Ryan nervously glanced out the front window, staring up at the starry sky. Somehow, the sky's appearance was comforting, and it helped to keep his mind off the occurring situation. He hadn't even noticed that he was trembling terribly. He was afraid visit the hospital just as much as his brother, due to the fact that he was in such a horrible condition. Ryan was unsure whether he wanted to know what was wrong or not. He had never felt so nervous before.
In a panic, Theresa threw open the front door, racing back inside the house. She was in a rush, attempting to usher her children out to their red van so they could leave sooner. As Theresa had always said, the sooner the treatment, the sooner the cure. She felt like a bag of trash lying limply on the curb, because she'd left Cody in the van unattended so she could get her other children in gear and out the door. With a swelling ball of energy growing rapidly inside their stomachs, Jodi and Shirley bolted down the steps, and dressed themselves as if it were midday. "Last one to the van is a rotten egg!" said Jodi, and the two bouncing girls were out the door in an instant. Theresa could not understand how they could be so energetic when they'd only been lost in their dreams moments ago.
Ryan, however, wasted precious moments unintentionally, dragging himself down the steps like an exhausted ten-year-old should. Being sleep-obsessed, he felt the time for something like this to happen wasn't acceptable. "Ryan, please, get moving!" Theresa bellowed from the driveway, holding the door open.
"I'm coming, calm down," he muttered. He was feeling a little shaky from being so worried about his little brother. He was even scared to open the door to the van, in case he'd find him convulsing, or even worse, dead. Once outside, he slowly and carefully tugged on the black handle, and much to his relief, his brother was alright.
"Dude, you feeling okay?" Ryan asked, sitting next to Cody.
Cody managed a small nod. The tears continuously streamed down his face, and there was no way of stopping them. A searing pain ripped its way through his small stomach, and then through his left arm, and he was forced to grip his mouth to keep from yelping out loud. He doubled over, leaning his chin over his knees, silently crying.
"You don't look okay," Ryan muttered.
"I feel like I'm dying," Cody choked. "It's really painful."
"You should be lucky that I noticed that purple spot on your arm," Ryan reminded him. "Otherwise, we wouldn't know what to think."
Cody managed a small nod, and then threw his head back to keep his light brown hair from poking his wet eyes. He'd always despised the way his hair had done that, and no matter how many times it had been cut, it always managed to grow back to its regular length, which wasn't very long, but long enough to irritate him. Cradling his face in his hands, he let out a barely-audible moan, and Ryan's heart began to ache just by listening to him.
A few minutes later, Theresa appeared in the doorway, appearing both bedraggled and panicked. Although she wasn't the only one that had been driven out of bed early for an emergency, she had actually awaken half an hour earlier than the rest of the family, which had only provided her with more time to panic and process what was occurring. Hopping into the driver's side of the van, she shoved in the keys, almost missing the keyhole from her exhaustion. Once the engine roared to life, the van descended down the rough driveway, and off they went.
Theresa continuously glanced over her shoulder to check on Cody. When it came to her children becoming ill, she worried tremendously about their health conditions. Even the slightest complaint of nausea had her in doctor mode. She was like a doctor to her children, but in Cody's case, she needed to seek real medical help. Cody was still wasn't feeling so well, and the hospital was a good five to ten minute drive away. Down in the city, two hospitals were located on opposite ends of the area, but Theresa had already decided which one they'd be visiting that night.
There was one located closer to the entrance of the city, and she would visit that one. The other hospital had nurses who were not as caring. Theresa knew this from experience. When Ryan was only five, he had developed meningitis, and he was brought to that hospital. The nurses would yell at him, their voices rising with anger, when he felt too weak to walk, and they'd threaten to drag him if he refused. They had extremely rude behavior that Theresa would not tolerate.
When the needles terrified him, the nurses would threaten him yet again. They'd say, "You're five years old, you're old enough to deal with a simple pinch. If you think that's bad, we can get a bigger one for you if you'd like." That was what made him so afraid of needles. Even at the age of ten, he couldn't even look at a needle without shuddering. He still despised them. And there were times when they actually did give him fairly large needles, because he'd cried or struggled to get free. Ryan was considered lucky to be alive from what he'd been through with the disease and lack of proper care at the hospital. The same nurses still worked there, and after what Ryan had been through, Theresa wanted to steer in the other direction, away from that horrible place, and get Cody the best care possible.
