Substitute Dad

© 2006 - 2010 By Scribe1971 (scribe1971@hotmail.com)

Chapter 8

This Isn't the End, Josh

"911 Emergency Response. What’s your emergency?" said the impersonal and business-like voice on the phone.

"I NEED AN AMBUALNCE FOR MY DAD HE’S REALLY SICK!" Josh virtually screamed into the phone.

"Ok son, calm down I’m going to dispatch an ambulance. I show you calling from 621 Browns Line, is that correct?"

"YES, PLEASE HURRY, HE’S NOT DOING SO WELL!" Josh hollered.

"Son, what’s your name?" The operator asked trying to clam the boy down.

"Joshua Michael Chambers," Josh said. He didn’t realize it but he was subconsciously reverting to his full, formal name.

"Joshua, I need you to calm down and be a brave boy for me. What’s wrong with your dad?"

Josh wondered how the operator could be so calm at a time like this. Tommy looked like he was dying and this woman sounded like she was taking a pizza order. Never the less, he got himself under control. "We were watching a movie when suddenly he got a really bad headache. He gets migraines all the time, but never so suddenly. He tried to stand up but he got dizzy and he was unsteady on his feet. He threw up all over the place and then a couple of seconds later he passed out."

"Ok Joshua, an ambulance is on the way. They’re coming with the lights and sirens going so they should be there very soon. Is it just you and your dad at home right now?"

"Yes, my mom’s out with some friends."

"That’s ok Joshua, you’re doing fine. How old is your dad?"

"He’s almost 20, he’s a university student. He isn’t my real father; he’s my dad, though."

"I understand, Joshua."

Suddenly Tommy made retching sounds and vomited again. The vomit blocked his throat and he began to make gagging and choking sounds.

"HE JUST PUKED AGAIN AND HE CAN’T BREATH. HE’S CHOKING!" Josh yelled at the operator.

"Joshua, I need you to listen to me very carefully and do exactly what I tell you. Do you understand me?"

"YES! I UNDERSTAND YOU, TELL ME WHAT TO DO." Josh said urgently as he heard Tommy struggling for breath behind him.

"You need to roll him over onto his side and you need to clear his throat. To clear his throat, you need to stick a couple of fingers in his mouth and sweep out any vomit that’s blocking it. Can you do that?"

"Yes, I’ll do it. Hold on," Josh said as he ran to Tommy’s side and set down the phone.

Josh quickly and tenderly rolled Tommy onto his side. His lips were turning blue and his face was pale. He quickly inserted the index and middle fingers of his right hand right into Tommy’s mouth and back into his throat and tried to brush out the vomit that was choking him to death. It looked about as clear as it was going to get but he still wasn’t breathing.

"I DID IT BUT HE’S STILL NOT BREATHING," Josh yelled urgently.

"Joshua, I need to know if he has a pulse. Do you know how to do that?"

Josh didn’t respond. He dropped the phone and gently placed his finders on Tommy’s neck. He could feel a very rapid pulse.

"Yes, he has a pulse but it’s very fast. Should I try mouth-to-mouth?" Josh asked in a surprisingly calm voice.

"Yes, if you know how. DO NOT hang up on me, though."

Josh set the phone down and knelt beside Tommy. He rolled him onto his back and performed a proper jaw thrust just as he’d been shown by Tommy himself. He leaned down and ignoring the traces of vomit around Tommy’s mouth, he made a seal with his own mouth, gently pinched his dad’s nose and began to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

After 7 or 8 breaths, Tommy coughed and began to breathe on his own. Josh was relieved but he knew his beloved Tommy wasn’t out of the woods yet. He could hear the sirens in the distance as he picked the phone back up.

"I did it and he’s breathing again,"

"Well done, Joshua." The operator responded with a relieved voice.

"I can hear the sirens," Josh told the operator.

"Is the front door unlocked?"

"I don’t know," Josh said in a stricken tone.

"Joshua, I want you to leave your dad for a moment and go and unlock the door."

"What if he stops breathing again?" Josh cried.

"The ambulance is almost there, son. The quicker they can get to him, the better."

Josh raced up the stairs, keeping the cordless phone with him and unlocked the door. Just as he did so, the ambulance screeched to a halt outside.

"They’re here!" he told the operator.

"Ok Joshua, you did well son. You did everything you could, leave it to the pros now."

"Thanks," Josh said distantly and hung up.

"He’s downstairs! Please hurry," Josh told the paramedics as they raced through the door carrying a stretcher between them.

