tagRomanceAbove it All Ch. 06-07

Above it All Ch. 06-07

bycoaster2©

Chapter 6 What doesn't kill you ...

That early December weekend began the confirmation of the love affair between Gabrielle and me. If there had been any doubt beforehand, there was none now. By Christmas we had moved in together. We made no secret of our relationship. I phoned Rex to make sure he was aware of our decision and while he was surprised and wondered how this had all come about so soon, he had no objection. I knew what he was thinking ... if for some reason our affair came to a crashing end ... but I was confident that couldn't possibly happen.

Since Georgette Smith had at least some hand in putting us together, Gabrielle had no concerns about revealing just how successful the plot between the two of them had worked. Well, perhaps plot was too strong a word, but there was little doubt the two were co-conspirators. Now, I could hardly complain, could I?

~*~

Winter in the East Bay can be unpredictable. Snow was highly unlikely; but cold, drizzly rain wasn't. None of the weather we encountered stopped us from our usual Saturday morning run. If there was a downpour, we would wait it out until it slacked off, lying in bed and enjoying each other's company in the meantime. Otherwise, dressed for the climate, we developed several different routes to keep ourselves from becoming bored. Typically, we ran between five and seven kilometers, our pace depending on what was comfortable for us.

Whatever the circumstances, we always waited until daylight as I had an aversion to running in the dark on city streets. It was mid-February and I had just returned from one of my grueling week-long trips to Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. It wasn't often that I would attempt to combine all three locations in the same week, but that was the case this past week.

I was feeling good, back home with Gabrielle in what was her apartment. The larger kitchen was the deciding factor on where we would live. I happily shared the cooking and cleaning duties with her, which earned me some good-guy points.

We were running north on a side street only a couple of blocks from the apartment when I felt something or someone collide with me from behind and knock me into the roadway. A parked pickup truck put an abrupt end to my fall, my head hitting the edge of the box side. I heard Gabrielle scream, and then someone calling "asshole" as I had a vague look at a guy riding away down the sidewalk on a bike.

I was dizzy and disoriented at first, aware of Gabrielle by my side holding me. There was blood coming from my head where I had hit the side of the truck and an excruciating pain in my left knee. She tried to get me to stand, but even with the help of a bystander, I was unable to put any weight on my left side.

"What happened?" I asked as I continued to struggle to get to my feet.

A man I didn't recognize was helping Gabrielle and said, "It was one of those damned courier guys hit you when he tried to go between you and this lady. He had no business riding on the sidewalk. I saw the name of the company," the man said. "It was Comet Couriers."

"Are you all right, Gabrielle?"

"Yes ... I think so. He just brushed by me, but he hit you hard. Wait!" she exclaimed, "Here's a police car. Let me get their attention."

The man continued to help me stay upright while she waved at the patrol car. They stopped and Gabrielle approached them, apparently explaining what had happened. I wasn't out of earshot, but my head and knee were giving me a lot of pain and I couldn't concentrate on anything except getting some relief.

The next thing I knew, the officers were helping me into the patrol car and with Gabrielle beside me, we were whisked off to a hospital. We arrived at the emergency entrance and Gabrielle thanked the officers as they rounded up a wheelchair and pushed me into the receiving area. We were fortunate that it wasn't busy, and within a few minutes I was processed and pushed into an examination cubicle.

"Who was that guy who helped us?" I asked.

"I got his name and he gave it to the police as a witness. He also gave them a rough description of the guy that hit you. Thank goodness for concerned citizens," she added as she sat by me, holding my hand while we waited for a doctor to appear.

The doctor came shortly afterward and helped me up onto the examination table.

"You have a nasty cut on your temple, Mr. Richter, but my larger concern is your knee. Your knee has suffered considerable damage to the ligaments by the look of it. We'll take some x-rays and see what the situation is, but first I want to deal with your head wound. I'm going to give you a shot for your pain and it will make you drowsy, so don't be surprised if you fall asleep. That might be the best thing for you right now."

"Thank you," I managed as I waited for the nurse at his side to administer the shot. Anything to take away the pain would be welcome.

"I'll be right here with you, Kyle," a worried Gabrielle assured me.

"Thank you, my love. I'm sorry about this. I hope it doesn't ruin your weekend."

