A Healing Hope
A peek at Carrie and Mike's life in Israel in the year 2000. What could have (and should have) been! I hope you enjoy this story. The second and final part is coming soon!
Carrie finds him sitting at his son's bedside; right where he's been stationed every moment since this whole nightmare began. He looks exhausted. Not to mention, older, as if he's aged overnight. This is taking such a toll on him.
Mike hands clasp Jeremy's gently. The ten-year-old's skinny fingers are dwarfed in Mike's much larger ones. Jeremy's skin is mottled and gray; his breathing ragged beneath the oxygen mask. A pint of crimson-red blood drips slowly through the quarter-sized venous on his chest. His pale blonde eyelashes dust his high cheekbones.
Carrie's heart tugs painfully in her chest as she watches father and son for a moment. Her stomach is tied up in knots and she can't remember the last time she actually felt well herself. She's tired too. Tired and ill, but that's something she won't and can't tell Mike. He has far too much to worry about already.
She squeezes his shoulder with one hand and holds out a cup of stale hospital coffee with the other. Mike looks up at her with murky blue eyes. "I don't-" He starts, but she shakes her head.
"You have to," Carrie says matter-of-factly. "You need to drink something and have a little snack. I have some Almond Joys and pears in my bag."
"Carrie, I'm fine."
"Really? Because from where I'm standing, you don't look fine. You actually look like you could drop at any moment." She offers him a quiet smile. "Just humor me, okay? I'm really worried about you."
Mike finally accepts the cup of coffee, wraps his fingers around the base of the cheap plastic mug. "You don't need to worry about me," he says. "It's Jeremy … It's my son who…" He swallows hard, the Adam's apple bobbing in his throat. "He's the one who's ill. He's the one who could d-" He breaks off. "I can't say it. I'm a doctor and yet, I can't say that word. It's too cruel and final."
"It's understandable you feel that way though. I mean, he's your child."
"He's my child, yes… My child, and I should be able to save him. But Carrie, I can't. I just can't. The reality is, I could lose him. We could lose him."
"You can't think that way, Mike. He's young and he's vibrant. He's strong like his dad. He will fight this. He already is fighting this with your support and love. Just give the treatment some time to work."
"And if he doesn't have much time left?"
"Then we pray," Carrie says. "Just like our grandmothers taught us to. Come to the chapel with me."
"I don't want to leave him. What if-"
"Mike, playing the 'what if' game isn't going to help you. It's actually never helped anyone. Just come to the chapel with me, light a candle, speak to your higher power… We won't be gone but for a few minutes. You need this. Let me take care of you, alright?"
Mike looks at her, then at his son, and back at Carrie again. He nods. "Alright. Medicine isn't doing the trick anyway so maybe I need to try a different avenue." He leans over and very gently busses Jeremy's cold cheek. "I'll be back soon, son. You stay here and please get well."
"It's been a long time since I've done this," Mike admits as they kneel together in the small, cramped, non-denominational chapel in the hospital. Carrie leans against the pew in front of her, feeling oddly dizzy even perched on the floor. Her free hand is clasped in Mike's paw-like one. She gives his digits a squeeze and he doesn't respond at first. She almost feels a little hurt, until he returns the gesture and offers her a weak smile.
"What do I say?" Mike asks. "I think I've lost my faith. I think I've lost my way."
"Then just pray to find your way back," Carrie said. "My grandmother Caroline says He's always listening. I mean, what can it hurt to pray?"
Mike nods. He bows his head then and starts to pray for his son. Carrie feels tears collecting in the corners of her eyes. His heartbreak is her heartbreak; his sorrow, her sorrow. She feels it all so acutely that her stomach starts to roil anew.
Mike asks for Jeremy's healing, for him to return to his family, and Carrie, and everyone else who loves and cares about him. He then whispers, almost so she can't hear it, "My son is too young to die. Have some mercy on him. Please."
Mike and Carrie return to Jeremy's hospital room and spend the evening crouched in small, confining chairs watching the little boy continue to sleep. They say nothing. The only sound is the nurse changing the fluid bag at one point and checking Jeremy's temperature. The boy hardly moves an inch throughout the whole process. Mike's gaze never strays from his son and Carrie's lingers between both of them. She has come to love Jeremy as if he were her own, and though she could never say it aloud; she knows that if he dies, she won't be okay. She doesn't know how Mike and Robin will be either. Robin, who has been absent from the hospital more often than not lately; far too scared to face her only child's suffering.
By morning, Carrie's eyes burn with the lack of sleep and as always, she feels weak and nauseous. She thinks ten minutes - hell, five minutes - of slumber would be heaven, but she can't rest if Mike can't.
They both look up when they hear movement in the doorway, surprised to see Mike's sister and Carrie's old friend, Jennifer, standing there with a gentle smile on her face. She has a little brunette girl with her. Abby. Abby, who looks so impossibly sweet, just like a little cherub.
"Sis?" Mike says, almost as if he's in awe. Almost as if he can't quite believe she's really there.
"Hello, Mike," Jennifer says. "Can we come in?"
"Sure. Of course," Mike says. He stands up briefly to offer his sister and niece a hug. "Uh, what brings you two to this neck of the woods?"
"We missed you guys," Jennifer answers. "Plus, when Abby heard about Jeremy's situation… That he's battling the same illness she did as a child… She asked to come and be there for him."
