As she waited impatiently, nervously for the ambulance to arrive, Nikki’s mind reeled with a thousand terrifying possibilities of what could’ve happened and how she may very well end up losing the love of her life. “Victor, can you hear me? Victor?” Nikki asked, her voice quiet and fearful. “Victor?” As she called his name, trying fruitlessly to wake him up, she couldn’t help but ask herself, “What could’ve happened? What in God’s name could’ve happened?”
With her heart in her throat and tears burning her eyes as she waited for the ambulance to arrive, Nikki begged terrified, “Don’t go now. Please my darling, don’t go now!”
Although it seemed like years since she’d called the ambulance, it was only minutes and she could now hear them coming off the elevator. Running out of the office, she rushed to the elevator and hurriedly explained the situation to the two paramedics who had just arrived.
“How long has he been like this?”
“I, I don’t know I got here just a few minutes ago. I don’t know what happened. I…I came here looking for him and…” Her voice trailed off as she shook her head trying to make some sense of what was going on. ‘This is a nightmare; it can’t be happening!’ She silently railed against the waking nightmare she now found herself helplessly caught up in and desperate to awaken from.
“I’m barely getting a pulse, we need to get this guy to a hospital if he’s going to make it.”
“What’s going on? What’s happening?” Nikki asked turning from one paramedic to the other and trying to ignore the chills slipping silently along her spine.
“Mrs. Newman, we need to get your husband to the hospital now! It’s his best chance, his only chance at making it.”
“Joe, come on, we’re going to lose him!”
“On three, one, two, three.”
Nikki watched helplessly as they lifted Victor onto the gurney and wheeled him into the elevator and tried to ignore the chilling fear winding its way through her as she waited for the elevator to return to her floor.
With her palms sweating and her heart pounding, she arrived on the main floor as the paramedics were loading Victor into the ambulance.
“Ma’am, I’m sorry, you can’t come with us. You’ll have to meet us at Memorial.”
“Come on Benny, she’s terrified, it’s obvious she’s scared to death of losing her husband, come on cut her a break.”
“Thank you,” Nikki replied quietly before boarding the ambulance.
As she watched the paramedics work frantically trying to save her husband, Nikki felt as if she were caught up in a horrible nightmare or somebody’s idea of a sick joke. ‘Somebody tell me this is a dream! This has to be a dream! Why can’t I wake up?’ she thought to herself as she stared blankly, numbly at the tubes and machines in and around Victor.
The sound of Victor’s pulse and heart-monitor flat-lining jolted her back to reality. “No! No, this can’t be happening, this isn’t happening! Save my husband, please do something to save my husband!”
“Ma’am, we’re going to do everything we can, but we need you to stay calm, can you do that? Do you think you can do that?”
Nodding as terrified tears poured down her cheeks, Nikki barely whispered, “Yes. Please hurry!”
Thankfully, after a few minutes, they were able to restart Victor’s heart. “That was close.”
The rest of the ride to the hospital was a silent, tension filled blur as she tried in vain to make sense of what she was seeing and hearing.
Finally they reached the hospital and the doctors and nurses whisked him off.
“Where are you taking him?” Nikki asked as Dr. Cornwell walked into the hallway.
“Nikki, we don’t know what happened to him yet, we need to work fast if we’re going to find out. I’ll let you know as soon as we know anything.” With that, Dr. Cornwell headed into surgery.
Hours passed and still Nikki paced the hall terrified at the thought of losing him and having heard nothing from the doctors or nurses since Victor was brought in, and quickly grew very impatient. Fed up and well beyond frustrated, Nikki marched up to the nurse’s station and demanded, “What’s going on with my husband? You must have some idea by now, what’s going on?”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Newman, we don’t know anything yet. As soon as we do, we’ll tell you.” The nurse replied apologetically, sympathetically. “Great, just great! I’m supposed to sit here and wait, is that it? Is that it?” Nikki snapped angrily.
Meanwhile, in the operating room, doctors Cornwell and Thorton had decided to operate to see what they could do for him.
“Damn it!” Dr. Thorton swore softly as they got a look at his heart and realized they were too late.
“The damage is too extensive, there’s nothing we can do here. Why didn’t he just listen to us when we told him to stay in town?” Dr. Cornwell said shaking her head.
“We can’t think about that now, let’s just close up and go talk to Mrs. Newman, she needs to know about this.”
