The next day at school was a dress down day, meaning that the students didn’t have to wear uniforms. Mrs. Miles smiled as she watched the team trickle in. Every one of them was in warm up pants and a hoodie and they all looked like they’d been to war, which they had. Today her morning duty was in the main hall so she didn’t see Emmy or the others that that rode a bus. She figured they were dragging this morning too.
After school the players entered the gym door slowly and headed to the locker room. They all changed and headed to center court where they sat down to stretch. Coach came out and noticed that Emmy wasn’t there. “Where’s Taylor?” Everyone shrugged.
“Maisy was she at school today?” Coach knew that she and Emmy had several classes together.
“OK let’s get to it. Layup drill. Sophie get them started.” She tossed a ball to Sophie as the team ran to form a line under the goal.
Coach checked her phone several times during practice hoping to have received a call, text, email something from Emmy. Most players texted her if they weren’t going to be at practice or were going to be late. She had never seen Emmy with a phone and she doubted that St. Thomas kept up with all the kid’s after school activities.
Normally she wouldn’t worry but Emmy had taken a pretty hard hit last night, that with her behavior of late had her concerned.
“Rick will you take over for a bit? I’m going to run up to the office and see if they know what’s up with Emmy?”
“Sure” He took the clipboard with the practice schedule and coach jogged off the floor.
In the office all the secretaries had already gone home, but the door to Mr. Woodson’s office was still open. Stephanie peeked around the corner and saw him at his desk. She knocked on the doorframe and he looked up. “Hey, how’s the team? I heard the loss was rough.”
“It was and they are dragging today.”
“What can I do for you?”
“Mrs. Stamper is already gone but I need to see if we called to check on a student that was absent. Emmy Taylor took a pretty good hit last night and then wasn’t at school today or practice.”
“Yes let me check. Emmylou, right?” She smiled at the name again and nodded. He began typing on the computer. “They called but haven’t received a return call yet. Sorry.”
“Thanks for checking. What was the supervisor’s name over there?”
“John Case is the one I’ve worked with before I don’t know if he has all the middle school group but he should be able to point you in the right direction. I have a number if you’d like it?” He gave her the number and she thanked him again and headed off back to practice.
The rest of practice went fine. She laid off the running giving the kids a chance to recover from the game last night. After they were all gone she went back to the office and placed a call to St. Thomas.
“Can I speak to John Case?”
“He’s not in right now can I give you his voicemail.”
“Well I’m actually from Lincoln Middle School and I’m calling to check on one of our students.”
“I’m Rachel Stewart I’m the night supervisor I can try and help you.”
“Oh great. My name is Stephanie Miles and I’m a teacher and the girls’ basketball coach at Lincoln. I’m calling to check on Emmy Taylor.” Rachel hesitated and Stephanie’s heart sank, she knew that something was going on.
“You are going to have to talk to John about Emmy. Let me get your number and I’ll have him call you.”
Stephanie was even more concerned now. The black eye made her worry that St. Thomas wasn’t a very safe place for her. “When do you think he’ll get back with me?”
“I can call him now, if you’d like.”
“Yes, please.” Stephanie started to hang up but stopped. “Can you at least tell me if she’s OK?”
“She was admitted to the Children’s Hospital last night. John can give you more information than I can.”
“I’ll be waiting on his call.” She had lied. There was no way she was waiting on his call. She turned off the lights and locked the gym door. Turning out of school she headed away from home and toward the hospital.
The three guys were at practice so she called and got Brett’s voicemail. “Brett, something has happened with Emmy. I’m heading toward the Children’s hospital to find out what it is. You and the boys stop and get a pizza after practice. I’ll give you a call as soon as I know something. Love you.” She knew that he would check his phone before he left the gym. They would go all the way until the girl’s team chased them off the court at 6:00. Their season started in a couple of weeks and Brett had complained that they were still whipping them into shape. Hopefully she’d have some answers by then.
She’d already made it to the interstate when her phone rang. “Hello.”
“Mrs. Miles, this is John Case the director of middle school students at St. Thomas.”
“Yes sir, thank you for calling me back.”
