The two doors opened widely away from each other then clicked once they reached their fully open state. The room was huge. Patient room sliding glass doors adorned the walls for as far as the naked eye could see, separated by a huge nurses desk containing all sorts of monitors, computers and other such desk equipment. Just as I was taking this all in Peter took hold of my hand and squeezed lightly. When I turned and looked into Peters' eyes, I saw him quite apprehensive. Feeling that he was being overwhelmed by the sights before him, I squeezed firmly then drew him into my side. He wrapped his arm around my waist then squeezed lightly.
Our moment was interrupted by a voice coming from behind us saying "Excuse us. Please step aside."
Turning around quickly, a team of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel were coming down the hall with a hospital bed containing a motionless man in his later stages of life with all sorts of tubes, wires and other various and sundry items going into and coming out of him from every direction.
Quickly, we turned around to let them pass by then Peter said "Wow, he must be really sick."
"That's for sure." I replied.
"Come on, let's go find Matt." Dad said.
"No wait. We need to see Glenda first. She said for us to contact her when we arrived here in the Intensive Care Unit. She will get us in to see Matt." Peter said.
Dad led us to the nurses' station then said "We are here to see a nurse named Glenda, please. Would you direct us to her or notify her that the Blake family is here?" Dad said kindly.
"What is the name of the patient you are here to see?" A pleasant appearing lady wearing a starched nurses' cap said professionally and warmly.
"The boy's name is John Doe ma'am." Dad replied.
"Just a second, let me pull him up here on the screen."
After clicking some buttons she said apologetically "I am sorry to say that he's not permitted visitors sir. Oh wait, you did say that you are the Blake family?" Her facial expression changed: a glimmer of a smile appeared.
"That's correct ma'am." Dad said.
"Come, follow me. We'll find a conference room then I will track down Glenda. You never know where she will pop up at from one moment to another. I'm Rachel by the way."
"We're really pleased to meet you Rachel." Peter said patiently and hopefully.
She led us into a large room with a huge table in the center with leather chairs surrounding it. The carpet was a dark brown which set for a very warm and cozy atmosphere.
"Is anybody thirsty?" Rachel asked pleasantly.
After we decided on water, she drew a carafe full from the large water dispenser then sat it and several glasses down on the table for us.
Once assured that our drink needs were met she said sincerely "Okay, let me round the gang together and I'll be right back. We are not that busy so getting everybody together shouldn't be a problem. I'll be back in a few minutes. Don't worry. We've been hoping and praying for this moment to come John's way for several months now."
"Thank you. We are not going anywhere." Peter said clearly then put his hand in mine squeezing it gently.
About 20 minutes later a quick knock, knock, knock on the door to the closed conference room was heard followed by Glenda saying gleefully "Oh hey guys. Oh my God you look at you. I need a hug!"
Quickly Peter got up from his seat at the table then ran to Glenda where they hugged very, very warmly. I walked to Glenda. She looked at me and said, "Oh David, you are walking. Oh bless you child."
We hugged enthusiastically.
At about the same time 7 people came walking into the room then took seats around the table after shaking our hands one by one.
Peter and I took our seats then Glenda spoke saying "Peter, David, Jim, this is the team taking care of the patient we know as John Doe. Everybody, this is David Blake, he's a cancer survivor that I had the privilege of caring for a couple of years or so ago ".
Next she moved to Peter and said "This is Peter Blake . He was a patient that I had the honor of taking care of. He was injured seriously and was in our ICU as a patient for a few days.
(David wanted me to interject my view on things. Peter.)
Next she moved next to Dad, "This is their father, Jim Blake. He's helped both boys through tremendous challenges. He adopted Peter as his own son because of horrific abuse in Peter's old home. His family has bonded as if they were blood."
After a pause, Glenda continued, "We've decided to go around the room and hear from John's doctors and nurses. They are going to briefly provide you with his current medical status and history. Dr. Halyard, would you please begin?"