“Any idea how we’re supposed to tell her?”
“It won’t be easy.”
“Never mind, we’ll figure that out later. Let’s just do what we can to treat and close him up before we lose him.”
Just then, one of the monitors started beeping. “Damn it! He’s having a stroke!”
“Page Dr. Hoffman to the OR stat! Tell him we’ve got a patient with massive haemorrhaging.” Dr. Thorton said as she took a look at the severity of it.
“Yes Dr. Thorton,” The nurse replied before scurrying off.
“Gauze,” Dr. Thorton said to another nurse near by.
When the nurse returned with the gauze in hand, Dr. Thorton directed Dr. Cornwell. “Put as much pressure on these areas while I try and suction out some of this.”
Dutifully, the nurse did as she was told and handed her a vacuum like instrument so she could begin suctioning out all the blood.
“Dr. Thorton, Dr. Hoffman is scrubbing in. He’ll be here any minute.”
“Thank you nurse.” Dr. Thorton replied without taking her eyes off what she was doing.
“What have we got, ladies?” Dr. Hoffman asked as he entered the operating room.
“See for yourself.” Dr. Thorton said as she stepped aside so he could take her place.
“You’ve done a good job of containing the bleeding until I got here.”
“If we want to save him, we need to work fast.” Dr. Hoffman told his colleagues.
The nurse did as she was told and held it steady as he inspected the damage.
When another nurse returned with the gauze, he turned his attention to Dr. Cornwell and told her, “Hold the gauze on these areas.” As he directed her, he turned to the nurse who was holding the suction and said, “Keep that a full power! We can’t afford any mistakes here.”
Then, turning to Dr. Thorton, he said, fervently hoping she could, “Can you stich up Victor’s chest while I take care of this?”
“Absolutely. Sutures.” Although Dr. Thorton was confident in her ability, she wasn’t foolish enough to think she could do it all on her own. Taking a deep breath, she prayed that her patient would remain stable long enough for them to do what had to be done.
While Dr. Thorton worked diligently, intensely stitching Victor’s incisions, Dr. Hoffman did the same as she tried to stop the bleeding in and around Victor’s brain.
Despite his hands cramping up and causing him severe pain, Dr. Hoffman worked diligently, efficiently to stop the bleeding and steeled himself for what might lay ahead, prepared himself for any possible surprises. ‘There’s no telling how much damage he did, how much more bleeding is going on. I’ve only gotten through a few spots. I need to pick up the pace, but I can’t afford to be sloppy about it.’ He thought to himself as he worked quickly.
As questions and fears reverberated through his mind, he quickly bludgeoned them until they subsided. Reminding himself what was at stake, he once again steeled himself and his concentration as he worked skilfully, as quickly as he dared to try and stop the bleeding.
“Gauze.” He told one of the nurses and when she gave it to him, gently dabbed at yet another sutured area of Victor’s brain.
As the minutes ticked by, his hands began to ache more and more. Still, he kept going as sweat began to collect on his brow and his eyes began to sting.
In his relatively short practice, he’d never seen a case quite as dire as Victor’s. ‘There’s so much blood. He must have let this go for some time.’ Dr. Hoffman thought to himself as he worked almost tiredly.
Gritting his teeth, he forced the slight tremors, ones caused by increasingly unbearable pain, to subside and for his concentration to return to his work.
“Status?” he asked one of the nurses.
“Stable. But I don’t know for how much longer, doctor.”
Ignoring the last comment, Dr. Hoffman briefly turned his attention to Dr. Cornwell and, without taking his eyes off what he was doing, without breaking his concentration, he asked, “Dr. Thorton, how are things going?”
Somewhat satisfied, he continued to work doggedly, methodically repairing ruptured veins in and around the brain until he was almost done.
He stopped for only a moment to inspect the last few sutures and clean them up before moving on to the last few sites.
“Suction?” He asked, wanting to ensure it was still at full power, just in case there were any surprises.
“Still at full power, doctor.” The nurse told him calmly, dutifully.
Taking a deep breath, he sutured the last two sites before checking everything over once again and asking for another instrument, one that would allow him to suture Victor’s skull back in place.
“Vitals?” he asked, not taking his eyes off what he was doing for a moment.
“Still stable.” The nurse couldn’t help the nervousness that crept into her voice.
