All in all, the time in the scan did go pretty quickly Cassie thought with a sigh. Still, she was glad it was over with; she was actually tired and wanted a nap.
You never take naps, what’s up with this?
She hadn’t tried to move around and it suddenly occurred to her that it was unusual for her to be so still. Her body didn’t feel restless as at all. It was a chilling thought; she wondered what was going on and what they weren’t telling her. As soon as she saw the doctor she was going to demand answers, she decided.
They had placed the surgical collar back around her neck so there was nothing to see on the trip back to the ER except for the lights passing quickly above her head as Griffin pushed the gurney back to the emergency room. She didn’t really talk along the way; she felt talked out and again she realized how tired she actually was. Probably a result of the accident, she knew, but now wasn’t the time to be sleepy, she needed answers, about her and Sarah both.
Back in the room the efficient staff helped Griffin move her back to the bed; it felt weird being lifted up and moved around she decided. With a final wave and a nod, Griffin headed out the door and Cass was left with only a nurse who was taking her vitals.
For some reason Cassie was becoming more and more scared. No one was saying anything to her about what was going on and that couldn’t be a good sign. She felt tears gathering in the corners of her eyes again when she heard a familiar voice and then felt warm, loving hands pick up one of hers. She blinked and saw her Mom and Dad standing in the room with her; her Mom holding her hand and stroking it softly.
“Oh Shortcake, you practically scared us to death!” her Mom said.
Her dad leaned over and kissed her forehead and she felt a tissue wiping her tears away and smiled gratefully at her Mom as she dabbed.
“I did a pretty good number on myself too, let me tell you!” Cassie told them. “Have you heard anything about Sarah?” Cassie held her breath as she waited for an answer.
“We saw Dan and Maggie out in the hall; they are waiting for Sarah to come back from some tests. All they know right now is that she has some broken ribs, well, the doctors are pretty sure anyway and that she has a concussion. She is still unconscious and that concerns them.
Even though Sarah was hurt badly, she was alive and the news made Cassie feel a bit better. She tried nodding her head and discovered she couldn’t thanks to the cervical collar. Frustrated, she silently cursed the darn thing.
“I wish they would get this thing off of my neck! I can’t move,” she told her parents, grimacing.
“Honey, they don’t want you to move right now,” her Mom told her, frowning at her Dad.
Cassie saw that and became alarmed; truly alarmed for the first time since all this happened. She started to open her mouth to ask questions when Dr. Gorman came back into the room.
He nodded and smiled at her parents before introducing himself. He had made his decision; now he could only hope that it was the right one.
While Georgio sat in the doctors lounge memories whipped through his mind; memories of a different time and a different man. A man that still knew how to love, how to feel, and who didn’t hide away from the world. That man, well, he was only a memory and so much the better for his patients he thought. The man he was now, this man could keep a protective buffer around himself; a buffer that allowed him to see his patients objectively which was good as often their lives and recoveries depended on his ability to do just that.
He sat his half-finished coffee down on the desktop; it was cold anyway he thought with a shrug. All during medical school, his internship and residency he had been the golden boy; the guy who could wield a scalpel and make miracles happen, whose diagnostic instincts helped people to once again lead normal lives. He’d often been referred to as ‘Dr. Ice’, because of his nerves of steel and his ability to keep his emotions out of his cases. He didn’t mind it; in fact he secretly appreciated it, even through many lectures by the teaching doctors about bedside manners and all. Well, he might not have had the warmest of those, but he could certainly heal and wasn’t that what mattered?
When Belinda Maddock entered his world and knocked it upside down and inside out, she enchanted him with her sweet, shy smile and her tender nurturing of patients. She brought a part of him to life that he hadn’t felt outside his own over-whelmingly large Greek family. They were boisterous and happy and never missed an opportunity to grab you and give you a hug and a kiss. Only with his family did the real Georgio emerge – until Belinda entered his life that is.
Georgio had a few girlfriends in high school; young, innocent relationships that fit in with his ambitious plans for his future. Not serious relationships at all but still he had enjoyed them. When he went to college he remained focused on his goals and very seldom dated anyone. His goal was to get into Johns Hopkins for medical school, as had his father before him and if he was going to accomplish that it would take top grades and focus. So, on Friday nights when his fraternity brothers were out drinking and chasing girls, he was hitting the books and in the end it paid off, his GPA was 3.99 and it got him his ride to Johns Hopkins.
Early on in med school he knew that his specialty would be orthopedics, with a focus on spinal cord functions. His steady hand and ability to remain calm during tense procedures made him an ace in the surgical world. During his internship and residency he became very adept and took on many cases that were deemed hopeless by other surgeons, and yet somehow he managed to pull most of them off.
