Trials and Tribulations
Tender Loving Care
Dad drove us to school this morning in a dense fog. When we left home, it was bright and it had all the makings of a beautiful day. In a matter of minutes, everything changed. At the time, I hadn't realized the weather wasn't the only thing that could change quickly: people's lives could drastically change in a matter of minutes as well.
Dad let us out in front of the school and before we made it five feet, Mary met us, and with tears in her eyes, threw her arms around Roger, and wept. He glanced at me and I shrugged.
"Mary, what's wrong?" Roger's voice was full of concern.
"Oh Roger, there was a terrible accident this morning." She sobbed.
She had our attention now as we waited for the bad news. There wasn't a doubt in my mind it was someone we knew.
"It... it was... Oh my God, they're gone." Mary barely managed to get out between sobs.
Roger pushed her back far enough so he could look at her face. He tenderly wiped away her tears.
"Mary, please. Who was it?" he asked softly.
She looked up at him. "The Morgans from church."
"Yeah, and it's too bad the little faggot didn't die with them." Sarah added as she walked up.
Faster than any of us could react, Mary spun about and slapped the shit out of her. She staggered back several steps and brought her hand to her face, shocked that her sister slapped her.
"Sarah," you're a better person than that." Mary shook her head. "I hope God forgives you for saying such things."
"Come on guys, let's find a place we can talk uninterrupted." Roger said, looking sternly at Sarah.
We walked down to the new, unfinished football stadium and sat in the top row. Everyone was quiet until I couldn't stand it any longer.
"Alive, but that's all I know. He was alive when they took him to the hospital." Mary replied softly, not crying as hard as before Sarah showed up.
"Mary, please don't take this the wrong way." I said. Roger glared at me. "But, what happened to Sarah? She used to be a really sweet girl."
She glanced at me with a weak smile. "It's okay, I understand why you ask. I've asked myself the same thing. It can only be Cody's brother, Callan, feeding her a bunch of lies."
"Doesn't she know what Callan and his father did to Cody?" I asked, not believing what I was hearing.
"I doubt it. I don't know much either," she said as she leaned into Roger.
"Okay, that makes sense. We never said anything, because we didn't feel it was our place. But why did you slap Sarah?"
"She was being a bitch," she exclaimed with a wicked grin that spread across her face.
I don't remember that I EVER heard Mary say a naughty word before. I had a feeling she never had, before today.
"Yeah. I'm proud of you." Roger said, hugging her to his chest.
"Okay, we need to find out how Cody is." Joey said, his voice almost pleading.
"I agree. Anyone have any ideas?" I asked.
"Well guys, I have an idea." Debbie stood behind us. We all turned towards her. "I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but I'm going to the hospital to check on Cody. So, who wants to come with?"
"How you getting there?" Roger asked.
"Randy is willing to give anyone a ride that wants to go. As long as no one gets him or themselves into trouble."
"I'm in," Joey and I answered simultaneously.
"You guys go ahead. Mom, Dad, and Uncle Sam know you're friends with Cody. I'm going to make sure Mary is okay and head to class. I don't want to miss too much school before I may need to." I knew exactly what he was talking about. He figured he would miss some days later on to help me out.
I smiled at him to let him know I knew exactly what he was saying. "That's cool Roger, and I understand."
Debbie quickly moved between Joey and me. She took my right arm and Joey's left, and guided us towards the student parking lot.
"We need to hurry. No one knows how badly hurt Cody is." She said, quickening our pace.
"Debbie, I didn't know you or Randy even knew Cody." I said, now confused.
"Andy, you weren't at school yesterday. By the time school was out, most of us knew what you had done for Cody. Your friends know you, and knew that if you felt this kid deserved your help, he must be a good kid. I... I also... knew the Morgans..." her emotions broke through as tears ran down her face. "I uh, I liked them and Lisa was always nice to me at church."
I stopped and turned Debbie to me and hugged her. I always knew Debbie was a good person and she made me proud to have her as a friend.
"Thanks Debbie. You're a good friend." I glanced at Joey. He nodded his support and understanding. I smiled briefly.