"I don't care about my weekend. I care about you and getting you back to good health. I'm not going anywhere until I know what the situation is."

I must have lost consciousness at that point because I don't remember anything beyond her comment. When I awoke, I took stock of my surroundings. I was in a two bed room with another patient who was hidden behind a fabric screen. My head was bandaged, but I could still feel the impact of the bang it took. I looked down and saw a much larger lump under my left leg. I lifted the sheet and saw a very large bandage wrapped around some kind of splint, running from mid-thigh to mid calf. I didn't like the look of that.

I must have drawn the attention of Gabrielle, who was sitting at the head of my bed on the other side. I turned my head, immediately feeling dizzy, then focused on her.

"Hi," I said weakly.

"Hi, yourself," she smiled, leaning over and kissing me. "How are you feeling?"

"Lousy. My head hurts and I feel dizzy when I move it. And I've got some kind of splint on my leg. I don't like what I'm seeing, Gabrielle."

"Rest, my love. The doctors are going to take care of your injuries. Your doctor should be along on his afternoon rounds and can bring us both up to date on your status."

She had taken my hand and the warmth and care I saw in her face helped me calm down. I was feeling the effects of the pain medication, and wondered if that was what was making me feel dizzy when I moved. I wasn't in a very talkative mood, but it didn't faze my lady. She sat quietly holding my hand, watching me.

I don't know how long it was before a doctor came into the room, checking on the other patient first before approaching me.

"How are you feeling now, Mr. Richter," he asked, putting a cold stethoscope chestpiece on me.

"Dizzy when I move. Still some pain in my head. I can't feel my leg at all. I had to look to make sure it was still there."

That brought a chuckle from him. "I'm Doctor Szmanski. We've x-rayed your knee and to be honest, the damage is considerable. We've scheduled you for surgery first thing Monday morning. We have an excellent orthopedic team that will do it's best to reconstruct your knee."

"What's the chances of a full recovery?" I asked.

"I doubt you'll be running any time soon. Your patella ... the knee cap ... is damaged and there may be a crack in the lower part of your femur. You must have been hit very hard. You have a deep bruise on the outside of your knee where you were struck."

"You mean, I might not be able to run ... ever?" I asked, almost fearing to hear him confirm it.

"That's a possibility. It's too soon to know. Monday will tell the tale. However, despite all the damage, you'll certainly be able to walk and continue your normal day-to-day mobility. I suspect you will be a candidate for a full knee replacement sometime in the future, but that's a premature guess on my part."

I was not encouraged. It was not good news and I knew Gabrielle understood the significance. I felt her squeeze my hand when the doctor delivered the unhappy prospect.

"Don't worry, Kyle. They're going to make you better. They're going to put you back together so that we can still do many of the things that are in our plans."

I didn't respond to Gabrielle's encouragement. I wondered how long I was going to be off work before I could return. I wondered what other affects these injuries would have. I had a dark feeling about what I was facing in the next weeks and months.

~*~

Sunday afternoon Gabrielle and I had a visit from a Hayward police officer.

"Mr. Richter, I'm detective Paul Gallagher. I've been assigned to your case. We are treating it as a hit-and-run vehicular offense. We've identified a possible suspect and I was wondering if you'd be able to make a positive ID from a photograph?"

"I don't think so. It happened so fast and I was hit from behind, so I didn't really see him," I admitted.

"I saw him," Gabrielle said immediately.

"And who are you, ma'am?"

"I'm Gabrielle Lamont and I was with Kyle when he was hit. I saw the man on the bike look back at Kyle and swear at him. I'm pretty sure I can identify him if I saw him again. I gave this information to the officer at the scene."

I saw the officer smile at her and reach into a file. He handed her several photographs. "Can you identify any of these men?"

Gabrielle looked at the photos one at a time, then picked one out of the group. "This is him. I'm sure of it."

"Excellent. That's very helpful ma'am. We have this man in custody at present. You're probably not aware that each courier for their company has a GPS locator on their bike. The company was able to confirm that this individual was on or near that location when the accident occurred. When we approached him, he was very hostile and uncooperative. We attempted to hold him for questioning when he resisted and attempted to assault an officer. When we ran a check on him, he has priors for assault and drug offenses."

