Tuesday morning was December 23rd and Emmy was doing much better. She slid out of the bed, removing the oxygen from under her nose and pulling the IV with her she put her feet on the floor and stood before Stephanie felt her move and woke. “Hey, were are you going?”
She whispered still “Just to the bathroom.”
“Here let me help.” Stephanie quickly grabbed the arm not pulling the IV. Emmy made it almost all the way before she began leaning heavily on the IV pole. In the bathroom Stephanie helped her to the toilet and then she stepped out. She heard her wash her hands and then heard, “Mrs. Miles?”
Stephanie stuck her head in, “How about just Stephanie? We’re past the Mrs. stuff aren’t we?”
Emmy smiled sheepishly, “Sorry.”
“Did you need help?”
“Is there anyway to get a toothbrush?”
“Oh yes.” She stepped out and came back with a bag. “I grabbed you some things when I went home on Saturday.” She pulled out a toothbrush and toothpaste. The toothbrush was new and one for a baby. Emmy gave her a strange look. “Dr. Hatcher suggested getting a sensitive brush because of the sores.”
“Hey why didn’t you say anything about them. Dr. Hatcher said they were the worst he’d ever seen in a patient.”
“There was enough going on?”
“Emmy listen if you’re in pain I want to know. Sweetie we probably could have done something to help.”
“No I looked it up online at school they are just a side effect of the chemo. They only get better when it’s over. Drinking all the OJ probably made them worse. Then all the barfing just added to it.” This kid was smart and resourceful.
“From now on though, OK?”
Emmy didn’t answer but she nodded and began to brush. While she was in their Holly came in. “By yourself?”
Steph offered “With just a little help.”
“Are you trying to get out of here or something?” Emmy smiled as she spit bloody toothpaste out. Holly came in and looked at the inside of her mouth. “I know they can’t be comfortable but they are getting better.
While Holly was close she whispered, “Can I shower? And put on regular clothes.”
“Can someone help?”
Emmy wasn’t really happy about it but nodded. “Is it OK if I help?” Stephanie asked. Emmy took a deep breath but nodded.
Holly got everything ready and Stephanie helped Emmy get undressed. All she had to removed was the gown and a horrible pair of underwear that they had put on her after they’d removed the catheter. She held onto the wall while Stephanie removed them from around her feet. Just this much activity had made her very wobbly.
Stephanie helped Emmy hold her arm up while Holly covered the stitches on her chest with gauze and then a waterproof patch. They repeated the same process on the other side. This was the first time that Steph had seen it. The stitches weren’t bad and the cuts were less than an inch long. Then she held her hair up while Holly checked the end caps on the NG tube. Then she checked the tape on the central line.
“With this you’ll have to use special soap and shampoo.” Holly handed her the bottle a washcloth and hung a towel outside the shower.
“Stephanie have her sit on this and you wash her hair. We don’t want to put too much pressure on those stitches yet. I’ll go see if I can find a hair dryer. We don’t want you walking around wet hair.”
Holly stepped out and closed the door. Stephanie turned on the water while Emmy leaned against the wall. Once it was warm she put the stool under the stream to get it warm then sat it on the floor. Emmy stepped in and sat down. “Ready?”
Emmy nodded and leaned back on the stool. Stephanie took the shower wand off the wall and began to wet her hair. Emmy’s eyes closed as she relaxed.
When Holly returned with the dryer they were still in the bathroom so she just waited outside. After a few moments she heard the curtain open so she went in. Stephanie was standing outside drenched with water and with tears but smiling. “She’s finishing up.” The water stopped and Steph quickly opened the curtain and helped her up.
An hour after they’d started they helped Emmy back into bed. She had clean dry hair and was dressed in a pair of warm-up pants and a Bruins team t-shirt. Stephanie had a hoodie for her too but with all the checks Dr. Hatcher still needed to make she opted for just the shirt.
It was only 8:30 in the morning and Emmy was so tired. Holly grabbed another warm blanket and Emmy fell asleep while she was adjusting the tubes. “She is so tired.” Stephanie was rubbing her hand through Emmy’s hair.
“She will be for a while. Her body fought the cancer, the chemo, the virus and pneumonia. She’s been fighting for so long it’s completely wiped out. I’m not sure when she last ate a full meal that stayed down. You saw her body, there isn’t an inch of fat left anywhere.”
Stephanie had noticed that when Emmy was showering. You could see her ribs and while her arms and legs were muscular from playing, they were way too skinny.
Stephanie was soaked from helping Emmy so she took a shower herself while Emmy slept. She was just finishing up when there was a knock on the door. Stephanie finished her ponytail and went to open it. They were expecting Dr. Hatcher but he knocked and came on in.
Standing outside was Coach Jameson. Stephanie smiled and ushered him in. He came in with a get-well balloon and a Sports Illustrated for Women magazine. She closed the door and he waited then followed her in. The first glimpse of Emmy took his breath. She was so pale and had what seemed like tubes everywhere. Stephanie noticed, “She actually looks much better than she did.”
