In Between Shadows

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Chapter 3

“You realise, of course, that this is what we expected long ago?” Jim Dennison said, scanning the medical file in front of him. “No one has any idea why that man has spent so many years defying all medical and scientific certitude.”

Max took a sip from the mug of coffee in his hand. before he frowned. “Nevertheless, he has been able to walk, run, ride his horse - and escape death a couple of times too! But it seems as if he’s given up this time. He won’t even try!”

Jim leaned back in his chair. “He doesn’t have as much pain though?”

“None at all, apparently.”

“Sensation?”

“Seems normal - medically! Psychologically, that’s another matter. When I examine him, he says his legs are numb! That he can’t feel anything from the waist down. Which is definitely not true. You saw the MRI. But trying to get information from him lately is like trying to get blood out of a stone! He hardly speaks! The only thing that hasn’t changed is the number of times he kisses my niece!” The semblance of a smile crossed his face. “Carrie has always been Brad’s lifeline!”

Jim also smiled. “I think the whole of the country knows how much Brad Conway loves his wife. He’s quite a legend, not only because of his miracle life.”

“Hmm. Brad thinks his miracle is over. That’s part of the problem, I’m afraid. He always insisted he had an understanding with God. Now he believes that God has turned away from him, and there’s no use anyone trying to talk to him, as that sends him even more into the doldrums. Even Pastor Davies can’t get through to him.”

“And Carrie?”

“She’s tried very subtle ways to get him to talk, but he’s sinking deeper and deeper into depression. There are not even any drugs we can give him to help.”

Jim sighed, shaking his head slowly. “I really don’t know what to say, Max. The surgery was a complete success! I can examine him again, of course. But it sounds to me as if Brad needs spiritual help more than medical help! Is there any reason why he considers God to have left him?”

Max shrugged. “I have no idea. As I said, he hardly speaks! Sits staring out of the window most of the time. He still goes with us when we go to church, but doesn’t talk to anyone, and I’m not sure that he even hears the sermon. Gets irritated and anxious if anyone tries to pray for him, so now everyone just leaves him alone.”

“Must be awkward. What about little Sarah? I can’t believe that Brad ignores his daughter.”

“Sarah is not the type of child to be ignored!” Max said with a short laugh. “She just thinks her daddy is ill, like her mommy was. In any case, her little friend comes every weekday to play, and his mother apparently used to be a nursery-school teacher, and she’s excellent with the children. So, it seems that Sarah is coping. He still hugs her.”

“That’s good. And the rest of the family, - and the staff. Are they handling Brad’s depression?”

“As well as they can. It’s obviously upsetting for them. And they’re all extremely worried about him. But they - we - try to treat him as normal as we can. We include him in conversations, but he doesn't participate. It's awkward.”

“Of course.” Jim rubbed his chin, sighing again. “Ok, Max. I’ll have some strong anti-depressants tested for him but I won’t have the results for a couple of days. How long are you keeping him semi-sedated?”

“As long as we need to. I’ve got him on an IV drip to keep his blood sugar stable, and Carrie’s nursing him.” He raised his eyebrows questioningly. “You coming up to the house for lunch, Jim?”

A big grin spread over the surgeon’s face. “When do I ever turn down a meal here? In any case, I think I’d like to have a look at him while he’s too groggy to object!”

It had rained heavily during the night and was still drizzling a little, so they walked from the clinic along the covered pathways behind the mansion. It was a slightly longer way, and took them through the staff quarters where the elevators were. There was a wonderful aroma of something roasting, coming from the kitchens, that made their mouths water in anticipation of a delicious lunch.

Nanny, coming through from the kitchens, chuckled as she saw her husband lick his lips. “Oh, Max. You can’t possibly be hungry yet! Didn’t you have tea at the clinic? Lunch will still be about half an hour. Hello Jim.”

The surgeon smiled. “Hello Nanny. We did have tea, but something smells absolutely divine! I’m beginning to wish I lived out here, so I could come and bum meals off you rich folk more often!”

She laughed. “You know you’re always welcome here. Pity you won’t leave that fancy hospital and come and work with Max and Mark. The clinic here is getting to be just as renowned.”

“It certainly is growing,” Jim agreed. “When Mark has installed a lab and updated the orthopedic section here, I might just consider moving!”

“If that’s all you’re waiting for…” Max put in, “… you better start considering your move now! It’s on the cards for early in the new year!”

The men took the lift upstairs, and Max tapped on the door of the main bedroom before they entered. Carrie had risen from her chair beside the queen-size bed at her uncle’s knock, and she smiled at the surgeon.

“Hello, Jim. Good to see you again.”

He returned her smile and moved forward to give her a hug. “Hi, Carrie. Still as beautiful as ever, I see. How’s the head?”

A tinge of pink, appeared in Carrie’s cheeks, as always when she received compliments from anyone but Brad, but she answered, “It’s much better, thanks. I’ll soon be able to do without the wig altogether! I think I’m still a little self-conscious right now.”

“Your hair is growing nicely, my angel,” Max said, turning his attention to the patient in the bed. “Any problems?”

Carrie shook her head slowly. “Apart from the catheter, no. He hates that. But he’s sleeping most of the time anyway.”

Max lifted Brad’s wrist to check his pulse, aware that Carrie had probably already done that. “Breathing normally?”

There was the tiniest of hesitations before she said quietly, “He mutters sometimes, but I can’t understand the words, and then he starts hyperventilating. It’s actually quite unnerving! But it’s only for a few seconds.”

“Jim wants to have a quick look at him! Will you give us a hand?” He glanced at the adjoining door. “Sarah isn’t here, is she?”

“No. She’s in the playroom with Grace and Lucien. Painting all the decorations they made yesterday, I believe.”

Brad did not wake while they examined him, but he did mumble incoherently. Max decreased the dosage of the sedative very slightly. Before they left to go down for lunch, Carrie bent to kiss her husband’s lips very softly, and she stood for a moment looking down at his pale face.

Jim Dennison gave a little sigh. “He’ll be ok, Carrie. Brad is a strong man, and this is just a setback he wasn’t prepared for. The only thing the surgery changed was his own mindset. This is a spiritual battle that I’m sure he believes he’s fighting alone! We have to just keep on reminding him that in between the shadows there’s still sunshine.”

Carrie raised her chin. “I read that somewhere once. That happiness is always found in between shadows! For Brad, the darkest shadows revolve around that wheelchair, and the fact that he thinks he’s become a cripple.” She clenched her fists suddenly, and scowled. “I could kill Barbara for hurting Brad with that word, - if somebody else hadn’t already decided to kill her first!”

Max raised his eyebrows at the venom in her voice. “Angel, I don’t think you mean that! And getting angry is not going to help Brad at all.” He glanced down at the bed as Brad’s eyes flickered open for a second. “In fact, he may even be able to hear what we’re saying.”

He took out his mobile phone, saying, “I’m getting a nurse from the clinic to come and sit with him while we have lunch.” Seeing her open her mouth, he added quickly, “No arguments! You’ve been cooped up in here since breakfast and you need a break!”

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