"I guess that's going to make it easier to prosecute him," I suggested.

"Yes ... I'm sure you're right. Thank you for your help and I hope you get well soon. I'll get your names and addresses for any further follow up. I doubt this will go to court other than for sentencing. I can almost hear the defense attorney trying to set up a plea deal," he smiled. "He won't have much to bargain with."

"Good to know. I'm not feeling very charitable about this guy. I'd hate to think that it might easily have been Gabrielle that was run down. Thanks for handling this so quickly."

"You're welcome. I hope your recovery goes well," he smiled as he left.

I sighed in relief. "God, I'm glad you're here," I said, kissing her hand. "I hope they give this guy some serious time. I didn't realize he looked around and swore at me."

"Yeah ... I wasn't the only one who heard him. I gave the police officer on the scene a description of him. Also, the man who helped you saw him as well, so it won't just be me who can identify him."

"That's about the only good thing that came from this," I said.

~*~

When I came out of the anesthetic early Monday afternoon, I remembered where I was and why. I could see the tent over my left leg and knew that the operation was over. But what was the result? What was the prognosis? I was alone in the recovery room. The surgeon, Doctor Hailwood, had explained what he was going to do before the anesthesiologist put me out, but damned if I could remember what he said.

I wasn't feeling any pain, but I was drowsy and had an uneasy feeling in my gut. I closed my eyes once more and drifted off. The next thing I remembered was a soft kiss on my lips. I struggled to wake and as my eyes focused, I saw Gabrielle and smiled. I hadn't smiled much in the last few days. I had a feeling of dread that my life was going to be turned upside down before this whole episode was over.

"Hi ... been here long?" I asked in a hoarse voice.

She shook her head. "The nurse said you wouldn't be awake until now, so I waited until now to come in. How are you feeling?"

"Sleepy, listless, the things the doctor said I'd feel when I woke up. Has anyone said how the operation turned out?"

"No. They'll talk to you later, I was told. I'm not a relative ... yet," she smiled.

"Yeah ... well ... I guess I can wait for the verdict," I sighed. "I doubt it's going to be good news."

"Don't be like that, Kyle. You're an optimist and aside from this, you're perfectly healthy. You'll get through this. It's not the end of the world," she said with a lecturing tone.

"Yeah ... sure," I mumbled.

I didn't feel very optimistic and I guess it showed. Gabrielle had an unhappy look about her that I didn't remember seeing before. I wanted that to go away, but I couldn't do much about it lying in this hospital bed.

"What time is it?" I asked.

"It's just coming up on six," she answered, having looked at her watch.

"Have you eaten yet?"

She shook her head.

"Why don't you get something to eat," I suggested. "I'm not going anywhere for a while."

"I think I will," she agreed, slowly rising, giving me another soft kiss and adding, "I'll be back a little later. See you then. Love you, Kyle," she said, trying to smile.

"Okay," was all I managed in reply.

~*~

Tuesday morning was the start of the rest of my life. My orthopedic surgeon, Doctor Hailwood, came to see me just after nine. I wasn't looking forward to the conversation.

"We spent over three hours reconstructing the ligaments and cleaning up the knee joint, Mister Richter. We've repaired the damage to the best of our ability and I suspect it will heal to about eighty percent of normal. However, the damage to your patella and the crack in your femur are more problematic. We've had to remove the patella as it was shattered beyond repair. You can live without one, but it will limit some of your activities. You won't want to get down on that knee on a hard surface. The pain will be quite intense.

"The femur will heal, but it will always be vulnerable to stress causing it to give you pain as well. We've put a pin in to secure it, but again, running and jumping will be very painful for some time to come, if not permanently."

"That's not a very comforting scenario," I said. "Will I have a permanent limp?"

"Not after the ligaments heal. But you can look forward to a knee transplant sometime in the future. I suspect you'll be able to live with your current situation for a few years because you're in such excellent physical condition. However, sooner or later, you're going to need a new knee."

I let go my held breath and closed my eyes. What kind of life was I going to have now? What wouldn't I be able to do besides run and jump and kneel down? How would I maintain my fitness so that I didn't turn into some giant slob?

"Is there anything else I should know?" I asked him.