He tried his best to keep the doubts running through his mind at bey as he very carefully inspected the stitches.
With hands that weren’t as steady as he would’ve liked, and certainly not as steady as he demanded, he sutured Victor’s skull back in place and wrapped it in gauze.
“Dr. Thorton, how did his heart look?”
“Not good. With damage this bad, considering the stroke that followed, it’s a miracle he survived. He was lucky, no question about it.” Dr. Thorton told him honestly.
“Let’s hope his luck holds out.” Dr. Cornwell said before asking, “What now?”
“We’ve done all we can. Get him to recovery and page me if there’s any change.” Dr. Hoffman ordered.
The nurses did as they were told and left the three doctors to themselves to ponder what would be next for this one very unlucky patient.
Without a word, Dr. Hoffman left the OR with doctors Cornwell and Thorton following suit.
“So, what’s next?” Dr. Cornwell pressed as they washed up after what she considered to be, the single most difficult operation she’d ever witnessed, let alone assisted in, even if it was minimally, in her entire career.
“Now’s not the time to discuss it, not the place, in any event.” Dr. Hoffman told her before walking out of the operating room without another word.
Baffled, Dr. Cornwell and Dr. Thorton followed him out into the hall.
As they sat in Dr. Cornwell’s office trying to make sense of what had happened only two short hours ago, Dr. Thorton asked, “What now? What’s the best course of treatment?”
“What about tPA?” Dr. Cornwell put in helpfully.
“No good, it’s only used for strokes caused by blood clots. We know from the tests we’ve done so far and from taking a look for ourselves that it wasn’t a blood clot, the stroke was a haemorrhagic one, not an ischemic one.” Dr. Hoffman firmly replied.
“So what, we just sit back and wait?” Dr. Cornwell asked frustrated and on edge.
“At this point, that’s all we really can do.” Dr. Hoffman’s voice was sombre but held a note of honesty and above all, a bleak hope and sombre understanding.
“I guess the next step is to order tests to find out exactly what parts of Victor’s brain were affected.”
“Yeah, I have a few ideas about what tests we should start with.” Dr. Thorton put in.
“We’re forgetting one very important thing.” Dr. Cornwell reminded them quietly.
“What’s that?” Dr. Hoffman asked confused.
“We need to tell Nikki.”
“Who?” Dr. Hoffman asked, still confused.
“Victor’s wife. That’s one discussion I’m definitely not looking forward to having!” Dr. Thorton replied honestly.
“It has to be done. Where is she?” Dr. Hoffman said as he rose from his chair and started towards the door.
“In the waiting room. What do we tell her?” Dr. Thorton asked nervous.
“The truth!” Dr. Hoffman exclaimed adamantly.
“Easy for you to say, you don’t know her!” Dr. Cornwell replied emphatically, “She’s going to be furious, not to mention devastated!”
“That’s just the chance we’ll have to take-she needs to know!” Dr. Hoffman remained adamant as he held open the office door for his colleagues.
In the waiting room, Nikki paced relentlessly, waiting impatiently for any news. “What’s taking so long? What does it take for someone to come out here and tell me something! I can’t take much more of this! They must know something by now!”
Trying very hard to stay calm despite the fear bubbling up inside her, Nikki walked up to the nurse’s station and asked “Excuse me, my name is Nikki Newman. My husband was just brought in a little while ago. He was taken into surgery. What’s going on? What has the doctor said about his condition? Has she told you anything? Surely she has.”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Newman, I haven’t heard anything from any of the doctors. But, as soon as I do, I promise you’ll be the first to know.”
“Thank you.” Nikki tried to sound polite and keep the frustration and fear tossing around inside her from seeping its way into her voice.
As she paced back into the waiting room, she thought to herself aloud, angry and frustrated with still not having any answers or clues as to what was going on. “What could be taking so long? How long does it take for someone to come out here and tell me what’s going on with my husband?!
Something’s wrong, I know it! Something’s happened to Victor-why won’t they tell me anything? This waiting is killing me! I need to know what’s going on with my husband! I need to know what’s going on with Victor!”
Walking back out of the small waiting room, Nikki headed towards the surgical wing of the hospital.
Running to catch up with her, a nurse said sympathetically, “Mrs. Newman, I’m sorry but you can’t go in there. I know this is very difficult but, you can’t go in there. Please wait in the waiting room, we’ll tell you what’s going on just as soon as we find out ourselves. I’m sure the doctors are doing everything they can.”
