Theresa was speechless as they loaded the stretcher into the helicopter. She knew that this experience would be long and difficult to get through. Making matters worse, Cody would have to spend the entire summer inside, while everyone else had to spend their summer worrying about him. The Children's Hospital was a mere three hours away, which meant Ryan couldn't hang out with his friends at all this summer.
As they family began to enter the helicopter, Theresa was stopped, and she was told that only one person could be in the helicopter with the patient, and that the rest of her kids couldn't enter. But, she was able to beg and plead, which did work, since she told the truth and said, "But I have no other way of getting my kids there!"
Eventually, it did work, and the entire family entered. Theresa had to admit, there was a lot more room in the helicopter than there was in the ambulance. Now they could have their own space. After making sure that everyone was safely inside, the helicopter began to slowly rise into the air, and off they went, bounded for the hospital.
Ryan nervously glanced out the window, watching the ground move further and further from his reach. He no longer wanted to look down anymore, and just sat there, not wanting to speak at all. It was upsetting to know that his brother had a chance of dying. It definitely was not a comfortable feeling.
A few minutes after they had lifted off, a woman came from the front of the helicopter and gazed directly at Jodi and Shirley. "Would you like to learn how to fly a helicopter?" she asked them politely.
Jodi and Shirley were pumped. They turned to Theresa to ask for her approval. "If you want to," said Theresa.
Jodi and Shirley ran excitedly toward the front of the helicopter, eager to learn about all of the controls, though everything they were about to learn would go right through their heads and back out. But it was just an opportunity to learn, and they were excited to keep busy during their boring flight. They disappeared toward the front of the helicopter. Theresa turned to Ryan and asked, "Why don't you go with them?"
Ryan shook his head. "I'd rather not," he responded quietly.
"Well, I'm not forcing you to," she said.
"Mom, is Cody gonna be okay?" he questioned, his voice quivering.
"I don't know," Theresa replied. "I really don't know."
"Are you sure he's not gonna die?"
"I don't think he'll die. Lots of kids get leukemia, and they survive. It is a difficult journey, and it takes courage and an immense amount of strength to survive something like this. I believe Cody has all of that, and can beat whatever life has to throw at him."
"But Mom, remember Eric?" he asked, and then began to cry, which was something he almost never did.
Theresa's memory raced back to when Ryan was only four years old, and he had a very close friend named Eric. He used to live just a few houses down from them. He was Ryan's best friend, and they had started kindergarten together. But, a few months after they had started kindergarten, Eric was diagnosed with leukemia. He was the same age as Ryan at the time, maybe a few months older.
Eric was only able to fight for a month before, sadly, he died. Ryan was left scarred, and he felt alone without Eric. He was his only friend, and after finding out about his death, he would refuse to get on the bus in the morning, because he feared sitting by himself. It was definitely a hard experience, and Ryan never wanted to go through that again.
Theresa gazed back at Ryan and said soothingly, "Yes, I do remember him." She wrapped her arms around him tightly.
"But remember my reaction when he died?" Ryan sobbed. "He was just my best friend. I don't know what I'd do if I lost my brother."
"It'll be alright," said Theresa. "I think he's tough enough to fight it off."
"But he's only eight."
"That doesn't make a difference. I've seen kids younger than that survive such diseases." Theresa was hoping she wasn't scaring him.
"But he doesn't even know he has it. Neither do Jodi and Shirley."
"Jodi and Shirley won't understand," said Theresa.
"They're gonna have to know about it soon, though," Ryan mumbled.
At that moment, Cody awoke from his sleep. Theresa and Ryan were unaware that he was now awake. He took a quick peek around the helicopter, wondering why he was in there. As he continued to look around, he noticed Theresa sitting next to Ryan, and his heart sank as he noticed their sadness. Ryan was crying, and Theresa didn't look too impressed, either. It was too unusual. Something was definitely up.
"Mom," he whispered, hoping Theresa would hear him.
Gladly, she did. "Oh, you're awake," she said, grinning.
