“No. We were able to stop the bleeding and relieve the pressure in your skull. We believe that it was what caused your coma. We’re going to run some tests. I’m pretty sure your blindness is only temporary, a hold-over from the coma. Can you see anything at all?”
“No, nothing. It’s like I’m in a room with no doors or windows or lights. Just blackness.
“Well, now that you’re back with us” Dave started crying softly, “we can get more accurate brain scans to see what’s going on. I can also have an ophthalmologist come and take a look at your eyes. But for now, I’m sure the two of you would like to be alone.” He turned to Jay and the Commissioner. “Let’s give them some alone time.” They left the room. Doctor Foster went to the nurse’s station. “The patients in room twelve are not to be disturbed for at least an hour. They have a lot of issues they have to work out, mainly the loss of Dave Barton’s leg and John Doe’s blindness, so I want them to be undisturbed for at least an hour or two. I’ll write out an order to cover taking vitals, etc.” He wrote out the order, then placed an ‘Examination in progress, do not disturb sign on the door’. “If you guys need anything, ring your call bell.” He made sure both men had their call buttons where they could reach them, then left closing the door behind him.
“Dave, you know I love you, right?”
“I promised you that I would be with you during your rehab, and I’m going to keep that promise. However, if my blindness turns out to be permanent, you will need to find someone else to give you what I won’t be able to.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I mean that I won’t be able to cook for you, bring you snacks and such, or play board games. They don’t make them in Braille.”
“So what you’re saying is that after that speech you made about not leaving me because of my leg, you want me to leave you because of your eyesight?”
“I’ve worked with blind people before. They rely a lot on others to help take care of them. It would put an unfair burden on you. You’re going to have enough to deal with, without the additional burden of a blind person.”
“Now who’s feeling sorry for himself?” Dave retorted angrily.
“I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I’m looking out for what’s best for you should, God forbid, my blindness is permanent.”
“And what about what’s best for you?”
“If my blindness is permanent, then what’s best for me is irrelevant. I’ll have to be put into a skilled nursing facility because I won’t be able to prepare my meals and stuff like that. I don’t think I could live like that, away from you. I wouldn’t want to.”
“You’re not saying what I think your saying, are you?”
“If you’re asking me if I’m contemplating suicide the answer is no. It’s just……I’m so scared, Dave. When I was shot there was a time when nobody thought I’d be able to walk again, that I’d spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair. I was determined that wasn’t going to happen. I worked my ass off. It was slow and very painful, but I succeeded. There’s no rehab that can restore a person’s eyesight.”
“I can only imagine how you feel. Just as your dreams were being realized this has to happen to spoil everything. But Greg, I don’t seriously believe that they’re going to put you in a nursing home. I know of plenty of blind people who are living productive lives on their own. Besides, Doctor Foster said that the blindness might only be temporary.”
“But what do I do if it’s not? Being a cop is all I know, all I’ve ever wanted to do. I went into the Police Academy right after I graduated high school.”
“Okay, so the first thing we have to do is wait to see what the brain scans and the ophthalmologist have to say. Then, we get you set up with a service animal and whatever else you need to get around with. I imagine that they’re going to want you–or more likely both of us–to have a nurse or home health aide come around or stay with us at first until we can do things on our own.”
They talked for about an hour and realized that, much to their chagrin and denial, they were both feeling more sorry for themselves than they wanted to admit. Once that hurdle was crossed, things settled between them and they were able to talk seriously about their situation. It wasn’t long before there was a knock on the door.
“Come on in.”
The orderly opened the door, walked in and stopped dead in his tracks. Nobody had said anything to him about the patients’ sleeping arrangements. “Well, I guess what they say is true. You really do see everything in this job.” He smiled slightly.
“Do you have a problem with us being in the same bed together?” Dave challenged.
“No, not at all,” The orderly quickly affirmed. “I’ve just never seen it done here before. It’s cool. Which of your is Mr. Peters?”
“That would be me.”