"Hi, my name is Chet Halyard. I am John's neurosurgeon. I have been involved with his care since he came into the ER. John had severe head and neck injuries upon arrival. We have operated on him 3 times because of life threatening bleeding that occurred between the tissues of his skull and brain. His last operation was 2½ weeks ago. It was to stabilize his neck injury. Fortunate for him, he has no significant neurological deficits. I see no significant brain injury at this time. My biggest concern is his … what is a good word to describe him … lethargy … personally, I believe he has given up his will to live. No amount of neurosurgery will or can fix it. It is our hope that having family around will get him to moving along in a more positive direction."
"Is he in a coma?" I asked carefully.
"No. No he is not in any kind of medical coma. His brain wave tests, commonly called EEG's, are within normal limits. He does arouse easily, he just does not respond. Does this answer your question?"
"Don't go there, Peter." Glenda said looking directly at me. I definitely felt that I was definitely smirking. David tapped my knee with his then whispered very quietly "Be good."
"So what can we do for him doctor?" I asked.
"He needs a personal will to carry on. Otherwise he is not going to fight his infections – he will succumb to them."
"Ohh, okay, thanks."
"Do you have any other questions for me?"
Dr. Halyard looked at dad who shook his head then he looked at David who said "Soo, if I understand correctly then all he really needs is a will to live so that his healing progresses?"
"That's correct." Dr. Halyard replied
When no further questions were directed to Dr. Halyard he said, "Please excuse me, I have another patient to see urgently." He then got up and quickly made his exit from the conference room.
"Hi, my name is Marcus Springer. I am John's lung doctor. As Dr. Halyard said, I have also known John since his admission to the trauma service. I am going to ditto Dr. Halyard's concerns. John has been on and off of vent assist because of reoccurring pneumonia infections. Initially, we had him on life support because of his neurological status and the fact that he had 6 broken ribs on one side and 7 on the other side which resulted in Pediatric Respiratory Distress Syndrome or PRDS for short. His fractured ribs have completely healed. Currently, he is being aggressively treated for a staph pneumonia, which, since he has been hospitalized for so long, is assumed to be what is called a 'hospital acquired infection'. This morning, I performed a diagnostic bronchoscopy. This procedure inserts a small lighted tube through his windpipe. It allows us to see his respiratory tree. He has a fair amount of scar tissue in his lungs that will or may, should he survive, cause him problems throughout his life."
"Like what kinds of problems?" I asked awkwardly.
"I'd expect frequent infections of his respiratory system. I would anticipate that the infections could be much more severe than you and I might experience with the same bug. He could very well have acquired asthma… perhaps even emphysema. If he were to take up smoking I have no doubt that it would kill him rather quickly. Let me say one other thing on a more positive note… if he survives his injuries, so long as he takes care of himself, he'll probably do okay… he has age on his side. Though he has no medical insurance, I'll be glad to follow him for as long as he needs to be followed."
Dad said to Dr. Springer, "Am I correct to assume that Peter would do much better here in Hawaii than say Los Angeles where lung irritants run rampant?"
"Absolutely. Obviously, we take great care to not have industry that ejects airborne irritants and cancer causing pathogens into the air. We take very good care of our water and environment."
Everybody nodded their appreciations. Dr. Springer then asked if there were any further questions and then when no further questions required answers he excused himself.
"Hi, my name is Ellen McKinsick. I have been John's orthopedic surgeon. I too have been involved with his care since his arrival at University. John's fractures have all healed in good alignment. Our concerns are now solely related to his physical rehabilitation. He sustained multiple fractures in both of his legs and one arm. His muscles are tight. His rehab problems, just as you have already heard, are related to his will to survive. The longer he maintains his current status the chances of full mobility diminish remarkably. We have been exercising him passively. He has allowed us to do this for him, but he will not do anything for himself. At the present time, he is not eligible for our rehab program because a patient has to cooperate and actually do the work, and even more importantly to have a desire to get better. Do you understand?"
"Yeah, I understand." I said as tears began running down my cheeks. All of this is so overwhelming. How can somebody give up totally and completely? Then I did understand. I was there when I took off and headed up to David's house that one afternoon.
Dad reached over and took a box of Kleenex that had been offered to me then drew some out and gently wiped my eyes. I took one of the Kleenexes then blew my nose and said "Sorry."