As they continued down the highway toward the city, Jodi and Shirley were quick to fall back asleep. Ryan wished he could sleep, because he was feeling exhausted after such a wake up call. He hated being disturbed during his sleep, but if it was for an emergency like this, he would most definitely be willing to get out of bed. But the problem with that was, he would feel tired all day, and he despised that feeling. The only advantage about it was the fact that he would get a longer sleep the next night.
Ryan nudged Shirley gently, and she never made a sound as she slowly slumped over. "She sleeps like the dead," said Ryan.
"She's the most difficult, too," Theresa giggled. "I think she's worse than Jodi ever will be."
"Man, I wish I could sleep like that."
"I guess it comes naturally to some people." Theresa quickly turned her gaze away from the lightly-populated highway, bringing her eyes to meet Shirley's still form. Her chest rose and fell evenly, but no sound was heard. "Shirley will probably be this way for her whole life. Jodi, too."
After speeding down the highway through little traffic, they finally arrived in the surprisingly quiet city. Theresa veered the van off to the left, down one of the main roads toward the hospital. Cody felt terrible, and for two different reasons, one being because of his current state, and the other due to the fact that he'd driven his whole family out of bed so early in the morning. He felt bad, and to him, it seemed as if he were an attention seeker. He wasn't, but he felt like it because of how serious it had been. And, to make matters worse, he hated hospitals, and patients there would most likely stare at his arm. He didn't want to gain anymore attention than he already had that night.
Finally, they arrived at the hospital. Theresa screeched the van to a halt in a parking space close to the entrance doors, so she could get inside faster. There were quite a few cars in the parking lot, which was a bit of a surprise. Usually, there weren't too many cars out and about at two-thirty in the morning, but there were still staff and patients who needed to stay overnight. Or maybe there were overnight emergencies somewhat like Cody's experience. But they definitely hoped that, no matter how many people were there, that they would take him in immediately. He'd be taken to the emergency unit, because of how serious his condition appeared to be.
At lightning speed, Theresa climbed out of the van and threw open the back doors. She quickly unbuckled Jodi and Shirley from their seatbelts after waking them from their peaceful slumber, and at the same time, helped Cody outside. She would have to carry him inside. As she lifted him off the ground, she gazed down at Ryan and said, "Watch your sisters."
He nodded, doing as told. Theresa took off down the parking lot toward the entrance doors, Cody in her arms. Ryan grabbed hold of Jodi and Shirley's hands and sprinted after Theresa. Jodi and Shirley were very sluggish, and since Ryan could run the fastest, he nearly dragged his sisters across the cement. They were shrieking with laughter at the speed they were going. They were easily able to catch up to their mother as she continued down the parking lot toward the doors.
Inside, there were a few doctors who were having a small chat at the entrance doors. When the family entered the hospital, the doctors caught sight of Cody's colourful arm and gasped horrifically.
"Oh Lord," said one, gently taking hold of his thin arm. "What happened, bud?"
"We don't know," Theresa said, also examining Cody's arm. "It's not an injury. He's terribly sick."
"We should get him in right away," the doctor thought out loud. "I'm on my break, but I could probably get a good look at that arm. It looks quite serious."
Cody was still upset. And tired. After all he had been through that night, all he wanted was for the pain to stop, which would allow him a better chance of falling into a deep slumber, one he'd been expecting to get since bedtime. As Theresa carried him off down the hall to one of the rooms, he thought about why and how this had even occurred in the first place. His arm wasn't purple because of an injury, he was just sick. But why would his arm be purple? Since when did purple arms have to do with being sick and throwing up all over the place?
He was absolutely terrified. To begin, he was in a hospital, one of the worst places that could exist, he thought. If he was ever told that he developed a life-threatening disease and could die anytime soon, he'd only give up on everything. He was trembling as he was placed on the examination table. He didn't know what to expect, and was afraid of what they would do to him just to find out what was wrong. And just like Ryan, he was horrified even by the sight of a needle.
The rest of the family had been asked to sit out in the hall while they ran tests on Cody to find the problem. They chose a spot across from the door, on the other side of the hallway. "Are you sure they'll find the problem?" Ryan asked, yawning.
