Still sleeping on the waiting room couch, Victoria tossed and turned as she was thrust into a terrifying nightmare that she wouldn’t soon forget.
As she was now, in her dream she lay on the couch wrapped in a blanket.
“Victoria. Victoria. Victoria!” Nikki called her name and shook her firmly.
She only mumbled and turned her face into the pillow.
“Victoria wake up!” Nikki exclaimed, shaking her a little harder.
Grumbling, Victoria sat up and snapped, “What? What is it?”
Rubbing her eyes as she sat up, still very unimpressed at being woken up when she’d hardly gotten any sleep, Victoria waited impatiently for whoever it was to tell her exactly what was going on.
“Mom?” Victoria whispered, her voice strange and scratchy. Clearing her throat and trying to focus through the fog of sleep that still lay over her, a thick, strangely comforting blanket in the chaos that surrounded her, Victoria once again said, “Mom? What is it? What’s going on? Mom?”
As the expression on her mother’s face registered, Victoria heard the fear, the complete terror and disbelief seep into her voice as she whispered frantically, “Mom? Mom, say something, say something please! You’re scaring me! Say something!”
“Baby…” Nikki struggled to find the words she needed to tell her daughter what she knew would surely break her heart. “Angel…your father…he’s–”
“No! No, he can’t be! No, Mom, he can’t be! Dad can’t be dead! He can’t be!”
“Oh baby, I know. I know, but he’s gone. Sweetheart, he’s gone, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“NO! He can’t be! He can’t be gone! My dad can’t be dead, he can’t be!”
“Sweetheart, angel, it happened really fast, and the doctors said he didn’t suffer.”Nikki did her best to comfort her daughter though her own heart had been shattered, along with her world.
“What do they know? What the hell do they know? They didn’t know him! They didn’t know Dad! They didn’t know him like we did! To them he was just another patient, just another file folder, a list of symptoms! That’s all he was to them! That’s all he was, all he’d ever be!” Victoria spat out, almost shaking in complete disbelief and utter fury.
“Oh Angel, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Nikki murmured over and over while she rocked Victoria back and forth, desperately trying to soothe her.
“He’s dead! My Dad’s dead! He’s dead!” Victoria railed furiously as she clung to her mother and sobbed in her arms.
“Victoria. Victoria. Victoria.” Nikki called her name as she shook her firmly.
“He’s dead! Dad’s dead! He’s dead!” Victoria mumbled as she tossed and turned violently on the couch.
“Victoria! Victoria!” Nikki shook her a little harder and Victoria bolted awake and upright.
“Mom! Mom…” Tears welled up in her eyes and spilled out as she murmured over and over, her skin turning a ghostly white, “It’s true. He’s dead. Dad’s dead! Oh God, oh god!” The tears she’d been fighting off and on through the night burst free in a flood that rocked her to her soul and tore through her as she sobbed in Nikki’s arms.
“Victoria. Victoria! Listen to me. Listen to me.” Nikki cupped her face in her hands and met her terrified eyes as calmly as she could. “Your father isn’t dead! Do you hear me? He’s not dead! Your father is just fine, and he’s going to stay that way. Do you understand me? He’s just fine!”
“Dad’s okay? He’s really okay?” Victoria whispered, her voice small, terrified and disbelieving.
“Yes, angel, yes. He’s really okay.” As tears spilled from her own eyes, Nikki tenderly, helplessly rocked her back and forth, doing her best, doing all she could to try and soothe her.
Meanwhile, in the hall, Casey was on the phone with Katherine. “Katherine, I’m glad I caught you. I’m at Memorial. Victor’s had a heart attack and a stroke. Nikki’s trying to stay strong for everyone, but she could really use your support right now.” “What? What on earth happened? What have the doctors said?”Kay asked shocked.
“Not much, they won’t know anything for sure until Victor wakes up.” Casey replied apologetically.
“I’ll be right over,” Kay said before hanging up and tearing out the door.
Back in the waiting room, Nikki had spent the past few minutes trying unsuccessfully to calm Victoria down.
Cautiously, slowly, Nicholas walked in after having calmed down a little. As his eyes locked with Victoria’s, tears welled up in them. Wordlessly, he walked over to her and wrapped his arms around her.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have snapped on you like I did. I…” Tears smothered her voice once again.
“We both said things we didn’t mean.” Pulling back, and gently cupping her face in his hands, he told her firmly, his voice full of conviction, “Dad’s going to be just fine. He’ll be just fine, you hear me?” Shutting her eyes tight, as if she could stem both the anguished tears she cried and the pain tearing through her, Vicki nodded silently.
Kissing her on the cheek, Nick told her, “Don’t give up yet!”
Turning to Nikki, he said, “I’d better call home, let Sharon know what’s going on.” Nikki said nothing, only nodding as she watched him leave.
A few minutes later, Nick silently walked back into the waiting room, his shoulders slumped, his head hanging down as tears swam in his eyes.
“Nicholas?” Nikki gently called his name. “How are you holding up? What did Sharon say?”
“I’m fine. Have the doctors said anything else?” Nick asked, trying his best to stay strong for his family. “As a matter of fact, they did. There’s more that you need to know, I didn’t want to get into it earlier, we were all too upset and needed a chance to calm down.
“Mom, what’s going on? What didn’t you tell us? What else is wrong?” Vicki asked emotionally, studying Nikki intently.
