After coming back from a short drive, Kay entered her living room and hollered, “Esther! Esther! Esther for heaven’s sake where are you?”
“I’m sorry Mrs. C. I was in the kitchen. Is there something I can do for you?”
“Have there been any calls? Any calls while I was out?”
“No, I’m sorry, Mrs. C, nothing. Is something wrong?”
“I hope not. Dear God I hope not.” Kay answered her, only partly paying attention to Esther and the confused expression on her face. With a wave of her hand, she said, “Never mind, never mind. If anyone calls, anyone, I want you to let me know right away. Right away, Esther, is that clear?”
“Yes, Mrs. C. Are you sure there’s nothing I can help you with?” Esther answered still confused and beginning to get concerned.
With a soft smile, Kay told her, “No, nothing else, just let me know if anybody calls, especially if it’s one of the Newmans.”
“Mrs. C, I don’t mean to overstep, but it sounds like you’re worried something’s happened to one of them.” Esther treaded carefully, although she couldn’t hide her curiosity.
“I really hope not.” Kay whispered half to herself.
At Esther’s curious, questioning expression, her silent plea to be told more, Kay sat on the couch and finally told her, “Last I heard, Victoria hasn’t heard from her parents in hours and neither have Douglas or Hope. I got a phone call from her several hours ago and she said neither of them have heard from them at all.”
“I can see why you’re worried. That’s not like Mr and Mrs. Newman at all. I hope everything’s alright.”
“So do I, Esther, so do I.”
“I’ll say a few prayers.”
“Thank you, I know they’d really appreciate it. Thank you Esther.”
“You’re welcome, Mrs. C. If there’s anything else I can do, just let me know.” With a comforting smile, Esther left Kay alone with her thoughts.
“What could be going on? What in God’s name could be going on? Could it be Victor’s heart? Could that be the problem? Is that what’s happened? Could he be in the hospital because of his heart? Nikki told me a couple of days ago he was scheduled for surgery, but she didn’t even hint at it being this serious.” Kay murmured aloud, sincerely hoping she was wrong. Then, as little chills slipped silently, hideously down her spine, she whispered, praying she was wrong. “Dear God, it can’t be the babies, this can’t have anything to do with them! Please dear God, no! Please just keep those babies safe, please! Please, Lord, just keep them all safe!”
“Damn it! I can’t believe I fell asleep! What time is it?” Nikki rasped as she rubbed her eyes tiredly and sat up on the waiting room couch at Memorial.
“A little after one in the morning.”
“You’re finally up.” Nikki said with a smile.
“Yeah, I woke up a few minutes ago.”
“Been catching up on your reading?” Nikki asked with a smile as she noticed Victoria now had the binder in front of her.
“I figured it’s the only thing I can do to help anybody right now, so I’d better do it.” Victoria told her before going back to it.
“Prevention–Remembering your medicine–If you’ve got trouble remembering to take your medicines, try the following: Take your medicines at the same time every day.–That makes sense, you get into a routine that way.– Establish a routine. Set a separate alarm clock to remind you when it’s time to take your medicines.”
Nikki interrupted with a smile. “With your father’s temper, he’d probably end up smashing it.”
“Good point, it’s not worth the aggravation.” Vicki agreed with a smile.
“Buy a pill box marked with dates and times. You can get them at your local pharmacy. But, talk to your pharmacist before using one. Some medicines should be kept in their original packaging. Keep a daily medication chart. Make copies and hang it up where you’ll see it and fill it in every day.”
Turning to her mother, Vicki said hopefully, “That might work.”
“We have to get him to agree to it first, and getting him to agree to any of this stuff will be a feat in and of itself!” Nikki told her sceptically, knowingly.
“Mom, we need to try! It may be the only thing we can do!” Vicki told her wisely, determined to make her point.