"There's no need to be sorry. This is a lot for you and your family to take in all at once."
I nodded. David squeezed my hand firmly. I looked at him… despite his strong desire to be helpful and supportive to me his eyes indicated that he too was stressed at and over all the information we were receiving. Dad, the strong one, had concern written on his face and in his body language however when he looked at me it brought strength to my fading hopes.
Just then Dr. McKinsick's pager loudly beeped. She looked at it then said, "The Emergency Room is paging me… do you have any further questions for me?"
When nobody had any further questions she excused herself them took off to take care of a patient in the Emergency Room.
Glenda said, "John's heart surgeon and urologist could not be here today. Both are tied up in surgery. They did however tell me to tell you that his heart and bladder injuries are healed, and that they should cause him no difficulties in his future."
I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that he was okay in those regards. Glenda added, "Just so you know, John had a small laceration to the lining of his heart. Most patients do not survive this injury. The important things to remember here are: that he DID survive and that he has no complications from his injury. He was left with a scar down the middle of his chest. It is narrow. He had no post operative infection."
"Uhm, why did he have a urologist?" David asked hopefully.
"That's a good question. A urologist takes care of kidneys, bladders and genitals. John's had a few episodes of kidney failure. He also had what's called a 'fracture' of his right kidney. This required removal. The operation was performed on his day of admission because he was having life threatening hemorrhage from the injury. It's important to say that he survived this injury too."
"But why is he having kidney failures?" Dad asked inquisitively.
"That's a good question too. To treat and to prevent infection he's received many, many doses of high powered antibiotics. Although he was in a coma for quite some time we did empirically treat him for pain… we always assume a patient in a coma is indeed 'here'."
"Okay, thanks, I understand now. His kidneys – has he received dialysis?" Dad replied.
"Yes he has. In fact, he had a dialysis treatment just this morning. He rallies after a treatment. His body is requiring fewer and fewer treatments… this is a good sign and leaves us hopefully optimistic."
I said, "I'll give him one of mine. Dad, I have to."
Before dad could answer Glenda said, "We need to take this one step at a time. John has many obstacles to overcome first."
"If my kidney will save Matt's life then I have to do it." I said emphatically.
"Me too but how do we get started?"
Dad looked at me with concern on his face. Finally, he nodded and then deflected his concerns onto Glenda, "I would like to be tested too."
Glenda was overtaken by our care and concern toward someone we hadn't even met yet. I felt that I had to do 'something' and that I couldn't just idly sit back and not do anything.
She made notes on a pad of paper then looked up, "I've made notes to myself to speak with Dr. Miller about your willingness to be donors. Do you have any further questions?"
I spoke up, "When can we see him?"
"I don't see any reason why not. Before we go… we haven't heard from his nursing service care team. The rest of the people here have been or are people who take care of John on a daily basis. Of course, there are radiologists, radiology technicians, lung technicians called Respiratory Therapy Technicians, pharmacists, physical therapists, lab technicians, and other people charged with providing various intense and specialized cares who are not here. In any event, two nurses are assigned to him at all times. He has one primary care nurse. The additional nurse takes care of two patients whereas the primary care nurse takes care of John only. Today, I'm his primary care nurse… so if you're ready…"
As we stood to go see Matt, Glenda asked a serious question of us, "Before we go… I have to know the answer to one question… it's dead serious… what would happen if the DNA tests came back a no match? I have to keep my patients' best interests first and foremost… before I introduce him to you… I need to know if you'll be here for the long haul. I'd hate to get his hopes up only to have them dashed."
I replied, "I have a 'feeling' that won't go away. I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that our family is behind Matt – whether or not he is my blood brother or close relative."
"I'm in all the way." David rapidly replied without hesitation.
"As am I. I don't see Jeremy, Allen or Angel having any problem… in fact they were supportive for this meeting today. I don't know what the long term holds for the boy but I can assure you we'll see him through."
Glenda wrote additional notes in her book, nodded and said, "Okay, I feel that you understand where I'm coming from… and I understand where you are coming from. The next thing to do is have you meet him."