With tears rising in her eyes, Nikki whispered, her voice small and fearful, her skin pale, “What if it’s not enough?”
Gazing at her sympathetically, the nurse gently lead her back to the waiting room.
Once Nikki was again seated on the couch, she told her honestly, trying to reassure her, “Wait here, I’ll come and get you as soon as I hear anything.”
Trying to swallow her tears, Nikki whispered exhausted and fearful, “Thank you.”
Exhausted, Dr. Thorton and Dr. Cornwell walked down the hall trying to figure out how to tell Nikki what had happened. “The best way to do it is straight out. I’ve known her almost as long as I’ve known Victor and she hates when people sugarcoat things.”
“Okay we’ll tell her straight out, but be prepared; I don’t think she’ll take it well.
“No kidding! She’ll be devastated!”
Casey was heading home when she overheard Dr. Cornwell and Dr. Thorton talking and asked, “What’s going on?”
“Casey, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but Victor was just brought in. He had a heart attack. We did what we could but it’s pretty bad, between the stroke and the heart attack he had, his chances of surviving are practically nonexistent.”
“Oh my God! Does Nikki know?” Casey asked as her heart broke for her sister.
“No, we were just about to go and tell her.”
“You know, it’s a good thing that she’s got you. She needs all the support she can get if she’s going to get through this.”
Casey nodded absently, speechlessly as they walked towards the waiting room where Nikki sat stone still praying for good news.
“Dr. Cornwel, what’s going one? How’s my husband? How’s Victor, he’s okay isn’t he?”
“Mrs. Newman, you’d better sit down. We need to talk to you.” It was Dr. Thorton who spoke first, a clear note of sympathy could be heard in her voice as she and Dr. Cornwell sat across from her.
“Just tell me what’s going on!” Nikki snapped fed up with having been kept in the dark about what was going on with her husband since he’d been brought in. “Who are you and why are you here?” Nikki asked hostilely, confused and quickly getting fed up with only being able to get bits and pieces of information from the doctors when what she really needed, what she really wanted was answers! ‘Enough with the guessing games, enough with the double talk, they’d better just tell me what’s going on! What have they been doing; sitting on their hands?’ Nikki thought to herself fuming!
“I’m Dr. Thorton, Dr. Cornwell brought me in to consult on your husband’s case.”
“Mrs Newman, we’re sorry, but it doesn’t look good. After your husband’s heart attack, we were prepared to operate on him. However, once we got a look at his heart it was clear that wasn’t an option.”
“Oh my God! What are you saying? You’re just going to give up? There has to be something you can do. What are you going to do now?”
“Nikki, that’s not all.” Dr. Cornwell let out a heavy sigh as she continued. “Nikki, I’m sorry to have to tell you this. Victor has had a stroke. It doesn’t look good. His heart is badly damaged, barely working, the chances of him making it…I wish we could tell you that you have nothing to worry about, that everything’s going to be alright, but frankly, we don’t know anything yet. It’s far soon to speculate. I wish I could tell you he’ll be alright, but…” Her voice trailed off, and unable to tell Nikki the only thing she knew would break her heart, Dr. Cornwell fell silent; painfully silent.
“What? What did you say? This isn’t happening! This can’t be happening!”
“We’re sorry, Nikki, we’ve done all we can. We’ll let you be.”
“Thank you,” Nikki replied quietly, numbly as both doctors walked away. With tears clouding her vision and slipping silently, heartbrokenly down her cheeks, she watched as the nurse walked back to her station and said a silent prayer that she wouldn’t end up losing the one man she’d loved for most of her life, the only man she’d ever really love.
As Nikki watched them leave, she sank back onto her chair and let angry, terrified tears fall.
Slowly, hesitantly, Casey approached her having heard everything the doctors had said. “This is for you,” she said handing Nikki a small off-white envelope with her name on it. “Victor told me to hang on to it in case anything happened.”
With trembling hands, Nikki took it and whispered, “Thanks.”
With what she hoped was a comforting smile, Casey left her to herself to read.
If you’re reading this, it means . . . well, you know what it means. I find myself struggling to write this letter because there’s so much I want to say, so much I need to say. And yet, I’m not sure I can find the words. How do I put into words just how much you mean to me? Somehow, I doubt words are enough. You better than anyone know I’ve never been good with words. But, I have to try.