“We’ll try.” Nikki remained sceptical, although she knew she had to give her daughter some hope. ‘She’s hanging by a thread, I can tell. She’s trying so hard to be strong, but she’s barely hanging on. This is the first time since she got here that I’ve heard any hope in her voice. I can’t take that away from her.’
“Treatment–How long will rehabilitation last–Once survivors are out of the hospital, one or more members of the health-care team may continue to monitor their progress. Some health professionals might make home visits; others might arrange for office visits. This can give the caregivers and survivors valuable support. Rehabilitation services might also be available in the community through hospitals, nursing homes and support groups. Nobody can say precisely how long a program should last. Every program is tailored to meet individual needs. A program can also change as the survivor’s condition gets better.”
As tears welled up in her eyes, Vicki silently, gently put the binder on the couch beside her and walked quickly to the window.
“Victoria, sweetheart, what’s wrong?” Nikki asked as gently as she could.
“Nothing. It’s nothing, I’m just being sappy and sentimental, that’s all.” Victoria lied as she wiped at the tears running down her cheeks while keeping her back to her mother.
“With your father in the hospital, I’m not surprised you’re this upset. Honey, I wish you’d talk to me.”
“Why? What’s the point? It won’t change anything! Dad’s still lying in a hospital bed fighting for his life, the doctors are still telling us to give up on him! It won’t change anything!”
“It may not change any of that, but, it might just make you feel better.” Nikki countered wisely.
“Forget it, it’s stupid. I’m not the one we need to worry about here!” Vicki tried her best to brush it off.
Turning Victoria around to face her, Nikki softly countered.“Not if it’s upsetting you this much, it’s not.” As the last thing she said registered, Nikki thought to herself, ‘What is going on with her? It’s more than the situation with Victor; much more! It’s almost as if something’s going on with her, something she’s trying desperately to hide; something she’ll do anything to keep me from finding out.’
“Remember when Dad was in the hospital after he had a heart attack, after that argument with Jack?” She began quietly, hesitantly.
“Yeah, what about it?” Nikki asked confused.
“This is deja vu all over again! I can still see him lying in that hospital bed, so weak he can’t even speak! I still remember how close we were to losing him and it’s happening again!” Victoria exclaimed, wanting, needing, on some level, to lash out.
“I had no idea you’d been to see him.” Nikki murmured surprised.
“I snuck in, I knew you wouldn’t let me go on my own. I knew you’d find a way to keep me from going.” Before Nikki could offer any defence, she hurriedly continued. “It wasn’t because you didn’t want me to see him. You were trying to protect me, you would’ve been trying to protect me. But the last thing I needed was protection, I needed to see my father.”
“Any way, I remember one talk we had when he was feeling a little better. Somehow the subject of rehabilitation came up and that, to him meant hospitals and nursing homes. I still don’t really understand why he thought of nursing homes, but he did. The thing that sticks out in my mind the most is the fear I saw in his eyes when he talked about losing you and spending the rest of his life locked away in some nursing home with nobody remembering him. Mom, he was terrified, he told me he never wanted to end up that way. He wanted to spend whatever time he had left with his family, however long that might be.” Vicki took a few moments to calm down and try to stem the flow of tears running down her face before finishing in a choked, heart broken voice. “Mom he made me promise that, whatever happened we’d never lock him up away in one of those places. He made me promise we’d never do that to him. He made me promise we’d never forget him that way. I promised we’d never do that to him.”
“And we won’t. We won’t!” Nikki told her firmly as she wrapped her arms around her daughter and held her tight before leading her back to the couch and rocking her back and forth until she’d finally calmed down.
After a few minutes, with Victoria curled up beside her on the couch, Nikki again began to read. “The rehabilitation team–The number of services will need depend on their degree of disability. Not everybody who has a stroke will need rehabilitation therapy. A program usually involves the services of many professionals, including:
The primary doctor/attending physician–He or she might be a neurologist (doctor who specializes in the brain or nervous system, rehabilitation specialist or family physician. Doctors give supervision and care for medical challenges related to the stroke.