"That's nice. Ireland is a long way from these parts," Mike says with a weak smile, "but we're glad you're here."
"We really are," Carrie agrees. She moves to her feet, feeling light-headed as she stands. She shakes it off as best as she can and slowly moves to Jennifer and offers her and her daughter a hug. "Thank you both for coming."
"Of course," Jen replies. "We wouldn't want to be anywhere else right now. Family should always stick together, especially in times of need."
"That's true," Abby says, finally speaking up. "Family means a lot to us." She looks at Jeremy who is starting to stir a bit. "Can I talk to him?"
"Sure," Mike says, "he's your cousin, after all. I am sure he will appreciate the visit, even -" he swallows hard - "even if he can't really hold up his end of the conversation right now."
"That's okay," Abby says brightly. "I can talk enough for the both of us."
The adults laugh. Carrie realizes it's the first time she has laughed in seemingly ages.
"So how are you doing?" Jennifer asks a while later when she and Carrie are standing at the vending machine looking for snacks to fill their bellies. Not that Carrie thinks she can eat; but it gives her a moment to spend with her old friend.
"I'm okay," she answers. "It's Mike I'm worried about. Mike and Jeremy both. I keep saying that Jeremy's going to beat this… But if he doesn't…"
"Hey, you can't think that way. If Abby could beat this horrible disease, then so can Jeremy. Don't lose hope."
"That's what I keep telling Mike - don't give up, don't lose faith. But the words feel very hollow now. Jeremy gets worse and worse every hour, it seems, and I don't know what we'll do if we lose him."
Jennifer offers Carrie a little squeeze on her shoulders. "You're a good mama."
"You are his mother in every way that counts. Who is here now? You are. Not Robin. Who did I see gently press a compress to Jeremy's forehead? Who held his hand besides Mike and looked at him like he was your whole world? You. You're very much like his mother, Carrie, and this has to hurt you a lot."
"It does," Carrie admits, allowing the tears to fall for the first time in weeks and weeks. She's tried to push down her feelings for Mike's sake, because he doesn't need another thing to worry about, but in that moment, she can't hide or run from her pain anymore. It engulfs her whole and brings her down, down, down. She feels herself sailing to the floor and right before her head smacks against the hard linoleum, she sees Jeremy's little face before her mind's eye and she cries out his name.
Carrie rouses to consciousness in a room with extremely bright lights. She blinks rapidly against the stark brightness and tries to sit up as things begin to come into focus. She feels a familiar, steady hand on her shoulder, hears Mike say, "Don't. Don't get up. Just lie down."
She lolls her head to the side; looks at Mike. "Jeremy!" she gasps out. "You need to be with Jeremy. He can't be alone for long."
"Shh, it's okay. He's not alone. Jen and Abby are sitting with him. Abby is teaching him some new card trick or something."
"You should be in there. I don't want to keep you stuck here with me."
"Hey, I'm here with you because I want to be. I'm not going anywhere until we find out what's wrong." His voice is soft and soothing, but she can see panic in his eyes. He's scared for her, scared she's sick somehow, just like Jeremy. He's scared he might lose her too.
"I'm fine, Mike. Really. Don't worry. I forgot to eat breakfast is all. Let's go to your son." She starts to haul herself off of the bed but Mike gently pushes her down again.
"Don't, sweetheart, don't. You need to rest. I need you to be alright... A colleague of mine, Dr. Peterman, took a blood sample while you were out. He'll be back any minute with the results."
"I just forgot to eat. Mike, come on, let me out of here," she says stubbornly.
"Just let me worry about you for a moment... I'm incredibly sorry I've been ignoring you lately."
"You haven't. You've been worried about your son. You should be focused on him and not me right now."
"Carrie, I love you, just like I love Jeremy. You need to be a priority right now in my life too. Please just stop fighting me, you stubborn woman."
"Okay... I'll stay put… for now. But I'm sure it's nothing. Just low blood sugar."
"Let Dr. Peterman can tell us if that's the case."
"What do you think it is then?"
"I don't know… I just don't know. I used to be much better at diagnosing things. Maybe if I was as good as I thought though; I would have seen the signs in Jeremy a lot sooner."
"Mike Horton, don't you dare second guess yourself. You're an incredible doctor and an even more incredible father. Jeremy is lucky to have you. So am I."
"Thanks for saying that."
The door opens and Dr. Peterman, a tall, gray-haired man, steps into the room. "Ahhh, you're awake, Ms. Brady. That's a good sign."
Carrie looks at Mike and then at the doctor. "Doctor, please tell my fiancé that there is nothing wrong with me; that I'm fine, and we can leave now and go back and be with his very sick son."
"I heard about your son, Dr. Horton," the other man says. "I'm sorry. I hope he will get better."
"That's what we've been praying for," Mike replies.
Dr. Peterman looks at Carrie. "I did get your test results back."
"Is she going to be alright?" Mike asks.
The older man nods. "I like to think so."
"Don't keep us in suspense, Robert. Is Carrie okay or not?"
"She's in perfect health... and about seven weeks along."
"What?" Carrie and Mike say at the same time. Carrie feels her stomach muscles clench up and her hand flies to her chest.
"I'm - I'm …" Carrie is now the one who can't say a word.
"Pregnant," Dr. Peterman says. "Yes, you're pregnant."
To Be Continued