Through all the years, all the pain and heartache I’ve caused you, you’ve always been there for me, always stood by me, even when I made it almost impossible for you. Somehow, for some reason I’m not quite sure of, you stood by me. You’ve always been that way, you’ve always put everyone else’s needs ahead of your own, regardless of what that meant, regardless of the sacrifices you had to make. You’ve always made sure everyone had what they needed to be happy, even when it meant you had to settle for far less than what you needed. You’ve always gone to great lengths to make sure I had everything I needed, regardless of what it cost you in the process, of what you had to give up.
Thank you hardly seems appropriate, let alone adequate to express how grateful I am, when I think of all you’ve given me. Somehow, I knew when I first saw you so long ago on stage at the Bayou that you’d change my life; I just tried to ignore it at first. I had no idea then just how right I was. My darling, thank you for giving me the life I have. The life we have shared, the life I have been lucky enough to share with you is something I will cherish always. If it weren’t for you, I can’t even imagine how my life would have turned out. I don’t even want to try. I do know this; it would have been far, far more dull and so much more empty.
If I could go back and change things, go back and fix what happened between us so long ago, I would. But, I can’t. I’ll regret what I did, the heartbreak I put you through, for the rest of my life. I only hope you know that in spite of that, there is no one; no one I love more than you. That has never changed and it never could, never will.
If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that perhaps there was some truth to what people said when they said I wasn’t good for you, that you should cut your losses and move on with your life. Perhaps they were right; I don’t know. I do know that I’ll always be grateful to you for standing by me when I needed you most. I’ll always be grateful to you for all you’ve done for me. You’ve taught me so much, much more than I can put into words.
It was you who taught me what love is. Before you came into my life, I was too scared, too angry and hurt to let anyone in. I was too afraid to let anyone into my life, much less my heart. I didn’t feel like I could trust anyone. Because of that, I lived day to day trying to convince myself that I had all I needed, all I wanted. But, you changed that and so much more. For the first time in my life, I felt like I had finally found someone I could trust, someone who wouldn’t try to hurt me or take advantage of me or my trust.
When you looked at me, I knew you didn’t see my money or my power or any of that; you only saw me. That was the best feeling in the world. For the first time, I felt like I could be myself and that was enough.
Then, when Victoria was born and you and I married, you and our daughter opened up a whole new world to me. I had been terrified that I would make the same mistakes that my father had made with me. I was terrified that I wouldn’t, couldn’t be the kind of father and husband that you and Victoria deserved. But you showed me I was wrong. And so, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you, my darling Nikki, for so much.
I love you, now and forever,
As the gravity of the situation finally sank in, along with the significance of Victor’s letter to her, Nikki sank onto the couch and let frightened, heartbroken tears fall.
Awhile later, Casey reentered the waiting room to find Nikki sitting where she’d left her on the couch still holding the letter and staring at it blankly.
Cautiously, she asked, “Nikki? Nikki, are you okay? Do you want me to come back later? Nikki?”
Shaking back to reality, Nikki looked up at her and, wiping her tears whispered, “No, I’m glad you’re here. Have you heard anything? Please tell me you’ve heard something!”
“Nothing yet, but I’m sure they’ll come and tell us what’s going on as soon as they know. Nikki, we need to be patient.”Casey told her sympathetically, reasonably.
“Casey, come on! If there was anything to tell me-if they had any good news for me, they would’ve told me by now! Something’s wrong, I know it!” Nikki told her outraged and exasperated by what she was hearing and indeed the whole situation! “Nikki, stop! You’re getting yourself worked up for nothing now come on!” Casey tried valiantly to get through to her sister.
“You sound just like Victor! I’m not stupid, Casey, something’s going on! The only question is what? Why won’t anybody tell me anything?!” Nikki countered frustrated and furious!
“Because, we don’t know anything! As soon as anybody finds out anything, you’ll be the first to know, I promise. All we know is that he had the heart attack and the stroke. Sis, come on, let’s just sit and wait.” Casey said trying to comfort her without patronizing. ‘What do I have to do to get her to calm down? All the yelling and screaming, all the worrying and fretting isn’t doing anybody any good!’