The nurse–works closely with survivors, their families and the health-care team during the initial stages after the stroke. Nurses help survivors with daily care like taking medicines, bathing, dressing and toileting until they can do more for themselves. In addition, they aid in organizing the community services which survivors need following discharge.
The pharmacist–gives prescribed medicine and can answer questions regarding medicines.
The physiotherapist–aids survivors who have difficulty using an arm, a leg or one side of theri bodies, and teaches special exercises and techniques to improve muscle control, balance and walking.
The occupational therapist–helps survivors to do daily tasks on their own and learn new practical skills for everyday life.
The speech-language pathologist–helps survivors make speech better, learn other ways of communicating and deal with any swallowing problems.
The psychologist–helps with thinking, memory skills and emotional issues.
The social worker–helps survivors and their families work deal with feelings of anger, sadness, depression, confusion and anxiety which are common following a stroke. Social workers also help with community services, family finances, work and discharge plans.
The recreational therapist–helps survivors plan new hobbies and interests, or get back to old ones in a different way.
The dietitian–helps survivors plan healthy meals to aid in weight control, controlling cholesterol levels and other dietary needs.
The survivor’s family and friends–can give emotional support and help carry out many rehabilitation techniques at home.” Getting up to pace the waiting room, Nikki couldn’t help the nervousness that seemed to be getting worse by the minute. “I’m going to the chapel. I’ll be back in a little while.”
“Do you want some company?”Victoria tried to sound helpful, though her heart was breaking both at the sight of what her father’s situation was doing to her mother and the silent, terrifying knowledge they both held that it might very well get worse before it got better. “No thanks. I need to be alone. I’ll be back. Call me if there’s any change.” With a quick kiss on the cheek and what she hoped was somewhat of a comforting smile, Nikki headed out.
As she watched her mother walk out, Victoria prayed with everything in her that she’d soon have good news for her mother.
She glanced briefly at the binders of research her mother had been so engrossed in almost since her father had been brought in and briefly considered diving into it.
Then, restless, she rose to pace the small waiting room hating how silent the hospital sounded. “It’s going to take a lot more than reading some research to get my family out of this one. It’s going to take a lot more than some simple reading to get my father out of it.”
With tears pouring from her eyes, Victoria slowly paced to the window and staring out it blindly, blankly began to pray. “Lord, I don’t know if you’re there, but if you are, I need you to listen. My father’s sick–he may be… he may be…” Barely able to get the word past her lips, she choked out in a heartbroken sob, “he may be dying. I know I don’t pay enough attention to you. I don’t go to church or take time to remember what I have and to thank you for it. I don’t take time to reflect on how lucky I am but I’m always around when I need something. But, I’m not asking for myself this time. I’m begging you, for my brothers and my sisters and especially; especially for my mom. Please, God, don’t take him away. Don’t take him away from us. We need him here. We need him so much. Please don’t take him away.
My mom would be devastated if she lost him, she wouldn’t know what to do. Abby’s already lost one parent, she can’t lose another. My brother and sister aren’t even born yet. They’re not even here yet. It would be so cruel to take him away from them now. Nicholas and he have had their rough times too, but they’ve gotten through them and they’re closer than they’ve ever been. He’d be crushed if you took him from us now. Please, don’t do that, don’t do that to us. You already know how close I am to him, I wouldn’t know what to do if…if you took him from us now. So, I’m begging you, not for myself but for my family, please don’t take him from us! Don’t take him from us yet!”
With tears streaming from her sad, terrified eyes, she whispered, trying to be strong, although her voice, along with her heart were breaking, “Dad? Daddy, if you can hear me, please hold on. Please just hold on!”
Drained and needing desperately to escape the pain wrenching her heart and tearing her soul like nothing she’d ever experienced, she shuffled back to the couch and slumped onto it.
