ÔÇÿNear Fatal.ÔÇÖ

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ÔÇÿNear Fatal.ÔÇÖ

Postby sirius631 on Wed Mar 27, 2013 10:27 am

ÔÇÿNear Fatal.ÔÇÖ

David Lloyd, September 2012.

Mark stirred. The green glow of the bedside alarm clock showed it to be just after six; seven hours sleep. He and Susan were never unfeeling about allowing their children join them in bed when they needed comforting. Chloe was ten when she was last frightened enough by a thunder storm to run and hide beneath their duvet. Although she was fourteen now, it made no difference to Mark. There was no way he would have forced her to cry herself to sleep alone; not that night.

His mobile phone began to vibrate, with its screen aglow. Mark stretched over from the side of the bed where his wife would normally have been, whilst trying not to disturb Chloe. He picked the phone up, saw the name on the display, and swept a finger across the screen to accept the call.

ÔÇ£Hello.ÔÇØ



ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs okay. When I said anytime, I meant anytime. IÔÇÖve just woken up.ÔÇØ



ÔÇ£Yes, sheÔÇÖs right next to me now. She went straight to her room at nine, but didnÔÇÖt get undressed until just before she climbed in next to me and buried her head against my shoulder. The last time she was this distressed was when she lost her doll, when she was seven.ÔÇØ



ÔÇ£Yeah, IÔÇÖll get her to have some breakfast before we go back. She had no tea and thereÔÇÖs no way sheÔÇÖll be able to concentrate at school. So, how are things at your end?ÔÇØ



ÔÇ£I bet. Give her a hug from us. IÔÇÖll keep you updated as soon as I know anything more.ÔÇØ



ÔÇ£Yeah. Bye for now.ÔÇØ

Mark needed to get up and get things ready, being short handed. Susan was the one who made things work around the house. He knew that it would be a battle to get Chloe to eat. HeÔÇÖd arrange for Jenny to take care of Robert, before heading out with Chloe.

In the car, Chloe stared without focus through the passenger window, only raising her consciousness as they entered the hospital grounds. The sky was still dark at half past eight on that January morning. Mark scanned the direction boards and found the way to the car park nearest to the intensive care unit. There would still be a distance to walk along the corridors, but the closer they got to their destination the harder it became to restrain Chloe. The last hundred metres she completed at a full sprint, only to be captured and held by MikeÔÇÖs arms.

Chloe stopped straining at MikeÔÇÖs grasp, and settled for the comfort offered by the embrace, just as Mark made it to the ICU.

ÔÇ£Sorry,ÔÇØ said Mark, ÔÇ£I couldnÔÇÖt stop her.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£I understand,ÔÇØ Mike replied, speaking to Chloe. ÔÇ£You want to be there, but you canÔÇÖt just go bursting in. The doctors need to do their work.ÔÇØ

Mark touched Chloe on the shoulder and she began to unwrap herself from Mike. As she did, a door off the unitÔÇÖs main corridor opened, and Chloe ran into her motherÔÇÖs arms.

Susan spoke to Mike. ÔÇ£SheÔÇÖs asleep now. They found the two of you a place in the nearby family accommodation. Your plans to take shifts seem to have gone out of the window. You look frazzled.ÔÇØ

I know, Mike replied. I tried to keep awake, hoping to see some change. I know this could be long-term, or permanent, or even terminal. But recovery could just as easily be swift and immediate.

ÔÇ£Either way,ÔÇØ said Mark, placing a hand on his friendÔÇÖs shoulder, ÔÇ£what use will it be for you to burn yourself out? Look, you go get some sleep and IÔÇÖll take over here, at least for a few hours. IÔÇÖll call you if there is any change.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Yeah, sure, IÔÇÖd better tell the doctor where IÔÇÖm going. Susan, can you show me the way?

ÔÇ£Sure, and then IÔÇÖd better head home to get some sleep myself.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£I want to see him. Please, I need to see him,ÔÇØ pleaded Chloe.

Mark and Mike looked at each other, and Mark nodded. Mike took Chloe from Susan and guided her, with an arm around her shoulders, towards the ICU nursing station. The female nurse looked up as they approached.

ÔÇ£This is Chloe,ÔÇØ said Mike. ÔÇ£SheÔÇÖs ScottÔÇÖs girlfriend. Whenever sheÔÇÖs here, I want her to be able to sit with Scott as if she was a member of his family. Okay?ÔÇØ

The nurse smiled, ÔÇ£Would you like to sit with him now, Chloe?ÔÇØ

Chloe nodded a definite affirmative, and the nurse showed her the way, down the corridor and through the large swing doors of one of the ICU bays.

Mike returned to Mark and Susan. He wasnÔÇÖt quite ready to be shown the way to the family accommodation. He needed to talk.