“Nikki, you have to calm down, this isn’t helping anybody, not you or Victor, and it’s certainly not helping the twins!” Casey reminded her sagely.
“Don’t you have patients to see?” Nikki asked pointedly.
“I’m done for the night.” Casey chose to ignore the implication. “Why are you being so damn stubborn? I’m trying to help you, for God’s sake Nikki, I’m trying to help you!” Casey told her, quickly getting fed up.
“You really want to help me?” Nikki asked a little hostilely, a little wearily.
“Of course! Why else would I be here?” Casey told her, trying very hard to stay calm despite her growing frustration.
“Okay, then I need you to get me all the information you can on heart attacks and stroke.” “What? Nikki, don’t you think you’re being a little premature here? You don’t even know what happened. You don’t even know what happened and you’re jumping to all kinds of conclusions, really, what’s reading whatever information I can get you going to do? All it’ll do is drive you crazy-you know I’m right about this. Just wait until you talk to the doctors, that’s the best thing you can do.” Casey told her, unable to believe what she was hearing.
“Casey, all this waiting is what’s driving me crazy! Please just do what I’m asking, please!” Nikki pleaded emotionally.
“Okay, on one condition.”
“What’s that?” Nikki asked wearily, warily.
“I’m not going anywhere, I’m staying put! I know what the research is and I know what you’ll be thinking after you read it, you’ll need someone here to talk to after you read everything.”Casey replied sagely.
“Fine, but I need that information. I need to know what I might be dealing with, Casey.” Nikki reluctantly relented.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Casey told her before returning to her office to search for any and all the information she could get her hands on.
“Thanks.” Nikki gave her sister a weak, fearful smile as she watched her leave.
Hours passed and still no word on what was going on with Victor.
Casey found Nikki exactly where she’d left her-pacing the waiting room furiously, anxiously awaiting any news about Victor.
“No news yet?” Casey asked, already knowing the answer.
“No, and I’m getting sick and tired of waiting!” Nikki said as she started to storm out of the waiting room.
“What? Casey, I can’t just sit and wait! I need to do something-I can’t take much more of this!”
“Nikki, you need to be patient, you need to be strong. Victor needs you to do that, you can’t give up now-you can’t!”
“At this point, it’s easier said than done. The more time that passes, the more my imagination runs away with me. Casey, the longer I wait here without any word from anybody about what’s going on with Victor, the more I can’t help but think what if-”
Knowing exactly where both Nikki’s mind and the conversation were headed, Casey quickly cut her off as she lead her back to the couch. “Nikki stop! Don’t do this to yourself! Asking what if is the absolute worst thing you can do-for Victor and yourself!” Casey told her wisely.
“What do you expect me to do? What else am I supposed to do, Casey?” Nikki shot back angrily, needing to lash out at someone.
“I’ve got all the information you wanted,” Casey told her as she picked up the two binders of printouts and other information she had gathered.
“You’ve been busy.” Nikki teased with what passed for a smile.
“Victor told me that you might need help dealing with this and I know how much you hate it when people fuss over you, so I figured this was the best way to help. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to fuss over you though.” Casey replied with a small smile.
“I knew I couldn’t get off that lucky.” Nikki replied, giving her a little cheeky smile.
Sobering, Casey explained, “I divided it up into different sections. The first one is information I found on what a stroke is, causes and effects of stroke, the second section is information on stroke diagnosis and testing information and research on types of stroke and the third section has information on stroke treatments and prevention, warning signs and risk factors. The fourth section has research on the brain and heart, the fifth and sixth section has more research on the brain and heart.”
“You’ve been busy,” Nikki said with a hint of a smile.
“Hey, you said you needed it. And, if it’ll keep you from driving both of us crazy and harassing the staff here, it’s worth it!” Casey teased, returning her smile.
“You know, you don’t have to stay here.”
“I know,” Casey’s smile was reassuring, as was her voice.
“Then why are you?”
“You really need me to answer that?”
“Aside from the obvious-that I wouldn’t dare leave you at a time like this, I wouldn’t feel right about it-you’ve got stacks of medical information to go through. Somebody has to stick around and translate it for you!” Casey told her with a little smirk.
“You’re right, sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking.” Nikki smiled a little.
“So, where do you want to start?”
“The first section, I guess. I just wish the doctors would have told me something by now! What could be taking so long?” Nikki tried not to think the worst, but the more time passed, the harder it got. ‘Why haven’t I heard anything? What’s going on?’ She thought to herself, becoming increasingly anxious with each passing moment.
