using C.P.A.P. does not affect how you
feel about them or alter your view of them.

"Encourage your partner to keep up the treatment even though itís not
always easy.

"Offer to attend meetings, support groups or doctorís appointments
with your partner to learn more about sleep apnea.

"Enjoy your partnerís extra energy by planning activities together.
Support your partnerís efforts to lose weight or exercise.

"Marriage can be challenging at the best of times, but these same
challenges can be overwhelming when trying to cope with a chronic
disorder. It is common to become overburdened and exhausted
and to get so wrapped up in our own problems that the disorder
can begin to separate couples.

"The person with sleep apnea may feel alone and isolated -
often feeling frustration and guilt that they may have caused marital
disharmony by having Sleep Apnea. They may feel misunderstood,
afraid and angry. It affects how they see themselves and their
masculinity/femininity. Some get wrapped up in self-pity and begin
to shut down from the world." said the chaplain passionately.

"Boy, I'll say if the bunkroom follies have been any indication.."
said Gage loudly enough to be heard by all.

"The healthy spouse often shares similar feelings but from a
different perspective. Some feel guilt for their own wellness or feel pity
or resentment towards the spouse, and they take on more and more
responsibility to compensate. Some feel anger at the disorder and
the burden it has become in their lives. Some feel frightened and
confused at the prospect of perhaps having to be the responsible,
healthy care-giver in the relationship.

"Whatever couples may be feeling, the most important thing is to keep
communication lines open. Involve your spouse in your feelings and
challenge one another to be open and honest. Share your hurts and
pains as well as your strengths. Be supportive to your spouse. Learn
together about the disorder, and develop coping strategies to help
you through rough times. Become involved in the disorder by showing
compassion, concern and caring. Be kind to one another keeping in
mind that no one requested this disorder to come into your lives.
Remember to enjoy the important things in life like memories shared,
time spent, and continue to dream and plan for the future adjusting to
accommodate the disorder. Using the treatment for sleep apnea can
relieve stress and tension and help both of you to relax and enjoy each
other..."

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Cap coughed out of a catatonic state. So did all the others. "That's it?
Uh, I mean. That's it. I think I'll stay for...whatever test I need to do next."
amended Cap leading wise. "Uh, that's if it's ok with the both of you two,
docs."

Brackett jumped right on in, blinking out of his own mind fuzz.
"Sure. First we'll have to determine how deprived you actually
are from getting any rest. We'll test how fast and likely you are to dozing
off or falling asleep in common everyday situations. Then we'll
contrast those findings to how you feel when you're just feeling tired.
To do this we run two studys, The Multiple Sleep Latency Test, the MSLT,
which measures the speed of falling asleep and the second one, The Maintenance
of Wakefulness Testing, the MWT, is a quantitative measurement to help
a physician determine how long wakefulness can be maintained by the
patient."

Gage piped up. "Oh, I see. How fast does he crash and how long can
he fight it?"

"Exactly." Kel and Joe said at the same time.

"Whatever. Let's just get on with it, shall we?" Cap fidgetted as
he rustled the sheets around his hospital gown restlessly.

Soon, he was counting sheep with the best of them.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"So, how'd it go?" asked Gage in the locker room a few days later
as he and Roy walked in.

Cap was shaving in a mirror across the way, brushing on foam for
the straight edge that he always liked to use. Strangely enough,
he didn't turn around to chew them out for prying into his private
affairs again.

"Hey, .. Cap.. you deaf or something? My partner thought he asked you
a question here." Roy laughed.

"I heard ya. I'm....just busy.."

"Oh, yeah? Busy doing what?" Gage asked moving to a sink
to go wash his hands clean of the shoe polish that he had just got done
using.

Cap oddly angled away from him again, showing his two men only
the back of his head in a careful contrivance.

While avoiding the paramedics, Hank forgot one crucial direction.
The door they had arrived through.

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In sailed Chet Kelly.

"OhmyG*d, Cap, you got a nose job.."

"He did what?!" snorted both Roy and Johnny incredulously.

Abandoning whatever they were doing, Roy and Johnny cornered Cap
craftily and spun him around so they could all see.

Johnny started laughing. "It's true.." he breathed aloud. "Nice bandaid
job. What'd they do? Correct a deviated septum?"

Hank's glare fell away and his shoulders, squared in anger, wilted. "Yep."
he said simply.

Marco and Stoker had heard the shouting and had come to investigate
all the hubbub.

"Say.. Cap...." said Lopez in admiration. "They did a nice job, fixing ya.."

Mike added more. "You may look and feel like Pinnocchio, but I'm sure
I can rig something up with your helmet to hide your schnoz from
the general public. Maybe one of those face plates that Hazmat wears
all the time."

"Very funny." Hank said.

Henry waddled in right then, took one look at Cap, and ran out in
a panic.

"Now don't start feeling more self conscious, Cap. He's just a dog."
said Roy hurriedly.

"My feelings are crushed here." Hank said for real. "And it's
gonna take about two months of me using a C.P.A.P. machine at
home and here at the station while I heal inside before I'm deemed
normal again by all the docs."

"You're kidding.." sighed Kelly, his eyes going wide. "Gage, you know
what this means, don't you?"

"No. What?" Gage asked, having lost interest in Cap's situation. He was
concentrating completely on polishing his teeth with some Pepsodent.

"It means that I'm not getting promoted anywhere for another year."
elaborated Hank meaningfully. "You can both kiss all your becoming a
captain pipe dreams goodbye." And he left the room, laughing up a storm,
for the coffee pot.

The others followed him.

Chet didn't stay downtrodded for long. He started sighing in a haze at
a private memory once he had re-found the ticket stub from the Fireman's
Ball they had attended the day before in his shirt pocket.

"Are you still thinking about her?" Roy asked in irritation.

"And how..." answered Chet. "Gage did you see Dixie's dress? Man,
guys were falling down all over the place. Including me."

"I wasn't." muttered Roy sharply. "I'm a happily married man."

"Suuurreee you are." Chet teased. "Bet you were thinking the same
thing all the rest of us were the second she showed up at the top of
that stairs landing. Woooweee..Dixie can sure be one
hot babe when she sets her mind to it. I thought Brackett was gonna
stumble down those stairs right after her for a second there. But
Joe caught him nicely. Cap didn't you see her? Talk about your
stunning night gowns. Hers was the mother of--"

"Nah, missed it. I must have been taking a nap." sighed Cap sadly,
and he walked away.


FIN

Eligibility - Episode Thirty
Emergency Theater Live


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