“How is she?”
“Recovering. Fever’s gone so they took her off the ventilator and sedation. She took a shower this morning and it wiped her out.”
“How are you?” He looked at Stephanie, “You look tired.”
“Last night was the best night since Friday. Heck last night was about the best night we’ve had since the boys accident.”
“Brett, went home?”
“Yeah we were trying to get Kim to go home. She’s going to have Christmas at her house with Brett’s whole family on the 25th so I know she needs to get going.”
“How are Jake and Tyler doing?”
“Tyler is much better since they put the pins in. Still in a sling but most of the pain is gone. Jake is getting tired of the crutches.”
“How long will he be on them?”
“Six weeks and they will x-ray again. Then he’ll probably get a walking boot.”
“So all three are done for the season?”
“Yes and it seems so weird.”
Holly interrupted their conversation for just a moment when she brought in a new serving of Emmy’s feeding formula. She reattached the leads to the machine and was gone again.
“She fought the feeding tube and central line for so long.”
“So she could keep playing?”
“Yes. Either one would have ended her season.”
“You know I’ve only ever known one other player who loved playing the game as much as Emmy.”
“Who was that?”
“You. Brett and I used to talk about it all the time. There is a look you get out on the floor. It’s a look of pure joy and I see the same look on Emmy’s face anytime she enters the gym.” Rick hesitated to ask the next question. “Will she ever get to play again?”
“Dr. Hatcher thought she’d be ready for next season, as long as there aren’t any setbacks. In three months she has a set of scans and they will see if any of the cancer is detectable.”
“She’ll be considered cured for now. It can always come back.”
“And if there is still some?’
“Then they’ll do another chemo plan.” Rick saw sadness creep into Stephanie’s eyes.
“You know that whatever they throw at her this kid will overcome it?”
“I know. I just wish for once she’d catch a break. I’ve never seen a kid have to deal with so much and alone most of the time.”
“She has you and Brett now. It’s going to get better.” A familiar knock told her that Dr. Hatcher was coming.
He walked in quietly. “How is she today?” Holly followed.
“Much better. Dr. Hatcher, this is Rick Jameson, Brett’s best friend and our other assistant coach.” Rick and Dr. Hatcher shook hands.
“Its nice to meet you coach.”
“And you Dr. Hatcher. I’m going to get out of here, but take good care of our player.”
Rick hugged Stephanie and then left.
Dr. Hatcher went about his work without much conversation. He and Holly talked about blood work numbers and oxygen saturation. All of which Stephanie tried to absorb. Then he placed a hand on Emmy’s shoulder. “Emmy, sweetie, can you wake up for me?” She opened her eyes slowly. Once she realized she jerked up suddenly and grimaced more than the doctor had seen for a while. “Emmy, what’s hurting.”
“Emmy that wasn’t nothing.”
“The stitches just pulled. I’m OK really.”
She sat up and let him do everything he needed. “Looking good kiddo. Your throat and breathing look much better today. You can talk normal and I’d say you could try eating something if you’d like.” The Doctor thought this would bring a smile but got nothing.
“What about going home?”
He chuckled and smiled. “You realize that you were in ICU less than two days ago.” She nodded. “How about we say there’s a possibility for tomorrow, but lets see how today goes first.” Emmy nodded feeling slightly defeated. “Ok have you been up this morning?”
“Yes sir I took a shower.”
“OK that’s a big step forward. How about using the bathroom?” Emmy nodded again.
Holly gave him the amounts and collected a sample. He drew some blood from her central line. “Lets test these. And try to up your nutritional intake a little. You’re on the slowest setting now. Which means you’ll be attached to this pump about 18 hours a day. We can speed up the infusion, or how fast it’s pumping in the formula and see how your stomach tolerates it. I also need to see you eat something.”
“I’d love to have you home for Christmas but not if its going to endanger your recovery. OK?” Emmy nodded. Then he looked to Stephanie “Any questions?”
“Not right now.”
“OK. I’ll be back later.” He began to leave. “Oh shoot, Mrs. Miles would you follow me I’ve got couple things for you to sign.”
“Sure. Be right back.” Holly was still in there so Stephanie didn’t hesitate to leave.
Out in the hallway Dr. Hatcher had stopped just outside her room. “Sorry for the fib, I just wanted a chance to talk to you alone. How is she really doing?”
“Who knows? It’s Emmy. She certainly seems much better.”
“What about emotionally, putting in that NG tube and central line were a big disappointment how is she taking it?”
“I think she’s really good at hiding disappointment. This time I think she knows how bad it was.”
“I didn’t want to say anything while she was in ICU, but very rarely does a child in that condition make it. Four months ago I’m not sure there was anything for her to fight like that for. You all saved that child’s life.”
“In the rough times that lie ahead you and Brett need to remember that.”
“Thank you for not telling us it was that bad.”
