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Chapter 47

Harold and Jackie entered Brian’s room together. Jackie gripped her husband’s hand as they came closer to their son’s hospital bed. Although Dr. Adele had assured them Brian would be awakening shortly, he looked sound asleep to them, lying in bed with his eyes shut, his body motionless.

Jackie took his hand in hers, feeling a sense of déjà vu spread over her. It seemed that she had been in this situation so many times recently, standing in a dim, stark hospital room, holding onto the hand of her son. She sighed. When would it ever end? Would their lives ever be normal again? The worst is over, she told herself confidently. Brian’s had his transplant, and now his heart problems are gone for good. I’ll never have to do this again. Jackie wanted to believe that with all her heart. But she was wrong.

***

“Oh, my God. Oh, my God, no,” Nick murmured over and over again, all the while staring at the horrible words of that newspaper headline. It really was his fault. They had all been telling him it wasn’t his fault, but he had known the truth all along. And the press did too. And now the whole world would know. They would know what a horrible person he was. They would know that without him, Harold would still be alive. What would Brian think when he woke up to find that his brother was dead… and all because of Nick? Nick couldn’t even imagine how upset Brian would be. That is, if he woke up.

“Nick, calm down,” Howie said quickly, noticing how pale Nick had suddenly gotten. He placed his hand lightly on Nick’s good shoulder. “Nick, this isn’t your fault. This is a tabloid. They’ll print anything to sell! It’s not true, by any means. You know that right? Right, Nick? Nick!?”

For Nick, the room had begun to spin, and he suddenly could not catch his breath. He began to gasp for air, and his body swayed, sudden panic rushing through him.

“Calm down, Nick,” Kevin ordered, easing Nick’s trembling body back in his wheelchair. “Sit back, and put your head between your knees.”

Nick did as he was told, but it provided minimal relief. Panic and fear jolted through him as he struggled to breathe.

“Take deep breaths,” Kevin instructed, his voice soothing and calm. “Just calm down, Nicky. Relax.”

Nick tried to do so, tried to relax his shaking body and take in slow, deep breaths of oxygen. Eventually, it worked, and he could breathe more easily.

***

Fifteen minutes passed, and then twenty. Jackie and Harold sat anxiously next to Brian’s bed, awaiting his awakening. Impatient and rather worried, Jackie glanced up at the clock to see that it had been forty-five minutes since they had come to Brian’s room, and still, he had not made any sign of stirring.

“Harold, do you think something could be wrong?” Jackie asked, her voice slightly trembling.

Harold’s gaze bore into her, and she could see the worry in his eyes. “Let’s not think the worst,” he said softly.

“Do you think we should call a nurse?” she asked.

Harold considered it a moment, then nodded. “Just to be on the safe side,” he assured his wife. Jackie nodded and hit the nurse call button.

Moments later, a nurse entered the room. “Can I help you?” she asked cheerfully.

“We were just wondering if anything was wrong with our son. It’s been over forty five minutes since we got here, and Dr. Adele said Brian should be waking up in fifteen, at the most. Why is it taking so long for the anesthesia to wear off?” Jackie asked.

The nurse looked perplexed. “I’m not sure, ma’am,” she said. “I’ll go get Dr. Adele for you.”

“Thank you,” Jackie said gratefully, watching as the nurse bustled out of the room.

Dr. Adele arrived in the room just a few minutes later. He looked remotely concerned. “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Littrell,” he greeted Brian’s concerned parents. “Could I have you two step out of the room for a little bit while I check Brian out?”

“Sure,” Harold said. “We’ll be in the waiting room.” He took Jackie’s hand and led her reluctantly out of the room.

***

Jackie and Harold both looked up as the door to the waiting room opened, and Dr. Adele stepped in. A feeling of dread washed over Jackie as she got a good look at him. His expression was blank, almost unreadable, but Jackie could sense that something bad had happened.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, her breath catching in her throat.

“It looks like Brian’s in a coma,” Dr. Adele said sadly.

Jackie’s heart sank. “Oh, no,” she whispered, tears rising from within her. “What caused it?”

“I’m not positive, but it’s most likely from the complications we encountered during surgery. A result of the effect his pneumonia had on the anesthesia. It must have cause a reaction of some sort, which caused him to flat line, and now this,” Dr. Adele explained grimly.

“What exactly does this mean?” Harold asked. “Is this life-threatening?”

“It’s hard to tell right now,” Dr. Adele said. “We just have to wait and see. He could come out of this fine, or he might never wake up from it. If he does wake up, he could be perfectly normal, or there could be permanent damage. Right now, there’s no way of knowing how serious it is. I just want you to be aware of the worst case scenario.”

Jackie and Harold nodded solemnly, unable to speak at that moment.

“I’m very sorry,” Dr. Adele said. “As a doctor, I’m not supposed to get emotionally involved with any of my patients or their families, but sometimes, it happens. This time is one of them. I care about your son, and I’d do anything to make him live through this. Believe me, I would.”

Jackie gently took Dr. Adele’s hand, her eyes brimming with bright tears. “Thank you, Dr. Adele,” she whispered. “Thank you.”

Dr. Adele nodded, offered her a hopeful smile, and slowly left the room, his head bowed low.

Right after he was gone from sight, in burst AJ, Kevin, and Howie. Jackie’s voice caught in her throat as she watched them tear in. She could tell from the expressions of their faces, a mix of anger and fear, that something else had gone wrong. But what was it?

“Look at this, Aunt Jackie,” Kevin cried, thrusting something at Jackie. “Just look at it.” Jackie glanced down to see she was holding a tabloid, which was turned to a certain page. She gasped when she read the headline that leapt out of the page.

Chapter 48