Josh followed them down to Tommy’s apartment and stood helplessly in the corner as they went to work. He was virtually trembling as they tore Tommy’s shirt off, attached all sorts of electrodes to him and flashed lights in his eyes.

One of the paramedics, a large man with short cropped dark hair and a moustache approached Josh. "What’s your name?"

"Josh. Please help Tommy, he’s my dad and I love him," he pleaded.

"We will Josh, can you tell me what happened?"

Josh related the story as completely as he could. The big paramedic listened intently and when Josh was finished he grabbed his radio and reported their findings. Josh didn’t understand much of what he said, but he heard the phrase "possible burst aneurysm." He didn’t know what that was, but he was pretty sure it was a really bad thing to have.

"Alright Josh, Tommy may be very seriously ill. We need to get him to the hospital right away," the paramedic told him. "Is there anyone you can call? Your mother or someone?"

"She’s out with friends. I’ll find Tommy’s phone book and see if I can call his mother or brothers," Josh said. "I’m going with him the hospital."

"We can’t do that son, we"

"I’M GOING. I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO OR NOT SUPPOSED TO DO!" Josh yelled cutting him off.

"Josh, if we take you in the ambulance you might be in the way and that might prevent us from treating Tommy. You have to let him go."

"I’ll take him." A voice said from the stairwell.

Josh turned around as a police officer entered the apartment. "You’re taking him to Queensway?" The officer asked

"Yeah, we need to get him there NOW. He’s showing possible signs of a burst cerebral aneurysm," the paramedic whispered hoping that Josh didn’t hear him.

"Let’s get a move-on. I’ll provide an escort. It’s quiet out there tonight and we’ll do a code-3 red light run."

"Josh, you can ride with this officer," the paramedic told him.

Josh looked gratefully at the cop as the paramedics hefted the stretcher carrying Tommy up the stairs. The cop was a big man with gray hair and a serious looking face. He looked rough to Josh, but he also looked kind.

"I’m Constable Higgins. From what I heard from the dispatcher, you did an amazing job here tonight. You just might have saved your dad’s life," the policeman said in a kindly tone.

Josh smiled faintly as he grabbed Tommy’s wallet and address book and then followed the officer up the stairs. He made a quick stop to throw on a pair of shoes and grab a coat and then he ran out the door and into the police cruiser.

The paramedics signaled that they were ready to leave and Constable Higgins hit the lights and sirens and took off like a shot. At any other time Josh would have been delighted to be riding in the front seat of a police car with the lights and sirens blaring, but tonight, all he could think of was Tommy. The person he loved most in the world was, for all he knew, dying in the ambulance behind them and he was helpless to do anything about it. He couldn’t even be there to hold his hand. His tears started.

Constable Higgins gunned the engine and ran interference for the ambulance at every intersection. Boxing Day traffic had long ago abated and the streets were largely empty. The drive to Queensway General Hospital would normally take about 15 minutes. They made it in about 8.

Constable Higgins brought the police car to a screeching halt at the Emergency entrance and the ambulance was right behind. Josh bolted from the car as soon as it stopped. He ran back to the ambulance in time to see a team of orderlies and nurses race from the hospital and join the 2 paramedics as they unloaded Tommy and rushed him into the Emergency ward.

Josh followed them in but wasn’t allowed beyond the waiting room. He sat in a chair with his head in his hands and cried. He had never felt so scared before in his young life. He was totally oblivious to everything that was going on around him. All he could think of was Tommy. His heart broke at the very thought of losing him. As his despair threatened to overwhelm him, a large and friendly hand came to rest on his shoulder. It was Constable Higgins.

"Josh," he said evenly. "He’s in good hands now. Thanks to you, he has a fighting chance."

Josh looked up at the burly cop through tear-streaked eyes, "I’m so scared. I don’t know what I’d do without Tommy."

The large cop knelt down and placed his arm tenderly around Josh’s shoulders. "Josh, I’m not a doctor, but I know that the doctors who work here are among the best. They’re doing everything they can to help your dad. You have to have faith in them. I’m sure your dad loves you as much as you love him. He’ll be fighting like hell right now to get well."

Joshed looked up and studied the man’s eyes. He could see that the officer was genuinely concerned. "Do you have any quarters?" he asked. "I have to try to reach my mom and I have to call Tommy’s mom and brothers."

Constable Darren Higgins was amazed. Here was a boy of about 12 who not only helped to save his dad’s life, but he also had the wherewithal to start trying to contact the necessary people. "I sure do," he said reaching into his pocket and producing a large handful of change. "Take it all, you can use the rest to grab yourself a Coke or something. It’s probably going to be a long night for you."

