Bear with me, this is another hard one.
Hope you like it,
“Sharon, I honestly believe that things will level off at some point. I won’t lie to you though, I don’t know at what point it will happen.” Dr. Richardson told her.
“What happens if it doesn’t level off?” she asked tearfully as Rick put his arm around her.
The doctor hesitated. “You need to understand, the place where the cyst was is probably one of the most important hubs in the brain. It’s what connects several vital and not so vital systems together. The feelings, temperature regulation, urination, thirst, appetite, and blood pressure are all regulated by the hypothalamus. Not to mention that there are other structures that were also affected. Now, there’s swelling. This is normal, but it affects many other parts of the brain that control other things, motor skills for instance.” he explained.
“What happens Doc?” Rick insisted. After a moment, he growled “Answer the question.”.
“If this continues, it is possible that his body will no longer be able to support vital functions.” he told them.
“What are you saying?” Sharon whispered, very afraid.
“If the rapid regression continues beyond tomorrow morning, he may not survive.” he said softly with pain in his expression.
Dr. Richardson saw Sharon’s thoughts as if they were written clearly in English on her face. “The medications wouldn’t have helped, this was moving too fast, it would have taken too long, at least four to five days.”.
Faced with the possibility that she may yet lose her little boy, she turned and grabbed on to Rick, holding on for dear life. She couldn’t breathe. She felt like a strong hand was squeezing her heart.
Rick, sensing she was going to pass out, moved her to a chair and sat her down. “Breathe honey. Breathe for me.” He was thankful when she took a deep breath and let it out.
Dr. Richardson had moved to a water cooler in the corner, grabbed a paper cup, filled it with water, and brought it to her. Seeing her trembling hands, he handed the cup to Rick, who held it for her, as she took a drink.
“Thank you.” she said automatically.
Dr. Richardson didn’t hear her. He was fixated on the monitor that showed Billy’s room. Dr. Jennings was at Billy’s bedside, changing the dressing on his head. It was plain from the image of two nurses holding Billy down, and his expression that he was terrified. Telling both of them “Wait here!”, he ran out of the room.
As the door opened, Rick heard a child screaming.
Sharon jumped to her feet just as the door closed. She knew that sound! She’d heard that sound before. Her baby was screaming. Throwing the door open, she ran after the doctor with Rick right on her heels.
As Dr. Richardson ran toward the door of Billy’s room, he saw Billy’s grandmother standing outside the room, practically beside herself. There was a nurse there physically barring her way into the room.
Flying through the doorway, he saw Dr. Jennings pulling at the gauze that covered the incision he had made in the side of Billy’s head. The bandage was adhering to the healing skin. Dr. Jennings, using a pair of tweezers was pulling it loose a millimeter at a time. They had either not given the boy any pain meds, or not near enough.
“GET AWAY FROM THE BOY NOW!” Dr. Richardson barked loudly in a baritone voice, as he moved quickly to the bedside and attempted to interpose himself between the child and the other physician, shouldering one of the nurses aside in the process.
This made Dr. Jennings pause and look up. Seeing the vehement anger in his colleague’s eyes he involuntarily pulled away from Billy and took a step back.
That was all that Dr. Richardson needed. He quickly, but gently moved the gauze back in place, and held it as he growled to the nurse still holding Billy “LET GO!” and picked the little boy up and brought him into a gentle embrace, holding Billy’s head against his chest. “I’m sorry, Sweetheart.” he said through sudden tears. “You’re safe now. No one’s gonna hurt you again.” he continued in a soothing tone, as he rocked him back and forth.
Billy, sensing that the doctor would protect him, stopped screaming, pulled his arms in close and continued crying. When the doctor had picked him up, the pain had stopped, and the terror was replaced with a feeling of safety.
The image Sharon saw, as she rounded the corner and quickly moved through the door, burned itself into her memory. The first thing she noticed, was the absence of the screaming. The second was the picture of this six foot tall, muscular man with a square jaw holding her baby with all the care and gentleness of a mother holding her child. He kissed Billy’s bald little head, and looked up. The sheer anger in his tear streaked eyes, as his gaze locked on Dr. Jennings, took her breath away.
Glancing over, he saw Sharon and Rick had followed him in. Moving quickly when he recognized the expression on Rick’s face, he brought Billy directly to Rick. “Here,” he said. “he needs you.”.
