Stephanie dropped Kim and the boys at home, showered and headed back to the hospital. She wanted to have a little time with Emmy before they took her back for the surgery. Arriving several of the nurses patted her on the back and whispered “Way to go coach.” They hadn’t won the game but it seemed like they’d won something much bigger.
In the room Brett nearly tackled her. “They were awesome. You were awesome. One of the nurses found a radio station from Cleveland that was broadcasting the game so we listened. Emmy even got to hear it.”
“Sophie’s speech too.”
“Brought me to tears.”
“In front of everyone?”
“In front of everyone.” Stephanie took Emmy’s hand. “Great game wasn’t it, sweetie?” She was still sedated, but Steph believed that she could hear them. “You would have been so proud of Sophie. She played like the team captain we knew she could be. Emmy, you were there with us right here.” She reached up and rested her hand on Emmys chest. Strengthened somehow by feeling her heart beating under her hand.
The transport team and Barbara came in to get Emmy ready for the surgery. Stephanie explained to Emmy what was happening and Emmy held tight to her hand. Barbara saw Emmy’s knuckles go white. “Mom how about if you walk with us to the operating room?”
“That sounds great.” She held Emmy’s hand the entire time. When they stopped at the doors Stephanie leaned over and kissed her, “I’ll be right here when it’s over.” Emmy released her hand and they wheeled her in. Stephanie walked back to the room to wait.
Ten minutes into the surgery Holly arrived. Dressed in normal jeans and a shirt they found out she was actually off today but had come in to check on Emmy. She stayed and talked with Brett and Stephanie during the whole surgery. It kept their mind off what was happening and before they knew it Emmy was back with a little less baggage this time. Gone were the tubes and the machine that kept negative pressure on the area outside her lungs, drawing fluid away preventing them from collapsing again.
The transport team and Barbara got Emmy all settled back in and then they left. Emmy was still knocked out by the anesthesia so Holly took a peek under the gauze. “Look here.” She pointed them both out to Brett and Stephanie. “I know Dr. Hatcher wasn’t available, but the surgeon did a great job. These won’t leave much of a scar at all.” Then she looked over Emmy’s chart.
“Holly honestly how do things look?”
She turned to them. “She still in serious condition for a reason. She’s on day three of a fever with antibiotics. The removal of the chest tubes is a significant step but the fever is still a sign of a serious infection raging in her already beat up body. Dr. Hatcher told me about the sores and it’s hard to imagine a little body being in much worse shape than she was. But now she’s getting nourishment. I know she didn’t want it but that feeding tube will work wonders for her energy. That central line is rehydrating her to a point she hasn’t been in months. With the amount of vomiting she’s been doing there was simply no way she was staying hydrated, with or without playing.”
“She started this so far down that it’s going to take a while to get her to a point were we start to see improvement. Then like last night all the medication, the ventilator, everything has its own set of risks and side effects to deal with.”
“How long do you think?”
“With this one who knows. Main thing is for her fever to break. That would be a sign that the infection is under control.”
“Could this get worse?”
“Unfortunately yes. Organ failure is a possibility with infections this widespread. Sepsis, or an infection of her blood is possible. But she’s in the best possible place to treat her right now. And you have to remember whom we are dealing with. This kid’s a fighter. She’s not giving up. If I had money to bet. I’d say your home for Christmas.”
Dr. Hatcher stopped by and was very pleased with the surgery and her progress. The night proceeded uneventfully, thankfully. At 10:00 Stephanie finally convinced Brett to go home. “I feel like you haven’t left in days. I’ve been in and out so much and you’ve gotten to be with her. It’s my turn to take the night shift. We’ve also got to get a plan worked out so Kim can go home. She’s got Christmas at her house in a few days.”
“David called this afternoon and said not to worry. My sisters had taken care of a lot of the food and that he and the boys were going to have the house ready when Kim got home to surprise her.”
“That’s good. I don’t know what we would have done without her.”
