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Chapter 51

All the color drained from Jackie’s face as she stared up into Dr. Adele’s concerned face. She glanced back at Nick, who also stared up at the doctor, a look of shear dread on his face.

“What’s wrong?” Jackie whispered, needing to know, but in a way, not wanting to hear the answer.

Dr. Adele took a deep breath and began, a catch in his voice. “There’s no easy way to tell you this, Jackie, but the odds of Brian pulling through now are very, very slim. He’s in a coma, his brain activity level is low, and we’ve discovered he has an infection now, derived from the pneumonia. His immune system is extremely weak because of the drugs we gave him to keep his body from rejecting the new heart, and it can’t fight off the pneumonia, plus this infection. And now, as a result of the infection, the heart is failing. His body is rejecting it, and there’s nothing we can do. If we increase the dosage of immune suppressants, his immune systems will be nearly non-existent, completely unable to ward off the bacteria from the pneumonia and the infection. If we lower the dosage to regain the function of the immune system, however, his heart will fail even more, and he will die. It’s a vicious cycle, one that will soon prove fatal, I’m afraid. It’s not easy to say this, but we need a miracle to save your son’s life.”

Jackie couldn’t hold it back anymore. She broke down, sobbing.

His heart breaking for this poor mother, who had lost one son and was soon going to lose another, Dr. Adele wrapped his arms around Jackie’s shaking form and hugged her. He knew it would be of little comfort to her, but he hoped this gesture would show her how much he cared about her son, show her that he would do anything to keep her baby alive.

Nick was crying now too. After his heart to heart with Jackie, he felt no shame in letting it all out. And what made it even worse was seeing her cry to, as if her soul were dying. Brian was his best friend, but this was his mother. His mother, who had already lost her only other son. What more could go wrong for this poor woman?

“Jackie, you need to come to the ICU with me right now to see Brian. This could be one of your last times with him,” Dr. Adele spoke softly into Jackie’s ear.

Jackie nodded, furiously wiping her watering eyes.

“Can I come too?” Nick asked meekly. “Please… I need to see Brian one last time. Please,” he pleaded, his voice faltering.

“Dr. Adele, I know there’s rules that say only family can come, but please, Nick is so important to my son. Surely you could make an exception for him and for the other three guys in his group,” Jackie said, her eyes pleading the doctor.

Dr. Adele nodded without protest. “But, young man, only for a few minutes. You’re a patient in this hospital too now, and I can’t let you out of your bed for so long.”

“Just a few minutes,” Nick said softly.

“I’ll call a nurse in to get you ready to come, okay?” Dr. Adele confirmed.

“Oh thank you. Thank you so much,” Nick said gratefully, tears of gratitude filling his eyes.

“It’s the least I can do,” Dr. Adele said, gently patting his shoulder. “We’ll see you in the ICU soon.”

Nick nodded.

“Bye, honey,” Jackie said softly, managing a sad smile at poor Nick.

He managed a half smile back and watched as she followed Dr. Adele out of the room.

***

“Take as much time as you need,” Dr. Adele said kindly, patting Jackie on the shoulder, as he held the door of Brian’s ICU room open for her.

“Thank you,” Jackie replied graciously, stepping cautiously into the room.

Dr. Adele shut the door softly behind her and left to make his rounds. He felt defeated and depressed at Brian’s sudden turn for the worse, but he had to keep working, keep making other patients get well, even though he was quite certain that Brian would not.

***

Jackie's eyes filled with tears as she sat down next to Brian’s bed.

“Oh, baby,” she murmured, taking his hand and squeezing it tightly in hers, as if somehow, some of her strength and energy would seep through his skin and bring him life. But that was impossible. Jackie smoothed back Brian’s wavy bangs, as she had done when he was just a little boy. Knowing that she might never be able to do it again made her cry even more. “You’ve been through so much, my poor sweet baby,” she whispered to him, through her tears. “You’ve had so many obstacles to endure in your life, and this is yet another one, like when you were five. But you made it then, baby. Please, do it again. Prove the doctors wrong, and live.” She rubbed his hand vigorously, pleading with him. But of course, he did not respond.

Jackie wondered if her son could even hear her. Dr. Adele had said his brain activity level was low, since he was in a coma. Could he even make out her desperate pleas in such a state? She hoped he could; she hoped that maybe hearing her voice, hearing the voices of all the people that cared about him would bring him back from his place between life and death and help him pull through, even with all the odds against him.

Chapter 52