“Nikki, they’re doing the best they can. We need to be patient. I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we go to the cafeteria. Waiting around wondering what’s going on won’t do you any good, neither will looking at all this research. All you’ll do is scare yourself half to death.”
“Casey, I need answers! The only way to get them is to read this research!”
“Okay, it’s your call.”
Taking a deep, steadying breath, Nikki picked up the first binder and began to read. “Definition of stroke/What a stroke is– A stroke happens when the blood supply is suddenly stopped or when a blood vessel in the brain breaks, spilling blood into the spaces around the brain cells. Brain cells die when they don’t get anymore oxygen and nutrients from the blood or there is unexpected bleeding into or around the brain. Signs of a stroke include sudden numbness or weakness, particularly on one side of the body; sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble with talking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination, or sudden intense headache with no known cause. There are two types of stroke: ischemic stroke-during which there is a blockage of a blood vessel supplying the brain and haemorrhagic- during which there is bleeding into or around the brain.”
Turning to Casey, Nikki asked, her voice a mere whisper as she sought guidance she desperately needed, “So, which kind of stroke did Victor have?”
“Nikki, we don’t even know if he had a stroke.” Casey tried her best to reason with her.
“We don’t know anything you mean!”
“Nikki, this isn’t doing you any good. Let’s just go for a walk,” Casey suggested as she reached for the first binder.
“Casey, I need to do this. Just let me!” Nikki wouldn’t give up.
“Fine.” Casey muttered grudgingly.
With her hands trembling and her palms sweating, Nikki continued. “A stroke is an interruption of blood flow to the brain (an ischemic stroke) or the rupture of blood vessels in the brain (a haemorrhagic stroke). The interruption of blood flow or the rupture of blood vessels causes brain cells (neurons) in the affected area to die. The effects of a stroke depend on where the brain was injured, and how much damage was done. Because the brain controls everything we say, do and think, a stroke can have a wide range of effects. A stroke has the ability to affect your: ability to move and coordinate movement, ability to feel: touch, temperature, pain and movement, ability to see or to interpret what you see, ability to think, to remember, understand, plan, reason or problem-solve, ability to communicate (speaking and understanding speech, nd reading, writing and being able to do mathematics), personality, emotions and behaviour.”
“The brain requires a steady supply of fuel in the form of oxygen and nutrients to work properly. The heart pumps blood, which contains oxygen rich nutrients, to the brain through blood vessels called arteries. Four primary arteries transport blood through your neck to your brain. The two carotid arteries are located at the sides of your neck, one on each side. The two vertebral arteries are found at the back of your neck on each side of your spine. The main arteries branch out in a network of smaller and smaller arteries. The smallest blood vessels, named capillaries, take blood directly to and from the cells. The blood vessel network allows oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to all brain cells all the time. Each artery supplies blood to particular parts of the brain. Some areas are supplied by more than one artery.”
Ignoring the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, Nikki was about to press on when Casey asked, “Are you okay? You don’t look so well.”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Nikki lied before continuing in a shaky voice.
“If an artery supplying blood to the brain bursts or becomes blocked and the part of the brain supplied by that artery becomes permanently damaged, this is called a stroke. The more stroke risk factors you have, the likelier it is that you will have a stroke. When part of the brain is damaged, the part of the body controlled by the injured area is affected as well. Stroke survivors…” Nikki’s voice trailed off as she shivered a little and stared at what was written on the page. Then, her voice a faint whisper in the small waiting room, she continued, “Stroke survivors live with in increased risk of having another stroke. Permanent damage will result if the blood supply is cut off for more than a few hours.”
Taking a deep breath to steel her resolve, Nikki continued. “Causes of stroke: Strokes happen when arteries get narrowed and blocked from the inside. As people age, arteries can narrow. Smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can cause arteries to narrow. When arteries get narrowed or completely blocked, the blood supply to that area is cut off. If this blockage happens in the brain, brain damage can follow as a consequence.”
“Brain damage? God, why didn’t he just listen to me! If he had-” Shaking her head, Nikki pulled herself from that particular train of thought, berating herself a little as she considered her words. “Why am I doing this? The last thing he needs is for me to start blaming him! I need to focus on how I can help him!”