ÔÇ£Yesterday, I lost my temper at the police officer who came to tell us of ScottÔÇÖs accident. He couldnÔÇÖt tell us much, so I wanted to know how he could call it an accident, as if nobody was to blame. ÔÇÿAccidentÔÇÖ is just the wrong word, it prejudices the investigation. He should have said ÔÇÿincidentÔÇÖ.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Is there any more information about how it happened?ÔÇØ asked Mark.

ÔÇ£Yes, another officer came to meet me and Beth here, after they took all eye-witness statements and surveyed the scene. Apparently Scott was descending from Holcombe village into Holcombe Brook, and a van crossed his path just before the junction with the main road. According to the couple in the car that was behind Scott, he was in the middle of the lane and his bike went sideward as he slammed his brakes on. I felt I had to point it out to this officer that the middle of the lane was the correct position for a bike, especially when approaching or passing through a hazard. ItÔÇÖs lucky that it was damp, or else Scott wouldnÔÇÖt have pulled the bike sideward. That probably saved his life because, instead of running head-on into the van, he shoulder charged it. That meant his body weight wasnÔÇÖt behind his head as it struck the side panel.ÔÇØ

Mark knew that Mike couldnÔÇÖt remain on his feet for much longer. The emotional energy expended, alone, would have been draining. Still, Mike continued.

ÔÇ£Another witness said that the van driver was on his mobile phone. That is just bloody typical of the casual carelessness that pervades driversÔÇÖ attitudes in this country. If I could make a living out there, IÔÇÖd trade this place for France in a heartbeat. The police still had to check with the driverÔÇÖs phone company at that point. Of course the driver said he didnÔÇÖt see Scott, and thatÔÇÖs despite Scott being in the primary position. YouÔÇÖve seen ScottÔÇÖs HTC Highroad kit. It may not be day-glow, but it is light. Anyone paying sufficient attention would have been able to see it. His kit,ÔÇØ MikeÔÇÖs voice broke, ÔÇ£it was soaked with blood and they had to cut it off him.ÔÇØ

Mark moved to wrap his friend in a comforting embrace but just as he did, an alarm sounded in an ICU bay just down the corridor; the one Scott was in. Two medical staff broke from what they were doing and headed swiftly into the bay, followed closely by Mike.



As the nurse led Chloe to ScottÔÇÖs bedside, Chloe could clearly see the swelling around ScottÔÇÖs left eye, the cast on his left arm and the tube running from his mouth to the ventilator. Chloe froze, shocked by the shattered state of her sweetheart. She shrank in on herself, turning on the spot, as if to deny the sight.

ÔÇ£Come on dear. Be strong for him,ÔÇØ said the nurse. ÔÇ£You know you can talk to him.ÔÇØ

Chloe turned again and looked at Scott. ÔÇ£Will he hear me?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£There have been many studies into comatose patientsÔÇÖ responses to familiar voices. The jury is still out whether or not it helps them, but I know for sure it will help you.ÔÇØ The nurse moved to look over the displays of the monitors, and then continued. ÔÇ£I was seconded to A&E yesterday when they brought Scott in. The inscription on the I.D. bracelet; you bought it for him, didnÔÇÖt you? He had his blood group filled in, ÔÇÿB negativeÔÇÖ. They were able to have two units on hand several minutes earlier than if they had to wait for cross-matching results first.ÔÇØ

Chloe stood right next to the bed and traced her fingers over bruises on ScottÔÇÖs left temple, in the pattern of his helmetÔÇÖs ribs. ÔÇ£You were never one for jewellery, were you? IÔÇÖm glad I got you that bracelet.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£IÔÇÖll leave you two alone for a bit,ÔÇØ said the nurse, moving over to another patient across the bay.

Chloe lifted the sheet covering Scott. It was the only thing guarding his nudity; evidently an expediency for effective treatment. Chloe could see the bruises on his shoulder and all down his left side. It must have been a hard impact. Chloe replaced the sheet, but ran her hand over his chest, past the ECG electrodes.

ÔÇ£Scott, do you remember how we were when you first joined our school? How close we were, without stepping over that boundary. ItÔÇÖs ironic that I couldnÔÇÖt love you because I already loved you, or rather the thought of you. Then when you had your breakdown, it was because you didnÔÇÖt know that you already knew me, and could have trusted me. Now that we know each other, there is nothing stopping us from being in love, except this. So I need you to wake up and get well again, not because I want my friend back, but because I want my love back.ÔÇØ

An urgent and insistent beep sounded from the electrocardiogram to the side of ScottÔÇÖs bed, and the nurse came across from the other patient, and was joined by two more staff, one older male and a younger looking female, who arrived from the corridor. The nurse immediately headed for the shock cart, which carried the defibrillator, and began to move it into place.

Chloe recoiled from the bed. ÔÇ£No!ÔÇØ she screamed, turning to escape. However, she ran into Mike, who clasped her to his chest.

