“Come on Linny, let’s go already!” Daniel whines after we get out of the car, swinging my hand in his, like always. “You’ve already made me wait all day!”
When I reach towards him to pick him up, he runs away, sticking out his tongue.
“Daniel James, get back here!” I smile and start to run after him. I stop when I see an older guy and a woman, each maybe forty, smile at me. The man waves and I quickly turn around and find a place to sit. My mother hates to interact with people she doesn’t know, even public services, like police and doctors, so she tells me not to.
I place myself on an empty bench and yawn as I open my book. I start to read, but I’m interrupted when I hear a squeal. I put down my book and look up to see Daniel balancing precariously on the top of the circle of monkey bars, slowly walking towards the other side. Then I see him trip, stumble, and fall to the ground.
“Danny!” I yell, getting up from the bench.
I hear Daniel scream, but I am blocked from him by kids yelling and running all around him. I finally push through.
“Danny, are you ok?” I ask, trying to help him sit up.
My ten-year-old brother sobs as he holds his head with one arm and wipes his eyes with the other.
“My head!” He groans, clinging to me.
“It’s gonna be OK Danny,” I promise. “C’mon, let’s go to the car. We’ll go to the hospital, and you’ll be OK.”
I grab Daniel and phone my mom. He leans his head against me, as I tell her what happened,
My voice is rushed and panicky, but my mom's is steady. As we talk, I hear a slam and the sound of a car running in the background. She must be coming to the park. After a few minutes of her calming me down, she tells me that she’s on her way, and to not call an ambulance. She hangs up, and I’m alone again.
It doesn’t surprise me that my mother doesn’t want me to call the ambulance. No matter how hurt Daniel or I could be in any situation, the truth is, she’d be almost too nervous to function, or deal with people. When Dad left she just, broke, I guess. I snap back to reality as I hear her voice.
“Caroline! Where are you?”
“I’m over here!” I reply from my car.
I turn around and see her a few feet away, pale and almost shaking.
“What happened? How is he?”
“He fell off the monkey bars. He was standing on them and hit his head. We’re going to the hospital. You don’t have to go in.” I say, making sure not to look back at my mother. I look in the mirror at Daniel, lying in the same position that I put him in.
“I’m sitting in the back with him.” My mother says, getting into the car. Daniel’s dirty blonde hair has a combination of dirt and leaves mixed into it. Mom carefully brushes through his hair with her fingers, her hand slightly shaking. I look back at them as I back out of the parking lot, then focus on the road and drive.
The drive to the hospital is a short one, only about fifteen minutes, but my heart is racing all the same.
When we get to the hospital, I park as close to the door as we can. Mom unbuckles Daniel from his roly-poly position on the seat and picks him up, his legs over one arm, while she supports his head with her other arm.
We walk into the hospital, which seems unusually empty. Even better for Mom. I had imagined a waiting room full of crying patients and hustling doctors, instead of a large room including a desk with two nurses and a few chairs, some occupied by waiting patients.
I follow my mother towards the desk, surprised that my brother isn’t awake yet. What if something was seriously wrong with Daniel? As hard as I try, I can’t shake the feeling that something bad was about to happen, like a pit in the middle of my stomach. It expands and contracts, filling me with an uneasiness and nausea I have never felt before. I turn back to my mom as she looks over at me. She nods towards the ER room doors as a nurse with pigtails opens them for us, telling us to follow her.
We pass many rooms, some with closed doors, some with just curtains. I hear coughing, crying, and sometimes a mixture of both. I wonder how bad these people are feeling, and how bad it is compared to Daniel.
The pigtailed nurse stops at one of the rooms, the one with wide open curtains and partially closed doors. She lets us in and tells us that a doctor will be with us in just a moment.
As my mother lays Daniel down on the stiff looking bed provided for us, I notice that her hands are shaking. The doctor comes quickly and before I know it, My ten-year-old brother is set up to wires and machines of all sorts. I reach down and take his hand, then set it down again gently. He has a clip on his finger,I guess to measure more things.