With trembling hands, she took a picture of him and herself, one that had been taken when she was a teenager, from her wallet, and caressing it with trembling fingers, let her anguished tears fall as she lay on the couch, curled herself into a ball and fell asleep.
Having just come back from visiting a patient, Casey silently walked into the room and called Victoria’s name. When she got a little closer, she called her again. As she reached the couch, the sight of her niece sleeping as soundly as could be expected under the circumstances shattered her heart.
As tears filled her own eyes before spilling out, Casey covered her with a nearby blanket and softly, tenderly brushed the tears from her face before kissing her on the cheek and leaving her a note.
I’m still here. I’m just going to finish up my rounds and I’ll be right back. Don’t hesitate to call me or have one of the nurses at the front desk page me if you need anything.
In the chapel, Nikki had lit a candle before sitting in one of the pews to pray. “God, I don’t even know where to start. You know how much Victor means to me. You know how much I love him. Ever since the day I met him, he’s been my rock, the one person I knew I could count on no matter what. He’s always been there for me, without me even having to ask. During the worst times of my life, and during the best,”Nikki couldn’t help but smile a little as she thought back on the many happy times they’d shared, regardless of whether or not they’d been a couple.
“From the first time I saw him, I knew he was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, there wasn’t a single doubt in my mind. I knew he was the one I wanted to build a life with. He was the first one to make me believe I could actually have a future that didn’t include working at the Bayou, one that was much better, much brighter than I could’ve ever imagined. Without him, I would’ve never have had the life I have now. I would have never even come close. I wouldn’t have Victoria or Nicholas, or any of the friends I have now.” She smiled bitter sweetly as she felt her son and daughter kick. “And I wouldn’t have the chance to be a mother again, something, I’m sure you know, that I wanted more than anything else.”
“I couldn’t have ever imagined, ever even come close to imagining, having the life I have now. I would’ve never imagined having the life I’m lucky enough to have now. I would never have guessed I’d be so blessed to share this life with Victor, with the man I love more than anyone else in this world!” Her smile bloomed as she thought back to the first time he’d taken her to the ranch and the many, many wonderful times they’d shared there.
“Before I met Victor, I had no direction at all, I was just living day to day, without a thought to where I was going or where I wanted to end up. He changed all that for me, he changed that and so much more. For the first time ever I finally felt like I had a future, like I was worth something, really worth something. Except for Casey, nobody, nobody, had ever done anything like that for me before. Nobody had ever taken the time or interest to try and show me that I was really worth something, that I was more than just a pretty face or a nice body.” She ended with a soft smile.
“He’s given me so much, much more than I can ever put into words. He gave me a life, taught me what it really means to live it to the fullest, when I was just wandering aimlessly, content to take life as it came, without a clue about just how much I was missing. I didn’t have a clue what else was out there, what else I could have, what I had completely closed myself off to until he showed me. Without him, I’d probably still be at that bar, or, I don’t even know where. I don’t know what I’d do without him. The truth is, I don’t want to know. I never want to find out. There’s only one thing that scares me more than thinking about what might have become of me, how my life might have turned out. The only thing that scares me more than that, more than I can ever put into words is the thought of losing Victor. I couldn’t handle that, I just couldn’t.” This time, like too many others since Victor had been brought in, Nikki let her angry, terrified, and anguished tears fall.
“I know I probably don’t have the right to ask you this, but, please God, please don’t take him from us now! Don’t take him from us now, when we’re just beginning to put our lives back together again after having wasted so much time arguing over petty little things, things that, I realize now don’t matter and never did. Please don’t do that to this family, not now. My children need their father and I need my husband. I need him more than I could ever put in to words, and deep down, I think he needs us just as much. So, please Lord, don’t take him from us.” With her hand trembling, along with her voice, Nikki blessed herself and said one last fervent prayer. “Please my darling, hang on. Please just hang on. Don’t leave me yet!”