He shot her his famous what-the-heck-is-going-on glare. Theresa could indicate why he was confused. "You want to know what's going on," she said quietly. Cody nodded.
Theresa drew in a deep breath, not sure what to say to him. She released Ryan from her arms and slowly walked over to the stretcher. She sat next to Cody, leaving Ryan by himself. He felt unsafe. He buried his face in his small hands, wishing that this was all just a terrible nightmare that he'd soon wake up from. But it wasn't, and he was forced to face the nasty truth.
Theresa sighed deeply before she spoke. "I suppose you're wondering why we're all here, in this helicopter," she said calmly, not wanting to appear nervous, for fear that he'd panic.
"Yes," he responded, nodding, and realizing only now that he had gained back his voice.
"Well," Theresa began. "You... well, I don't know how to put it into words to avoid frightening you..."
"What?" he asked, puzzled.
"Well... you... have leukemia. I'm not sure if you know what that is, but..." Before she could continue, Cody began sobbing uncontrollably. He knew exactly what she was trying to explain.
"I'm gonna die!" he shrieked.
"No, you're not gonna die," said Theresa, and wrapped him into a tight hug. "Just make sure that you fight hard. Things will most definitely get better."
"How do you know?" Cody sniffed. "There's kids who died from that."
"I know, but..."
Cody cut her off. "Ryan had a friend named Eric who died a long time ago."
"Because they diagnosed him too late," Theresa reminded him. "They diagnosed you before it was too late. Now you can get treatment for it, and will have a longer amount of time to fight it off. Eric died for two reasons. The first was because of the late diagnosis, and the second was, back a few years ago, they didn't really have a cure for cancer. There wasn't as much technology as there is now. And that was only back a few years ago. Because of all the technology we have a few years later, there is a better chance of survival."
That did make Cody feel a little better, he had to admit, but he wasn't one hundred percent convinced. "Are you sure?" he asked, his voice sounding a bit more calm than a few minutes ago.
"Yes, I'm almost positive," she replied, feeling terrible for frightening him when she explained to him about the leukemia.
Ryan started to feel extremely lonely. He wanted to be like his sisters, to not have a clue about what was happening. It would just seem better, because they were too young to understand such a disease. He was afraid for the summer to end, because he didn't know if Cody would still be there with them or not.
"If it isn't so bad, then what's wrong with Ryan?" Cody asked.
"He's just upset," Theresa replied quickly. "He's pretty nervous."
About ten minutes had passed when Jodi and Shirley came racing toward Theresa, with ear-to-ear grins on their faces. "I know how to fly a helicopter now!" Jodi said excitedly, taking a seat on Theresa's lap.
"It's hard," Shirley commented. "How do they do that without crashing?"
"They were expertly trained," Theresa replied. "It's their job to make sure we're safe."
"Oh," said Shirley. "Well they just trained us. We can fly one now, right?"
Theresa had to laugh at that. "Well, not necessarily. You have to go to school for that."
"I'm going soon," Shirley said happily.
"What I meant by 'school' is going to college. You have to graduate from school first before you can apply to a college."
"How long until we get there?" Cody asked. "I'm bored."
"You won't be able to do much at the hospital," Theresa reminded him. "You will have to stay in the hospital bed. You are getting a lot of treatment, it will make you very sick, and you are very likely to get a disease that can kill you if you go outside."
"But I can't!" Cody insisted. "That's what summer's for!"
"You are very weak," said Theresa, placing a hand on his shoulder. "You will get worse. It's going to be a long experience, and it will take a while to finally fight it off."
Cody wasn't feeling any better; the only thing that was better was his voice that he was finally able to use. His arms were still purple, he still had purple splotches on his face, and he still felt like vomiting. He wasn't sure if there was still blood. He was extremely tired, and wanted to go back home, where he could sleep in his own bed, not on some stupid stretcher that he was stuck on until they arrived. Then, he would be sleeping on another uncomfortable hospital bed.