ÔÇ£False alarm,ÔÇØ announced the male, who Mike knew to be the doctor in charge. ÔÇ£Look. This is a fit and healthy young man, who is evidently into endurance sports. This means heÔÇÖs got a highly efficient cardio-vascular system, resulting in a lower than usual resting pulse rate. This is the third false alarm heÔÇÖs triggered in the last eight hours, so I propose that we lower the ECG alarm threshold by 10bpm. Agreed?ÔÇØ

The younger female, identified by her name tag as another doctor, concurred and took on the reprogramming of the ECG, and then made an entry in ScottÔÇÖs notes.

The doctor moved to Mike and Chloe. ÔÇ£Sorry about that. ItÔÇÖs these fit young lads, always giving us trouble.ÔÇØ

Mike looked at the doctor. ÔÇ£Look, IÔÇÖm going to join my wife at the family accommodation because IÔÇÖm dead on my feet. In the meantime, ChloeÔÇÖs dad, Mark, is here, just to give me a break.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£ThatÔÇÖs fine, if thatÔÇÖs what you want,ÔÇØ said the doctor, ÔÇ£but we have the telephone number for the family accommodation, so weÔÇÖll have a message through to you promptly if anything changes.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£ThatÔÇÖs all well and good, but I want to someone that he cares about with him at all times.ÔÇØ

The doctor nodded, and began a tour of the bay to assess the other patients. Mike let Chloe return to ScottÔÇÖs bedside, where she continued talking to Scott about anything and nothing, whilst he headed back out into the corridor to tell Mark and Susan about the false alarm. Susan gave Mike a comforting hug, and Mark gave him a firm pat on the back. However, Mike was beyond the limits of his endurance, so he had Susan direct him to the housing unit where Beth was staying, leaving Mark and Chloe to keep vigil.



It was midday before Beth revived. She didnÔÇÖt know exactly when she had gone to sleep, but she knew that she hadnÔÇÖt slept for long. In the bed next to her was Mike, stripped and sound asleep. Poor Mike, he must have been up all night. Beth ran a hand, lovingly, over his bare chest. Beth knew he felt guilty at having introduced Scott to road cycling, but she also knew he wasnÔÇÖt to blame; the incident was one of those random, incalculable events caused by someone elseÔÇÖs stupidity.

The room was sparsely furnished in a modern, utilitarian style, as was the rest of the house. There were several such houses located in a cul-de-sac, kept by the hospital, primarily for families of long-term patients. Beth was glad one was free, so that she could crash-out during what was evidently going to be a long wait.

Her sight fell on the jogging longs and top, placed on a chair, which she had pulled on yesterday afternoon for the dash to the hospital. There was a folded slip of paper on top. Rising from the bed, Beth walked over and picked up the paper. It was hospital note paper, probably from the pad on the breakfast bar downstairs. On it was a scribbled note from Mike. ÔÇÿ9 a.m. No change. Chloe/Mark watching. Mike X.ÔÇÖ

Setting the note down again, Beth made for the bathroom. She needed a shower, badly. The controls were simple; pull the cord, step into the enclosure, turn the dial to the required temperature. The initial cold was a shock, and it shattered the numbness that had smothered Beths feelings since the day before. All her emotions became knotted up in a lump in the back of her head. Her legs gave way beneath her and she slid down the wall of the enclosure, letting out a miserable wail. BASTARD! she screamed. CRETIN! Why the HELL couldnt you FUCKING watch what you were FUCKING doing? Thats MY son, my son

Beth slouched there for what she knew to be too long, the warming water rinsing away her tears. Then one thought, Scott, pierced the darkness. She had to get back to him; it was her duty, her privilege. She rose, unsteadily, and switched off her tears as she switched off the shower. Exiting the shower enclosure, Beth took a soft towel from the towel rail and wrapped it around her. She remembered the towel that Scott was wrapped in as he was first presented to her breast, just at the moment his father named him. No, the tears couldnÔÇÖt take her again, that would be pointless. She had to get back. She ran another towel over her hair and headed for the bedroom.

The numbness from before was replaced by the knotted anger; however that was accompanied by a sense of hunger that had managed to rise up. She had not eaten since yesterday lunchtime, and was in need of sustenance. There would be no supplies in the houseÔÇÖs kitchen, so a trip to the hospital cafeteria was required. There were other things that Beth had to do. Although she had Susan call the school where she taught, Beth wanted to call in to give it that personal touch. She had friends there that really should hear her news directly. Beth would also need to send a message to Anne, who was half way through the first year of her medical degree at Cardiff University.

Having thrown the towels back into the bathroom, Beth pulled on her clothes and took the note downstairs with her. She found a pen, next to the notepad, wrote on the back of the note, refolded it and took it back upstairs to place under MikeÔÇÖs wristwatch, on the bedside table. There was a second set of keys in the back of the door latch, so Beth took the ones she had and headed out. It was a fifteen minute walk to the hospital cafeteria, time enough to make one call and send one text message.