“Rachel said that you were concerned about Emmy Taylor?”
“Yes, she took a pretty big hit in one of our games last night and then wasn’t at school or practice today and we were worried it was worse than she was letting on.”
“I can’t really release any of her medical information except to say that her condition isn’t related to basketball.”
“Sir, I really need to know something more than that. My players are important to me and if there’s something going on…”
He stopped her. Mr. Case wanted with every fiber of his being to tell her because he knew that Emmy needed more than his five minutes a day, or the 30-minute counseling session she got each week with Samantha. “Mrs. Miles, let me ask Emmy and see if I can get permission to share some information with you.”
“Sir I’m already on my way. I’ll be there in 10 minutes to see my player.”
John smiled he already liked Coach Miles. “I’ll be waiting.”
Parking in the first spot she could find Stephanie almost sprinted into the building. After the phone call with Mr. Case she was more concerned that Emmy had been in another fight and the man was trying to hide it. Without anyone else on her side, Coach Miles was determined to protect her player.
“Can I help you?” The older lady at the information desk caught her as soon as she walked in and paused wondering where in the world to go.
“I’m here to visit Emmy Taylor.”
“OK let me see what room she’s in.” The older lady paused as she used one finger, the hunt and peck, method to type in the name. “There we go. Yes she is in room 414. You’ll go to the elevators right behind me here and then up to the fourth floor. Once there you’ll turn left into the oncology area and her room will be down the hall to the left.”
“Thank you so much.” She walked toward the elevator but her mind was racing. Oncology area, she knew from when Brett’s mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer that the only patients treated there were those with cancer.
Stepping into the elevator as it arrived she pressed the number 4 and waited for the door to close. Stephanie found her hands shaking as the elevator slowed at the fourth floor. There had to be a mistake, how could someone, a kid, play basketball as hard as Emmy did and have cancer?
Maybe this was new. Something that they’d just found today. She knew that Emmy had seemed to be a step slower last night, and she knew that she was exhausted after the game.
Once she got off the elevator and went through the doors to the oncology area she was greeted by a smiling nurse at the nurses’ station. “Can I help you find someone?” She must have had the lost look.
“I’m looking for Emmy Taylor.” The nurses all smiled even bigger. “You must be the coach. Emmy said you all looked alike and she wasn’t kidding. You and the team are about the only thing she’ll talk about.”
This meant that the cancer wasn’t new. These ladies all knew her and that she played basketball. “Let me find Mr. Case he’ll want to talk to you first.” She picked up the phone and made a call. “He’s down on three with another one of his kids, but he’ll be right up.”
“Thanks.” Stephanie walked away from the desk and over to a bulletin board. The board was covered with pictures of kids. On one side was the word Patients, and on the other it said Survivors. The nurse that had helped her walked up beside her. “When the kids come in we take their picture and placed them under the patient side.” She pointed out Emmy’s. “Then once they finish with their treatments and are disease free we have a party and they get to move their picture to the survivor side. This is one of the big milestones in their treatment.” Stephanie smiled looking to the right to a second bulletin board. The title of this one was Taken too Soon. The nurse noticed where she was looking. “This is the board we hope to never add another kid to.” Coach Miles saw way too many kids’ pictures on this board. The pictures showed kids that were still just babies to kids that looked to be her sons’ ages.
“Mrs. Miles?” Someone had just gotten off the elevator. He stared at her oddly as he extended a hand. “Sorry for staring. Its just that you and Emmy look a little alike.” She shook his hand.
“Others have said the same thing.”
Mr. Case nodded. “Lets head over here. Holly, would you see if Dr. Hatcher is still around.”
“I just saw him. Let me go find him for you.” Holly headed off to the nurses’ station and Mr. Case lead her toward a little room with a round table and some chairs. He went all the way in and took a chair in the back corner and she took one to his right.