A paramedic came to the back of the helicopter a while later. "We will be there shortly," she announced. "In probably about five minutes."
Ryan sighed. "I just want to go home," he muttered, and he sounded like he was whining.
"Unfortunately, we can't," Theresa said, disappointed.
Ryan rubbed his eyes, which were red from crying. "I'm really tired. I haven't gotten much sleep for the past two nights."
Jodi, who had lost focus on the conversation, asked, "Why are we in the helicopter?"
Theresa sighed deeply. "There's something wrong with Cody. It's quite severe."
"What?" Shirley questioned.
"He has leukemia," Theresa told them. By now, Cody had drifted off back to sleep. Jodi and Shirley glanced back at each other, confused. Obviously, they didn't know what leukemia was.
"What's that?" Jodi inquired.
"It's a type of cancer," Theresa explained. "If it isn't treated well enough, it can kill you."
"Cody's gonna die?" Jodi asked, and broke into tears.
"That doesn't mean he'll die," Theresa continued. "If he manages to fight it off, then he'll be fine. But it still can come back after it goes away."
"I don't want him to die," Shirley said innocently.
"Like I said, it doesn't necessarily mean he's gonna die."
Suddenly, the helicopter began to move downward. The helicopter landed with a thud, startling Jodi and Shirley. "We're here!" Jodi shouted.
"Shhhh," Theresa hissed. "You're being too loud!"
"Sorry," she responded apologetically.
The paramedics came to the back and gripped tightly to the side of the stretcher as they wheeled it out. Cody felt like he was losing his mind. He was shaking badly, and had tears rolling down his cheeks. Since he had feared hospitals so much, now he'd have to get used to them. He had always feared that one day, he'd be diagnosed with a life-threatning disease, and now, it had actually happened. It was a real-life nightmare.
Though Cody had just woken up, he was still feeling exhausted. He definitely couldn't get back to sleep now, since they were wheeling him down one of the many hallways of the Children's Hospital. They placed him in a room on the twelfth floor, in room 1204. There, they began to check on him, and kept close watch on him. He was concerned, and really wanted to know how he could get any better.
It was about five thirty, and the early signs of morning were showing. Cody was still wide awake. He no longer wanted to go back to sleep. His nerves kept him up, and there was no point. The doctors said that his chemotherapy would begin in about a day. They had decided to start almost immediately, because he could go into remission faster, if he happened to survive.
Theresa called up her older sister, Mimi, to let her know of the situation. She lived in the town, near the school where her children attended. She had six children. Also, Mimi and Theresa's parents lived on the same street as the Children's Hospital, which meant that Ryan, Jodi, and Shirley had easy access to the house. That way, they didn't have to stay in the hospital all the time.
At around nine thirty, Theresa decided to send Ryan and his sisters outside for a little fresh air. Ryan hesitated at first, saying that it was "not the same without Cody" which made it sound like he had died or something. But Jodi and Shirley insisted they go outside, and Ryan caved in.
After a long elevator ride, the doors opened. They gazed around for an exit to the building. The place was like a maze; there were hallways everywhere. They began to wander down different hallways and at last, they found a door that led to the outdoors. "There it is!" Shirley shrieked, pointing toward the large double doors. Relieved, they headed in that direction.
As they stepped out the doors, they felt a wave of hot air hit them. "Wow, it's hot outside," Ryan panted.
Jodi and Shirley had just started gymnastics a few months earlier. They were just beginning to learn the basics, like handstands, cartwheels, and the splits. Ryan decided to watch his sisters do their tumbling, to see their progress from the first time they had ever tried. Jodi was a bit more flexible than Shirley, however. She seemed to catch on to things faster than Shirley.
They practised a little longer, before dark clouds rolled in, producing a heavy downpour that forced them to head inside. As they began to head back to the large double doors, a familiar black van pulled up in the parking lot. It was one of those larger vans, with many seats. Their Aunt Mimi hopped out, and reached toward the back to unbuckle seatbelts. Their Uncle Scott was also there. The whole gang had showed up to come and visit Cody. "Hey guys!" Aunt Mimi shouted. She was a little bit far away, but her voice was loud enough to be heard from a far distance.
