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“Doctor, there’s no response!”
It was a cold, sunny day in the northern suburbs of New York City. The skies were clear. A soft and seemingly innocent wind blew over the dying plants, but that guiltless feeling quickly disappeared when the cold wall of air crashed onto the skins of the baby robins which lived in the disintegrating trees, and they let out a screech of terror. Andy Beck looked out of his small, white French windows of his aging split-level home when he heard this terrorizing scream. He was mopping the white ceramic floor-tiles of his lovely home, at the request of his wife who he had been married to for twenty-two beautiful years.
Andy Beck had it all; he was living the perfect American dream. At the age of fifty-three, he had three brilliant children, ages 21, 16 and 12, a job at the post office that paid well, a small but sufficient home that held many secrets and memories, and a loving wife who he had been with for almost half his lifetime. He was a source of admiration amongst his friends and a role model in his church. He was a leader in his community and a loved and cherished model within his household. But that day, everything changed.
The doorbell rang and when Andy opened the door, he found his niece Shelby and her husband, Sean, holding a large package that said “To Uncle Andy and Family. Merry Christmas. Love, Shelby and Sean.” It was the annual Christmas party at the Beck household. The couple came in as Andy let out a loud and unruly cough. He had been sick for about a week; he had a cough and an on-and-off fever. His doctor said not to worry about it and so he went about as usual, loving and caring to everyone in his path.
“Are you okay? You sound a bit queasy?” asked Shelby, caringly.
“Yeah, I’m okay. Let’s catch up on some news. How’ve you been? I haven’t seen you in a long time.” And so they talked, and laughed and shared a perfect Christmas dinner, filled with love, respect, religion and of course, presents. The only black spot that dwelled upon the evening was Andy’s rough cough. As the night progressed, the cough became worse and each ear in the room could hear the thick mucus filling his voice when he spoke. As Shelby was leaving she declared, “I’m taking you to the doctor. Let’s go. Get ready.”
“I’m fine, sweetie, really. The doctor said so,” replied Andy while trying to hold his coughs back.
“Listen to yourself, uncle! You can barely speak. Let’s go.” After much more bickering matches, Andy finally agreed to go to the ER.
Upon their arrival, the hospital staff told Andy that they were going to run some tests. The results showed that if he hadn’t been brought in that night, it would have been his last evening on Earth. Doctors rushed to his room, nurses assisted them and other technicians flooded the space around his bed. Andy was diagnosed with a terrible pneumonia. He spent the night there, and the next, and the next, and about another three. During this time, he was put in intensive care and placed under heavy sedatives. Wires and tubes surrounded him and pins and needles were stuck into his skin. His eyes screamed pain, but his lips stayed still. They performed countless scans and tests on him because pneumonia could not possibly do that much damage in this day and age, but none of the tests led the doctors to a new diagnosis. They all gave up hope. The doctors were cold at heart, and the rest of the staff, helpless. They suggested moving him to another hospital and the family agreed.
And so, the day after New Year’s Eve, Andy’s family spent the day trying to find another place to take their beloved. In the afternoon, he was transferred to a Medical College nearby in a red ambulance that sped over the highways with its flashy red light and its piercing alarm.
I guess you could say Andy got a little better at the new place, but he was on a ventilator. There was still no new diagnosis. There was no change, except Andy’s eyes were always closed so there was no way of telling what his thoughts were or how he felt, emotionally. It was all just a part of a big guessing game that seemed to go nowhere.
And then suddenly, one Sunday morning, Andy opened his eyes. He smiled and his eyes talked to everyone. Some of his friend’s children sang songs that he loved and when they made a mistake, Andy’s eyebrows crunched. It was hard to look at him and not have at least a smile. The warm sun of the cold January day shined into his room and rested on his face, lighting the entire room. There was hope.
Two weeks later...
“Doctor, there’s no response!”
Andy had started to give up. All his medications were failing along with the minute speck of hope he had within him. His pulse and blood pressure sky rocketed and his breathing was heavy. Nothing mattered, now. His family and almost his entire church congregation surrounded Andy’s bed at 10:30 at night, just to show how much they loved him and cared for him. The technicians worked hard, and the doctors harder. CPR failed and so did AED. The machines that had kept him alive so long suddenly had no purpose. They could do nothing and they meant nothing. Andy faced the biggest moment of truth in his life, and destiny had a call to answer. The crowd around him sang and his small family wept as they waited for a response. The machines screeched as did the air in the room.
Everyone waited. There was no outer silence, but the emptiness within could certainly be felt. And slowly, all the machines died down and all the people around Andy backed away and watched. Each second felt like a thousand years and each jerk by a cart outside the door felt like a punch to the ear.
Then, there was silence. All that could be heard were the quiet tears that crashed onto the hard, ceramic floor-tiles. From within the silence rose a man’s voice.