Although Beth was hungry, she didnÔÇÖt have much of an appetite so she just asked the lady behind the serving counter for scrambled egg on two rounds of wholemeal toast, having already picked up a bottle of Innocent Smoothie. There was no option for coffee as a take-out from the cafeteria; fortunately she had spotted a Costa Coffee concession on the way in. Mark and Chloe would have been holding vigil for at least three and a half hours by the time she arrived back in the ICU, so buying them a coffee was the least she could do. It was known that Chloe drank cappuccinos with Scott, but Beth didnÔÇÖt know MarkÔÇÖs coffee preference. In the end she opted for cappuccinos all round, taking the drinks in a multi-cup carrier and a handful of sachets of sugar shoved in her pocket.

On arrival at the unit Beth remembered that food and drinks werenÔÇÖt allowed, so she quickly nipped in to grab Mark and had him take the drinks to a nearby courtyard, where they could sit and have their drinks, and then went to the bay to collect Chloe. She thought Scott would be alright for five minutes without being watched, but still had to persuade Chloe a little.

ÔÇ£Thanks for holding the fort here,ÔÇØ Beth said to Mark. ÔÇ£IÔÇÖm sorry it took so long for me to get to sleep and then to return.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Think nothing of it,ÔÇØ said Mark. ÔÇ£This is what friends are for. Anyway, Chloe was too upset to go into school, and I can be quite flexible with my hours. Say, did Mike get to speak to you before he turned in?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£No. He just left a brief note that there was no change and that you were here. Now that IÔÇÖm here, IÔÇÖd better let you get back home. I think Mike and I will able to handle it from now on.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Sure. WeÔÇÖll be down again this evening, but donÔÇÖt hesitate to call if you need anything.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£But Dad!ÔÇØ started Chloe, ÔÇ£I want to be here for Scott.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£I understand darling, but this is ScottÔÇÖs mumÔÇÖs job. YouÔÇÖll understand one day, if you have kids of your own. Besides, I spoke to Jenny early this morning, and Jess was quite upset at hearing of ScottÔÇÖs accident, so she really could do with her best friend to talk to, as IÔÇÖm sure you could. On top of that, you could do with some rest yourself. You only slept fitfully last night.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Okay, but I want to say goodbye to him first.ÔÇØ

Just then, BethÔÇÖs phone rang. It was Anne; sheÔÇÖd just got out of a lecture and was phoning in response to her motherÔÇÖs text message. Beth informed Anne of her brotherÔÇÖs incident the day before. She hadnÔÇÖt wanted to call Anne unless things got worse or better, because she didnÔÇÖt want Anne to be left worrying unnecessarily, but things were taking too long and Beth didnÔÇÖt want Anne to feel she was being left in the dark.

Anne was rightly worried; she loved her brother and needed to be there for him. She concluded that since the next two days were lectures, rather than tutorials, she could go to see her tutors, get their notes or hand-outs ahead of time and come home by train.

As Beth finished her call with Anne, she saw that Chloe had left her coffee and had headed back in. Beth drained her cup and headed into the ICU. When she reached the bay, Beth saw Chloe just standing, watching the slow rise and fall of ScottÔÇÖs chest, and listening to the steady, regular beep of the ECG. Chloe then lent as for as she could over Scott, gave him a kiss, with a promise to return that evening, and departed, leaving Beth with a slight hug.

ÔÇ£Ah, Mrs. Lowry, did you sleep alright?ÔÇØ It was the doctor.

ÔÇ£Well, I feel okay now, but I donÔÇÖt know how long it will last. My husband turned in before he could speak to me, but he left a note to say that there was no change.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Yes,ÔÇØ said the doctor, picking up the chart from the foot of ScottÔÇÖs bed. ÔÇ£We had another false alarm on the ECG, so we dropped the alarm threshold. HeÔÇÖs a healthy lad with a strong constitution, so I fully expect him to pull through. Surgery repaired his collapsed lung and stopped the related internal bleeding rapidly. They really did sterling work there. The MRI scan on his brain showed no rotational damage of the cortex. Since he didnÔÇÖt even fracture his skull, IÔÇÖd say weÔÇÖve got a very good chance of his full recovery.ÔÇØ