Just then a knock on the door interrupted our going forward. A nurse was beckoning Glenda's presence. She said, "Glenda, we have a patient going south in room 200."
Glenda looked at us quickly then summoned the other nurses in the room to go with her. Glenda said to us, "Talk about it… I'll be back as soon as I can. With that she and the other nurses left urgently.
Immediately I said to dad, "We have two spare bedrooms…"
Dad said, "Boys were not even there yet. IF Matt were to come to our home… the stairs would be a formidable challenge…"
David interrupted, "But dad, we could put an electric chair lift…"
"We couldn't do for him what he can do for himself. He'll need challenges to keep his spirits alive, to push him forward, and to give him reassurances that he CAN do it…"
I giggled, "Whatever, you know how we are dad."
Dad clucked his tongue to the roof of his mouth, and with mock indignation said, "Don't 'whatever' me young man… I'll have you know…"
"That we can do anything we set our minds to… is that what you're saying DAD?" David chided.
"FINE! Have it your way… but I'm dead serious… Matt will need to handle challenges. He needs to know that he can take care of his needs… if he has no will to, uhm…, then no matter what we or anybody else does…"
"That won't be the case, dad. I had nothing, and well, I have everything now." I said from the depths of my heart and soul. I teared up as many incidents crowded into my head… remembering how, in so many ways, David especially then dad and Jeremy – how they'd helped me to get my will to live back, and to be someone that I liked and they loved.
David squeezed my hand tightly then leaned in and kissed me on my cheek. Dad reached over and patted my knee. I said, "What about Brad? He gets a say-so too because he's Matt's boyfriend."
Dad said, "Let's take this one step at a time. Right now, I'm afraid that Brad and his father need to stay out of this. I can't say anything more so don't ask.
I started to say something but the look on dad's face said the issue was closed, that he wasn't going to discuss it any further so I sat back in my chair, squeezed David's hand then waited… even though I didn't know what we were waiting for…
Just then a knock on the door interrupted the silence. Dad went to the door and opened it. It was Ella. Dad invited her in. After greeting with pleasantries, dad brought her up to date. She pulled some papers from her satchel, "These are court authorizations for your visitation. They're open ended… meaning that you all can visit at any time provided hospital procedure and policies are followed to the T."
"Like what?" I asked.
Ella said, "The authorization is for your family only. No other visitors are permitted for various reasons I'm not at liberty to discuss."
David said, "Brad needs to be authorized too. He's Matt's boyfriend. I have no doubt that Brad loves Matt very deeply."
Dad looked at David then me and said, "No, not now. There are complications that prevent such a visit from happening."
Ella said, "Brad and his family present a very, very, very complicated situation. It's a situation that I am not going to get into with you at this time."
I looked at dad for a visual explanation. He replied with a shake of his head and mouthed the word "No."
Just then Glenda entered the room. She said, "Hello Ella. I'm actually glad you're here. Administration gave me grief this morning about unauthorized visitation to a John Doe by non-family members."
"I understand. I received a phone call from John's caseworker this morning saying that a court ordered visitation would be required… so I obtained one; here's the paperwork signed by Judge Matheson from family court."
Glenda carefully and thoroughly looked over the paperwork then nodded her approval. She then said, "Everything is in order, now we need to decide who will visit John. Only two visitors are permitted to visit at one time in our PICU. I'd make an exception however his cubicle is too small for more than two people…"
"I'll stay here. This is a family moment. May I use your phone please?" Ella said.
With that we took off down the hall following Glenda at a respectable distance. When we arrived at a cubicle marked with the name "John Doe" Glenda said, "Let me go check on him first. I'll let him know he has visitors. He's been pretty fussy this morning…"
Glenda went to open the door. She got it about halfway opened when another nurse summoned her. The talked for a minute then Glenda said, "You guys wait right here. I'll be right back." Then she and the other nurse took off for a patient's room in a corner cubicle.
My stomach, upset already, did a nose dive. As luck would have it a restroom was close by. I headed for it and made it just in the nick of time…
Dad and David were washing their hands when I came out of the stall. David asked, "Are you okay now?"