“I talked with our counselor, Dr. Brown and Jennifer Price, the director at St. Thomas, and the both felt that if Emmy was ok with it we could share what’s been going on with you. I talked to Emmy and she was reluctant but I told her that after missing school someone was going to have to know for her absence to be excused.” Stephanie just nodded. “While we wait for Dr. Hatcher I’ll give you some background information.” He opened a file. “As you’ve probably noticed Emmy is not much of a talker. So we don’t know much about the time before she came into the system when she was 8. There is no father listed on her birth certificate and she said her mother never talked about him. According to the elementary school she attended her mother was extremely attentive and Emmy was always there and ready to learn. Then at some point during that year her mother disappeared leaving Emmy to fend for herself.”
Stephanie suddenly wished she had a pen and some paper so she could write all this down. She was finally getting some answers. “We know when she was brought into the system she had been living on her own for a while. For how long or under what conditions we don’t really know.” He pulled out a piece of paper and wrote a name and number on it. “Emmy was attending Price Elementary at the time. Mrs. Ellis is the principal there and can give you more information about how Emmy ended up in the system.” As he was talking a tall gray-haired doctor walked into the room and took a chair by the door. “Dr. Hatcher this is Stephanie Miles, she’s a teacher at Emmy’s school and her basketball coach.”
The doctor extended a hand and smiled. “So this is the coach. Emmy doesn’t talk much but when she does its always about basketball and the new plays you’ve come up with.” The coach smiled glad that Emmy hadn’t only talked about her yelling at them or making them run.
“Dr. Hatcher could you tell her about Emmy’s condition and where we are now with her treatment?”
“Absolutely. Last May Emmy came into the emergency room with pain on the right side. The foster parents were afraid she had appendicitis. We ran some tests and found that she actually had a rare form of childhood cancer that attacked the kidneys. She was very lucky in that it had only affected one and it was considered a Stage one cancer. Its very curable, but as with all chemotherapy it wreaks havoc on the child’s body. So right after school was out she came in and we did surgery to remove the kidney along with the cancer. She did have some cells in her blood so we went ahead and created a treatment schedule for her. We started chemo 6 weeks after the surgery. She receives the treatment in rounds. Five doses over the course of a week then three weeks off. In total she will have 6 rounds. This Monday started round 3.”
Monday, Coach Miles immediately felt tears beginning behind her eyes. “She had chemo on Monday?”
“Yes each day this week after school here at the hospital.”
She shook her head. “She was late to practice on Monday and I made her run.”
“Don’t feel bad. She would never have told you. She’s been very private about the whole thing. No one at the home except for myself, Rachel, who you talked to earlier and the counselor even know.”
“Why was she admitted last night?”
Dr. Hatcher continued. “By the third round the chemo is really wiping out her body. It is very common for the kids to have a rough time from now to the end. Emmy started feeling nauseous right after the treatment and its continued all week.
John added “It was bad enough by Wednesday that she even asked for medication to help, which is unheard of for her. I’m afraid that was also the cause of her black eye. One of the other girls thought she was getting something good and wanted her to only pretend to take it and pass it to her. Emmy refused and paid the price.” Stephanie smiled, proud of her player.
“Last evening Rachel was on duty when Emmy came back from the game and she passed out walking into the building. We immediately brought her in.”
Dr. Hatcher took back over. “Once she was admitted we treated her for dehydration and began a transfusion of platelets and red blood cells. Hers were extremely low and probably lead to the exhaustion. And we’ve been hydrating her like crazy. We held off on the final dose of this round and we’ll try to administer it tomorrow if her counts are up.”
Coach sat there for a few moments “This had nothing to do with her falling hard last night?”
“No, but she did mention it and we checked her out. She’s got a bruise on her ribs, but nothing serious at all.”
“And it’s OK for her to be playing basketball?”
Dr. Hatcher smiled; he knew that this question was coming. “Is this optimal? No. But for any cancer patient the continuation of normal life is an important part of surviving the disease. For most kids family is what keeps them going, so for a kid like Emmy who doesn’t have the family system behind them we have to find something else. For Emmy its basketball. Thankfully her type of cancer didn’t take that away from her. If it was football, we would have had to think about it.”
“Sometimes she plays harder than a football player.” Coach added making sure they understood the type of basketball that this child played.
