Toronto. Tuesday, January 2, 2002.
Helen Monteith, joined by her two sons, Ian and Michael, parked their car, then trudged through six inches of fresh snow and entered St. Michael’s Hospital via the Queen Street entrance. After removing their winter footwear and leaving them in the vestibule, they proceeded to the reception office.
Ian stepped up to the window. “My name is Ian Monteith, I’m Steve Monteith’s brother. He was admitted to this hospital this afternoon. Doctor Graham, his neurosurgeon, is expecting me.”
The receptionist gave Ian the directions to the Trauma Center reception area and told him that she would arrange for Doctor Graham to meet him there.
Doctor Graham, six foot two with an athletic frame and well groomed salt and pepper hair, approached the Monteiths within minutes of their arrival in the Trauma Center. He appeared to be in his mid fifties. Dressed in his blue scrubs he inspired confidence. He was not smiling as he extended his hand to Michael. “Hi, I’m Paul Graham. It’s an honor to meet such a great hockey player.”
“Thank you,” Michael said, then shook Graham’s hand. He introduced his mother and Ian. “How’s Steve?” he asked with a worried expression.
Graham compressed his lips and frowned, accentuating the creases in his forehead. “He’s alive, but barely. We operated on him this afternoon and managed to stabilize him...He sustained a powerful blow to the left side of his head causing severe trauma to the left temporal lobe of his brain. The extent of the damage is yet to be determined. In cases like Steve’s it takes time to determine the extent of a brain injury. Each injury is different and depends on where the brain is injured and the extent of swelling that occurs. The good news is that we got him on the operating table within hours of his accident. The bad news is that he had severe swelling.”
“Is he going to be alright?” Helen asked.
“It’s far too early to give you any prognosis at all. We’ve done a CT scan and an EEG on his brain in an attempt to determine the extent of the damage, but these tests alone can’t tell us about the prospects of long term recovery. We’ve scheduled a number of other tests and we’ll be monitoring him around the clock. More I cannot tell you.”
“Is he conscious?” Helen asked, wiping her tears with a tissue.
Graham shook his head. He’s comatose. We have no way of knowing how long he’ll be in that state.” He paused, then made eye contact with each of his visitors. “There is no way to sugar coat this. Steve received a terrible blow to his head. He’s in serious trouble. All of you should prepare yourselves for the possibility that he may never recover from his coma. In fact, he might die. If he does recover, there is a strong possibility that he will be challenged.”
Graham’s comments hurt the Monteiths as surely as he knew they would. While Ian and Michael lowered their heads in thought, Helen covered her face with her hands and cried. “I want to see him,” she said. “Is that possible?”
“I’ll show you the way,” the doctor said.