Randy was waiting for us when we arrived at his jeep. In silence, the four of us loaded up and arrived at the hospital in no time. Randy let us out at the entrance to the Emergency Room and then went to park while Joey, Debbie, and myself inquired at the front desk about Cody's condition and whereabouts.
"Good morning ma'am." I said as we walked up to a young woman sitting at the desk.
"Good morning. What can I do for you this morning?" She smiled.
"Well," I said. "I'm not sure how much you can help us, but we are Cody's friends... um, I'm not sure of his last name. But he was brought in this morning after being in a car accident along with his foster parents, Ed and Lisa Morgan. We heard that the Morgans didn't make it, and I kinda feel responsible for Cody, since I sorta got them together," I felt the weight of the situation Cody now found himself in.
"You got them together?" she asked incredulously.
I didn't like the way this conversation was turning; I wasn't used to not being believed, but looking at it from her point of view, maybe it was hard to believe a fifteen year old could do much.
"Yes ma'am. You see, my father is Judge Collins and..."
"Ah, I see. Yes, Cody was brought in this morning and should be in his room now. Let me check." Her whole attitude changed at the mention of my father.
Joey moved closer until our shoulders touched. When I looked at him, he nodded and gave me a half smile. God he was awesome. In that smile, I felt his love and support.
"He's in room 213. Visiting hours don't start until noon; however, in this case, I think we can make an exception. Just remember, it's a semi-private room, meaning he has a roommate. So keep down the noise and don't disturb the gentleman, or we'll have to ask you to leave."
"Ma'am can you point me to the administrator's office?" I asked. I was determined to make things as easy on Cody as I could and I wanted him to be able to have as many visitors as possible without disturbing other patients.
She pointed to a hallway on my left. "Just down that hallway, her office is the third door on the right."
"Thank you, ma'am." I turned to face Joey and Debbie.
As Randy walked up to us, he blurted out all at once, "Sorry I took so long, but I couldn't find a parking spot. Did you find out where he is?"
I nodded. "Perfect timing, Randy."
He smiled at me and hugged Debbie as she clutched a tissue while trying hard not to cry again.
"Listen guys, why don't you three go on up to his room. There's a couple of things I need to take care of first. Okay?"
They nodded and walked off, but Joey stopped and turned to me. "Are you okay?" he asked with concern in his eyes.
I couldn't help it and I'm sure it surprised him, because it did surprise me. I hugged him right there in the middle of the hospital reception area. "Yeah, I'm fine. I just want to get Cody a better room and make sure he's getting all the care he needs."
He pulled back from the hug to look me in the eyes. "You're the best friend anyone could ever have. I'm so lucky you love me." And then he surprised me with a kiss on the cheek. I'm sure my face turned every shade of red. He grinned. "I'll see you up-stairs."
"Um, yeah, up-stairs," I mumbled. He laughed as he walked towards the elevators.
When I recovered from the less shy side of Joey, I headed towards the administrator's office like a man on a mission.
The secretary glanced up at me when I walked into the office and returned to what she was working on. "Just a minute young man. I'll be right with you."
"Yes, ma'am" I said as I took a seat in front of her desk.
When she looked back up at me, she appeared annoyed that I was still there. "I don't know why you are even here. Shouldn't you be in school young man? Why don't you just run along because I'm sure there is nothing you could possibly need here. The administrator is a busy lady."
Her attitude was rude and condescending, but I was my father's son.
"Excuse me," I paused to glance down at the name plate on the desk before continuing. "Sherry, my business is my own. I am here to speak with the administrator and I would appreciate it if you would inform her that Andy Collins is here to speak with her." For the first time in my life I found myself copying the voice and style of my father when he slipped into judge mode.
"Well, I never."
"Be that as it may, I still need to speak with the administrator. So, please do as I requested."
I sat back with a smile as her face reddened. She did, however, pick up the phone and informed the hospital administrator that I was there to see her.
"Andy Collins, what on earth do I owe the pleasure of your company this morning?" Miss Moore asked as she came out of her office. Before I could answer, she said, "Come in, come in, you dear child."
As I walked by Sherry, I winked.
"Why aren't you in school, Andy?"