Rick was a heartbeat from moving toward Dr. Jennings when, seeing his son, he immediately took him from the doctor, holding the bandage in place exactly as he’d seen Dr. Richardson do when he entered the room.
Billy, snuggling down in his daddy’s arms, hearing Daddy’s heart beating in his chest, began to calm to a whimper.
“You’re OK Baby, I promise.” Rick told him, holding his lips against the bare skin at the top of his head, forgetting everything but the scared little boy in his arms. Kissing him repeatedly, he rocked Billy gently, calming the baby more with every second.
Dr. Richardson moved two steps toward Dr. Jennings and stopped. Once again, Dr. Jennings took a step backward, running up against the wall this time. He looked like a cornered mouse.
Peter Richardson had never wanted to hurt someone this much before in his life. He knew though, if he let loose his iron will, and vented his rage on this sorry excuse for a human being, it would end his career, and his opportunity to help others avoid his fate. No amount of satisfaction at beating this arrogant, son of a bitch senseless, could justify that. “Don’t you ever touch another patient of mine again, do you hear me?” he growled heatedly.
Lucas Jennings knew at that moment, with his answer, his very life hung in the balance. He also knew he couldn’t manage a sound, so he just nodded.
“Get out of here Lucas, now.” Peter told him evenly.
Dr. Jennings quickly made his way out of the room.
Sharon and Phillis were holding each other as they watched this man try to control his emotions. There had been more room on the edge of a razor blade, than the distance he needed to travel before he lashed out at Dr. Jennings. Both had wanted to take their anger out on this idiotic physician that had hurt that little boy, but they knew it was nothing compared to the rage they saw a moment before. Sharon was thankful that Dr. Richardson was that protective of her child, and fearful at the shear intensity of his anger.
Turning to them, Dr. Richardson said “I’m getting too emotionally involved.” as he reached out and put a hand on Billy’s back. “I…this could easily have gotten out of hand.” he told them. “I…” he started.
“No you don’t!” Sharon told him tears filling her eyes. “You’re not walking away from my little boy!” she said just before walking up to him and hitting him with both fists on his chest.
Peter didn’t even feel the blows. The thought of leaving Billy to the fate of another doctor scared the hell out of him. The fear of what he had come so close to doing, added to it.
April rushed over and took Sharon in her arms, holding her tight. “Sharon! You don’t understand!” she said, fighting to keep her contained.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Peter said and walked out of the room.
Sharon finally stopped fighting April and just sobbed. “What happens to Billy now?” she wailed, scared about what little, uncertain future remained for her baby.
“He may have said so, but trust me, he could never walk away.” April told her, her eyes misting.
“What do you mean?” Sharon asked a little calmer as the hope of not loosing the one lifeline in this whole mess became possible.
Ushering Sharon over to a chair she said “Sit down a moment.”
As Sharon sat in the chair, April knelt on the floor in front of her, sitting on her feet.
She took Sharon’s hands in her own. “Twenty two years ago, Peter’s…Dr. Richardson’s son was in this very hospital. His name was Julius and he was five. Julius was diagnosed with Malignant Astrocytoma, it’s an aggressive form of brain cancer, that affects primarily children. He was a beautiful little boy, just like Billy.” April told her as she glanced over at Billy with a tearful smile.
“Was?” Sharon whispered.
“Yes.” she said looking back at Sharon. “He…never saw six. It practically destroyed Peter. I was a new nurse then, he was just a first year resident. I’ve known Peter for a very long time. His wife and I were friends.” she told Sharon. Pausing for a moment, lost in memories. She shook her head slightly and continued. “Brianna, his wife, never got over the loss. Not long after, she took her life.” she said, trying to control her emotions. “He knows how you feel Sharon. He’s as afraid as you are about Billy’s future.”.
“Jesus. I had no idea.” she said softly, as new tears fell. Now the reaction to Jennings, the bending over backward to see that Billy was as comfortable as possible, and the heated way Dr. Richardson had spoke to her in the meeting all made sense. “And I hit him.” she said crying.
“It’s alright,” Peter said from the doorway. “I can take it.” he added with a sad smile.
Getting to her feet, Sharon walked to the door and wrapped her arms around him. “I’m sorry. I really am. I didn’t mean it.” she cried.
Returning the embrace, sharing the fear of losing Billy, he said “Yes, you did. And you were right.”.