If I had only watched him closer, I silently scold myself, maybe this wouldn’t have happened. I could’ve told him to get down as soon as he stood up on the monkey bars.
“I have a really bad headache.” my brother slurs. He coughs a few times, and I look towards my mom. Her eyebrows are furled and her mouth is pinched. All of a sudden, I look back towards Daniel to see him shaking, his eyes rolled to the back of his head and his face devoid of all color. I hear Mom yelling over the beeps and alarms. I am pushed to the side by doctors and nurses and am pushed once again when his bed is wheeled out of the room.
“Let’s get him to a CT scan and then some blood tests!” I hear one doctor yell. I follow my mother and the doctors, my eyes filling up with tears.
We stop at two huge doors, which the doctors push Daniel through. We are stopped when we go to walk through them. We are not allowed in.
Daniel had a seizure; my ten-year-old brother just had a seizure, and we are not allowed to go with him.
As we wait, doctors walk in and out, they say nothing. Why don’t they tell us? Why not answer our questions and tell us how Daniel is? Better yet, tell us what’s wrong with him.
We had been waiting almost forty-five minutes when a doctor I recognize as the one who wheeled Daniel out of the room walks in. My mother sits down as he grabs a chair and wheels around towards us. He’s smiling, but his eyes are blank.
“We gave Daniel a simple CT scan and a few blood tests,” The doctor tells us. “He is stable now, but we still have to keep a close eye on him. He has what we call a hematoma, which is bleeding between two layers of the skull. His brain hasn’t been damaged yet, although the hematoma is putting a lot of pressure on it. We will need to operate on him and drain the blood, or else there will be too much pressure on his brain. Unfortunately, our neurosurgeon won’t be here until about five, so we arranged the drainage a half hour from now, so you can have time to see him. We’re expecting a full recovery after the surgery.”
I nod, and he hands Mom paperwork for the surgery. Following the doctor, we get up and make our way towards the double doors once again, this time, we are allowed through. The doctor stops at one of the rooms, and a nurse with short, curly hair takes his place.
“Daniel is doing just fine but is a little groggy from the pain meds we gave him. He also had a headache, so make sure to be as quiet as possible.”
My eyes widen as they fill with tears at the sight of my brother. If I thought that everything he was set up to before was upsetting, I was in for it now. He had at least two needles in his arms, draining or filling something, I couldn’t tell. His vital signs were shown on a screen on the wall, and his eyes were closed. I knew that it wasn’t what was happening, but I felt as if all these machines and gadgets were monsters, draining the energy and even the life from my little brother.
The nurse shows us into the room, and Daniel’s eyes are closed and the pit in my stomach grows once again. As mom and I sit down, we start to talk to Daniel. Not about now, but about the past, starting with long tales of Daniel’s childhood, all the way down to tiny bits of recollections that happened when he was a toddler. We talk and talk, as if nothing was wrong. We reminisce back to when Dad was around, almost lost in a pool of memories. We don’t know what he heard, if anything.
We’re dragged out of our pool when the doctor comes in and tells us it’s time for Daniel’s surgery. I smile at Daniel, whose face had gone pale.
A few nurses adjust his bed and start to wheel him out as Mom and I step out into the hallway. We are allowed to follow Daniel all the way to the surgery doors. I keep back the cry in the back of my throat and grab his hand. I squeeze Daniel’s hand but I realize that he’s not squeezing back. I glance at my mom, then the doctor. I struggle to grasp the sob in my chest as I choke out, “Danny?”
The doctors hear me. They stop the bed as quick as they can and bend down towards him. A nurse pushes me away from him and I reach out to him. I see them pushing on his chest, then holding his nose while blowing through his mouth.
Finally, they are done. I walk towards him as I hear a nurse speak quietly, “Time of death: sixteen fifty-five.” Five minutes before my brother's surgery, but it was too late. I lean against the wall, across from my mother. I slide down the wall and release all of the tears that I’ve held, realizing that no more would my brother squeeze my hand.