"Yeah… you know how my stomach gets…"
Dad asked, confirming question, "Are you okay?"
I replied, "Yeah, I feel better."
After washing my hands we exited the bathroom then went to Matt's room and waited for Glenda to return. She arrived a few minutes later and apologized but emphasized they were getting busy all of a sudden.
She went into Matt's room then returned a few minutes later, "As I said, he's pretty fussy today. He refused his bath. His temperature is a bit high so we have him on a cooling blanket. He has no covers… is that a problem?"
"No." I said emphatically. Dad regarded me carefully then he looked at David.
"That's no problem for us so long as Matt's okay. Is he okay with having visitors?"
"As I said before, he's fussy. Right now, I'm not sure how he will react to you. My first thought is to have you come back another time -however- I'm not sure he'd be ready then … so … the decision is yours."
I hastily replied, clearly tired of the obstacles "It's now or never – I say now."
Dad nodded. David squeezed my hand earnestly.
Glenda nodded, "Matt is able speak. I'll have to put a finger over his tracheotomy. This allows him to speak. As a fair warning, he usually cusses and tries to scream when we do try to make him talk. As I said, he's not too sociable today, I'm afraid."
I started to say something but dad looked at me and gave his cautionary facial expression that stopped the comment from exiting my mouth.
"Are you ready?" Glenda asked softly.
I nodded; dad nodded; David nodded. Glenda led me to the door. I put my hand on the handle but hesitated a second too long. Dad and David stepped up behind me and put their hands on my shoulders. Glenda then took the lead. She opened the door then urged us inside. She loudly said to John, to Matt, "John, you have visitors. Come on honey wake up now."
She urged me to John, Matt's side. Matt's eyes were bugging out of his head with anger but then relaxed noticeably when he saw me standing there. Violently, I shook as a chill overtook me. From somewhere I said to nobody in particular, "Oh David …" with a strangled voice as what I saw lying there was a clone of me. Thin as he was, his facial features were nothing short of a mirror image of mine. Tears began freely falling from out of my eyes. They then rolled down my cheeks and settled on my shirt. I brokenly said, "Why mom? Why did you do this to us?"
I felt David shake and when I turned to face him, he was softly crying. He said just above a whisper, "How could she do this to you and Matt? I just don't understand. Why?"
I looked at dad when Matt didn't open his eyes – yet I saw them working underneath his eyelids. Dad's eyes were filled with unshed tears. He said to Matt, "Matt, your brother is here to visit. Can you open your eyes?"
Once I regained my composure I whispered into his ear "Matt. It's me, Peter. Wake up." I then put my hand under his, took his fingers and squeezed lightly.
His hand tried to pull away from mine but was limited from how far it could move away by the cloth appearing strips holding his hands down onto the bed. His face grimaced, not from pain… instead his movements and not his words clearly and unmistakably said to leave him alone, and to just go away. He soon though settled down. His hand plopped back down on the bed and he rested there.
I was drawn to him. I looked back over my shoulder and saw David standing next to me. Next, he put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed lightly just to let me know that he was there in body and soul. I felt comforted. I looked to dad… his unshed tears began shedding, were flowing freely from his eyes and were landing on own shirt.
I said to Matt, "Okay, here we go. I don't know if you are my brother but I have to find out, I have to know, so do you."
One thing I noticed almost immediately after thinking those words was the increase in the beep-beep-beep sound on the monitor above his head.
Encouraged, I decided to go for broke.
I leaned down near his face then put my lips on his cheek and kissed it softly saying "Matt. Wake up. It's me, Peter. Wake up. It is okay, don't be afraid. Don't be angry. I'm not going to hurt you I promise."
Very gently, I put my left hand on the right side of his cheek then my right hand on his left cheek and softly said "Open your eyes Matt. At least look at me for a second will ya?"
"He's moving his hand, Peter." David said softly in my ear. Looking down, Matt had his hand extended as if he were looking for something.
"Go ahead David, take his hand in yours. He needs to feel our love." I said softly then reached in and kissed Matt on his forehead. Leaning back, I readily noticed that Matt had opened his eyes no wider than a slit that is until he saw my eyes for the very first time.