"A friend of mine was admitted this morning. His name is Cody and he's in room 213, a semi-private room. I would like to have him transferred to a private room and see that he receives the best of care, whatever the cost." I paused, thinking I better called Dad first and alert him to what I was doing. "If you give me a moment, I'll call Dad and have him verify everything. However, just so you know, I'll be paying for it, and if everything is satisfactory, I'll make a donation to the hospital."
"Sure, Andy, make all the calls you need."
"Thank you, Miss Moore."
"Circuit Court, Judge Collins' Office. Maggie speaking."
"Hello Maggie, I need to speak with Dad, if he's free."
"One moment, Andy, I'll see if he's available."
"Dad, it's Andy. There's been an accident and Cody's been hurt. His foster parents, Mr and Mrs Morgan, were killed."
"I'm so sorry to hear that, son. Isn't that the boy you helped this weekend at the church?"
"Yes, sir. Dad, he doesn't have anyone. His real father and brother are in jail for abusing him and now, his foster parents of two days are dead. I don't know yet how hurt he is, but he's in a semi-private room now, and I want to move him to a private room and do everything I can to make sure that he receives whatever he needs. I want to have Mr. Day call Miss Moore and let the hospital know I can and will be covering all Cody's expenses. Also if I'm happy with the care and service, I'll make a sizable donation to the hospital."
"Are you sure about this, Andy? It could run into thousands of dollars."
"What good is money dad, if you can't use it to help people?"
"You're growing up fast, Andy. Sometimes I think too fast, but you're absolutely right. Hang on and let me put you on hold and I'll call Mr. Day right now."
A few minutes later Dad came back on the line. "Andy, ask Miss Moore for her direct number so I can set up a conference call with Mr. Day."
"Okay, Dad." I turned to the administrator. "Miss Moore, Dad would like to have your direct number so he can set-up a conference call between you, him, and my financial advisor."
She raised an eyebrow when I said 'financial advisor'. "Sure, it's 633-5555."
Dad called her number immediately. She put the call on speaker phone so I could hear what was being said. Dad explained who Mr. Day was and turned the call over to him.
"Miss Moore, I have set-up an account in Andy's name in the amount of $250,000. He has full access to this account with the authority to write a check to cover any expenses that the boy, known as Cody, who is presently a patient at your hospital, might accrue. If more funds are needed, just call me and I'll make the arrangement to add more funds. I have also been told that Andy may want to make a donation to your hospital. All I will say concerning that is, Mr. Andy Collins has the financial resources to make a large contribution, if he so desires. We also request that the hospital keep this matter private."
"Thank you, Mr. Day. I have no doubt whatsoever that the money is available and that Andy's," she glanced at me and smiled, "word is good. I will make all the arrangements I can to satisfy Andy's desire to make sure that Cody's stay here is as comfortable as possible and that all his needs are met. I will ask our Chief of Staff to see to it personally, and I will follow up to make sure of it. If there are any complaints or anything else I can do, please, Andy, let me know as soon as possible. And I assure you that I will handle the paper work myself. Is there a corporate name I can use instead of Andy's? "
"No, no corporate name. Please just use Andy's full name, Michael Andrew Collins."
"Okay. Anything else we need to cover?"
"That covers the money side of things, Miss Moore."
I turned to the phone on her desk, "Mr. Day, thank you for helping me with this."
"That's not a problem, Andy. I enjoy helping you, especially when you're doing things like this. I'm proud to be working for a young man with your character. Is there anything else I can help you with this morning?"
"No sir, but again, thank you."
"Good day then."
"Thank you. Helping me to do this is helping a good kid, too."
"You're quite right and I agree with your actions. Do you plan on missing all day of school?"
I chuckled, "I hadn't thought about it dad. This is important and I'm sure Mr. Horn will understand. The main thing is, I want Cody to feel like he has someone in his life that cares."
"I understand, son, but you also have to remember that if you have to take chemo treatments, you'll be missing a lot of school."
"Yes, sir. I haven't forgotten."
"I'll trust your judgment. Call me if you need a ride to school or home."
"Yes, sir. I will"
"Thank you, Miss Moore. My son and I are in your debt."
"Don't mention it, Judge Collins. It's an honor to help a young man like Andy that offers a helping hand to another young man."
"I agree Edna. Have a good day."
"You too, Sam."