Putting the chart away, the doctor continued. ÔÇ£You know, in this day and age IÔÇÖm astounded by the number of young kids that arrive in A&E with bone fractures from the simplest of knocks. You examine them and find that they are pale, like they have never been out in the sun and their bones are deficient in calcium. ScottÔÇÖs bones, however, are well formed and strong. From the suntan he has, itÔÇÖs obvious that he has got a good store of vitamin ÔÇÿDÔÇÖ, which aids the building of bones. It angers me that the lie that there is no such thing as a safe tan has been allowed to put the health of children at risk.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£WeÔÇÖve always allowed Scott and his sister to enjoy the sun.ÔÇØ Beth replied. ÔÇ£We always made sure that they had adequate protection. There is nothing wrong with a tan, in fact a tan is slightly protecting in itself, but you must stop your kids from burning.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Quite; itÔÇÖs the burning that is the problem. I understand that the people who put out such erroneous advice are well meaning, but they have not done a proper analysis of the data, so havenÔÇÖt found the true root cause of the problem. What that means is they end up throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water. They just havenÔÇÖt considered the consequences. The same goes for that scare over the M.M.R. jab and the ground-swell of support for bicycle helmet compulsion.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£What do you mean about bicycle helmet compulsion?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Look, IÔÇÖm sorry I said that. I just got on my hobby-horse a bit there. I can see how ScottÔÇÖs helmet could have saved him some damage, but the studies that have been completed do not show any great benefit, despite what doctorsÔÇÖ professional body says. In fact other studies have also shown that countries, like Spain and Australia, which made the wearing of helmets compulsory, see a fall off in juvenile cycling, and that loss of physical activity has a noted negative impact on childhood obesity figures.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Well, IÔÇÖm a maths teacher,ÔÇØ said Beth, and I know all about lies, dammed lies and statistics, so I understand the problem.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£IÔÇÖd better be getting back to my rounds, or weÔÇÖll get to the end of shift and IÔÇÖll be being kept in detention. IÔÇÖll see you later.ÔÇØ

Beth smiled an empty smile and settled down on the seat next to ScottÔÇÖs bed, and picked a magazine out of a bag that she had neglected to take with her when she went to find somewhere to sleep. It was one of ScottÔÇÖs cycling magazines, and Beth had brought it to read to him whilst he was in a coma. This still could be a long wait, so she made herself as comfortable as possible and began to read out loud.



It was 4:30 in the afternoon. Both Susan and Chloe had caught up on their rest, and were preparing the evening meal, whilst Robert did his homework. Mark had dropped Chloe home earlier, and then headed into work. Jenny and Jess entered through the open back door, having made use of the garden gate that had been installed in the high fence between the two properties. They were looking for an update on ScottÔÇÖs condition. Jess was still dressed in her school uniform, having only just arrived home, whereas Jenny has simply thrown on a pair of jogging longs and a fleecy top just to ward off the cold. It was probably going to be a long conversation, so both Jenny and Jess relieved themselves of their clothes and stowed them in one corner, out of the way.

Susan had been with Beth and Mike when the doctor discussed the extent of ScottÔÇÖs injuries with them, so told of the collapsed lung, cuts and bruises to his face, the broken left collar bone, three broken ribs and all four broken metacarpals of the fingers on his left hand. Susan was also there when the police officer detailed how the van driver failed to give way before turning right out of the estate onto the road up to Holcombe village.

Jess found it difficult to take in the details. She said school had been buzzing all morning about the kid that was killed out on the road the day before. Jess had been seriously wound up by the number of times that she had to tell other kids that they were being insensitive; it was her friend, Scott, and he wasnÔÇÖt dead. In the end, Jess had gone to her Head of Year and a message was passed to all forms at afternoon registration, to silence the incorrect rumours.

Since Eddie was working over, Susan invited Jenny and Jess to join them for tea. Jenny was happy to accept, but she wanted Jess to fetch her school work and allow Chloe to copy the notes from their common lessons. Jess braved the cold to fetch her books, to save having to get dressed again. Chloe copied the notes into her own books at the dining room table, before Susan had Chloe and Robert set the table for the meal. Mark arrived back slightly later than he had planned, having to attend to some things that he wasnÔÇÖt able to delegate.

With all the worry and stress floating around, Jenny proposed that they all could use the sauna next door, for relaxing. Mark and Susan agreed that they had time free ahead of heading back to the hospital, so they all spent the early evening in the sauna or cooling off in the wet room immediately behind, just talking. Chloe, Jess and Robert, however, passed the time playing Mario Carts on the large screen in the lounge.



Beth awoke with a jump. She had drifted off, and the magazine had slipped from her grasp, landing on her foot as it fell to the floor. The clock in the ICU bay said 5:15. Beth knew that she had needed more sleep; perhaps that nap, although unplanned, would do the trick. Beth knew she also needed to eat to keep her strength up. Just as she was about to rise to head of back to the cafeteria Mike arrived. He hadnÔÇÖt eaten since he woke up half an hour ago, so they agreed to head to the cafeteria together, and for Mike to take the watch afterwards.

The queue to be served in the cafeteria was quite long. Beth and Mike shunted their trays along the rails as they moved, Mike with his left arm firmly around BethÔÇÖs shoulders for comfort. They mechanically selected what looked good and a pot of tea each, moved to pay and then sat down at the nearest convenient table. Mike stirred his tea, without thought, and then caught sight of Beth, looking at her food, lost. ThatÔÇÖs when the Freudian slip of what they had selected hit him; lasagne, ScottÔÇÖs favourite. All that were missing were leafy green vegetables, a glass of red wine and Scott.

Mike dissolved in tears, his face in his hands, not caring about the surrounding audience. Beth came off her chair, knelt by his side and wrapped her arms around him. His arms immediately encompassed her, and they held their position, both ignoring the world together.