"Thanks," Josh said gratefully. "Can you do something else for me?" He asked hopefully.

"Name it."

"My mom is over at the Frigate and Firkin bar with some friends and I don’t know the number. Could you go there and tell her what happened and send her here?"

"Of course Josh, I know where that is. Are you sure she’s there?"

"Yeah, that’s the same place she always goes to."

"You got it, kiddo." Constable Higgins said as he ruffled Josh’s hair and stood up. Josh hated it when anyone but Tommy ruffled his hair, but he would make an exception for this man.

As Constable Higgins left the emergency room, Josh found a payphone and began making calls to Tommy’s family. He contacted Dianne first. He tried as best he could to explain what had happened without upsetting Tommy’s mom.

"Oh my God," was all she could say. "I’m on my way. I’ll be there as quick as I can. Jimmy and Anne just left for a vacation this morning and I have the twins. I’ll have to get someone to watch them and I’ll call Andrew. He should be able to get us there shortly."

"Alright, please hurry, I’m here alone and I’m scared."

"Stay calm, Josh and we’ll be there soon."

With his mission accomplished, Josh sat back down. He tried to read a magazine but he couldn’t focus. He went and used some of the change that Officer Higgins had given him to buy a can of Coke. He took a few sips but he could hardly taste it. The one and only thing that mattered right now was Tommy.

The boy finally gave up on the Coke and gave up on trying to sit down. He stood up and began pacing the length of the waiting room. Since it was Boxing Day, the ER was relatively quite. The usual crowds of sick and injured were home recovering from Christmas. The few poor souls waiting patiently to have their injuries tended to or to learn the fate of their loved ones were a subdued bunch.

Josh was lost in his thoughts as he virtually wore a path in the carpet. As he passed the reception desk, one of the nurses who had helped to move Tommy from the ambulance to the hospital came out and spoke to the receptionist. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the receptionist point to him.

"Josh?" The nurse asked.

"Y-yeah, that’s me. How’s Tommy?" Josh stammered, his heart pounding in his chest.

"We don’t know yet, but his is stable and he is awake and talking to us. He asked for you," The nurse, whose nametag read ‘Jane Mitchell, RN’ replied kindly.

"Can I see him?" Josh asked hopefully.

"Not just yet. We’re taking him to radiology. The doctor wants a CT scan done right away."

"What’s a CT scan?" Josh asked. The concern was evident in his voice.

"It’s nothing to worry about, Josh. It’s just a big machine which takes pictures of the inside of his head. It’ll help the doctor figure out what’s causing the pain."

"Can I see him after?"

"That’s up to the doctor, Josh. Are you here alone?"

"Yeah. Tommy’s mom and brother are on their way and the policeman that brought me in has gone to find my mother."

"That’s good. You just sit tight, Josh and try not to worry. Tommy’s in good hands. Doctor Andrews is our head of neurology and she’s one of the finest surgeons on the country."

"Surgeon? You’re going to cut him open?" Josh asked fearfully.

"We don’t know yet, son," Nurse Mitchell replied wishing she hadn’t mentioned that a surgeon was looking after Tommy.

"Here, you might need this," Josh said as he handed her Tommy’s wallet and phone book. "His healthcard’s in his wallet and his doctor’s phone number is in the book."

"Thanks Josh. We will need that stuff. Did you think to grab that stuff on your own?"

Josh blushed slightly. "Yeah, I figured it was important."

"You’re right, it is important. You’re a smart little guy. No wonder Tommy cares so much about you. He asked me to tell you that he loves you and not to worry."

Josh smiled. "Thanks. Tell him I love him too."

Nurse Mitchell patted Josh on the shoulder and then returned to the treatment area. Josh watched her go and caught a brief glimpse of Tommy as his bed was wheeled down the corridor.

Josh felt a little better. If Tommy was awake, that had to be a good sign. He was just resuming his pacing when he saw a man and women enter the waiting room and head for the desk. The woman had graying blonde hair and looked to be in her 50s. Josh recognized the man right away. He had seen him around camp and he looked just like Tommy would if he were a few years older and had a moustache. He ran to them.

"Andy!" he shouted as he wrapped his arms around the man. Andy wasn’t Tommy, but he would do for time being. He began to sob against Andy’s chest.

"Josh. Long time no see, partner." Andy said with a slight smile. Had he not been so worried about his brother, he’d have been a lot happier to see Josh.