“I’m Steve. I’m here to take you to have a brain scan done. Are you okay to walk out to the gurney?”
“I can’t see and I’m in a full body cast.”
“No problem. I just need to get some additional help moving you to the gurney. Be right back.” Steve came back a few seconds later with a couple of the nurses and walked to Greg’s side, wheeling the gurney along with him. “Okay, what we’re going to do is roll you up on your side and place half of a sheet against your back. Then we’re going to roll you over onto your other side and pull the sheet out from underneath you. Then we’ll grab the ends of the sheet and simply lift and slide you over onto the gurney. It will be the least painful. We won’t have to move you again until after the brain scan is finished and we bring you back. Okay?” At Greg’s nod they put action to words and quickly and efficiently transferred him from the bed to the gurney. “That wasn’t too bad, was it?”
“I've been through much worse,” Greg gritted through the pain.
“Okay, we’re off.” Stopping momentarily at the nurse’s station to sign Greg out of the ICU and get his chart, they were soon on their way.
The brain scan took a couple of hours. True to Steve’s word and much to Greg’s relief, he remained on the gurney throughout the test. The transfer from bed to gurney was much more painful than he let on. At one point during the test he even managed to fall asleep. Before he knew it the technician was removing the electrical leads from his head, washing and combing his hair. “You’re all set, Mr. Peters. Someone will be here shortly to take you back to your room. You did very well. The test results will be reviewed and sent to Doctor Foster as soon as possible. You have a good day.”
“Thanks, you too.” The tech left as soon as an orderly, a different one this time, came in. “Mr. Peters? I’m Georgia. I will be taking you back to your room. Are you ready?” When Greg nodded, they headed out.
Once they got off the elevator Greg noticed that he was in a different area of the hospital. “Wait a minute. This isn’t the way to the ICU.”
“That’s right,” Georgia smiled, “you’ve been downgraded to a regular room. No more ICU for you.”
“What about my roommate?”
“I’m afraid I don’t know, but I’ll check into it,” which was not necessary for as soon as they arrived at Greg’s new room he saw the bariatric bed from the ICU. It was strangely empty. The answer was shortcoming as Dave hobbled out of the bathroom on crutches, assisted by an aide.
As the orderly, the aide and the nurses were transferring Greg back into the bed he breathed a sigh of relief. “You know Doctor Foster wasn’t about to separate us,” Dave said. “What’s the use of being Chief of Staff if you can’t bend a few rules now and then?”
“I’m so glad you’re here. We still have a few things to discuss.”
“Like when are you going to be fitted for your prosthesis and when does your therapy start?”
“Someone’s supposed to be coming around tomorrow to discuss it with me.” Dave started to chuckle.
“What’s so funny?”
“It’s going to be amusing watching everyone try and figure out how to do private exams on us when we’re both in the same bed.” Everyone started laughing, laughter which increased as a dietary aide came to deliver their dinners and was confused as to who was who, not that it really mattered to them as they were both on the same liquid diet. Still it was amusing.
The next day an orthopedic doctor knocked on the door and walked in, stopping dead in her tracks at the sight in front of her. In all her years of practice, she had never walked into a hospital room and seen two men in the same bed. Well, George said when he became Chief of Staff that there would be changes made, but I never expected this. They look so cute together. She smiled at Dave and Greg as she introduced herself. "Good morning, gentlemen. I'm Doctor Madison from the orthopedics department. Which of you is Mr. Barton?"
Dave raised his hand. "That's me. Please call me Dave."
"Dave, I'm here to discuss your mobility options with you." She hesitated, unsure of how to proceed. She couldn't discuss anything with Greg in the same bed. Doctor-patient confidentiality, HIPPA laws and all that.
Dave, noticing her hesitation, guessed correctly at it's cause. "It's okay, Doctor. Greg, here, is obviously my significant other and will be playing a major role in my rehab, so he's going to have to know everything anyway, so please speak freely."
"Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple. I will need a release of medical information from signed by you before I can discuss anything related to your condition and treatments in front of your boyfriend."