During the afternoon Brett returned, as did some teachers from school. Emmy was asleep when they arrived. Mrs. Wells and Mrs. Smith came bearing gifts of magazines and puzzle books. Stephanie greeted them with hugs and Brett with smiles and handshakes.
“Stephanie how is she doing?”
“Much better. Thank you so much for coming.”
“Stephanie why didn’t you tell us she was going through this?” Mrs. Wells asked.
“It was her choice to fight it alone.”
Mrs. Smith was near tears. “Oh Stephanie I feel so bad. Last Thursday I got so mad at her for asking to go to the bathroom for the third day in a row. She was getting sick wasn’t she?”
Stephanie nodded. “Its not your fault she chose to hide it from everyone. We didn’t even know that she was living at St. Thomas until September and then the next week we found out about the cancer.”
“What is the prognosis?” Mrs. Wells was so afraid for the young girl.
“Its actually really good. This was just a bump in the road. She’s finished the chemo and they are hopping that the scans and blood work will be clear and she can put this behind her.”
They hung around talking to Stephanie and Brett for about an hour while Emmy slept soundly. About 4:00 there was another set of visitors. Maisy and Sophie both walked slowly into the room followed by Maisy’s parents.
Emmy was awake and actually sitting up. She’d eaten a few bites of applesauce earlier and gotten horribly sick again. Thankfully that didn’t happen while the girls were there.
“Emmy, it’s so good to see you up.” Maisy leaned over and gave Emmy a hug.
“Thanks for coming guys, but you didn’t have to.” Emmy felt bad that they had come all the way down here.
Maisy’s Mom spoke. “Emmy they needed to see that you were OK. You had us all really scared.”
“I’m fine. It was just a little cold.”
Stephanie snickered beside her. “Sorry, it was more than a cold.”
“Sophie I heard about the MVP award. That’s awesome.”
“Should have been yours.”
“Nope, Coach showed me video of the games. You played awesome.”
“Next year it will be yours.”
“Or Maisy’s.” Emmy looked at her. “Those threes were epic.”
“Couldn’t have done it without you working with me all those days after school.”
“Practice helps but you hit those under pressure and that’s a big deal.”
The girls talked about the games while the parents just stood back and watched. Maisy’s Mom whispered to Steph. “She looks great.”
“Thanks for bringing them. There haven’t been a lot of smiles. She’s not really happy about the central line and the feeding tube.”
“Nervous about school?”
“Middle school is a tough time, even when you’re not the new kid, or the kid fighting cancer.”
The door opened behind them. Holly slipped in. “Sorry, I’ll be quick.” She hated to disturb Emmy and her friends. It was the first time there had ever been any kids her age here to see her.
Holly slid over to the infusion pump and attached a new serving of the formula Emmy was on. The applesauce hadn’t gone very well earlier so they were going to have to rely heavily on the tube for the time being. She snapped the cover back down and with that she was gone.
Maisy looked over at the pump. “What was that?”
“Dinner. The chemo messed up my stomach so for now I get to eat through this.” She pulled the tube over her shoulder and showed them how the tube ran from the machine to the tube in her nose.
“Oh man no pizza?” Sophie asked.
“Well I can eat it but its probably coming back up.”
“I knew something was wrong. Emmy what didn’t you tell us? We could have done something to help.” Sophie had known several weeks ago that Emmy hadn’t been feeling good.
“That’s why you had the shakes at lunch isn’t it?” Maisy too had seen a change in her friend.
“I didn’t want to stop playing, or for anyone to feel bad for me.” There wasn’t anything they could say to that. They did feel bad for her. No kid should have to go through this. Especially not a kid like Emmy who had already lost her parents.
“But you’re going to get better right?” Maisy needed to hear good news.
“Absolutely. We are going to win state next year. You and me out front with 20 steals a game.” Emmy gave her a fist bump.
“Alright girls Emmy needs some rest and Coach looks like she could use some too.” The girls gave Emmy a hug and said they’d see her soon.
Stephanie shut the door as they left. “So that wasn’t so bad was it?”
“No but they are friends. What about everyone else at school?”
“I’m sure by now everyone knows what happened. Mr. Woodson mentioned it on his email congratulating the girls on the runner-up finish. Most parents read it so I’d say a majority of the kids know. If not you just explain it like you did to the girls.” Emmy was such a shy and private kid just speaking to others was going to be a stretch.
Tuesday evening stretched on and on. They read magazines and did crossword puzzles. Showed Emmy a couple of movies and finally Brett talked Stephanie into going home for the night. Once the visitors left and night fell over the hospital Brett climbed into the bed and held his little girl.
She fell asleep almost immediately. It took him longer. His mind wouldn’t stop thinking about the past two weeks and how he’d almost lost all three of his kids. He quickly thanked God for watching over his boys and for giving Emmy back to him. Those first couple of nights he knew how bad it had been. He’d watched the doctor after they left the room and their shoulders often drooped.
Things were looking up though and those thoughts were what finally allowed his mind to sleep.