He led a solitary life through all of that though, much to his family’s despair. In a large Greek family it wasn’t if you would marry and have kids, it was when. Being the youngest of 10 children his parents were a bit more indulgent with him, but his mother was a veritable vessel of depression, fretting over his lack of a partner. Older brothers and sisters had done the proper thing, married young and had kids, many kids Georgio thought with a smile. He doted on all of them and was active in all of their lives, as much as time would allow.
When Belinda came along he had been in private practice for 5 years. He volunteered at the clinic twice a month and generally enjoyed it. His father did the same thing and his mother and father had instilled a strong sense of caring and community spirit in each of their children. His sisters Reni and Athena lived in Greece as well as his brother Kostas and they continued that same sense of community responsibility there.
Georgio’s father was not Greek, but you would never know it if you watched how he related to his wife’s family. He seemed as Greek as any of them and spoke the language fluently as well. Georgio knew a small amount of Greek and could function only on a basic level in the language and that caused his mother a good deal of angst. She felt that she had somehow failed him as a mother because he wasn’t fluent, but really it was a matter of priorities; he knew from the time he was a small child and listened to his own heart with his father’s stethoscope that he would become a doctor so that was what he concerned himself with.
A wistful smile swept across his features as he remembered Belinda. She was shy and so caring of the patients that they saw at the clinic; mostly indigent and homeless folks down on their luck. He was awed by her patience and ability to make them relax in a setting that they weren’t comfortable in and more than once he saw her slip a few of them a couple of bucks to help them out. Never mind that often times that money went straight to the nearest liquor store, around the corner. She always believed that it was going to be spent to buy a meal or something else useful and his heart had immediately fallen head over heels in love with her.
Shortly after they were married Belinda was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It was almost unbelievable to Georgio; she was young and otherwise healthy. And it progressed at a remarkable rate; two years later she was dead and Georgio was alone. At first his heart broke and then gradually a numbness took over. He was content with that since it allowed him to concentrate on his practice again.
In weaker moments, his heart and head acknowledged that he missed her terribly and that he knew that he only existed for his patients and not himself. It was safe that way; comfortable. But that had ended today when he had been called in to see a patient with a possible traumatic spinal cord injury. He was no longer safe and neither was his heart.
What was it about her he wondered? She was a tiny thing, maybe 5’0 tall and 90 pounds soaking wet; soft red hair around a pixie face with huge green eyes. Eyes that took in everything he noticed, and sparkled with curiosity in a face that exhibited a slightly impertinent attitude even while she laid there scared to death. She had determination and wouldn’t give up, he could tell. She would be a fighter all the way through recovery and from the looks of the tests she would recover.
It was decision time, cut and run or stay and watch this amazing woman recover her life? He knew what his choice was going to be and a small part of him regretted it; life was going to change.
Georgio walked into the trauma room where Ms. Banks was waiting with her parents. After introductions were made he got down to business.
“Ms. Banks, you have sustained a traumatic spinal cord injury. It’s called Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury. That means your spinal cord is only traumatized, not broken or permanently damaged.” He looked at Cassie’s parents before adding, “She is incredibly lucky. Right now she is experiencing some minor paralysis but it should heal well on it’s on in time.”
Cassie bit her lower lip for a moment, relishing the pain it brought. She refused to cry about this, she wouldn’t! A million questions were leaping through her brain right now though and she tried to organize her thoughts so that she could ask those questions.
Georgio watched her struggle to keep her emotions under control; he admired her efforts because he knew how hard it was to do that. He saw the questions in her eyes and waited patiently because he knew she was going to have many.
“I – I, uh, don’t feel paralyzed. I can move my hands and I could feel it earlier when you poked my foot,” she said.
“The paralysis is basically in this area of your body,” he told her, indicating her stomach to her knees. “These are the area’s most effected; I know you could feel the test earlier and that you can move your hands but if you were to try to move your legs you would find that you couldn’t.” He watched her frown and realized that she was going to try to do that, move her legs and he reached out a warning hand and laid it on her leg to stop her. “Don’t try Ms. Banks, you’ll only do more damage.”
It scared Cassie when she realized that while she could see his hand on her leg, she couldn’t actually feel it. That sunk in like an anchor hitting the ocean floor. She really was paralyzed. No wonder it didn’t hurt!
“So, how long? Until it heals I mean. You said it will heal on its own.”
Georgio smiled at the determination in her voice. He didn’t realize how it lit up his face; he had been right – she was a fighter and that was most of the battle in cases like this. “Well Ms. Banks, that is largely going to be determined by YOU!” he told her as he pointed his pen at her. “Seriously, if you listen to what I tell you and follow directions you will hopefully be moving again in a few months.”
