Hope Anew, Part 7

Fiction By Jackie West // 6/20/2011

                Miriam put the telephone down.  “That was Dad,” she said, her voice heavy with worry and anxiety, “and he said that Mariah might not come home for more than two weeks, at best.”

                “Two weeks?” Micaiah echoed.  “That long?”

                “She has a fever and a cold in her lungs,” Miriam explained.  “The doctor dealing with her thinks that there must be something deeper than he’s seeing.”

                “They don’t know what else is wrong with her?” Jason burst out incredulously.

                “Jason!” his mother rebuked sharply.  “Doctors don’t know everything, and neither do we.  Never speak like that about anyone.”

                Jason looked at his plate as he fell into silence.

                “Will we be able to visit her soon?” Leah piped up.  “I miss her.”

                Miriam sat and thought for a moment.  “No,” she said finally.  “We probably won’t be able to visit her, at least not for awhile.”

                “Oh,” Leah said disappointedly, pushing some chopped nuts around on her plate.

                Miriam stood slowly.  “Well, it looks like we’re done.  Gabrielle, Leah, clear off the table and do the dishes.  Jason, Micaiah, go back out to the fields and continue your work out there.  Danielle, come out to the herb garden with me so we can weed it.”

                The Matthews’ children went about their work silently, most of their thoughts focused on the relative that had somehow been able to come into their house and family and the sickness that now was slowly weakening and killing her.

 

                Where am I?  Where’s the tornado? What’s going on?

 

                “Mr. Matthews.”

                The words were spoken softly, yet Jon nearly jumped out of his skin when they were spoken.  He was, however, able to quickly recompose himself and say, “Yes?”

                “We know what else is wrong with your daughter.”

                “What?” Jon leapt to his feet.

                “She has an extremely serious case of appendicitis, and emergency surgery is necessary if her life is to be saved.”

                “It wasn’t a result of her grief, was it?” Jon inquired.

                “That is highly unlikely,” the doctor replied.  “Possible, but not very.  What most likely happened is that at some point during her grieving in the last two weeks or so, her appendix became inflamed.  It gradually got worse until it reached the point of her being so wracked with pain, and so deeply in grief, not to mention her very high fever that she was thrown into delirium.”

                “I see,” Jon said softly.  “When are you going to do the surgery?”

                “She’s in the operating room right now,” the doctor said.  “You can come and stay in the waiting room outside if you wish.  The surgery shouldn’t take too long.”

 

                What’s that smell?  Where am I?  This isn’t my house and it’s not heaven….

 

                Mariah’s eyes drifted half open.  The sharp smell of something stung her nose, and she wanted to reach up and pinch it so that she could not smell it anymore.  But she couldn’t…..her limbs were strapped down to her bed.

                Wait.  Her bed?

                Mariah’s eyes opened fully and looked around.  The pure white and lit surroundings of her room made her blink repeatedly.

                “Is this a hospital?” she whispered in a dry, cracked voice. “Am I in a hospital?”

                “Mariah?”  Jon appeared at the edge of her bed and took her small, white, limp hand in his big, rough one.  “Are you alright?  How do you feel?”

                “Great,” Mariah replied with great effort.  Her eyes took their focus off of him and gazed off into the distance.  “I was in heaven…”

                The doctor came and stood beside Jon in silence.

                Mariah’s eyes closed as she drifted back off into the land of sleep.

 

                When she opened them again, Jon was still there.

                “When will I go home?” she asked.

                “Shh,” Jon told her.  “Don’t talk.  You won’t be able to go home for quite awhile yet.  You still need to recover from your surgery here in the hospital.”

                “No. I mean that home.”  Mariah directed her eyes upward before shutting them.  “I’m almost there now…”

                Jon looked at the doctor, alarmed.  Dr. Julien shook his head.    

                “It’s hard to say if she’s really going to die or not.  She survived surgery just fine and seemed to be recovering better than expected before she made a reference to…heaven.”

                “She’s still in delirium, right?” Jon said.

                “Her fever has gone down drastically, so delirium wouldn’t make much sense,” Dr. Julien replied, stroking his smooth chin.  “Unless there’s yet another thing that we haven’t found that we should have.”

                Jon was getting more and more exasperated with all the ‘maybe there’s another thing we haven’t found yet’s from the medical personnel.  Weren’t they supposed to have more than just an opinion on the condition of their patients?

                “So why haven’t you been able to find anything else?  Didn’t you look thoroughly enough?” he asked impatiently.

                The doctor, if he hadn’t been more self-controlled, would have rolled his eyes and snapped back, but he replied patiently, “We have been trying to find signs of things deeper inside of Mariah.”

                Jon sighed and leaned back in his chair.  “I’m just so worried about her,” he said, sighing.  “She was the only survivor of her family out of eleven people.”

                Dr. Julien blinked, but didn’t comment.

                “We were going to adopt her, but the adoption process has slowed down drastically now that she’s hospitalized,” Jon explained.

                “So, let me get this straight,” the doctor said.  “Her entire family was killed by a tornado, and you took her in, but she was so shocked and deep in grief that she got sick, not to mention her appendix was somehow inflamed.”

                Jon nodded.  “That’s correct.”

                “Who found her in this state?”

                “My six year old daughter did.”

                “Did your daughter seem traumatized by the sight?”

                “No, just a bit scared.  She can take many things better than some children her age.”

                “That’s good,” Dr. Julien answered.

                “Mm,” Jon murmured in agreement.

                “Well, I need to go check on another of my patients,” the doctor said.  “You know what to do in case something happens.”

                Jon nodded.  “I do know.”

 

                “…and please help Mariah to get better soon.  In Jesus’ name, amen.”  Leah’s eyes popped open.  “Is she better now, Mommy?”

                “We don’t know,” Miriam said gently.  “We haven’t heard from Daddy since lunchtime.”

                As she finished saying this, the telephone rang.

                Jason ran to get it and soon returned, handing the phone to Miriam.  “It’s Dad,” he whispered to her.

                Miriam took the phone.  “Jon?”

                The Matthews’ children crowded close and listened closely.  They couldn’t hear their father’s voice, but hearing their mother’s was almost, though not quite, enough.

                “Jon, you’re not serious!” gasped Miriam wide-eyed.  “How did the surgery go?  Did she survive?”

                She paused for the briefest of moments and then relaxed.  “That’s good.  Has anything happened since then?”

                Jason and Micaiah glanced at each other.

                “Oh no,” Miriam said, her voice suddenly getting sad.  “Really?”

                Leah snuggled close to Gabrielle, her eyes wide with fear.  “Is Mariah dead?” she asked.

                “Shh,” Danielle hushed her.

                “Goodbye, Jon.  Call me if something else happens.” Miriam ended the call and slowly put the telephone down. 

                “What happened?” all the kids asked simultaneously.

                “Well, Mariah had appendicitis-“Miriam began.

                “What’s appendicitis?” “Did she die?” “How bad is it?” “Is she better yet?” The questions poured out from the children.

                “Slow down!” Miriam said loudly.

                They quieted, and Miriam took charge once more.  “The appendix is a projection off of the small intestine.  When it is blocked, the bacteria in it multiply quickly and fill up the appendix, and that causes it to become inflamed.  When that happens, the victim gets sharp, stabbing pains in their side that spread to the other side.  The appendix bursts when the person who is experiencing pain feels a sharp, stabbing sensation and then sudden relief.  If they don’t get help, they might die.  Mariah had a pretty bad case, although her appendix hadn’t burst when she was put in the hospital.  With her grief and a bad cold added to it, she was one very sick girl.  She couldn’t breathe on her own for quite some time, and even now she finds it very hard to talk.”  Miriam paused and took a breath.  “And she’s still in delirium, even though it’s now milder than it used to be.  She thinks she’s going to die and go to heaven.”

                “Do the doctors think that she’s going to die?” Jason asked.

                “It’s a possibility that the doctors think is not likely to happen.  Despite her extremely poor health, she survived the surgery and is doing better than expected,” Miriam explained.

                “When will she come home?” Leah asked.

                “We don’t know, sweetie.  Hopefully soon, but we just don’t know.” Miriam blew out her breath.  “Jon wants to come home and get some sleep, and he needs me to be at the hospital with Mariah.  Can you manage?”

                “That’s what we’ve been doing lately,” Jason said, shrugging.  “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting used to it.”

                Miriam smiled, and Micaiah almost laughed.

                “Thanks, kids,” she said, smiling.  “I don’t know how I can ever thank you for keeping the farm running without your father and me.”

                Micaiah stood.  “It’s seven o’clock, and all our work is done.  Is there something we can do for the rest of the evening?”

                Miriam smiled secretively.  “I’ve been storing up ingredients for ice cream-“

                “Ice cream?  Yippee!” Leah jumped up and started cheering.  “We haven’t had that for such a long time!”

                Miriam smiled.  “Leah, please help Gabrielle get out the ingredients.”  She thought, At least this should distract them for a little bit.

 

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