"They're doctors," Theresa replied. "Trust me, they'll know what to do about it."
"He doesn't look okay," said Jodi.
"They can make him better, sweetie," said Theresa, patting her daughter on the head.
At the moment, Ryan was feeling so sorry for his brother. All that pain he must be going through. And then there was the fact that Cody got super nervous when he was in the hospital, and especially if it involved using needles and doing blood tests. This time, Cody had no clue as to what they were going to do to him, which made him feel worse. He was probably having a nervous breakdown in that room, especially being alone without his family.
In the examination room, Cody suddenly caught sight of the nurse placing some sort of liquid inside a fairly large needle. His heart jumped as she slowly turned around, and although she was nice, he thought her an evil lady. After all, who would want to poke an innocent eight-year-old with a monster-sized needle while he was already in excruciating pain? "Honey, I need you to hold still for me while I do this," the nurse said as she approached him, needle in hand.
"Is it gonna hurt?" he asked innocently, covering the splotch with his opposite hand.
"It's only a little pinch, and then it's over," the nurse replied. "You'll be okay. Just close you eyes and take a deep breath, and before you know it, it'll be over." The soothing tone of her voice was enough to calm him a little. The way she acted so calm about everything, it was contagious. As Cody's brown eyes fluttered closed, he felt almost as if he were at home, and it was his mother preparing to give him the injection rather than a stranger he'd known for five minutes.
The needle came in contact with the bare skin, and Cody flinched. His breath snagged in the back of his throat, and he held it there. He hadn't expected the needle to feel so painful against the purple mark. "Oww," he wheezed, attempting to fight the agonizing pain by squeezing his eyes shut tighter. What the nurse had said about closing his eyes and taking a deep breath was all a bunch of lies. His left arm now stung badly, and his eyes watered as the nurse began to slowly abstract the needle from his arm.
She then left the room, and it suddenly hit him that once again, he was left unattended. A single tear rolled down his face, followed by several more. They rushed down his cheeks like a river during spring time, and he tried to cry silently, but it was much more difficult than he'd expected. His entire body eventually heaved with sobs, his voice cracking through his hiccups, and he once again covered the purple mark with his opposite hand. Why did this all have to happen to him? Why wouldn't they allow his family in the room to keep him occupied? Now more than ever, he was homesick, although home was only a short five-minute drive away. As he pulled his knees to his chest, resting his wet face on top, the door swished open abruptly, and he whirled around quickly as he hopelessly attempted to hide his tears.
After another half hour had passed, the nurses had all come up with a solution to the problem based on their few results. They'd taken note on the barely-noticable swelling of his lips, and especially the purple splotch. The "evil" nurse exited the room once more, clipboard in hand, and pulled Theresa aside as she described their findings. "Not all of our results have proven accurate, but it's quite clear that he may have mononucleosis. They describe this as a 'kissing disease,' but at his age, it isn't likely he's been kissing anyone." She paused to chuckle at her own joke. "We figure he may have contracted it from a water fountain at school. We'll send you down to pick up your medication soon, which for now is Tylenol, to clear the headache he's been complaining about."
Theresa nodded. She had heard of mono, but she'd never seen it so severe in the twenty eight years she had lived.
"It's just a little sickness that should go away within a week or so," the doctor explained. "He may have to be admitted to the hospital if it gets worse. But he'll be fine."
Theresa nodded, understanding. "So when do we get to take him home?"
"Probably by sunrise," the doctor estimated, peeking into the room where Cody was.
Cody stretched himself out on the uncomfortable hospital bed. He complained how he could feel the springs digging fiercely into his spine, and how it was totally obvious that the pillow was old, as it had a powerful stench, and it was stained with age. Sure, that hospital provided excellent health care, but they were not too good at cleaning the place and providing comfortable beds for the patients.
Mould had grown all over the window sills, and they judged that the floors had not been swept in a while. There was dust just about everywhere, and Ryan began to wonder how the patients had all recovered so quickly with so much germs surrounding them. The environment was not the greatest there, and at least the other hospital was nice and sparkly clean. Ryan slid his finger across the wall, and when he took it off, it was full of dust. How is this hospital still running? he thought to himself, wiping the dust off. "A health inspector should pay a visit here," he said.