“I know. She’s kept the boys fed, happy and healthy.” Brett picked up his coat and put it on. He leaned over Emmy’s bed and brushed some hair back, “You take it easy tonight OK. Steph’s here with you so you can relax and just rest. Sweetie, I can’t wait to have you back home watching movies on the couch. I love you.” He kissed her then Stephanie. “You make sure you rest too. Nancy is on again tonight, I checked. She’ll report back to me if you don’t.” He tried to give her the evil eye, but she stuck her tongue out at him. He reached out and grabbed her pulling her in to a bear hug. That was what he loved most about her. Sure she was beautiful and smart and a heck of a basketball player and coach, but it had been that feisty side that he’d fallen in love with.
Early on he’d had a thing for her, but working for the team he didn’t want to push things. So it started with teasing. At first he’d bet her a candy bar that she wouldn’t hit three 3-pointers in a game. She did and when the last one went through the net she mouthed, “pay up” as she ran back down the court.
He was sitting outside the locker room with a Twix; he’d seen her eat them on the way to class. Yes, he was stalking her just a bit. She smiled and laughed as he handed her the candy.
After several more bets about candy he upped the anti. This time he bet her dinner if she had 10 steals. The next game was against one of their rival colleges. Stephanie apparently really wanted dinner because she actually had a triple double that game. 15 steals, 23 points, and 13 rebounds were a personal best for her. After the game he was sitting there with his keys. “So where do you want to go Superstar?” They went out to eat at a pizza place on campus and that night they’d had their first kiss as he walked her back to her dorm. From that moment on they were head over heels in love and still were today.
Life had certainly changed since that night in front of her dorm, but his love for Stephanie hadn’t. He finished the hug off with a kiss and pulled his keys from his pocket. “You call if anything happens OK?”
“Absolutely.” He started to go. “Brett” he stopped and turned back to her. “I love you.”
A smile broke out across his lips. “I love you too. When this is all behind us….” He’s going to say something wildly inappropriate because the love and lust for this woman, for his wife, had welled up inside him. But then Steph put a glorious finger to her lips.
“Shh, I know. Your daughter is listening.” Your daughter. It hits him like a ton of bricks. Sometimes in the midst of all this he’s forgotten how important that is. He has a daughter and again he smiles. “Until later then.” Stephanie smiled at that too.
Her blood pressure was all over the place. The anesthesia was clearing from her system and as she began to come to it skyrocketed. The doctors quickly returned to her previous dose of sedation and it plummeted. Her temperature remained high and almost unresponsive to the alternating doses of fever medications.
They had been by twice this evening to suction her lungs. By two in the morning Stephanie was exhausted emotionally and physically. Emmy had slipped back into the sedation, but it was a fitful sleep. Her feet moved and she scrunched her brow from time to time.
The last time Nancy and the doctor rushed in when her blood pressure spiked and she began to pull at her tubes again she’d scooted to one side of the bed. Stephanie was tired so she slid into the bed beside Emmy. Laying on her side, careful not to bump the new stitches on her side Stephanie laid her head against Emmy’s shoulder and stoked her arm. She quietly began singing “You Are My Sunshine” just like she’d done for the boys when they were little.
After a few minutes Stephanie’s singing stopped as did the stroking of Emmy’s arm. Stephanie’s hand came to rest a top Emmy’s. Nurse Nancy walked by and stopped she smiled and entered the room. From the small shelf in the corner she pulled down and sheet. Unfolding it she laid it over Stephanie.
Nancy looked at the two as she reviewed Emmy’s vitals. She shook her head this family had been through hell the last couple of days, they both deserved some rest.
At seven o’clock Barbara came back on duty and Nancy showed her to the room. They spoke outside careful not to wake the two, still sleeping peacefully. Nancy smiled one last time and left. Barbara came in and placed a new nutritional supplement into the machine that pumped the liquid through the tube in her nose and directly into her stomach. The case clicked as Barbara closed it but neither of the sleeping females moved.
At nine o’clock when it was time of rounds Barbara pushed Dr. Hatcher to do Emmy last. Knowing that Barbara was one of the best nurses around he complied. At five after nine Brett snuck into the room. He stopped just inside the door. He saw his wife and daughter cuddled together in a hospital bed in the PICU and it was one of the greatest sights he’d ever seen. Seeing that the doctors were just one room away Bret gently tapped Steph on the shoulder. “Babe, the doctors will be here in just a minute.” She woke suddenly and it took a moment to realize where she was.
