Tom Steffen’s family arrived at the hospital five hours after leaving the Long Island apartment he shared with his wife and daughter. Tara asked her family to take Lilly to the hotel they booked during the ride, but Margie refused. She insisted on accompanying Tara and Charlotte to the hospital.
“We’ll have lunch in the café while you speak to the doctor. Once you have a prognosis, Lilly and I will drive to the hotel.”
“How do we explain a hospital visit to Lilly?” Tara whispered. “I told her we were taking a girl’s trip.”
“How will you explain your absence this week?” Margie stared at her daughter. “Tell her Charlotte wants to visit a sick friend in the hospital. Lilly will believe anything we tell her.”
Tara rolled her eyes at Margie. She loved her mother, but worried she might make the situation more difficult than necessary.
Jenn accompanied Tara and Charlotte to speak to the doctor, so that Tara wouldn’t have to leave the floor to relay the information to their mother.
Doctor Najami escorted the women into Tom’s room. “Don’t be frightened by the machines he’s hooked up to.” The doctor warned. “Each machine monitors his vitals.”
The doctor stopped in front of the nurses’ station and directed them, with his hand, into a room surrounded by glass walls. Charlotte grabbed Tara’s hand and together they walked toward the bed. Tears streamed down Tara’s face the moment she saw Tom. Spurts of black hair escaped from the white gauze wrapped around his head. The half-sleeve of tattoos on his right arm confirmed the injured man was her husband.
She could handle the tubes connecting her husband to the various machines, the doctor informed her of their importance. The tube taped to his mouth distressed her. She didn’t like the unnatural rise and fall of his chest each time he breathed.
The three women stood statuesque staring at Tom’s lifeless body.
“Is he in pain?” Jenn broke the silence.
“No. He’s in a coma.” The doctor told her.
“Why is he on a breathing machine?” Tara asked.
“The ventilator provides extra breaths, which can decrease the size of the blood vessels and control swelling.”
Tara walked closer to the bed. “May I touch him?” She asked.
The doctor nodded.
She touched his hand and then his arm. “His muscles are rigid,” Tara noted.
“Bruising and swelling make his face almost unrecognizable,” Charlotte added.
“That’s normal,” the doctor told her. “Touch is good for him. Don’t be afraid to hold his hand and even massage his muscles. You should speak to him too.”
Tara nodded. She felt uncomfortable speaking to Tom in front of an audience. Instead she held his hand, trying not to let it bother her that he felt like a corpse.
Charlotte walked to the other side of the bed and stroked his cheek with her...