ÔÇ£You held that in too long,ÔÇØ said Beth, as MikeÔÇÖs cries ebbed away. ÔÇ£I know you too well; always trying to be the strong one. Well you donÔÇÖt fool me, Mike Lowry. I know that heart of yours. Come on now. I know it wonÔÇÖt be a patch on your Lasagne, but we need to eat and stay strong for Scott.ÔÇØ

Mike nodded, and broke from his wifeÔÇÖs embrace and returned to his meal. He ate slowly, without interest. The lasagne may have been tasty, but Mike would have eaten glass if it meant Scott would come back.

It was nearly six oÔÇÖclock when Mike returned to the ICU, with Beth heading back to bed; she would take over from Mike as soon as she was capable. Mike had ScottÔÇÖs cycling magazine now, and read Scott an article about post-injury recovery. The man in the article had also suffered a broken collarbone, and had used a turbo trainer with his bike to maintain fitness until his fracture mended. Mike was familiar with turbo trainers, which held the bike rigidly with a variable resistance applied to the rear wheel, so that the rider could get in a quality training session without the vagaries of road and weather conditions. However, it would be a pointless getting a turbo trainer if Scott didnÔÇÖt regain consciousness. Mike had to continually wipe his eyes, to maintain focus on the magazine.

Seven oÔÇÖclock soon arrived, as did the crowd of visitors. Mark had arrived with Jenny, Chloe and Jess. Susan had remained at home with Robert. Mike saw them through the ICU bay partition, and joined them out in the corridor. There were too many people there, so Mike, needing another coffee break, proposed that they all head to the Costa concession by the main entrance. Mark asked it was possible for him to sit with Scott, so Mike showed him into the bay and introduced him to the nurse on duty.

Nobody paid their coffees much attention, taking their time talking. There wasnÔÇÖt anything new to say, but the time was spent saying it anyway. Beth was away sleeping, and Mike didnÔÇÖt expect her back for a couple of hours, at the least. They all knew Scott would pull through, or was that just a hope? Chloe and Jess felt each otherÔÇÖs sombre mood and had neglected their drinks to wrap themselves up in a mutually comforting embrace on one of the sofas. There was really nothing they could do but wait and see.



Mark sat by ScottÔÇÖs side for what seemed like an eternity, just watching the ventilator doing its job and the ECG displaying the steady pulse in the mid-thirties beats per minute. The regular sound of the soft beeps and the hissing air, on top of the silence, was becoming hard to take for Mark. He had to talk to Scott, if only to make it more bearable.

ÔÇ£You know, Scott,ÔÇØ said Mark, gently, leaning forward, ÔÇ£the hardest thing for a father to go through is seeing their daughter hurting, whilst not being able to do a thing about it. Chloe always had an innate sense of who she could trust and like, or who she couldnÔÇÖt. The fact that she loves you only goes to prove how strong that sense is. Chloe is hurting now, and itÔÇÖs beyond my control, but itÔÇÖs not beyond yours. Please, donÔÇÖt break her heart now, not whilst sheÔÇÖs so young.ÔÇØ

Mark knew he was being soppy; so unlike the stern factory manager, but so typical of the loving father. He sat back, retrieving a handkerchief from his trouser pocket, and dried the moisture from his eyes.

It was the changing rhythm of the ECG beeps that made Mark look up. Scott was moving his head, as if in discomfort, and the hissing sound of air was becoming forced. The figures on the display were rising; fifty three, fifty nine, sixty four. As the numbers continued to rise, a strident ping sounded on another piece of equipment. The nurse traversed the ICU bay, and was swiftly joined by a doctor, and then another.

ÔÇ£HeÔÇÖs fighting the respirator,ÔÇØ called the nurse.

ÔÇ£Prepare to remove ventilation,ÔÇØ announced the male.

Mark took out his phone and activated it whilst exiting to the corridor, sending Mike an urgent message; ÔÇ£COME NOW.ÔÇØ

The younger female doctor peeled away the tape securing the breathing tube in place, and carefully withdrew the tube from ScottÔÇÖs airway. Scott drew his first free, unhindered breath since he was brought in. Mark remained in the unitÔÇÖs corridor, both watching the activity in the bay and looking out for the arrival of his friend.

The doctor took out a pen light, and flashed it into each of ScottÔÇÖs eyes. ÔÇ£Pupil response is normal.ÔÇØ

The medical staff spent some moments double checking vital statistics and consulting. Mike arrived, having evidently run all the way from the main entrance, and headed straight for ScottÔÇÖs bed just as the doctor was ready to consult with him. Mark followed.

