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by J. McDougald

Sixty-one year old Allan McCammon kept thinking he was dreaming, he must be. This couldn’t be real. It didn’t feel like it was real. He’d been sitting in the poorly furnished hospital waiting room for hours but he kept feeling surprised to find himself there. The older man hoped this was nothing more than a terrible nightmare he would awaken from any moment, but he knew that wasn’t going to happen. As doctor Sprague walked towards them Allan and his wife stood, both dreading what the next few moments would bring.

“How is she?” Allan’s wife Melinda asked before the surgeon could utter a word of greeting.

Jack Sprague looked from one parent to the other. “I’m sorry the news isn’t good Mrs. McCammon,” the doctor said having just finished a four hour surgery on their thirty-two year old daughter.

One of Melinda’s slender liver-spotted hands clutched frantically at her husbands jacket, the other around the golden cross on her necklace while she looked into Allan’s lined face.

“God will take care of us,” she said. Her eyes darted around wildly for a moment, then she turned back to the doctor. “Is it her legs? Can she walk? Is she paralyzed?”

“Maybe we should sit down,” Jack suggested.

“Is she paralyzed? Oh God is she paralyzed?” the woman yelled. Some of the other people nearby looked at them, but most didn’t. Variations of the scene had unfolded countless times before and there was little interest in seeing it again.

“No Mrs. McCammon, she’s not paralyzed.”

The doctor put a hand on her shoulder and led them towards a small unoccupied consultation room and the two parents followed the surgeon inside. For Mr. McCammon the full weight of the situation didn’t settle on him till that heavy door clicked shut blocking out the noise from the corridor. There seemed to be such a finality just in the closing of that door. The silence that followed was terrifying. As his white-haired wife sat in one of the chairs Allan remained standing beside her. He had to remain strong, that was his place.

“How is she doing Jack?” Allan asked the doctor. “It’s bad isn’t it?”

He nodded solemnly. “Sarah’s alive, but she sustained very substantial injuries. The car accident she was in is called a T-bone, the other car hit hers in the drivers door. When that happens you have a lot of injuries on the left side of the body.”

Is this really happening? Allan looked down at his wife, laid a hand on her shoulder. She placed her own over it and squeezed gently. No, not our little girl. Not our Sarah.

“There were many fractures of her left arm, leg, her pelvis and the ribs on her left side.” The doctor paused for a moment and took the tiniest breath. “We had to amputate her left arm just below the shoulder…” The doctor paused, perfectly anticipating the gasp that escaped from both parents.

“…but the real problem is her head. She doesn’t seem to be responding to anything and her brain is showing no activity.”

“But she’s asleep, she’s still asleep right?” the woman asked.

“Yes she’s… unconscious, but there are certain things that you react to even when you’re asleep. We also have a machine that measures brain activity.”

“Well then your machine is broken!” Melinda nearly screamed. Her husbands hand tightened on her shoulder and she looked up at him. He was giving her that look that said You’re being difficult. She would have none of it, and flung his hand off her shoulder. “You’re machine is broken!”