“Brett, what time is it?’
“Just after nine.”
“Really?” She slowly slid out of the bed. Trying not to jostle Emmy. She smoothed her clothes and pulled out her ponytail and re-fixed her hair.
“How long have you been asleep?”
“Her blood pressure was crazy, up and down and she was fitful. So I laid down with her about two and I guess I fell asleep.”
“That you did Mrs. Miles.” Barbara and the doctors were standing at the doorway.
“Dr. Hatcher I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to…” He put a hand up for her to stop.
“Mom I’m afraid you are hereby demanded to stay in that bed with her for the remainder of her stay in this PICU.” Dr. Hatcher tried to keep a straight face.
“Stephanie apparently you are exactly what Emmy needed. Nancy noted that at 2:00am when you laid down her vitals all normalized and two hours later her fever broke.”
“Wait her fever is gone?” Stephanie could almost not contain the smile as Brett asked the question.
“It is. At 4:13 this morning for the first time since she’s been here her temperature was 98.6, normal.”
They both looked at each other.
“Not only is her fever gone but there has been no suction for her lungs since just before 2:00am either. Her blood pressure is normal. So here is my plan. If I don’t see anything concerning right now. I’m going to stop the sedation so you should stick around she may get agitated again. When she’s awake we’ll do a spontaneous breathing test. It she does OK on her own, I’ll extubate her right there. That will be an end to the ventilator and the sedation.” Stephanie could not contain the smile. “She could be out of ICU by this evening.” Stephanie felt tears forming in her eyes. This time it was sheer happiness.
“Oh doctor that sounds great.”
“Then lets get going.” He pulled the curtain, stepped up to the bed and began to examine Emmy. He listened to her chest and looked over the stitches from the chest tube removal. He checked the chart for her urine output and satisfied that everything seemed in order he turned off all the medication. Typing a bunch of stuff in her chart then turning. “I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this little girl will spend her first Christmas in a long time in a home with parents who love her.”
Brett put his arm over Stephanie’s shoulders. “Doctor you really think…?”
“I really do. We’ve go tot get her off this vent first and that’s going to be the hard part. Keep her from struggling too much. Those stitches on her sides are new and we don’t want her to bust them open. Barbara will stay here and I’ll be around as soon as she’s fully awake we’ll start the breathing test and get her off that vent.” Barbara nodded and went to work getting all the items they would need to get her disconnected from all the machines.
Brett looked at Stephanie and they smiled knowing they were one step closer to getting her home. While they waited Brett called Kim and gave her the good news. The boys were still sleeping but she would tell them as soon as they came up. Brett promised to call back as soon as she was off the vent. They were hoping the boys could come see her as soon as they got her out of the ICU.
Emmy must have heard Brett’s voice because she turned her head toward him and began trying to open her eyes. It was hard at first and she began to struggle. He quickly hung up and put his phone away grabbing her right hand and holding it in place. “Emmy, its Stephanie.” She turned her head toward Stephanie’s voice. “Hey, you’ve got to be really still OK. They took your tubes out last night and we don’t want to rip the stitches.” Stephanie touched very lightly on Emmy’s side just above the gauze pad. “Feel right there? That’s were one was.” Brett did the same on the other side. “And Brett’s touching by the other one.” Emmy seemed to understand and relaxed a bit. Her feet continued to churn under the sheets though. “Emmy can you open your eyes and look at me?” She tried several times before she finally got them to stay open. “There are those beautiful blue eyes. I’ve got good news, Dr. Hatcher said your fever is gone he’s going to be back in a few minutes to get those tubes out of your throat. Then they won’t have to sedate you anymore.”
Barbara stepped up into Emmy’s field of view. “Hey Emmy, my name is Barbara I’m going to be your nurse for all this. OK?” Emmy remembered the process from before and blinked once. Barbara smiled. “I’m glad you remember our little Morse code.” She patted her on the arm. “We’ll get this underway soon.”
