Revenge of the Nerd Ch. 52byrpsuch©
They were all there in the hospital lounge looking somber, but not distraught. Either nobody had told them anything or Louis was going to recover.
In addition to Sunny and Sandy, Sam and Harri had somehow managed to get there before us.
"Thank God you two are here," said Sunny.
"What's the situation?" asked Jeff.
"We don't know. Nobody is telling us anything," said Sunny.
"How can they not know?" he asked.
"They're still doing tests," she said. "I got a call from his office and came straight here.
"The nurse told me they had to do tests to figure out the extent of the damage and each time I ask they're off doing this test or that. It's almost as bad as the heart attack, waiting and not knowing."
"Where's the doctor?" asked Jeff.
"We don't know," said Sunny. "We just get to talk to the nurse."
"Which nurse is in charge of the floor?" Jeff asked.
"I don't know," said Sunny.
Jeff walked down the hall to the desk and talked to a nurse for a while. She pointed and he disappeared around a corner.
"I don't know why he thinks anybody will tell him anything," said Sunny. "I can't get anything out of them and you know I'm no shrinking violet."
I squeezed her hand.
"Jeff is pretty remarkable. I saw him disembowel my father. It was an amazing sight."
"Thank you," she said.
We sat for a few minutes. I got up, walked over to Sam and Harri and hugged them. Then I went over to Sandy and hugged her. She quivered like she was ready to break down. I held on to her and she managed to regain control of herself.
Before long we saw Jeff walking back down the hall toward us. Beside him walked a man in a white coat with a stethoscope around his neck. It was all we could do to keep from rushing them.
The man addressed himself to Sunny. "I'm Doctor Price. I'd like a few words with you in private about your husband."
"There isn't anybody here that can't hear it. They'll know as soon as I tell them anyway."
"Your husband has had a heart attack which did not cause extensive damage. The prompt treatment he received helped ameliorate the situation. However, two arteries are almost completely occluded and we have to address that immediately.
"We discussed treatment options with him, but he did not seem inclined to make a choice on his own. He said he would go with whatever you and young Mr. Goldberg decided."
Young Mr. Goldberg? That seemed very strange. What was going on here?
Dr. Price continued, "We would ordinarily do a double bypass, taking veins from his leg. But we have an opportunity to perform balloon angioplasty and use new experimental medicated stents which have shown exemplary results in clinical trials. I feel their availability makes this procedure the optimal choice in this case."
"I'm not thrilled about experimental procedures when there is an effective, standard procedure available," said Sunny.
"Balloon angioplasty with medicated stents is not experimental. This is a new stent in trials to be approved. It has shown superior efficacy and has just become available to us through the trials."
"Jeff?" asked Sunny.
"I've seen the study. The results are very good. They haven't been astounding enough for the FDA to shortcut the process, but it's going to be approved unless some surprising bad results turn up.
"It's less invasive, provides quicker recovery and could offer a better chance that it won't recur. I say we should take this option."
And that was that. It wasn't until the next afternoon that Louis was able to fill us in on what had transpired.
The nurse had blown off Jeff the way she blew off Sunny. She was amused when he asked to be directed to the head nurse, knowing that policy was policy, but gave him directions.
The head nurse told Jeff the policy. He asked to speak to the Hospital Administrator about participating in a clinical trial being run by Second Foundation.
Of course Jeff couldn't be sure, he told her, that his father was an appropriate candidate to participate since nobody had told the family what was going on.
"So Jeff told her," said Louis, "maybe he should just speak to the Hospital Administrator tomorrow so he could explain why they had lost the opportunity to participate in the trial, the recognition, the funds it would generate and the opportunity to participate in the future.
"Then Jeff said, ‘I'm sorry to have bothered you. I shouldn't have taken up your time. Don't worry, I'll tell him it wasn't your fault; you were just following policy. Nobody expects a head nurse to take any initiative.'
"And he turned and walked away from her, though he could see her turn white before he finished turning.
"I'm surprised you couldn't hear her shout, ‘Wait!'