“Its OK. It is what keeps her going and fighting, and right now that’s what she really needs.” The Dr. paused and then added, “That and maybe someone she’d actually talk to.” Dr. Hatcher threw it out there because he had a feeling about this woman.
He’d never had a patient quite like Emmy Taylor. She pulled at his heart each time she came in. Completely alone she was so brave it broke his heart. In the four months he’d been treating her she’d never cried. Not even the day when he’d had to tell her the diagnosis. She’d been alone that day too.
“Can I see her?”
“Absolutely. She’s been asleep most of the day, but its time for Holly to draw some blood so I’ll get her to take you in.” He stood.
“Thank you so much for talking with me.”
“Thank you for caring. Emmy is one of the most special kids we’ve had come through here and everyone is rooting for her to make it to that survivor wall.”
John Case stood too “Mrs. Miles it was great to meet you. I hope that you’ll stay involved with Emmy and show her there is someone out there that cares.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Sir.”
“Thank you.” He began to gather up his files. “I’ve got another one that has not been taking her meds and had a bi polar episode. So I’m going to leave you with Dr. Hatcher. If you have any other questions or need anything please feel free to give me a call. The number I called you on earlier is my cell and its with me 24/7.”
“Thanks again.” She shook his hand as he left.
Dr. Hatcher waited until he was gone. “Mr. Case tries, but he’s got kids with such extreme problems that good kids like Emmy fall through the cracks.” Stephanie followed him, wishing him he tell her more. “Holly, Mrs. Miles is here to visit with Emmy.”
The nurse smiled from ear to ear. “Perfect timing. I was just going to draw some blood.”
Dr. Hatcher patted her on the shoulder; “I’ll leave you in Holly’s more than capable hands. If you have any other concerns or if you notice anything about Emmy that you think I should know feel free to call.” He handed her his card. “She’s not one to complain so some times we don’t know how bad she’s feeling.”
“I’ll keep an eye on her.” With that he left off to deal with another heartbreaking situation.
Holly pulled an iPad from its charger. “Ready?”
“I think so.”
“Well Emmy is the easiest patient we’ve ever had. She’s never asked for a single thing anytime she’s been here. We’ve had to learn what she likes and when she’s hurting.” Holly stopped and opened what looked like a microwave/dryer. “We have learned that she loves the warm blankets when she’s feeling bad.” She pulled a big white blanket from the warmer.
They walked a little bit further down the hall to a room in the corner. Coach took a deep breath as Holly opened a door and entered a room. Inside was a smaller than usual hospital bed. It was laid flat and there was a small form covered in a blanket. Stephanie couldn’t see her face since she was lying facing the windows but she appeared to be asleep. Holly walked around and laid the iPad on the table between her bed and the windows. Brushing some hair back from her face she patted her on the shoulder. “Emmy, sweetie can you wake up for me?” The little girl stretched out her legs and Holly watched as she opened her eyes. “How are you feeling?”
“Better” a small voice answered.
“You have a visitor.” Emmy’s eyes got wide and she slowly sat up. “Who?” Emmy turned toward the door.
“Hey Emmy.” Coach approached the bed.
“Coach you didn’t need to come all the way down here.”
“I needed to check on my secret weapon.” Coach pulled up a chair and sat down beside the bed. She watched as Holly took the old cold blanket and replaced it with a new warm one. Then she drew some blood and changed the bag attached to her IV.
Sitting up for a change made the nausea return. Emmy felt it coming again “Holly I’m going to be sick.”
“No problem here we go.” Holly grabbed the disposable barf bag as Emmy had termed it. Stephanie jumped into action too pulling Emmy’s hair back into a makeshift ponytail.
Just in time as Emmy began expelling everything. After several minutes her poor little body stopped heaving and Holly handed her a tissue. “I’m sorry coach.”
“Don’t you be sorry. This is not your fault.” Holly walked over to the sink and wetted a washcloth with cold water. She laid it on the back of Emmy’s neck while Coach held her hair up. “I’ve had lots of practice with this. In college my roommate was a good friend from high school. She got in with the sorority crowd and became a big partier. Most Sunday mornings started out just like this, only she was usually draped over the toilet.” Emmy made a face. And then it started again. This time there was nothing for her body to throw up so she was just heaving violently. Stephanie and Holly looked at each other over Emmy’s head and both had tears in their eyes.