She strode down the sidewalk, her husband and children at her side. Ryan motioned for his sisters to follow him out of the rain, and go inside with Aunt Mimi. "How are you?" Aunt Mimi greeted, and gave him a hug.
"Not too good," Ryan said, frowning.
"I can understand why," said Aunt Mimi.
It was hard to find the front desk. It was down a long hallway, and slightly off to the right. In order to be able to visit Cody, they would need to register to make sure that there were visitors allowed in the room. As Aunt Mimi and Uncle Scott spoke with the lady at the front desk, all the children sat down on a nearby bench. Derek, the oldest, turned to Ryan and said, "The last time I saw you was just a few months ago."
Derek was eleven, just a year older than Ryan. But, Derek wasn't really mature, and surely didn't act his age. His siblings were the same way. Rebekah was nine, a year younger than Ryan, and she as well didn't have a high maturity level. Maggie was six, Skye was four, Jackson was three, and Jacob was just a few months old. That had to be difficult for Uncle Scott and Aunt Mimi to raise so many kids, ones that definitely couldn't act their own age.
They made their way to the room, where Cody lay on the hospital bed. He had just woken from yet another small nap.
"If you want, I can go back to your house and get some things for the kids," Mimi offered.
"But that's a three hour drive!" Theresa said, surprised. "Are you sure you want to drive all the way back there?"
"If you want, I will." Mimi was being serious. "Your kids need their stuff."
Theresa sighed. "Okay," she finally agreed.
"I can take Ryan, Jodi and Shirley with me. They can pick out the stuff they want and need to take, so then I don't have a giant list of things I need to get."
"Okay," said Theresa. "Does that sound good, guys?" She turned to Ryan, Jodi and Shirley. All three nodded. "Ryan, I want you to grab Cody's stuff. Okay?"
"Okay," he agreed.
"I'll get my kids to stay here if you don't mind," Mimi promised. "I don't think I need to bring the whole gang with me." She laughed. "It's just to get their stuff. They'll need their clothes, toothbrushes, all that stuff. If you have the keys to your van, I can drop Scott off at the hospital to get your van. Your kids can get extra stuff from the house to keep them busy, too. I know Ryan will want his skateboard."
Ryan nodded. "But do they even have a skatepark here?" he questioned.
"Yes, they do," Aunt Mimi told him. "It's right next to the park."
"Oh." Ryan turned toward Cody. "What do you want me to get for you?"
Cody rolled over so that he was facing Ryan. "I need clothes," he croaked.
Cody thought for a moment. "Get Checkers," he said, smiling.
Ryan knew Cody loved to play Checkers. Maybe, on days that he had a little extra strength and felt better, they could battle each other like they used to. Ryan remembered how competitive Cody would get, and he would tense up if he knew he was going to lose. Ryan was usually the winner, but on that rare occasion, Cody was able to successfully beat Ryan. Cody liked winning, because it was a good feeling.
"When are we going home to get our stuff?" Jodi asked sweetly.
Aunt Mimi thought for a moment. "Why not after lunch?" she suggested.
Theresa agreed. "We will definitely need that stuff soon."
"Oh, I almost forgot," Aunt Mimi remembered. "Theresa, what do you want me to grab for you?"
"Just grab my clothes," she said quickly. "That's really all I need. I'm not sure I really need my makeup, but it would come to good use."
"Oh, okay." Mimi thought for a moment, then said, "What do you guys want for lunch? I can go and get something simple from my place, or I can buy something if you want. How about some McDonalds or something?"
Theresa eyed her kids. "Is that what you guys want?" she asked.
"Sure," they all said quietly.
"Well, okay, then after you guys are done, we can go back and get your stuff."
"Wow, that's a lot of stuff you have," Theresa commented.