She turned to me. "Well Andy, what can I do for you?"
"Ma'am, as I said when we started this conversation, I would like for Cody to have a private room with liberal visitation, but more importantly, the best medical care he can have for whatever his needs are."
"I will see to it immediately. By the way, Cody was registered under the last name of Morgan. However, you should know that the State is involved and I need to notify Miss Anderson."
"I have no problem with that. Please ask her to meet me here when she has the time."
"I will." She smiled. "Anything else I can do for you?"
"No, ma'am. You've been very helpful. I should go and see Cody now. He has to be feeling pretty alone." I stood to shake her hand and she handed me her card.
"My business and home phone number is on there. If you need anything, please call."
After taking her card, I shook her hand. "Thank you."
When I found Cody's room, everyone was sitting or standing quietly except for Joey who seemed to be softly speaking to Cody.
I'm not sure what I expected to see, but I wasn't prepared for what I saw. Cody's bed was raised at an angle. The top of his head was bandaged, like a Jewish Kippar, only larger. I couldn't see all of his face, but what I could see looked mostly black and blue, with a few pale, unmarked white patches. His left arm, from above the elbow to his fingers, was in a cast. The poor kid's left leg was raised above the bed by a pulley and in a cast from his groin to his toes. His right arm had an IV inserted with bags of fluids dripping into it. When I glanced at his face, I noticed he had an oxygen tube in his nose.
Before I could make my presence known, a nurse came into the room. She was short with brown hair and in nursing scrubs that had bears all over the top. A name tag, pinned on her chest, read Wilkerson, and she was nearly bouncing as she looked at Cody.
"Cody dear," she paused to make sure she had his attention. "I have some good news and some bad news, honey. I always like to give the bad news first. So, the bad news is, we need to move you." She grinned and winked. "The good news is, we'll be moving you to a private room with a TV, radio, and a private bathroom. Plus, your friends will be able to visit you as much as they like. How does that sound?"
For the first time since I walked in, he smiled and then grimaced. "That sounds awesome, but how?"
"One shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, dear. Just go with the flow, I say." She said, gleefully.
That's when Joey leaned to his left and noticed me standing at the door. A knowing smile spread across his face. He twisted in his chair towards Cody. "I agree Cody. I think you should go with the flow for now," glancing at the nurse as he spoke.
"Don't worry baby, I'm sure you'll find out what's going on soon." The nurse said as she prepared Cody for the move.
I turned and walked out of the room, soon followed by Joey, Debbie and Randy.
"You had something to do with this, didn't you?" Debbie seemed to be really happy with the news.
"Yeah, I called my dad and pulled some strings." The next thing I knew her arms had me wrapped in a tight hug that hurt my ribs.
"Uh, Debbie, my ribs."
"Ooops, I'm sorry, but that rocks what you did for Cody!"
"It was nothing. Besides, he deserves it."
""I agree." Randy reached out for a fist bump.
As we bumped fists, Pastor Irvin walked up to us. "Good morning. Is everyone here to see Cody?"
"Yes, sir," Debbie started. "They're moving him to another room as soon as they have him ready."
"You don't say. Do you know why?"
"At the moment, for his comfort." I said. "You wouldn't happen to know what happened do you? I'd rather not ask Cody until he volunteers the information."
"That's a good idea. All I know is what Deputy Baker told me. There was a head on collision between the Morgan's vehicle and a coal truck."
I dropped my head to my chest and wept. I slid down the wall I had been leaning against until my butt hit the floor. I couldn't believe it; again someone I knew had been killed by a coal truck. It brought back all the memories of the day I was told that I wouldn't see grandpa and grandma alive again.
Someone sat on the floor beside me, wrapped their arms around me, and pulled me to them. As soon as I laid my head on his chest, I knew it was Joey.
He whispered, "Shh, it'll be alright. I'm with you. We'll work through this."
"Why? Why do so many people have to die in such a senseless way? It just doesn't make any sense to me." I said, controlling my emotions. I think it was being in Joey's embrace that finally calmed me.
"I can't answer that. I don't think anyone can. But I do know we have to be strong for Cody. He doesn't have anyone else."
I nodded into his chest and wiped my eyes. "I need to wash my face real quick."