Once our gaze locked on each other, his eyes opened as wide as saucers and became very wet, so did mine. My eyes were very wet and overfilled, and sure enough I felt them roll down my cheeks onto Matt's skin.
His face came alive. The lines that had been drawn on them momentarily went away. I could have sworn, at least for a moment, that he was trying to smile, just maybe, I was hoping so. I reached into his face and kissed him softly on his forehead again and said "Matt. It is me Peter. I love you. I feel it coming from you too."
"Why?" Matt mouthed.
"I don't know why, Matt. I really don't. But we have today, and we have the future. Will you join me? Please."
"Glenda, Matt's trying to release my hand. He's pulling it toward Peter I think. It feels like he is." David said then sat down behind me and used his free arm to hug me into him.
"Matt that hunk trying to move in on us is David. He is my soul mate for life. He's my boyfriend."
Matt's eyes went wide then they looked over to Glenda and softened dramatically.
"Okay, Matt. Matt is your name by the way – of course you already knew that didn't you? No wonder you wouldn't respond to John." Glenda chuckled then came over to the side where we were not sitting on then she added "Matt, if you promise not to yank your tubes out then I'll release your restraints."
"Yes." Matt mouthed.
"Here Peter, put your thumb over this little hole right here , he'll speak to you but you will have to listen closely because his lungs are very weak."
As soon as Glenda released the last restraint holding his arms down, Matt raised both of his arms up as far as he apparently could then rested them on my lower waist. He squeezed lightly.
When he began moving his lips, I lowered my right hand down off of his face and covered up that hole. He said "Peter? Who are you? You look like me. Why?"
"I don't know for sure. Matt, you have to fight back. You have a challenge to face. We can all do it together. You aren't alone. David is here, he's my boyfriend. Dad is standing over there."
Matt looked up at David then raised his eyebrows and reached for his throat. Glenda got real excited and came over and said "Matt, don't pull that tube out or I'll have to restrain you again because if I don't then you could hurt yourself."
Matt continued to reach up to his throat then covered the hole in his neck himself and said first to David then to dad, "Nice to meet you."
"Matt, my mom's name is Tanya. Is yours?" I asked. I just had to know and couldn't put the burning question off any longer.
Matt moved his hand back to his neck then closed the hole and said "You are my brother? She told me once. I tried. Alone though."
"Me too, I was all alone doing what I had to do in order to survive. Oh Matt, it's a long story. Not now though."
"No not now. Later."
"Matt, so your mother's name is Tanya? It's very important." Glenda said.
"She is." Matt said brokenly. He then raised his hand, brought it to my cheek. He rubbed my face softly in little circles. Amazement overtook all facial expressions… then I noticed a trace of anger. I thought about retreating, and Glenda stepped up the bed just to make her presence known but Matt said, "How did you find me?".
"Brad told me."
Clearly alarmed, Matt replied, "He dead. No. He killed."
David said, "We had a party on Labor Day. Several people on the swim team were there. Peter has a picture of him on his phone. He's like 5′ 6" tall, weighs about 120 pounds, has blond hair, and is major hot and hunky…"
I took my phone from my pocket, turned it on, and brought up the pictures David had mentioned to Matt. I blew the first one up large then showed Matt.
His eyes went wide then burst with tears. He began heaving with sobs which set off all kinds of alarms and buzzers. It also threw him into a massive coughing fit, one that he could not control nor stop.
Glenda quickly urged us away, "Leave. Go wait in the conference room. Help yourself to the snacks, soda pop, coffee, tea and anything else. You need to leave now. Matt you aren't going to like this…" As if it were possible Matt began gagging, thrashing… dad urged us out of the PICU room then put his hand on my shoulder and pushed me to the conference room without a word said.
When we arrived in the conference room, I began sobbing unabated, and cried and cried and cried. Without regaining control of my emotions, I said, "Why did he say they killed Brad dad? And why did he react to seeing his picture? Is he going to die?"
Dad replied, "I don't know son. The doctors have said that he has many obstacles in the way of his recovery."
To be continued