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.In fact, Dr.Weisenbeck had been talking to her alone upon their entrance, creating in Joe’s mind an awkward jarring, as if he’d accidentally walked in on something inappropriate.Given the multiple emotions he was then balancing, the addition of this unusually loaded one had been a shock.Not that her being here was a bad idea.The greeting between the two women had made that clear, reminding him of a loving daughter and mother after a long separation.Now, especially given Weisenbeck’s announcement of Leo’s reversal, Joe had to concede that his mother’s coping ability was strengthened by Gail’s presence.Over the years, these women had become close friends, driving home Joe’s occasional sensation of being the odd man out.None of which mattered at the moment, he forced himself to remember as he leaned forward to hear the doctor’s explanation.“It’s a delicate time for your son,” Weisenbeck was saying.“As you know, he suffered initially from a collapsed lung and flail chest, which is a breaking away of an independent part of the rib cage.The lung issue we resolved pretty easily, but the combination is what made it so difficult for him to breathe, and why we were helping him out with the nasal cannula at first.Unfortunately, the extent of his injuries has now led to what we call shock lung, or more technically, post-traumatic respiratory distress.”There was a small, almost indistinguishable intake of breath by his elderly listener, which prompted the doctor to take her hand in his own before continuing.“Leo was no longer able to oxygenate his blood on his own, Mrs.Gunther,” Weisenbeck said.“Which meant that we had to put him on a respirator.”She nodded slightly.“I understand.”But he wasn’t done.“I wish that were the extent of it, but I’m afraid there’s more.As a result of the multiple bone fragmentation, Leo’s also suffering from fat embolization.This has affected his brain function, among other things, which is why he’s asleep for the moment.”She began to ask a question, but he gently held up a finger in order to keep going.“I know—for how long? Right?”She nodded silently.“I’m not sure,” he answered.“We are treating him with blood thinners and steroids and time, and we are monitoring him every second of every day.I came to work at this hospital because of its level of patient care, Mrs.Gunther, and I’ve never been disappointed with my decision.I will do everything in my power to make sure that will be true for your son as well.Leo is a strong, resilient, middle-aged man.That is a huge plus in his favor.”There was a long, painful lull in the conversation before her voice rose quietly into the silence.“Will he be okay?”Weisenbeck leaned forward and squeezed her fingers again.“He’s resting.You will hear the word coma.That’s true, also, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.Our bodies are much more intuitive than we doctors in knowing what to do and when.You went through much the same thing when you came to us, remember? Your body needed rest, and so it went to sleep for a while.Better than what any of us could have ordered.”Joe’s mother took it in like the psychological medicine it was meant to be, but then asked pointedly, “What dangers is he facing?”He hesitated, gauging his best approach while looking her straight in the eyes.There seemed to be no breathing in the room.“He is walking right at the edge.He is susceptible to stroke, pneumonia, and pulmonary embolus, as well as catheter-induced sepsis and several other threats.I will not pretend that it’s not a long list.” Here he added emphasis to his voice and intensified his gaze.“But I must stress with the same honesty that my optimism outweighs my fears.“In the end, though,” he added, slowly standing back up, “we all just have to wait and keep our hopes up.” He smiled as he concluded, “While we watch him like the proverbial hawk.Okay? When he begins to come around—and I stress when, not if—the initial first signs will be neurological.He will most likely first respond to pain stimuli.His breathing will also improve as the ribs begin to knit, increasing his body’s oxygen saturation, and that, in turn, will help clear out the fat emboli and allow him to emerge from the coma.”By now he was looking at them all, as if addressing a class.They all instinctively nodded.“Great,” he said.“Now.Would you like to come in and spend a little time with him? I’ll have one of the nurses help you out.” He glanced regretfully at Gail and Joe.“I’m afraid we’re only letting one person in at a time for the moment, mostly just because it gets so crowded otherwise.”Joe was already holding his hand up.“Not a problem.We knew about that.We’ll be right here, Mom,” he added, patting her on her narrow shoulder.She looked around and up at him, her smile belying her concern.“I won’t be long.”“Take your time.”They watched her through the window overlooking the ICU as a nurse helped drape her in a gown and fit a sterile mask over her face in preparation for the visit.In the distance, Leo remained as still as a mummy, white-clad and corralled.“God.What a nightmare,” Gail murmured.“Could be better,” Joe agreed.She glanced at him.“You believe him?”He kept staring through the window.“What’s not to believe? He said Leo’s walking on the edge of a cliff.”After a momentary silence, Gail said, “I’ve been trading e-mails with your mom.She says you’re looking into the crash.”He pressed his lips together, considering how to respond.There was a time when his reaction would have been immediate and open.Gail instantly interpreted the hesitation.She’d always read people well.“That probably wasn’t something she should have told me,” she said quickly.“No, no,” he then said.“It’s not like it’s a secret.Sure as hell the people we’re asking know about it.I just wondered why a relatively new car would fall apart like that.That’s really all it is for now.The sheriff’s department is helping me out.I’m not even officially involved.”She nodded.“I thought maybe he’d just hit some ice.”It was a leading question, but this time Joe played along.“A tie rod nut worked loose.Without it, the wheel pretty much does what it wants.It happens.I just want to make sure that it happened by accident.”“How do you do that?” she asked.That felt like pressing, and he resisted her, his reasons at once professional and very personal.“Well, like I said, I’m trying to keep my nose clean.The deputy handling it owes me a call on that very subject.He’s pretty good around cars, it turns out.”He still hadn’t made eye contact with her, instead studying his mother being wheeled up to his brother’s bed [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]