ÔÇ£It looks like ScottÔÇÖs turned a corner. Now we canÔÇÖt say how many more corners he has to turn, weÔÇÖll have to run a good few neurological tests to assess impairments, but heÔÇÖs out of the coma and is now in more of a deep sleep. IÔÇÖd hazard a guess at twenty four hours before we have him transferred to a general ward, although the Consultant Neurologist will have to sign off on that first.ÔÇØ

Mark and Mike bear hugged, in celebration. After a few moments of unmanly weeping, they separated, both men jokingly castigating themselves. Mike and Mark then headed back in the direction of Jenny and the girls at the main entrance, to tell them the good news, only to find them half way towards the ICU. Neither Jenny nor Jess had been to the ICU, so Mark led the way. Mike hesitated, wondering in which direction he should be going; to the accommodation, in order to wake his wife to tell her the good news, or back to the ICU, to be by ScottÔÇÖs side. He chose the latter, knowing that Beth really did need the rest, and it would be good news to wake up to.

Mike took the lead again and escorted both Chloe and Jess into the ICU bay, up to ScottÔÇÖs bedside. This was the first time Jess had seen Scott in his stricken state, and she could do nothing to prevent the tears, as she brushed her fingers over the stitches on ScottÔÇÖs left cheek.

ÔÇ£HeÔÇÖs looking better,ÔÇØ Chloe said.

She was right; he had more colour to his face, and the swelling around his left eye was less pronounced. The view of her love was no longer tainted by that awful breathing tube, either. As Chloe stood and watched, she could see ScottÔÇÖs eyes flickering under his eyelids; a sure sign that heÔÇÖd successfully entered R.E.M. sleep, the dream state.

Chloe and Jess remained by ScottÔÇÖs side for a whole hour, until Jenny and Mark came to take them away saying that theyÔÇÖd need their own sleep. Mark was going to make sure that Chloe went to school the next day, considering that Scott was only sleeping. Chloe wasnÔÇÖt exactly happy about that, but was placated by the idea that she could use visiting time to help Scott keep up with the schooling that heÔÇÖd be missing. Come nine oÔÇÖclock the visitors had departed, with Jenny, Jess and Chloe all planting a soft kiss on ScottÔÇÖs right cheek.

Mike was left alone with Scott. He knew Scott was out of danger, but he was not tired and still wanted someone there for when Scott awoke. By ten oÔÇÖclock, however, the realisation that Beth was either awake or soon to be had Mike hurrying to the accommodation. He wanted to share the news with her right then. Beth was awake and preparing to slip on her longs and top, for the return to the ICU, when Mike burst in. Mike delivered the news and Beth threw herself into his arms. MikeÔÇÖs clothes were intruding on the moment, but not for long. As soon as Beth had Mike stripped, they fell on the bed and gave themselves to each other in joy, celebration, companionship and love. It wasnÔÇÖt exhaustion that caused them to sleep, but the emotional relief, mixed with the warm afterglow of their love making.



It was past two oÔÇÖclock in the morning when Beth woke Mike up, contentedly and teasingly running a finger over one of his nipples. He smiled in his sleep, stretched a little and came to, laughing. They rolled together, in a great passionate embrace, kissed and ran their fingers through each otherÔÇÖs hair.

ÔÇ£Come on now,ÔÇØ said Mike, ÔÇ£weÔÇÖve been away too long.ÔÇØ He sprang to his feet and set about gathering the clothes that Beth had liberated him from last night.

ÔÇ£You are a cruel and tormenting lover, Mike Lowry,ÔÇØ said Beth, with a mockingly hurt look on her face.

Mike returned to her arms and kissed her again. ÔÇ£When have I ever left you tormented? For that matter, when have I ever been able to stay away?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Come on,ÔÇØ said Beth now. ÔÇ£We must get back.ÔÇØ Beth jumped up, threw on her jogging longs, long sleeved top and trainers, and was down the stairs before Mike had managed to button up his shirt.

When they entered the ICU bay, they saw a tall, slim figured young woman with long, tied back blonde hair slouched in the chair next to ScottÔÇÖs bed. Anne had made it up from Cardiff and had arrived at around eleven, after Mike had made his exit. Mike apologised for not being there, but Anne was okay about it, grateful for the time alone with her brother. She hadnÔÇÖt been wanting for conversation, either; Dr. Andrews had been comparing notes with her about his days at Cardiff University, only four years back. HeÔÇÖd even allowed her the privilege of having coffee in the staff area behind the nursing station, since she was a prospective medic. Still, Anne needed another coffee and was tired, so Beth and Mike took her to the cafeteria, which always had a skeleton staff on at night, before directing her to the family accommodation and retuning themselves to the ICU.

On return to the ICU bay, it was found that Scott had shifted in his sleep and was rolled half way onto his left side. As Beth and Mike watched, he rolled onto his back, and gave up on an attempt to roll to the right.

ÔÇ£Ouch.ÔÇØ It was unmistakable, Scott had spoken.

ÔÇ£Scott, can you hear me?ÔÇØ asked Mike, cautiously.

ÔÇ£It hurts,ÔÇØ Scott said, groggily. He breathed, as if trying to push the pain from his body, and opened his eyes; the left one with some difficulty.