"I’m Dianne, Tom’s mother," the woman said as she offered Josh her hand. Josh ignored her hand and hugged her. She smiled and returned his embrace.

"Have you heard anything?" she asked.

Dianne and Andrew sat down and listened intently as Josh told them what had happened and what the nurse had just told him moments before. Just as he finished the story, Susan walked into the room.

"Mom!" he said as he ran to her.

"Josh, I’m so proud of you," Susan said as she held her son. "Officer Higgins told me what happened and he told me what you did. You’re such a smart and brave boy."

Josh held onto his mother for a moment before making introductions. Everyone spent the next hour sitting quietly while Josh resumed his pacing. He looked like an expectant father marking the time before the birth of his first child. Far from a giddy new father, Josh was a scared little boy. All he could think about was the possibility of losing Tommy. Losing the only man who had ever treated him with kindness. Losing the person that he loved most in the entire world.

At about 10:30, a red haired woman wearing a lab coat and a stethoscope entered the waiting room from the treatment area. "Are you people Tom Davis’s family?" She asked.

"I’m his mother," Dianne answered. "How is he?" She asked in a stressed voice.

"I’m Doctor Andrews; I’m the neurologist treating Tom. Could you please come with me so that we can talk in private?"

Josh’s heart resumed the jack-hammer pounding in his chest as the four of them stood up and followed Dr. Andrews through the door. They turned into a small conference room just inside the treatment area and the doctor directed them all to sit down.

"Before I begin, I want to assure you that, at least for the moment, Tom is stable and while he is conscious, he is in a considerable amount of pain." Dr Andrews paused before continuing. "When Tom was brought in, my initial fear was that he was suffering from a burst cerebral aneurysm. I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you just how serious that condition is. We ran a series of tests including a CT scan of his head. Fortunately, we have been able to rule out the possibility of an aneurysm."

Everyone present let out a collective sign of relief as they waited for the doctor to continue.

"Having said that, he is far from being out of the woods. The CT scan revealed an old head injury. At some point, probably within the past 2 years, Tom has suffered a depressed skull fracture. It would have been caused by a blow to the back of the head."

"He was in the militia and was in a serious accident involving an armoured vehicle just about 2 years ago. His leg was smashed up badly, but nobody noticed any head injuries," Andrew said.

"The timing sounds about right. My bet would be that the injury was received in that accident. That type of skull fracture can sometimes present relatively few symptoms. If the doctors involved weren’t thorough enough in their examination they could have easily missed it especially if other more visible injuries were present. I’d have some serious questions for the doctors involved," the doctor replied. "After consulting with the radiologist, I ordered a myelogram. The results of the CT scan and the myelogram have revealed what I believe to be the source of Tom’s problems."

Everyone was on the edge of their seats waiting for the verdict.

"The fracture caused a small tear in the tissue surrounding Tom’s brain. This tear caused a slow but persistent leak of cerebral spinal fluid which has been putting pressure on his brain. As he recovered from his other injuries and became more active, the pressure was increased further. It was only a matter of time before this happened. This pressure explains the increased frequency and severity of his migraine headaches."

Josh felt as if he had been kicked in the gut. He didn’t fully understand everything the doctor had said, but he knew she was saying that Tom had a brain injury. He knew that brain injuries were serious; they had covered that in school when they talked about the necessity of wearing bike helmets. He felt light headed as he looked around the room and saw that everyone else was as pale and sick looking as he felt.

Until that moment, aside from the doctor, only Josh had any idea as to how serious this was. Only Josh had seen how much pain Tommy was in and how pale he looked as he lay there. His fears began to build again.

"What do we do now? Can you fix it?" Dianne asked in a shaky voice.

"Yes. We can fix it and we need to fix it right away. He needs immediate surgery to correct both the skull fracture and the meningial tear." The doctor paused and looked around the room before proceeding. "I don’t want to sugar coat this for you. All surgery is serious and brain surgery is more serious than most. This operation is absolutely necessary but it does carry some risk to the patient."

"What kind of risk?" Josh asked in a small, terrified voice.

"Well, brain surgery can entail risks which can include post-operative seizures and in the case of complications, hemorrhaging or even paralysis are possible. It’s even possible, however unlikely, that fatal complications could arise. I don’t want to scare you, but I don’t want to give anyone the illusion that there are no risks to this procedure. I can tell you that I have performed similar procedures many times before and that I have rarely encountered serous complications. There is no such thing as routine brain surgery, however, this procedure is a lot less complex than most. I also need to remind you that without this procedure, Tom’s condition will continue to get worse and he will eventually die from it."

