[Parts 1-40 are here. Thank you so much for reading Xo]
“HELP!” James screams, standing up. “HELP! I NEED HELP IN HERE! HE’S SEIZING!!”
Violet bursts through the door just as Alexander’s heart rate monitor starts to squeal.
“Move!” She rushes over to the bed and places her hand over Alexander's chest. “Page Dr Williams!” she says to the interns who have followed her in.
“He’s choking,” an intern says, racing over. “Hold him still.”
Violet keeps her hand on Alexander’s chest. The intern starts to remove his breathing tube.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” James screams. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO HIM?!”
The intern pulls out the last of the breathing tube just as Dr Williams runs into the room.
“What happened??” he demands. Alexander’s convulsions start to decrease.
“HE CAN’T BREATHE!” James screams, wildly tugging at his own hair. “PUT IT BACK! HE CAN’T BREATHE!!”
“He was choking,” the intern says, tossing the breathing tube aside and pulling out her stethoscope. “He was choking so I—”
“MOVE,” Dr Williams says, pushing her out of the way.
Alexander stops moving.
“HE’S NOT BREATHING!!” James screams, close to collapsing. “HE CAN’T BREATHE!!”
Dr Williams holds his stethoscope against Alexander’s chest, listening. The squealing on the heart rate monitor stops. James whips around, terrified that he’s going to see a flat line running across the screen.
But he doesn’t.
The monitor shows a steady, rhythmic beat.
He turns back to Dr Williams. He’s putting an oxygen mask over Alexander’s face.
He is smiling.
James tries to make sense of it, tries to understand why his choking son would make Dr Williams smile, but he can’t. He looks at Alexander. At the oxygen mask on his face. At the gentle rise and fall of his chest as he…
“Breathes,” James whispers. “He’s breathing.” Tears fall from his eyes. “He’s breathing. He’s…He’s…”
“Breathing on his own,” Dr Williams says, still smiling. “He was choking on the breathing tube because he can breathe on his own. Mr Axton…He’s waking up.”
James’ legs buckle and he drops to his knees. He covers his face with his hand.
“He’s waking up,” he sobs, sinking further. The relief is overwhelming. “Oh God he’s waking up. He’s okay. He’s alright. He’s okay.”
He feels a hand on his shoulder.
“He’s waking up, J,” Michael says. James didn’t even see him come back into the room. He sounds like he is crying, too. “He’s waking up.”
James takes a shuddering breath in and drags himself to his feet, gripping the bed rail for support. Dr Williams is shining a small light into Alexander’s eyes.
“His pupils are responsive,” he says to the intern, straightening up. “Good work, Dr Cameron.”
The intern smiles and picks up Alexander’s chart, writing something down. Dr Williams puts the light into the pocket on the front of his lab coat and turns his attention to James.
“This is an excellent sign,” he says, glancing at Alexander’s heart rate monitor. “His heartbeat is strong and steady. His oxygen levels are good, as is his blood pressure. But Mr Axton, while this is cause for relief, it is still possible that he has suffered some brain damage from the lack of oxygen. Unfortunately we won’t know for sure until he wakes up. This is a wonderful sign, yes, but you do need to be aware that he is not completely out of the woods yet.”
“What are the chances that he’s suffered brain damage?” Michael asks quietly.
“It’s hard to say without knowing exactly how long his brain was deprived of oxygen.”
“But if you had to guess…”
“I really don’t feel comfortable making guesses.”
“Okay, if you had to take an educated guess,” Michael says, sounding slightly annoyed.
Dr Williams sighs. “Well based on how quickly he’s come off the ventilator, and the fact that he is responding to stimuli…I’d say it’s fifty-fifty. He could wake up and be fine. Or he could wake up and display anywhere between mild to severe evidence of a brain injury. There’s no way to tell until he is awake.”
Michael turns back to Alexander. “He’s going to be okay. I know he is. He's a fighter. He has overcome everything that has been thrown at him so far, and he will overcome this. You’ll see. He’s going to wake up and ask for cupcakes. You’ll see.”
“I hope so,” Dr Williams says. “I really do.”
He glances at the intern and cocks his head towards the door, gesturing that they should leave. She follows him out.
“Can I get you anything?” Violet asks once they leave, adjusting Alexander’s blankets. James shakes his head, still gripping the bed rail. “Okay,” she says, checking the monitors one last time. “You know where I am if you need me.” She walks over to the door, but pauses in the doorway.
Both James and Michael look up.
“I agree with your brother. Your son is a fighter. He’s responsive, he’s off the ventilator…He’s going to get through this. You all will. I know you will.” She gives them a small smile and leaves, closing the door behind her.
James sinks into a chair beside Alexander’s bed, suddenly feeling exhausted. He hasn’t used the bed they set up for him and subsequently has barely slept. Being across the room felt too far away.
“He’s going to be okay, J,” Michael says, wheeling himself closer. “He’s going to open his eyes and demand cupcakes. You’ll see. He’s going to be just fine.”
James nods. “I know,” he says, watching the rise and fall of Alexander’s chest. “I know.”
Michael falls silent.
James takes Alexander’s hand and leans forward. He closes his eyes. You’re nearly there, buddy, he thinks, resting his head on the bed beside Alexander. You’re nearly there. Open your eyes. That’s all that’s left. Just open your eyes.
He stays like that, holding Alexander’s hand against his chest. Against his heart.
Listening to him breathe.