"Indeed," Theresa agreed. "This definitely isn't healthy for the patients."
The family entered the room carefully as the nurses left, and Theresa rushed over to where Cody lay as if he were about to slip away at any given time. "How are you feeling, honey?" she asked, stroking his cheek.
"Is that a serious question?" Cody joked. "I think you know how I feel by looking at me."
Theresa smiled. Already, he was back to his normal self, and she was proud to see that through all the pain, he was still in a silly mood. "I bet you feel so much better now that you've faced your enemy."
"Or enemies," Cody added.
"Well anyway, I think it's best for you to get some rest before we get home," said Theresa, placing her hand on his warm head. "There's just a couple hours before sunrise, and it'll be healthy for you to sleep off your exhaustion while we wait."
Cody nodded, understanding. After the brutal experience he'd been through that night, he was ready to sleep off all the stress. The searing pain in his stomach had disappeared like the wind, and the purple splotch seemed to be losing its colour as time passed. Theresa planted a kiss on his forehead, and exited the room with the rest of the family.
Cody was luckily given the chance of a good rest until the moment he was to be more hours to go. The family discharged, but as for the rest of the family, they'd have no other choice but to remain awake and alert while they counted the minutes on the clock. By now, it was around three-thirty in the morning, leaving them with about three vacated down to the quiet waiting room, where it was assumed they'd be staying for the time remaining.
Ryan stretched himsef out over the series of chairs, cuddling against their backs contentedly as a wave of exhaustion threatened to drag him into unconsciousness. Doctors occassionally passed by with patients hooked up to IVs, but they clearly didn't mind Ryan taking up some of the chairs. Being too small for his age, there still left plenty more chairs for other patients to take up, if they decided to take them. Theresa was satisfied to see that they had the room all to themselves, whih allowed the three remaining children to doze without disturbance. As for Theresa, she was to patiently await until the crack of dawn to gather her family and drive home.
As for Cody, he'd already met unconsciousness as if it were his best friend. He'd fought the prickling feeling of the springs scraping along his spine, and drifted off like he hadn't slept in years. As far as he was concerned, he was in a bed, and was grateful he wasn't resting on the tiled bathromm floor at home. The warmth of the blankets seeped through his skin, providing him with a comforting feeling that made him feel at home. Just before his eyes had fluttered closed, he'd gazed dreamily up at the clock, which read three-forty-five. Only a few more hours. And with that thought, he was out like a light.
It didn't seem like a long time before the sun began to rise, the sky turning a beautiful orange and pink color. It was about six o'clock, and the doctors decided they could release Cody from the hospital. The family woke Cody, and within ten minutes, they were ready to leave. They made sure to pick up his medicine before they left.
As Theresa started the van, she said, "When we get home, we can all have a nice long nap, to catch up on the sleep we all deserve."
"Sorry," Cody apologized. "I didn't want to get sick."
"It's not like it's your fault," Theresa said, starting up the van. "You didn't ask for this to happen." She pulled out of the parking space and began to exit the parking lot.
"That sun is so bright," said Theresa, shielding one of her eyes with her hand. "I can't wait to get home and have a nice rest."
"Yeah, same," Ryan agreed. "I haven't slept since two in the morning. Boys deserve their 'beauty sleep' too." Theresa laughed at that.
They finally entered their small, quiet, sparsely-populated town. As they pulled up to their house, they noticed Quincy and Tara sprinting across the yard and through the bushes dividing the two yards. "Aww, man," Ryan sighed.
Quincy and Tara were their neighbours. They both were attached to Ryan's family, and never missed an opportunity to confess to them what great friends they were. Quincy, who was eleven, thought that Ryan was his best friend, when in reality, Ryan didn't enjoy his company at all. Tara, who was five, thought that Jodi was her "best friend in the whole wide world". Ryan and Jodi did find Quincy and Tara to be a little odd, but they obviously kept it secret from them. They didn't want them to know about the way they thought of them.