"It's what they all need," Mimi laughed, placing the box of shoes on the floor.
"Well, thank you anyway, for going all the way there to get that stuff."
"I have no problem with it," said Mimi, tossing the van keys to Theresa.
It was about seven thirty, and they had just gotten back. Aunt Mimi had promised to keep the bikes in her garage, and Ryan was allowed to keep his skateboard in the hospital room, as long as he promised not to ride it indoors. He would never do that anyway. He wondered why anyone would. There was nowhere to go on a skateboard inside a building except down the hallways, but those were no fun. Plus, sleeping patients could easily be jarred awake by the noise on the floor.
The sky had cleared up, and it was no longer raining. Theresa was about to suggest going outside, but the grass would be soggy and wet. They would not enjoy that. Plus, their grandparents would be coming to the hospital in about five minutes to come and visit. They were less than ten houses away from the hospital, and they would be able to walk there. And sometimes, if it was okay with their grandparents, maybe they could stay overnight at their house once in a while, to get a bit of a break from the hospital.
"Mommy, I have a headache," Jodi complained.
"Well, there's not much I can do about it," Theresa told her. "I can't go home and get all the medicine."
"But it really hurts," she said.
"It'll go away," Theresa assured her. "Maybe you're just tired and need some sleep."
A knock came at the door. Theresa hopped up to answer it, and her parents were at the door. "Hi!" they greeted, giving her a hug.
"I haven't seen you in a while," Theresa responded.
"We were hoping to see you soon," her mother said. "Not in a situation like this, though." She whirled around to see Ryan standing nearby. "You've gotten so big!" she said merrily, hugging him tightly.
"How?" Ryan asked.
"You've gotten taller," she said cheerfully.
Ryan wasn't even tall. He was actually really short for his age, and was underweight. His grandmother was probably referring to the last time she saw him, when he was slightly shorter. She would say the same thing about Cody, Jodi, and Shirley. All four of them were small for their age. But then again, at least everyone's grandparents will tell them the same thing if they haven't seen them in a long time.
After each grandparent hugged the children, they sat back in a chair and relaxed. They had short conversations with almost everyone in the room. After about ten minutes, Mimi said, "Well, I think I should get going. I stayed a little longer than I should have. Scott and the kids are probably wondering where I am." She giggled. "Ciao!"
Everyone waved goodbye as she closed the door. "She seems in a rush," the grandfather said.
"Her husband and kids will be worried if she doesn't get home soon," Theresa reminded them.
They paused for a moment. "You're hair has gotten longer," the grandmother commented, gazing over at Ryan.
Ryan reached up and smoothed his hair. He was confused, because his hair had not really been much shorter before. He tossed his head back, trying to get his hair out of his eyes. "Okay," he said.
"Unfortunately, Cody's gonna lose all of his," Theresa said sadly. She adored Cody's hair. It was similar to Ryan's, but it was a lighter brown. She couldn't seem to picture Cody losing his gorgeous, almost-blonde locks. He was disappointed as well, as he was not looking forward to being "bald".
He was beginning to feel drowsy. The doctors were keeping close watch on him, and suggested another nap to help cure the drowsiness and to prepare for his scheduled surgery the next morning. He had been getting a ton of sleep since they had left on the helicopter. Theresa wondered if Cody would even get sleep that night, since he had already gotten more than the amount of sleep he usually got in one night.
Ryan was definitely looking forward to getting sleep that night. He would probably struggle to drift off into slumber at first, since he was still worked up over the thought of Cody having leukemia. Half of him still believed that this was all a nightmare, even though he knew it wasn't. Now he wouldn't be able to go to parks with Cody, and worst of all, start school with him. He and his sisters would have to do without him.
"Well, do you three want to sleep at our place tonight?" their grandmother asked. "Or are you good to stay here?"
Heads turned in their grandmother's direction, then back to Theresa. "Well, do you really want to sleep on a cot tonight?" Theresa asked them.
Ryan shook his head. "Not really."