When Nikki said nothing, only letting out an exhausted sigh, Nick asked as gently as he could, “Mom, what’s wrong? What’s wrong with Dad? What haven’t you told us?”
“The doctors said…” Nikki’s voice broke as she tried and failed to get the words out. “They said that they can’t do anything more for your father. From what they’ve told me, the damage is too severe. Between the heart attack and the stroke, they-” Nikki’s voice was once again smothered by the tears slipping down her cheeks and the fear gripping her heart and soul in its vice like grip.
“Mom. Mom, what is it? Mom, say something please. You’re scaring me!’ Nick gently stepped in. “Mom, whatever it is, we need to know about it.”
“They’re saying that your father’s chances of coming out of this are next to none. After everything that’s happened, they’re saying he won’t make it.” Nikki’s voice was the barest whisper in the little waiting room as she slumped onto the couch and yet, to Victoria and Nicholas, her words rang out as loudly and clearly as if she’d yelled them.
“He won’t make it?” Vicki asked, her voice choked by fear and her skin pale and cold.
“Mom, are you sure? I can’t believe this!” Nick snapped angrily, disbelievingly.
“I wish I weren’t. But your aunt was with me when I talked to the doctors. They aren’t holding out any hope. They told me it would be best to discontinue life support, or at least consider it.”
“What? They’re crazy! They must be!” Vicki exclaimed angrily, disbelievingly.“Victoria, your father’s very weak. We’re not even sure what effect the stroke had on him. And, even if he makes it, he still needs a heart transplant.”
“What are you saying? What are you trying to tell us?” Nick asked suspicious.
“I didn’t give them permission, if that’s what you’re thinking.” Nikki’s voice, although tired, held a clear note of warning. “I told them under no circumstances was I agreeing to that! But, I wanted to talk to both of you and see what you think.”
“Nobody thinks that, alright. Nobody thinks for a moment that you’d give them permission to take Dad off life support.” Nick told her gently.
“Well, what have they told you? Why do they think you should?” Vicki asked gently.
“According to the doctors, it all comes down to all the damage that’s been done by the heart attack and the stroke. They just don’t see him making it with the shape his heart’s in. He needs a transplant, and we all know what the chances of him getting it are.”
“You’re sure there’s nothing they can do?” Vicki asked in disbelief.
“Nothing, there’s nothing they can do at this point.” Nikki told her regretfully, trying hard not to get upset and start crying.
“Well, if they really don’t see him coming out of this, maybe we should-”
“What? I can’t believe what I’m hearing! Nick, this is Dad we’re talking about, how many times have we been told he wouldn’t make it, or worse that he was already gone? How many times has that happened and he’s proven us all wrong?” Vicki asked shocked and furious at what she was hearing.
“Vicki, I don’t want to think about this any more than you do. But, we need to look at the whole picture. Dad was in bad shape before this. He was scheduled to have a triple bypass for God’s sake!” Nick exclaimed more harshly than he intended.
“What? I can’t believe this!” Vicki shot back wide-eyed. “Vicki, hear me out.”
“Why, it’s obvious you agree with them, so why bother?” Vicki spat back, furious!
“Did I say that? Did I?” Nick bit out, his fury matching his sister’s.
“Then what exactly are you saying, Nicholas, because frankly, I don’t like what I’m hearing!”
“Tough! You’re not the only one who gets a say here, so drop the attitude, Vicki!”
“I know that, but the doctors are ready to give up on him. Nick, we’re Dad’s family, we can’t just give up on him! We can’t!”
“I’m not saying we should, that’s not what I’m saying at all!”
“Then what are you saying? What are we supposed to do?”
“Just hear me out, okay?” Nick asked quietly as the note of fear in his sister’s voice finally registered and he began to calm down.
“We’re listening.” Nikki told him cautiously. Victoria sat beside her mother with her arms folded across her chest still unconvinced and seemingly unwilling to listen to anything anyone but Nikki had to say.
“We all know Dad would hate being hooked up to machines for the rest of his life. Mom, that’s no way to live. That’s no way for anybody to live. He’s in a coma, the doctors don’t think he’ll ever wake up. It would kill him to know he’s being kept alive by machines, he’d hate it. Do we really want to prolong his suffering, and our own?” Nick began quietly, emotionally yet firmly as he sat beside his mother.
“Of course not! Of course we don’t want to do that! But, Nick, can we really deal with the consequences, the guilt, the doubts that we’d have after it’s done? Are we really prepared to deal with all that? Can we even begin to do that? I don’t know about you but, I can’t.” Vicki argued just as firmly, just as emotionally as she sat across from him.
“What kind of life will Dad have if we keep him on life support? We know how much Dad loves being outside, playing soccer, boxing, running, horseback riding, all of that. He can’t do any of the things he loves while he’s hooked up to all these machines.”
“Isn’t it better to give Dad the benefit of the doubt here, give him a chance to let us know what he wants? There’s still a chance that he could make it.”
“Doesn’t Dad deserve some dignity here? Doesn’t he deserve it, even if it is in death?” Nick asked, his voice catching on tears.
“Nobody’s saying your father doesn’t deserve some dignity. But, do we really have the right to do this? Do we have the right to, at least in my eyes, kill him?” Nikki asked emotionally, tears pouring down her cheeks as her hands began to tremble.