After a few minutes it passed and Holly gave her a cup of water. She took only a sip. Any more and her revolting stomach would get angry again. “Do you want to try going to the bathroom?” Holly asked. Emmy shook her head yes.
“OK let’s take it slow.”
“Thanks” Emmy slid her legs over the side of the bed and stood up. Holly hooked a hand under her arm and helped her stand up.
“Yes.” Emmy walked to the bathroom, pulling the IV pole with her, and doing her best to look strong. Once the door had closed Stephanie asked. “If you weren’t in here would she call for help when that happens?”
“Nope. She’d go through it alone and clean everything up. I usually have to ask if she’s been sick anymore so I can keep track of how much of what we are putting in is coming back out. Her going to the bathroom is a good thing. Last night she was so dehydrated she didn’t go at all.” They heard the water running and Holly resumed recording vitals as Emmy walked back and climbed into the bed. Coach helped her pull up the new blanket Holly brought that was still warm. “It’s been a while since you’ve had any medicine for the nausea. Would you like some more?”
“Not yet. It makes me so tired.” Stephanie knew that she didn’t want to fall asleep while she was there.
“Ok how about if I bring it about 6:30 right before I leave?” Holly really hated to leave when Emmy was here. She always made sure that she was the last patient she saw on her shift. As soon as she left the room she was going to have to see what nurses were here tonight. Emmy was rarely here overnight and didn’t know many of the night nurses. Last night she’d had Sarah, who was an older lady who wasn’t as caring as some of the others. She was biding her time and nearing retirement.
Holly checked the bathroom and wrote down how much urine output Emmy had had. “Your kidney is looking much better. Hopefully one more of these will get you rehydrated,” she pointed to the saline bag, “Dr. Hatcher wants to try to get the last dose in tomorrow if your counts are back up and then we can unhook you from all this.”
Emmy just nodded. She hated to have to have another dose as bad as she was already feeling, but it would be good to say she was through another round and halfway there.
Stephanie asked, “How are the bruises from last night?” Looking at Holly “she took a couple of hard blows in the game.”
“Its OK.” Two words that time, they were making progress.
“Dr. Hatcher checked it out. There is a pretty good bruise on her ribs in the back, but other than that there wasn’t any lasting damage. I heard her telling him about it and it must have been a fun game to watch.”
“Any game with this kid is a fun game to watch.” Emmy gave a weak smile as the coach praised her play.
“I think I’m going to have to get out there a see a game. You know I played in high school.”
Emmy perked up and looked at her “Really?”
“I did. I played at St. Gabriel all four years. We weren’t very good but it was a lot of fun and I made some really good friends. I was a new kid my freshmen year, we had just moved to the area from Connecticut and it made the transition easier.” Emmy nodded, knowing that basketball had helped her blend in this year. Having been to open gyms before school even started she already knew a few kids walking in that first day. And Coach Miles had been the first teacher she’d seen that morning.
“Well, you guys hang out. I’m going to go check on a couple more patients and then I’ll be back before I leave.”
“Thank you.” Holly loved that the little girl was so polite but hated that she felt the need to say thank you for Holly doing the things a family should be here to do for her.
After Holly left there was a few minutes of silence as Emmy picked at a thread in the blanket. “So Emmy I have to apologize to you.”
“Well it seems as though you’ve been going through something pretty significant, pretty life altering, and I thought you were getting into trouble.”
“What do you mean?”
“As a teacher, and coach, we’ve gone through lots of training and just seen things in the past. So over the past few months with the weight loss, being late, withdrawing even more, and then the throwing up. Yes, I heard you Tuesday night at half time, I was afraid you’d gotten into something. Over the years I’ve seen athletes and students get into drugs and have a lot of the same symptoms. Then with the black-eye my mind had already jumped to all kinds of conclusions.”
She paused not sure how to continue. “Emmy do you trust me?”
“Of course coach.” This time Emmy actually looked at her when she answered.