"No ... not for now. You'll be starting on a controlled rehabilitation program tomorrow. You won't be released from here until you can achieve a certain level of mobility, but your physical therapist will go over that with you."

"Any idea how long that will be?"

"With your level of overall fitness, I'd say a week. It's really up to you and your therapist," he said.

I'd managed to eat some of the breakfast and when they served me the lunch, I almost lost what appetite I had. It was completely unappealing. Gabrielle came to see me in the afternoon and was in a cheery mood, kissing me and smiling. I put an end to that with my sour attitude, gifted to me by the conversation with the surgeon.

"So what did your doctor say?" she asked.

"He said I was not going to be able to run, jump, or kneel down again," I said in a voice bordering on anger. "In other words, I was going to be handicapped for the rest of my life. "He also said I was going to have to have knee replacement surgery sometime in the near future. What I've got left won't last very long."

"Oh ... I'm so sorry, Kyle. But you'll still be able to walk and nothing else is damaged is it?"

"I'm angry, Gabrielle. I'm really, really angry. That bastard that hit me has ruined my life. I want you to do me a favor, please. I want you to get hold of my lawyer. If you've got a pen and a piece of paper, I'll give you his name. He has an office in Sacramento and he knows me."

"What are you going to need a lawyer for?" she asked, fishing in her little purse for a pen and paper.

"I'm going to sue that courier outfit for every dime I can take them for. They didn't do a background check on that guy and he had a record of violence and drug use. They're responsible for this," I said, pointing at the tent over my leg.

"What is that going to do for you, Kyle," she asked softly. "It won't heal the damage. I can live with you just as you are now. I want the Kyle I fell in love with, not an angry, vengeful man. You're going to start getting better and I know you'll change back to the man I know and love."

"I don't know about that, Gabrielle. I don't know who I'm going to be in the future. I'll guess we'll both have to wait and see."

I saw the look of concern and unhappiness on her. I wasn't telling her what she wanted to hear. But damn it, I was angry, and I wanted my pound of flesh from someone ... anyone. If they hurt me, I was going to hurt them back ... in spades!

Gabrielle dutifully wrote down Darren Hatcher's name and the name of the law firm. She could look it up on the Internet for an address or phone number. She didn't stay long afterwards as we had little to say to each other and small talk wasn't really going to change my mood.

~*~

As predicted, the next morning the nurse and my new physical therapist had me up and in a wheelchair for a ride down to their little dungeon. The torture rack consisted of a cushioned table that I was helped onto, and an electric device that was gently tucked under my surgically repaired knee. The purpose of the exercise was to gradually see how much I could stand to have to knee bent before the pain became too much. It turned out that the amount of flex I could stand was very little.

Frank Mrazek was head torturer, and I responded by pushing myself beyond what I should have. I got a stern lecture from him about doing more damage than good and that the surgery hadn't healed me, so quit trying to be a hero. At least I listened to him. I wasn't listening to anyone else. I'd had a number of visitors, including Olivia and her fiancé, Bill Bolland. They were planning to marry that June and she wanted him to meet me. I didn't exactly welcome either of them with open arms, spending more time in telling them about the lawsuit I planned for the courier. I know Olivia wasn't impressed, and I doubted her intended was either.

I was surprised to see Rex Lyman visit me just before I was released into Gabrielle's care. I shouldn't have been. He was my boss and likely would be the designated substitute while I was out of action. I told him about my future limitations and my concern that I wouldn't be able to do my job properly.

"Don't worry about that now, Kyle. Get better. There'll be a place for you at Dow. We don't throw away good employees," he grinned.

It didn't cheer me up. I had visions of being saddled with a desk job, or worse, a lab rat, messing about with an Erlenmeyer flask and a Bunsen burner. Did they still use those things today?

John and Georgette also stopped by to see me and I behaved myself, telling them that I'd get better and be back taking care of their account as soon as possible. I seemed to pull it off as they went away after a pleasant chat and an invitation to Tahoe whenever I could get around well enough. I wondered to myself when that would be.

Tom Hanson heard about my accident from someone and stopped by as well. He wasn't so easily taken in by my assurances that I'd be "back to normal" in no time at all. He'd injured his ACL in his high school days and never went back to playing active sports.

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