"Anyway, she connected Jeff with the doctor and Jeff repeated his threat slash offer, he put Jeff on hold and had the hospital operator get the Administrator and he explained my condition to Jeff and then the operator broke in with the Administrator and they had a three-way and came out to talk to you," he said, gesturing toward Sunny.
"How do you know all this?" she asked.
"The doctor was laughing about it. The nurse can be kind of a pain in the ass and Jeff scared the crap out of her.
"She went to the doctor all worried and he made it seem like he had taken care of the problem for her and she was lucky because she could have been in big trouble.
"The doctor said Jeff kind of scared him too."
"I didn't know you had it in you," said Sunny.
Jeff tilted his head a little to the side to say no big deal. But it was.
I'd seen it twice now. When Jeff set his mind to something, he could be very scary. Lots of guys have the macho attitude and some are willing to carry it through to their ultimate goal.
Jeff looks like Casper Milquetoast and usually he's pretty agreeable. But if he has a goal and you're in the way, step aside if you value your well being.
"How did Jeff get you into the clinical trial?" asked Sandy. "You got the stent so obviously he made it happen."
Was Jeff reluctant to talk about himself even to his family? How come nobody asked Jeff these questions?
Louis shook his head. "I don't know."
"Jeff?" asked Sandy.
He shrugged. "I called my CEO. He said to do whatever I needed to."
After a pause, I said, "You really know how to drag out a story."
Everybody but Jeff laughed. He blushed.
"How do you know him to call him at home?" asked Harri.
"He's the guy who negotiated my deal. That's one of the reasons I decided to sign with them. His personal involvement showed me a commitment to the work they're doing, not just a desire to make a lot of money."
"Ugh, a lot of money. We're going to have Jeff Rockefeller," Sam said as if money was a bad thing.
Sunny stayed. The rest of us left mid-afternoon.
Sam made dinner and Jeff helped. Sandy and I set the table.
Sunny returned later. When she got back, she said she needed to "borrow" me for a minute.
She took me to the living room hugged me, and held on like I was a life preserver alone with her in the middle of the ocean.
"You are so special," she said. "I hope your family appreciates how wonderful you are."
Not in the least. To them I'm a problem to solve.
"Thank you," she said and she rubbed her hands on my back.
Around the dinner table I asked Harri and Sam how they had managed to get here so quickly.
Harri answered. "We come every Thanksgiving. We work our way across the country visiting friends and family and wind up here late in November. We were already quite a bit of the way here so we just tweaked our trip a little bit."
"Not the ideal circumstances for a get together," said Sam, "but it looks like the outcome will be just fine."
They sprinkled in Louis stories with the other conversation.
Near the end of dinner, Sunny gave a big sigh. It was the introduction to what had been on her mind. Her tone was a mixture of frustration, worry and affection.
"Louis doesn't take very good care of himself. He seems to think bowling every two or three weeks keeps him in top shape."
She shook her head.
"I've been nagging him about this for a long time. There's a history of heart disease in his family. His grandfather died from a heart attack when he wasn't even fifty."
"Didn't they think that was what caused his father's accident? A heart attack?" asked Harri.
"Yes," said Sunny. She glanced over at me and saw the look of panic on my face. "It's nothing to be worried about, Ashley. Jeff is only nineteen."
"And in thirty-one years he'll be fifty, hopefully," I said.
"Did anybody happen to notice I'm still here?" asked Jeff.
"But for how long?" asked Sandy, drawing out the words with great drama.
That set us all to laughing and the tension lifted.
It didn't prevent a train of worry from starting in the back of my mind that would return frequently over the next few weeks.
I stayed in my room that night and drove back to Jeff's house to take him to the hospital.
Louis was up and walking around, though not very fast and not very far.
He only let us visit about half an hour before he insisted we return to school. We protested weakly, knowing he was probably right. We could track his progress from school and couldn't afford to lose too much time, especially Jeff, who lost enough the week I was sick. Unless he changed his approach he would be piled under if he took much time off.
My relationship with Jeff's family had been wonderful before the trip. Now it had changed. I was irrevocably a member of the family. There would be no avoiding doing dishes.
They had always been warm toward me but the texture of their voices as they spoke to me, the feelings of their hugs said I was one of them; I belonged.