The whole family acted awkwardly. They did have a nice personality and all, but they could have at least showered once in a while. Their naturally tanned skin was stained with dirt, and their black hair was always packed with grease. Whenever they approached Ryan or any other one of his family members, they'd always have to take a step back because they had a gross, pungent odor on them. Ryan hated the way Quincy would call him "bestie" and "BFF" because this made it sound like a "girl thing". In addition, it was quite annoying when Quincy would invite him to go everywhere with him as well. Whether it was to the park, or to the arena in the next town, or to go swimming wherever, Ryan usually never went, anyway, because the whole town knew that it was embarrassing to be seen with them anywhere.
Tara, though she was only five, was madly in love with Cody. Cody couldn't stand her, though. She fantasized about marrying him someday, which made Cody want to throw up. She would also present him with things she had found outside, such as dead flowers, rocks, and caterpillars she'd plucked from the trees. She gave him the rocks for a rock collection, something he didn't even have. The flowers sometimes had a bee on it. He had gotten stung a few times, which he was not too happy about. He didn't have a high pain tolerance, and he hated getting stung because it was painful.
"Cody!" Tara shrieked, noticing that Cody had stepped out of the vehicle. She raced toward him, her arms outstretched.
Cody started to slowly walk away, but that didn't stop her from coming near him. She instantly wrapped her skinny arms around him, and squeezed him tight. He tried to back away, but it seemed impossible if he was within her grasp.
"I'm sick," said Cody. "Go away."
"Well, I wish you were better." And without warning, she tried to kiss him.
She had her kissy face on. She began to reach her lips toward his. And he, in disgust, brought his head back to avoid what she was trying to do. He was taller than Tara, not by much, but it wouldn't be easy for her. She began to get closer, so Cody, without thinking, began to wave his arms around frantically, hoping that would cut her off and make her go away. It didn't work until, by accident, he slapped her in the face.
She instinctively let go of him, and ran screaming into her own yard. Though Cody had done it by accident, he smiled, glad it had driven her away. Quincy began to chase after her, because he was unaware of what had just happened. After they had both left, Ryan, who had witnessed the hilarious scene, high-fived his little brother, and they shared a good laugh together.
The situation was so funny, it was hard to sleep when the family went for a nap.
Ryan felt a hand strongly shaking his shoulder. It was the middle of the night, and he was tired from doing so many fun activities earlier on in the day. He sat up in bed, frustrated that he had been once again disturbed in his sleep for the second night in a row. Theresa was standing in front of him. "Get up," she said, her voice trembling.
"What's going on now?" Ryan asked, rubbing his tired eyes.
"We have to go back to the hospital," she said, sounding alarmed. "He's vomiting up blood. This is serious, Ryan."
Hearing that, he leaped out of bed, his heart nearly popping out of his chest. "Get dressed," she urged. "We have to go now."
Ryan quickly grabbed whatever he could find in the drawers. He didn't care if he grabbed a t-shirt or a sweater. As long as he was ready, he was fine.
He exited the room, wearing a pair of black jeans and a blue pull-over sweater. It wouldn't be so warm outside in the middle of the night, anyway. Jodi and Shirley were already dressed, Jodi wearing a pair of purple jeans and a blue tank top, while Shirley was wearing her favourite white knitted sweater that she had worn on her birthday, along with a regular pair of jeans. Her sweater had many large-sized holes in it from being knitted, which was great for a hot day. It didn't really matter what they were wearing, just as long as they were dressed and ready to go.
Theresa quickly dialed 911 on the phone, and carried Cody out to the living room couch. He just lay there, moaning. She quickly grabbed a bowl in case he vomited again. It was quite serious, since he had been vomiting up blood. He was in even worse shape than the night before. Both arms were completely purple, and he had little purple splotches on his cheeks. He was going through a lot, especially for an eight-year-old.
"Dude, are you alright?" Ryan asked, staring blankly at the purple splotches displayed on Cody's face.
Cody shook his head weakly. He couldn't even speak, because he had lost his voice. He was breathing heavily, attempting to ease the pain a little. Jodi and Shirley were clueless as to what was going on. They didn't understand, and didn't really think anything about it, except for the fact that it was a pretty serious situation. All Cody wanted was to be pain-free.
Theresa entered the living room. "They'll be here soon," she announced. She leaned over Cody to check if he was okay. "Are you doing okay?" she asked.