"Well, maybe you could try sleeping there for tonight, and if you'd rather stay here, then you can."
"Well, okay," said Ryan. He gazed over at his two younger sisters, to see if they were coming. They nodded in agreement. "You can come home with us at nine o'clock," their grandfather told them.
Upon entering the house, they felt at home. There was plenty of space, and they'd probably sleep in the spare bedroom downstairs. There were mattresses on the floor for them to sleep on, so then they wouldn't have to use a sleeping bag on the hardwood floor. Then, they could fall asleep in comfort, and wouldn't wake up feeling achy. That would not be a wonderful feeling.
They had already prepared for bed, which meant that they had already brushed their teeth, put their pajamas on, and were ready to climb into bed for the night. As Ryan went to shut out the light, Shirley screamed "No!"
Ryan whirled around, puzzled. "What?" he asked.
"Where's the nightlight?" she questioned.
Ryan paused for a moment. "I don't think they have one."
"But I can't sleep without it!" Shirley insisted.
"Why don't we just keep the door open, then?"
"There's no light on out there!" Shirley whined.
Ryan rolled his eyes. "I'll go ask if they have one."
A few minutes later, he came down the steps with a nightlight in his hand. "Told you they had one!" Shirley sneered.
Ryan plugged it into the wall. "There," he said. "Now I'll shut out the light."
The light went out, and off they went to sleep. Jodi and Shirley were both out like a light, but Ryan struggled to fall asleep, just as he'd imagined. He tossed and turned, but he couldn't seem to find a comfortable position. He was having terrible thoughts about the whole situation, with Cody in the hospital. He wanted to cry just thinking of how much Cody feared hospitals. Now, he'd have to face his worst fear the next day; getting surgery.
It took over an hour, but at last, Ryan was capable of falling asleep. He just drifted off, finally, after a while of just laying there, with haunting thoughts racing through his mind. Jodi and Shirley had easily fallen asleep, which was normal for them. Ryan could fall asleep easy if he was comfortable. But that just wasn't the case that night.
The phone rang, and Ryan hopped up to answer it. It was Theresa. "You've gotta come to the hospital. NOW!" she panicked.
Without thinking, he grasped onto his sister's hands tightly and raced out the door. "Where are we going?" they were screaming. He chose to ignore them and kept going.
They arrived at the hospital faster than it usually took for them to get there. He swung open the double doors and headed straight for the elevator. He almost broke the buttons trying to punch in the floor number. The elevator doors slammed shut, and, instead of travelling up, the elevator dropped into the ground. Jodi and Shirley were screaming as if they were about to get murdered. Ryan was left wondering how they would get to the room now.
All of a sudden, a staircase appeared out of nowhere. "We gotta go, now!" Ryan told his sisters. They bolted up the steps, hoping they weren't late.
Shirley screamed, and when Ryan whirled around, she was gone. There was a giant hole in one of the steps. She had fallen through. As he and Jodi gazed down, it got bigger. Pretty soon, the entire staircase collapsed, and they both fell through, even deeper into the ground.
Suddenly, they realized that they were on the twelfth floor of the hospital. Ryan wondered how they had even gotten there from falling through the ground. He shook it off and, reuniting with Jodi and Shirley, held onto their hands even tighter than before, and dashed off down the long, narrow hallway. The hallway seemed to stretch further and further as they ran faster. At one point, they were running so fast that Ryan tripped, bringing Jodi and Shirley with him. When they looked up, they realized they were right in front of room 1204.
The door whipped open, and there was Theresa. Two nurses held her hands behind her back to avoid hurting someone from panicking so much. Ryan, Jodi, and Shirley, who were all out of breath, gasped, "What's wrong?"
Theresa struggled to get out of the nurses' tight grasp. One of the nurses told her to quiet down, and explain to them why she was acting the way she was. When she opened her mouth to speak, she broke down. The other nurse slapped her on the back and yelled, "Tell them!"
Theresa took a deep breath and said, "Cody didn't survive the leukemia. I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier."