Ten minutes later the door to the room opened and a man in his mid-thirties walked out looking around. Linda, Richard and the cop all jumped up from where they were sitting. The doctor looked around until he saw me, I couldn’t move, I was just frozen in place, my feet felt like they were stuck to the floor. He wasn’t smiling, his eyes were cautious and controlled and my hands started to shake.
He ignored Linda and Richard who were looking at him expectantly; instead he walked up to me. His eyes travelled down from my face to my hand and he seemed to nod a little in confirmation.
“I notice that Clay has a wedding ring on his finger. Are you married?” he asked, looking at me intently. I nodded still unable to speak, I couldn’t even breathe properly, my heart felt like it was going to break out of my chest making me feel a little light headed. “Ok, so you’re his next of kin then. I need to talk to you about his condition,”
I felt numb inside, like this was happening to someone else, I felt detached and emotionless. I had no idea what he was going to say but I knew that Clay wasn’t dead, I would know if he’d died, I would have felt it, wouldn’t I? Don’t they say that? That you always know when something has happened to the one you love. If Clay had died then it would have killed me as well, wouldn’t it? God wouldn’t be that cruel, to leave me here without him, would he?
The doctor put his hand on my arm and I let him guide me to the chairs on the side of the hallway, my feet feeling like ten ton weights. Linda and Richard followed behind, Linda sobbing her heart out on Richard’s shoulder and I couldn’t help but feel lonely. I needed Clay to be here for me like his dad was for his mom. I sat down and looked at the doctor expectantly not knowing what on earth he was going to say but the sad look on his face was telling me that this wasn’t good news.
The doctor smiled grimly, “We’ve managed to get the bleeding under control now. The knife pierced his lung, but we’ve inserted a chest tube so that’s helping him breathe. His lung should be fine; we’ll have to leave the tube in for a couple of weeks until it’s repaired,” he stated.
That’s all? A chest tube for a couple of weeks? I felt my stomach start to unwind itself, as happiness started to build up inside me. He was lucky, we were lucky and I would never take a minute of his time for granted again. I would cherish every second of him from this day forward because every single one of them was precious, I’d never realized just how precious until now.
I smiled and nodded, “Can I go in and see him? Is he awake?” I asked grinning from ear to ear.
He shook his head, “He’s unconscious at the moment, he’s lost a lot of blood so we’re trying to replace it as quick as possible. There’s something else that I need to talk to you about,”
I frowned and nodded, “Ok,” I whispered, the smile falling from my face.
“The knife that went into Clay’s lower back has severed his spine,” he said softly.
I felt my heart sink, that couldn’t be right. Severed his spine? Did that mean he was paralyzed or something? That just couldn’t be right, Clay would never let that happen, he would never allow something like that happen to him. He would rather die than not be able to walk; I knew that because that’s the type of person he was. He hated to rely on people or burden them; he would hate to have a disability.
“You can fix it, right?” I whispered as Linda started to wail.
The doctor looked at me apologetically. “There’s something we can try, we have a very gifted surgeon here who specialized in experimental procedures. His name is Doctor Kirk and he’d like to have a look at Clay and see if there’s something he can do to help,” he said his eyes boring into mine.
I nodded and willed myself not to break down and sob, I needed to be strong now for Clay so I couldn’t let myself fall to pieces. “Ok, when can he look at him?” I asked swallowing loudly. The numbness was back now and I was grateful for it, the emptiness was easier to cope with than grief. I couldn’t let the grief and horror drag me under, I wouldn’t let it.
“He’s already assessed his injuries and he thinks there’s a chance he can limit the damage and possibly make it so that he would be able to regain the feeling in his legs. The only trouble is, the surgery is very risky, the operation is very invasive and Clay has already sustained a lot of damage to his body. It could make it worse, or even kill him,” he said sadly.
I closed my eyes and tried to pretend like he had said the K word, I couldn’t even let myself think about Clay dying, I refused to even acknowledge that. He wouldn’t leave me, he was my husband and he wouldn’t ever leave me on my own like that.
“But it might help him walk again?” I whispered not trusting my voice to speak properly. I opened my eyes looking at the doctor hopefully.
He nodded, “Yes, it’s the only chance he has of being able to walk again. Without the surgery he’ll be paralyzed from the waist down, with the surgery there’s about a fifty percent chance that he would regain feeling in his legs,”
Richard shook his head, “But you said he could die,” he stated, his hand tightening in Linda’s hair as she sobbed louder. His whole body was tight with stress and I could see he was doing the same as me, clinging to the edge of the cliff trying not to let go and completely breakdown.
“Yes, the surgery is risky, there’s around a thirty percent chance that he wouldn’t make it through the operation.” The doctor answered matter of factly, in the seemingly detached manner doctors always had.
Oh God please, please don’t let my baby die please! “But there’s a fifty-fifty chance that it’ll fix him?” I asked, needing confirmation.
I knew what needed to happen, if Clay were awake for this decision he would have already consented to this. He wouldn’t want to be stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of his life and he would want to take the risk. He was strong, I had every confidence that he wouldn’t leave me, he’d promised we would be together forever so there is no way he would let himself die on an operating table.
“That’s right. As next of kin I need you to make the decision on his behalf because he’s currently unconscious. You’ll need to sign a consent form,” he said looking at me intently.
I nodded quickly; Clay would want this, there was no doubt in my mind that he would want to try everything, no matter what the risk was. “Ok, do it,” I whispered.
Linda pushed herself away from Richard quickly and looked at me with pink puffy eyes as she swiped at her nose with a tissue. “What? You can’t do that! Did you not hear what he said Riley? There’s a chance he won’t make it through surgery!” she cried looking at me angrily.
I nodded, “I heard every word he said Linda, I’m not stupid. Clay would want this, you know he would. If he were awake then he would sign the form himself and you know it,” I said fiercely.
She shook her head, “You don’t know that! Why can’t you wait for him to wake up and then let him make the decision with his life? It’s not for you to decide.” she shouted, looking at me as if this was my fault making the guilt build up inside me again.
I gulped and looked at the doctor, could we wait for Clay to make the decision? The doctor shook his head quickly, “The longer you wait for the operation the less chance of success. Every hour you wait the chances of it working reduce, if you leave it too long then it could be impossible to repair it. I recommend that we move quickly,” he said sternly.
I nodded and looked back at Linda. That was out of the question, we couldn’t wait because then there might not even be a choice to make, it might be too late by the time he woke up.
“We can’t wait. Clay would want this Linda. You know him, he wouldn’t want to be stuck in a wheelchair, you know that,” I said fiercely. I turned back to the doctor, he said it was my decision and I was making the choice Clay would make himself if he could. “What form do I need to sign?” I asked looking down at the papers in his hand hopefully, the quicker I signed it the quicker they could go in there and save my husband from a life he would be miserable in.
He nodded and pulled out a yellow form holding it out to me with a pen. Linda practically screamed as she stood up and shook her head, looking at Richard desperately before turning back to me. “No! You can’t do that Riley, you can’t risk it! If he doesn’t go into the surgery then he’ll survive. If you send him in there he might not come back out! Don’t you understand that?” she cried looking at me almost hatefully, as if I was purposefully trying to hurt Clay.
“Linda, think about what Clay would want, not what you would want. You know Clay would want this! Do you think I really want to sign that form knowing there’s a chance that he might not come back out of there? Of course I don’t but I’m thinking about Clay right now, he would want this and you know it,” I stated, reaching for the pen and form to sign.
I scribbled my name on the bottom in the next of kin box as Linda thrashed wildly in Richards arms crying hysterically. I swallowed and passed the form back to the doctor feeling my heart break. Had I just signed a death warrant for my husband? Was I sure this is what he would want? I pushed the last thought away, I was one hundred percent sure this is what my best friend and love of my life would want. I didn’t doubt that decision for a second.
The selfish part of me didn’t want to sign it, just in case I lost him. If he didn’t go in for the surgery he would survive and I would still have Clay by my side, a little changed, but I would still have him. The surgery was a risk and one I would rather not take but I didn’t doubt my decision for a second, this is one hundred percent what Clay would want for himself, I knew that with all of my heart.
The doctor stood up and smiled, “We’ll scrub up and take him to surgery within half an hour,” He turned to walk away and I glanced at Linda and Richard who were hugging each other and watching his back as he walked up the hallway.
Richard just looked like he was in shock and didn’t know what to think, Linda looked murderously angry. Suddenly her face brightened and she pushed herself out of Richard’s arms taking a couple of steps in the direction of the doctor.