“MONTHS?” Cassie’s face blanched at the news. “Months? Like 2 months or 10 months?”
“Maybe 2 if you behave, maybe a bit more. Now, do you want to hear about what is going to be happening?”
She nodded and grabbed for her mother’s hand and squeezed it tightly. Georgio saw a brief look of discomfort flash across Mrs. Banks face, quickly hidden as concern for her daughter was the most prominent emotion.
“Okay, here goes. We are going to move you to a private room where you will be placed in a special bed for these types of injuries. It is designed to keep pressure off of your spinal cord so that it can heal more quickly. For a bit that will be your only concern, but as tests show healing progress to your spinal cord we will start you will some gradual movement. Eventually you will be out of that bed and will go to a rehabilitation hospital so that you can learn to walk again.”
“Learn to walk again? Why, will I have forgotten how to walk?”
“Not exactly, but you will lose muscle tone and mobility and these will have to gradually be built up again. But I feel confident that you will make a complete recovery Ms. Banks; you are very fortunate.”
“So, I won’t need surgery?”
“No, you won’t. It’s more a matter of letting your spinal cord rest and heal so that the swelling can subside and of course that is the ‘taking time’ part. It might seem like forever, but it won’t be. Now, they will be moving you soon and I’ll see you later after you have been settled into your room.”
Cassie nodded and watched as he left the room. She sighed, but it was a determined sigh and she did feel better know that she knew what was before her. She looked at her parents and asked, “Can you go and check on Sarah for me please? I want to know how she is doing.”
“Sure honey, I’ll go,” he dad told her.
“What time is it Mom?
“It’s around 9:15, shortcake. Why?”
“I was just wondering – it feels as if I’ve been here for hours and I guess that is because I have!”
Alice Banks nodded and patted her daughter’s hand. This was terrible for her, one of those times when a parent would give anything if it could only be them instead of their child. Alice couldn’t take the hurt away from her, but she would be there for her and help Cass get through it all. As Alice was thinking about all of this Ed walked in with Maggie Marcus, Sarah’s mom. A smile lit up Cassie’s face as Maggie came over and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“How’s Sarah?” Cassie asked eager to know what was going on with her best friend.
Maggie brushed a whisp of soft red hair away from Cassie’s cheek and smiled at her. “Well, she’s still unconscious, but not too bad otherwise. Her ribs are severely bruised and that is going to cause some discomfort for awhile. She has a fractured skull, which is what is causing the problems mostly. But they think it’s only a matter of time before the swelling goes down enough and she regains consciousness. We’re just thankful you are both okay for the most part!”
Cass sighed and slightly nodded her head, as much as the collar would allow and then panic hit her for a moment as she realized she had tried to move. This was going to be so hard she decided, keeping those small movements under restraint. You do it without even thinking and that could cause her lots of problems.
Just then another head poked into the room and Cassie recognized Lissa, Sarah’s daughter. Cassie’s grin spread across her face like wildfire; she loved Lissa like her own daughter and was so happy to see her.
“Hey kiddo, when did you get here?”
“A little while ago; I was checking in on Mom. How are you? They told me you have a spinal cord injury,” Lissa said as she touched Cassie’s hand.
Cassie noticed that Lissa was doing the ‘doctor’ thing, checking her over while trying to look like she wasn’t. “I’m okay,” she said with a laugh and a wink. “Could have been much worse; the hardest part is going to be keeping me still!”
“If they only knew,” Lissa laughed. “If they only knew…”
Just then two nurses came into the room and another attendant as well. The first nurse said, “Ms. Banks, we’re ready to move you to your room now.” To Cassie’s parents she stated, “She will be in room 4011 in 4 West. If you’ll give us a little while to get her settled you can then see her. You could wait in the waiting room on 4 or in the cafeteria.”
“Mom, Dad, it’s late, why don’t you go home and get some rest? I’m tired myself and I’ll be fine tonight, honestly.”
Alice looked horrified at the thought of leaving. “We most certainly WILL NOT, young lady! We want to see you settled first.”
Lissa and Maggie both said their goodbyes and promised to see her in the morning and went back to Sarah, who was also going to be moved to a room. As they started to wheel Cassie out of her room she caught sight of Dr. Gorman again. He was standing at the nurses’ station going over a chart, probably hers.
“Ah, Ms. Banks, they are moving you to a room I see. I’ll be up in a bit to make sure you are settled properly.” He closed the chart and smiled at her again and that was the moment that Cassie knew she was not only going to be alright, but that her life was going to change forever.
At that moment, love filled her heart.