Standing and offering a hand up, Joey said, "I'll go with you. That'll give them time to settle him into his new room."
Taking his hand, I stood. Turning to the pastor, I said, "I'm sorry. I lost control there for a minute."
Pastor Irvin placed a comforting hand on my shoulder, "Andy, it's fine. Any time there's a loss of life, it'll bring hidden emotions to the surface. If you ever need or want to talk about it, you know where my office is."
"Thank you, sir. I may take you up on that sometime."
I turned to Debbie and Randy, "I'm heading to wash my face. Find out which room they are moving him to, and one of you come back here and let us know. When I'm done, Joey and I will wait for one of you to come back."
Debbie had a sympathetic expression, "I'll make sure one of us lets you know."
"Thanks Deb." I turned and headed to the restroom with Joey by my side.
"Are you okay now?" Joey asked, clearly troubled by my reaction earlier.
"Yeah, it just brought back a lot of bad memories. I'm good to go, now." I told him after I had washed my face. When I had dried it, he leaned in and gently kissed me on the lips.
"Wow. Joey, you have no idea how much strength your kisses give me." I wrapped my arms around him and drew him into a tight hug. "Thanks, babe."
"Anytime. All kisses and hugs are free for you." He snickered and then kissed me again on the cheek. "You're doing a good thing for Cody."
"He deserves a break. Don't you think?"
"Yup, I sure do. Just like everyone is giving me. Believe me, he'll appreciate it. And you'll have a friend for life."
"I just hope it helps. Come on, let's go find the little fellow."
By the time we returned to his old room, Randy was waiting for us. "You won't believe the room they moved Cody to. It's like a suite. It has a real queen size bed that raises and lowers just like a regular hospital bed, a real couch that turns into a twin bed, two nice reclining chairs, a 36" flat panel TV, the room is at least three times the size of my bedroom, and the bathroom is huge." Randy sounded like a kid in a toy store at Christmas.
I laughed. "Good for him. Which way is it?"
He rolled his eyes. "Come on, follow me. It's up on the fourth floor, room 459."
When we exited the elevator, he led us past two different nurses stations. Just when I was about to asked him if he was lost, we came to a set of closed doors. The plate above the doors read, 'John Paul Cook VIP Wing'.
"This is new." I thought out loud.
"Yeah, one of the nurses told us they just finished it two months ago." Randy beamed. "Someone is paying a pretty penny to put Cody in here. He's one lucky kid." Randy stopped and guilt flashed across his face. "I mean, well, I'm glad someone is looking out for him. It sucks about his foster parents. From what he has said so far, he seemed to have been bonding with them pretty well, considering he had only been with them a short time."
"It's cool Randy, we know what you mean. You're right though, I am glad someone is looking out for him, too." I placed a hand on his shoulder as he led us to Cody's room.
As soon as we walked in, "Andy, Joey look at this room!" a high pitched voiced almost shouted.
"Hey Cody. Sorry I wasn't in earlier to see you. There were some things I had to take care of real quick."
He studied me. The excitement that covered his face when I walked in melted into a serious expression that made him look older. The longer I was under his scrutiny, the less comfortable I felt. I decided I needed to make a move.
I walked over and sat on his bed, careful not to cause him discomfort. "Why the serious face?" I guessed he had put two and two together.
"I have you figured out, Andy Collins."
"Oh, you do, do you?" I chuckled.
"Uh huh. Please, lean over here and hug me. That way I can give you a hug, too." When he finished talking, I could see his water filled eyes were losing the battle to hold back the tears. Yeah, he had figured me out alright.
I leaned over and hugged him. He whispered in my ear as he hugged me back, "You're the nicest guy I've ever met. The best friend I've ever had. Thank you, Andy." And then, so softly I could barely hear it, "I love you, Andy."
I nodded in response and kissed him on the cheek. "You'll always have a friend in me."
"So this is where the party is, huh?" We all turned to look at the stranger who had wondered into Cody's room. He was tall, maybe six foot three with medium length gray hair, big green eyes, and a mustache that seemed too big for his narrow face. I'd have guessed he was in his fifties, but he looked really trim and was wearing a long white coat, like from a lab or maybe a doctor's coat. I couldn't tell the difference.