A young, lanky doctor had been checking on one of the other two patients in the bay, but heard what was going on and swiftly moved over to Scott. ÔÇ£Scott, IÔÇÖm Dr. Andrews. Can you tell me where it hurts?ÔÇØ

Oh, I ache all over, but it really hurts on the left side of my chest.

Beth was sorely tempted to throw her arms around Scott and give him a big squeeze, but restrained herself, settling for a tight hug and a kiss with Mike, instead. The doctor took his stethoscope and listened to ScottÔÇÖs chest.

Leaving the doctor to do his checks, Mike walked out into the corridor, took his phone out of airplane mode and composed a short text message. ÔÇ£HeÔÇÖs awake,ÔÇØ it said. Mike selected several phone numbers, completed the send, put the phone back into airplane mode and returned to the bay.

ÔÇ£You had an accident,ÔÇØ said the doctor. ÔÇ£Can you tell me the last thing you remember?ÔÇØ

I was descending from Holcombe village. Thats about all I can say. It was damp, so I applied my brakes a few times to dry off my wheel rims and pads. I remember approaching the last road into the estate, on the left. No theres nothing. No, Im sorry.

ÔÇ£ThatÔÇÖs right by where it happened,ÔÇØ added Mike.

ÔÇ£Not to worry. ThatÔÇÖs quite normal with traumatic incidents. It sounds like you have maybe five to ten seconds of lost memory, due to retrograde amnesia. YouÔÇÖll probably be best without those few seconds because they sound like theyÔÇÖll be dammed scary. Right now, IÔÇÖll get the nurse to get a gown on you and find out if there is a place for you on the childrenÔÇÖs ward. WeÔÇÖll have the Neurologist come and give you the once over, and then weÔÇÖll ship you out. Oh, Mrs. Lowry, youÔÇÖll probably want to get Scott some pyjamas; there will be parents that donÔÇÖt want their kids to see other kids with their backsides on show.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£IÔÇÖll have Susan drop by at our place and pick up your dressing gown and a pair of boxers,ÔÇØ said Beth to Scott, grinning.

Dr. Andrews walked over to the phone, which hung on the wall, by the doors, and punched in an often used extension number. He had a few words and then hung up. He then dialled a second number and held a slightly longer conversation before, again, hanging up. ÔÇ£Right, IÔÇÖve reserved you a bed in the childrenÔÇÖs ward and the Consultant Neurologist will be here presently.ÔÇØ



Visiting time arrived at seven on the Tuesday evening, and the childrenÔÇÖs ward was packed with relatives. Susan and Mark arrived with Jenny, Chloe, Jess and Robert. Louise was also there, having brought Stuart. Susan had already visited in the morning, dropping off ScottÔÇÖs dressing gown and boxer shorts, so Beth already had him changed out of the surgical gown. Noting that there was too much of a crowd, the adults left the teenagers together in the ward, and headed off for a drink, with Robert in tow. Scott sat up in bed, with his left, plaster encased arm raised in a sling.

ÔÇ£What do you remember?ÔÇØ asked Stuart, excitedly.

ÔÇ£Who are you?ÔÇØ replied Scott, with a mischievous grin.

Chloe took up position on the bed, at the top right, and kissed Scott firmly on the lips. Jess and Stuart took their places at the foot of the bed, on opposite sides.

ÔÇ£I lied before,ÔÇØ said Scott. ÔÇ£When the doctor in Intensive Care asked me the last thing I remembered, I lied. Mum was there, and I didnÔÇÖt want her to know that I remembered every terrifying detail, right up until I lost consciousness, after I hit the van. I honestly thought that I had had it. I was maybe ten metres from the junction when the van ran the give-way line. There was no way I could avoid it. I grabbed at my brakes and the rear wheel locked. The sound of the impact was deafening. As I fell, I could feel my breathing getting tighter, and everything was grey and fuzzy. It felt like I was on the deck for an eternity. From the moment I saw the van to when I blacked out, I was scared. Fear feels exactly like a deep, aching loneliness. You realise that there is nobody there to help you, and you canÔÇÖt be helped anyway.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£But you are not alone,ÔÇØ said Chloe, cradling ScottÔÇÖs head in her arms.

Jess and Stuart each gave Scott a squeeze on a leg, to confirm their presence and companionship.

ÔÇ£Here,ÔÇØ said Stuart, pulling a marker pen from his pocket, ÔÇ£I didnÔÇÖt get to sign your cast last time.ÔÇØ

Scott gingerly removed his arm from the sling and supported it horizontally with his other arm. Stuart uncapped the pen and wrote on the cast in big letters, ÔÇÿHead BangerÔÇÖ. Jess took the pen and added ÔÇÿScott 1, Van 0ÔÇÖ. Chloe reached over and drew a small heart and arrow, in the area of ScottÔÇÖs palm.

ÔÇ£DonÔÇÖt show anyone else that. ThatÔÇÖs for me and you,ÔÇØ Chloe whispered to Scott.
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