Cody was unable to respond. He just lay back and rested his head on the arm of the couch, trying to get comfortable. "You shouldn't get too comfortable," Theresa warned. "They'll be here soon, and you will have to stay on the stretcher."
At last, the sound of wailing sirens filled their ears. They could see the lights flashing through the curtains on their front window. Instead of having the paramedics knock at the door to be let in, Theresa bolted down the steps and flung open the door for them. They entered the house and quickly located Cody.
They spoke to Theresa for a few minutes before they brought Cody outside to the stretcher. As they rolled the stretcher down the driveway toward the ambulance, one of the paramedics gazed at Theresa with a serious expression on his face. "I'm really sorry, but only one other person is allowed inside the ambulance," he said.
Theresa's eyes went wide, and panic rose within her. "But I have no other way of getting my kids to the hospital!" Her voice shook as she spoke. "I can't leave them here by themselves! The oldest only turned ten a month ago! And it's the middle of the night!"
Theresa allowed the paramedic a few extra minutes to speak to the other paramedic about whether they should let the entire family in or not. They finally agreed to it, but warned her that there wasn't a lot of room in the ambulance. Theresa simply did not care about the amount of space that there was, just as long as they were all able to get to the hospital together as a family.
The paramedic had been right; there wasn't a lot of space in the back. They found themselves squished together during the ride to the hospital. Shirley sat on Theresa's lap the whole way there, while Ryan and Jodi were left to find some other kind of space. Cody had plenty of space on the stretcher, which made him like the idea of riding in an ambulance. But he had never been in one before, and he didn't really know what to expect when he was brought out of the ambulance. This time, he was even more nervous than the previous night, because he was in worse shape, and he didn't know what they'd do to him when they arrived.
It didn't take long before they felt the ambulance come to a complete stop. They had arrived. Ryan breathed a sigh of relief, glad he wouldn't have to be squished any longer. The paramedics rushed to the back, opened the doors, and began to lift the stretcher out. Cody began to panic a little, and he was trembling. Theresa made sure to tell him not to worry, that everything would be okay. He kind of ignored her, though, because he was afraid that she was lying to him.
They disappeared through the doors of the Emergency Room, and immediately brought Cody into one of their rooms. Theresa had just realized that this was the other hospital, the one that she dreaded coming to, the one with all the rude doctors and nurses. Theresa just shook it off, not really caring who was working with her son. Just as long as they helped solve the problem. She was kind of hoping that they had hired new workers, ones that were less disrespectful. Then, everything would seem much better, and she could breathe a sigh of relief when she knew that they were not constantly throwing nasty comments at him.
Theresa motioned for her kids to come and sit next to her across the hall. They hesitated for a moment, but let in after a few seconds. They were just as anxious as Theresa. They nervously sat next to her, wishing that they were still in bed, that they were still sleeping, that Cody was alright. They were hoping for a miracle, and wanted Theresa to be able to say that everything would be okay, without lying. Hopefully, his condition wasn't too major, and it was all just a false alarm or something.
Jodi and Shirley didn't know what to think. They were too little to really understand, and they were confused as to why they were there. They knew Cody was sick, but they didn't know exactly what was wrong or why he was really acting the way he was. They were nervous, but not as nervous as Theresa and Ryan were. They knew exactly what was going on, and they were easily able to detect that this was definitely not mono.
It took a while, but a nurse finally left the room. She grasped a clipboard in her hand. Theresa had never seen her before, and she seemed to have a friendly character. She was just a young nurse, and Theresa judged that she was probably in her early twenties. The nurse turned to Theresa and said, "Well, we do have some news to share with you."
"What's the news?" Theresa asked desperately.
"Well, I didn't run any tests on your son, but the other doctors did, and gave me the results of the tests. I just graduated from college, so I am kind of just learning the basics of this job. The doctors sent me out here to break the news to you."
"Well, what's the news?" Theresa repeated. "Is it good or bad?"
The nurse hesitated to speak for a moment. "Well," she said. "I don't know how to put this into words, but... oh, this is so hard..."
Theresa was desperate. "What?" she said. "Please, I need to know!"
The nurse avoided eye contact with Theresa, drew in a deep breath and said, "Your son... we discovered that he has acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He needs to be transported to the Children's Hospital. Immediately."