“Then lets make a deal right now. From now on you tell me what’s going on.” Emmy didn’t want to agree but Coach continued. “You know I didn’t even know you were living at St. Thomas until Tuesday?”
“After you were late I asked Mr. Woodson if I could get a phone number to check and see if you needed a ride or anything. That’s when he told me you were living there.” Emmy didn’t answer but went back to picking at the thread.
“Then worst of all I made you run after you’d been here having chemo.” Emmy heard Coach Miles’ voice waver as she was talking and looked up. She saw tears in the coach’s eyes.
“Coach I deserved to run. I was late.”
“You could have just told me.”
“But then everyone else would have thought you were going easy on me. It would undermine your authority over the team.” Coach smiled, this kid understood an awful lot about team dynamics.
“You know others have had appointments and I didn’t make them run. Callie is late once a month for her orthodontist appointment. You could have told me what was going on.”
Emmy finally told her, “But then you’d look at me different. I think I’d rather run.” Stephanie was going to lose it. Her heart was breaking for this child and it was all she could do to keep the tears from spilling from her eyes. Thankfully her phone rang. She heard the theme song from Knight Rider, Brett’s favorite show growing up. Stephanie pulled the phone from her pocket but didn’t answer it. Then a few moments later she got a text. Stephanie looked again to make sure it wasn’t something important.
“Is Emmy OK?????” the text read.
She turned it so Emmy could read it. “He’s worried about you.” Coach Miles knew that he’d be worried the moment he heard her message and if she didn’t call him back quick he’d probably be on his way down here too. “Is it OK if I tell him what’s going on? If I don’t let him know he’ll be on his way down here too.” Emmy really didn’t want anyone else to know, but understood that Coach couldn’t keep it from her husband.
“Its OK.” She wanted Emmy to hear what she told him so she dialed him right there.
Emmy could hear Brett as soon as he picked up “Please tell me she’s OK.”
Stephanie paused. She wasn’t sure how to answer him. Emmy was OK but then again she wasn’t. She couldn’t really be funny and something like well she isn’t dying, because in reality there was a chance that Emmy wouldn’t come through this. Just an hour ago she’d stood out there looking at the pictures of kids who hadn’t beaten this horrible disease.
“I’m sitting here with her now. Brett, I’ve got some news that she said is OK to share with you. Are the boys around?
“No they are downstairs showering.”
“Emmy has cancer.” She paused knowing that Brett was probably sitting down if he wasn’t already. “Her third round of chemo started on Monday and she has been really sick since. Last night after the game she passed out at St. Thomas and they admitted her. The Doctor said that it has nothing to do with playing or getting hit last night.”
“Whew. That’s a relief.”
“They’ve been giving her...” She turned to Emmy “What did Holly say they were giving you?”
“Red blood cells and platelets.”
“Oh yeah, red blood cells, platelets and rehydrating her.”
“I remember Mom having to have those a couple times during her treatment.” Brett had been really involved with his Mom’s care several years ago. Stephanie had stayed back since Brett had three sisters and a brother. Between the five of them they’d taken care of everything. Rose had beat cancer only to die of a heart attack two years ago. “They always made her strength come back.”
“That’s what the nurse said would help Emmy.”
“You tell her that we are praying for her and if she needs anything just to let us know.”
“I will.” And she hung up.
Emmy was the first to talk, surprising Stephanie. “He took that well.” Stephanie smiled knowing that the man’s heart was breaking of this child just like hers.
“He’s kind of been through this before. His mother had breast cancer.”
“Did she make it?” Emmy was yearning to hear of others who had fought this and come out the other side.
Stephanie smiled. “She sure did. She was diagnosed about ten years ago went through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and then she was cancer free.”
“Did it come back?”
“She actually died of a heart attack about two years ago. But the cancer never came back.”
“I’m sorry about his mother.” Coach patted her leg.
“You know each time she went in for treatment or spent time in the hospital he or one of his brother or sisters went with her. So he knows a lot about this, if you ever wanted to talk or ask questions about anything.” She didn’t want to push but wanted her to know that they were there.
“Thanks.” Back to the one word answers.