Stephanie felt Emmy’s arms tense again and she began talking. “Hey guess what the girls played great yesterday. They lost on a last second shot from the opposite hash. I was so proud of the team. And Sophie got the tournament MVP.” It really did look like Emmy was trying to smile. At least her eyes looked like they were. “Maisy hit four three pointers for the third game in a row. She’s really becoming quite a shooter.”
“Basketball again?” Dr. Hatcher and Holly came in teasing them. “Is that all you all ever talk about? What about some baseball every now and then.” He patted Brett on the back. “So are we ready to do this?” They all looked at Emmy who blinked once. Dr. Hatcher put the rail down on her bed and took a seat beside her. “OK I am going to talk you though all this before I do anything.”
He spent the next 20 minutes telling them exactly what was going to happen and how it would feel. Barbara and Holly were busy prepping everything beside the bed. “OK Mom and Dad, is it OK if I call them that?” He looked at Emmy. Without hesitation she blinked once. Holly smiled at Stephanie who had tears in her eyes. “Good, so Mom and Dad any questions?”
Brett looked at Stephanie who shrugged her shoulders. “I think we’re good.”
“Emmy are you good with this?” Dr. Hatcher took her hand and she blinked once. “OK let’s go.”
Then the most amazing thing happened. As Dr. Hatcher got up and walked around the bed to begin Emmy held her hands out. Brett and Stephanie were unsure what she was doing. Holly looked at them and smiled. “I think Emmy wants you to hold her hands.” Stephanie and Brett both immediately stepped forward and grabbed on. They had been afraid they would be in the way but if Emmy actually needed them someone would have to tear them away.
Dr. Hatcher and the two nurses worked seamlessly. To begin they unhooked the ventilator but left the tube in Emmy’s throat. Dr. Hatcher had her breathe on her own. She was timid at first and he had to ask several times to get a deep breath. Without it he was going to have to hook the vent back up. Not wanting that to happen she took a deep breath. He listened to her chest and neck as she did. Satisfied that she would be able to breath comfortably on her own they untaped everything, suctioned her mouth and tube and then Dr. Hatcher had her take a deep breath. He deflated the cuff that had been holding the tube in place and pulled. The tube was out. Emmy gagged, Dr. Hatcher and Holly rolled her to her side. Without anything in her stomach it was just dry heaves. As she relaxed Barbara was ready with an oxygen mask.
Once everything was out Dr. Hatcher listened to her chest and neck again. “Well Miss Emmy you did great. We are going to have to leave this mask on for a little while OK. You’ve got a little swelling in your throat, since that was in there for a while. Mom and Dad we administered some steroids about an hour ago in preparation for this. I’m going to give an additional dose now. Holly is going to switch this mask over to a nebulizer for a little while. Emmy will be breathing nebulized epinephrine. This will help to minimize the swelling. But we are going to watch this closely over the next 30 minutes and then for the rest of the evening. If your vitals stay strong and our pulse ox is good we will move you out of here tonight or tomorrow morning. OK?” Emmy nodded this time. “Oh yeah no talking for now. Lets give that throat time to rest.”
Dr. Hatcher left to check on some other patients while Holly and Barbara cleaned up and monitored Emmy. Holly started the nebulizer and Emmy relaxed while Brett and Stephanie refused to let go of her hands. “Feels good to breathe on your own doesn’t it?” Holly was listening to Emmy’s chest again. Emmy nodded.
The next hour passed slowly as they monitored her so closely. Barbara was in and out tending to her other patients but Holly kept an eye on Emmy until Dr. Hatcher returned. He checked her again and smiled. “Well little lady looks like you are going on a little trip, downstairs to a regular room.” Emmy smiled beneath the oxygen mask. “Oh and we can get rid of that.” He removed the mask and replaced it with a small nasal cannula. “ Suddenly Emmy looked like Emmy again. Skinnier than ever, pale, and exhausted but they could see her dark hair and blue eyes again.
After a week from hell things were finally looking up for the Miles family.