"That won't be a problem. There should already be one in my chart." Greg cleared his throat, unable to poke him in the ribs because of his cast. "Doctor Madison, this is my boyfriend Greg."
"Pleased to meet you, Greg." As Greg responded in kind, the doctor grabbed Dave's chart and found the signed release form misfiled in the back of the chart, an error she quickly corrected. "Okay. Do you feel comfortable discussing everything in front of Greg?" She continued when Dave nodded affirmative. "There are many mobility options available to you. Before we discuss them, may I examine your leg?"
Knowing full well which one she was referring to, Dave decided to have a little fun. "Which one, the left or the right?" He asked with a smirk, his eyes twinkling.
Deciding to give as good as she got, she replied, "The middle one."
Greg chose that moment to join in. "Hey! No touching unless you're going it to my mouth for me seeing as I can't!" Everyone broke up over his comment.
"I'll leave you two to work that one out on your own. She could tell by their banter that they were deeply in love with each other. She smiled as she examined what was left of Dave's right leg. "Okay, as I said earlier, you have several mobility options available to you. I will explain all of the options to you, then I will make recommendations based upon my examination and the results of the various tests that have been run. Your first option is, of course, a wheelchair or scooter. While this does give you some mobility, you will be totally reliant on public transportation or friends to take you where you need to go as you would not be able to drive your car. Also it would require chair lifts to be installed in your home which may or may not be covered under your insurance." Dave cringed slightly at the thought of having to rely on others to help him get around.
"Your second option would be to fit you with a pair of forearm crutches. You would be able to go places you couldn't with the wheelchair, but you would still be dependent on others to get you wherever you need to go. However, I must point out that the problem of falling would be greatly increased, especially with the snow and ice. Also, it would make carrying things more difficult." That would be better than being in a wheelchair, but not by much. Dave said to himself.
"Your third option would be to have you fitted with a prosthetic leg. I feel obliged to tell you that initially there will be a great deal of pain and extensive physical rehabilitation involved. The upside to this is that it will give you the greatest mobility and you would be able to do just about everything you could do before. With some minor modifications to your car, you'd be able to drive. yourself wherever you need to go. Based on my examination and your test results, I feel that this would be the best option for you."
Greg decided to join in the conversation. "Dave, you know how I feel about it. Doctor Madison, when I was with the Boston Police Department, I was shot several times. My right leg was shattered and my hip was basically turned into a baby rattle. It took me over a year to recover and learn to walk again. I know a little of what Dave would be going through learning to walk on a prosthetic leg, which I feel is his best option, and would be by his side all the way. If I can learn to walk all over again, so can he."
"We've talked about this, Greg. At the time, albeit shattered, your body was still whole. Mine isn't."
"That's a cop-out, Dave, and you know it. I know a number of people with prosthetic limbs who are leading normal lives and I'm sure the Doctor does as well."
Doctor Madison said, "Greg has a very valid point. I'm going to share something very personal with you. As you may or may not know, I'm the Director of Orthopedic Services here." She pointed to her title on her ID.
"I don't mean to imply that you don't know your business, Doctor, but..." She raised her hand to forestall whatever else Dave was going to say. She planted her left foot on a chair and raised her skirt to just above mid-thigh as Dave and Greg stared at her leg. It was prosthetic! "I lost mine in a motorcycle accident. I still ride. I go rock climbing and water-skiing. If I can do stuff like that, so can you."
A wave of shame crossed Dave's face. Finally admitting it to himself he told them that basically he was scared.
"I was terrified when I started. I was a total bitch to the therapists. They never gave up on me, nor did they let me give up on myself. You have one thing in your favor that I didn't have."
"Someone who loves you, has been through a similar hell and is willing to help you through it. I went through it alone."
Dave was silent for a couple of minutes as he digested that information. Sighing deeply, he acquiesced. "Okay, so I'm going to get a prosthetic leg. What's the next step?" Greg couldn't hide his tears of joy.