They made more small talk, well Coach talked and Emmy listened and before long Holly was back. “How are you doing? You look little a better.”
“Those eyes are starting to sparkle a little again.”
“Where did you get those eyes, by the way?”
“My mom I guess I remember people saying we looked alike.” Holly often forgot that Emmy had been in the system for a long time and many of her memories had faded.
“Well if she looked anything like you she was beautiful.” Holly pulled out a little cup of medicine “ready for this?”
Emmy didn’t really want to take it but she could already feel the nausea creeping back up and she wanted to be able to sleep once Holly left. The other nurse hadn’t been very nice last night. “I guess.” Holly handed her the cup and a little bit bigger cup of water. Emmy put the pills in and swallowed them with water like a pro.
“Well that seals it my oldest son is a big baby.” Emmy and Holly turned to her. “He is almost 18 years old and cannot swallow a pill.” Holly laughed out loud.
“You know that is really common. Especially in boys.”
“I’m not going to tell him that. He will just keep being a baby.” She looked to Emmy. “Remember a few weeks ago when I missed practice?” She nodded. “It was to take Jake to the doctor for an ear infection so bad his ear drum burst. Which really isn’t as bad as it sounds. We went by the pharmacy got the prescription got home and went to give it to him and he won’t take it.” Holly is snickering as Stephanie describes her 6 foot 6 son in tears over the medicine. “He is gagging and spiting out water and pills. I finally got fed up and made him call the doctor’s office and explain the problem. The whole time he was on the phone he was blood red from embarrassment.” By the end of the story even Emmy was smiling a real smile. Jake often came and helped out during practice and he was a really big guy. It was funny to think about him crying over talking a pill.
Holly left and came back with another warm blanket. She tucked it in around Emmy. Then she refilled her water and got everything ready for the night shift. “Emmy I checked and Maria will be your nurse tonight.” She didn’t say that she’d specifically asked the night supervisor to change the assignment. “Maria is my favorite on the night shift. She will take good care of you. If you feel sick or need anything you call for her OK?” Emmy nodded but Holly knew that she wouldn’t.
“I’m going to get going too.” Stephanie stood. “I better check on those boys. They were supposed to get a pizza tonight but I bet they got a whole lot more than that.” She leaned over and took the little girl in her arms, hoping the gesture wasn’t too much. She whispered in her ear, “You fight and get better OK?” Coach felt Emmy shake her head. “We need you.”
When she finally pulled away. She could see tears in Emmy’s eyes but she was fighting hard to hold them in. Coach wrote her cell phone number down on the little notepad by the phone in her room. “If you need anything. And I mean anything you give me a call OK. Brett and I will be down here in a moment.” Emmy nodded still fighting to control the emotions that she had suppressed so long ago.
Both of the women stepped outside the room and Emmy turned over toward the windows and let the tears fall. She had done so well so far at controlling her emotions. The only time she’d cried was after her surgery when the incision had gotten infected and everything hurt so badly. Even then she’s never let anyone see her tears.
She hated that coach had driven all the way down there and that she found out about the cancer, but it was such a relief that someone else knew. It was such a relief to just talk to someone rather than staring at the wall or TV for hours on end. Honestly the hug was the biggest relief of all. The girls on the team would hug each other after a big win or tough loss but it wasn’t the same. She couldn’t really remember the last time she’d been hugged by an adult.
Outside the door Stephanie stopped and lost it herself. Holly drew her into a hug. “That is the most amazing kid I’ve ever met in my life.” She said through sobs.
“I agree. Thank you for coming down today and for pushing for information. Most teachers and coaches have enough to worry about in their own lives that they don’t have time for kids like her.” Stephanie nodded wondering in the past, especially when her boys were little if there were others that she had let slip through the cracks. She really hoped not.
“Do you work tomorrow?” She asked Holly wiping her eyes and the makeup now running down her face.
“I do. This is my weekend.”
“Good. I’ll be back. This one isn’t going to be alone through this anymore.” Holly smiled and prayed that the coach would follow through on that. The look in her eyes said she was sincere and the nurse knew she’d see her there in the morning.