"I'm Doc Collins, just call me Doc. I'm The Chief of Staff here and I have the honor of making sure one Cody Morgan is comfortable and well cared for." It was easy to tell this guy loved his job and didn't see helping people as taking time away from his busy schedule.
Pastor Irvin stood and shook his hand. "It's good to see you again, Rick."
"Likewise Reverend. How have you been?"
The Doc left the Pastor's side and strode over to Cody's bed. "So, how's our young man this morning? Is there any pain?"
"Just a little, sir." Cody could be a little shy and it showed now.
"Doc, none of that sir stuff. Okay?"
"Umm, okay, Doc." A small smile broke at the corner of Cody's mouth.
"Good, are you comfortable?"
Cody shook his head.
"Lose your voice?" Doc smiled and Cody laughed. "That's better. Let me take a look at your chart here and I'll answer any questions you may have. Okay?"
"Yes, s... Doc." Cody grinned and so did Doc.
I was beginning to really like this guy. He wasn't some pompous doctor that thought he was better than everyone else and knew more than everyone put together.
After a couple of minutes, Cody spoke and I turned towards him. "Eh, What's up Doc?" He had brought his good hand to his mouth like Bugs Bunny nonchalantly chewing on a carrot.
Not only did he have Joey, Randy, Debbie and I busting a gut laughing, but Doc could be heard on several floors from the gut busting belly laugh that almost brought him to his knees.
When everyone had settled down, Doc glared at Cody and rolled his eyes. "Like, I hadn't heard that one before."
I'm sure I heard us all snicker, while Doc's expression changed to a wide grin. "Good one, Cody."
"Okay, back to business. Has anyone seen my chariot? Oh wait, wrong movie. Up three channels and back one. Okay, here we are. Any questions?" I think we all rolled our eyes at that one.
"How long will I be in these casts?"
"Well, that depends on how fast your bones mend. It could be anywhere between four and eight weeks."
"Will I be able to play baseball when the season begins? Mr. Morgan wanted me to play and planned on teaching me how, but when I first woke up here in the hospital, I never wanted to see a baseball again, much less play. Now that I've thought about it, I think I sorta wanna honor him. He was really nice to me." Cody choked up. I laid my hand on his arm to let him know he wasn't alone.
"Cody, I think that's a terrific idea. However, you'll need to talk with the attending physician who treated you this morning and will be seeing you in the months ahead as you heal. I will monitor your progress, but unless I see anything that I need to speak up about, it's his call. However, don't quote me on this, but if there's nothing more than what we see at the moment, since it's still only August, and if I'm correct, baseball season doesn't start for another twenty-five weeks, you should be able to play, if you strengthen your arm and leg enough to stand the strain."
"Thanks Doc." Cody smiled, satisfied with Doc's answer.
"Andy, will you help me learn how to play?" God, I thought Joey could turn on heart gripping puppy dog eyes, but Cody certainly had him beat.
"Cody, I promise I'll do what I can and so will Joey." I said, and Joey nodded.
"I'll help, too." Randy raised his hand.
"Sweet! Thanks guys."
"Mr. Collins, could I speak to you outside?" Doc asked.
"Sure." I stood and followed him out of the room.
"Miss Moore explained the situation to me, and I wanted to make sure everything was fine with you, as well."
"Yes it is. I know there's a patient/doctor thing, but is there anything I should know about Cody? Is he going to be okay?"
"He's a banged up kid, but yes, he's going to be fine physically. After learning about his circumstances, I was more concerned about his emotional well-being. Now that I've met you and his other friends, yes, Cody will be just fine, as long as he continues to get some TLC."
"Tender loving care? Yes Doc, I guarantee you he will. He's a good kid that hasn't had many good things happen for him. I intend to see to it that out of those bad things that has assaulted his life, something good will come his way. He deserves it."
Doc patted my shoulder. "Miss Moore was right about you. Call me if you need anything." He handed me his card. "I need to make my rounds before lunch." He paused, then continued. "I mean it Mr. Collins, and I don't mean just this case here. If you ever need me, call."
"Thank you, sir. I'll keep that in mind. Now that you mention it, you wouldn't happen to know when JT McCray will be released, do you?"