Josh had tears in his eyes and so did just about everyone else.

"I have spoken to Tom and he understands the risks. He has authorized me to perform the procedure. He’s a young man. He’s strong and he’s in good physical condition. I don’t anticipate any problems with this procedure and I am fully confident that he will be able to resume a normal life afterwards."

"Can we see him before he goes into surgery?" Andrew asked.

"Yes, you may but only for a few minutes. I suggest that you go in one or two at a time. Stay positive to keep his spirits up. I have to go and get ready to operate. I’ll send someone in to take you to Tom. You can stay with him until it’s time to take him upstairs."

Everyone stood up and shook hands with Dr. Andrews and she left the room. A moment later, Nurse Mitchell returned and led Dianne and Andrew in to see Tommy. Josh sat quietly next to Susan as she wrapped her arm around his shoulders. He leaned forward onto the table, rested his head on his folded arms and cried softly.

"Josh," Dianne said softly as she came back into the room after a few short minutes. "Tommy wants to see you now."

"You go ahead honey," Susan said kissing Josh on the cheek. "You need to be alone with him for a few minutes."

"Thanks mom," Josh mumbled as he stood up on rubbery legs and followed Nurse Mitchell down the hall.

"He’s in there," the nurse said as she directed Josh to a room on the right side of the corridor.

Josh took a deep breath and entered the room. The room was brightly lit and full of machines. Tommy lay on a bed close to the window. Josh approached the bed and fought back the urge to start bawling as he saw how small and frail Tommy appeared amongst all the equipment, wires and tubes. Some of his colour had come back, but he was still pale.

Josh could hardly believe that this was the same Tommy who had once carried him off a mountain. The same man who had nearly beaten his uncle to a pulp for attacking him. The same guy who had spent the day hiking around High Park with him. Josh reached out and grasped Tommy’s hand.

"Hi son," Tommy said is a weak voice. "I hear I owe you a big thank-you. They tell me that you saved my life. I also owe you an apology. I should have listened to you and gone to the doctor sooner."

"No Tommy, you don’t owe me anything and you have nothing to be sorry for. I did what I did because I love you. I want you to get better, I need you, Tommy," Josh rasped out as his tears started in earnest.

"I know kiddo, I love you and I need you too. The doctor says she can fix me up and I’ll be good as new," Tommy said with wan smile.

Josh squeezed his hand tighter. "She said there are risks. She said you could die."

"Joshy, life is full of risks. If I don’t have the operation, I will die," Tommy said soothingly. "You know me, buddy. You know I’m a fighter. I’ve always been and always will be a fighter. I’m not giving up tonight. I’ll be fighting not only for myself, but for you as well."

Josh leaned over and hugged Tommy as best he could without disturbing the IV lines or the various wires coming from Tommy’s chest. He continued to sob as Tommy felt the boy’s tears fall onto his face and mix with his own.

"I can’t lose you, Tommy," Josh sobbed.

"You won’t kiddo. You won’t lose me no matter what happens in that operating room," Tommy said as he hugged Josh tightly. "Joshy, I want you to listen to me very carefully for a couple of moments, ok?"

Josh nodded his head and continued to hold Tommy for dear life.

"I’ve told you before that I’m not a religious man, but I do believe in God. I believe that we have a purpose in this life. I believe that whatever happens does so for a reason. We may not always discover the reason until sometime later and we may never discover the reason at all. We just have to have faith that some higher power is in control and knows what he’s doing."

Josh turned his head and looked deeply into Tommy’s brown eyes.

"Josh, my accident happened for a reason. It brought us together. This has also happened for a reason. We don’t know what that is and we may never know, but we have to believe that. We also have to have faith that we were not brought together just to enjoy a few months before being split apart again. I have faith that we are meant to be dad and son forever, Josh."

Josh hugged Tommy tighter, "I think so too, dad."

"Josh I believe that I will come out of this just fine. I also believe that if I don’t there will be a purpose in that as well. You will have to find that purpose for yourself. Never forget that I love you and I will always love you. I believe in God Josh, I also believe that there is a heaven. If I don’t pull through, I can promise you that I will be holding a place for you in heaven and that I will be watching over you ever minute of every day of your life. Our bond and our love is eternal. This isn’t the end, Josh. No matter what," Tommy choked out as he began to cry just as hard as Josh was.

They stayed that way for several minutes not saying anything. Josh firmly gripping Tommy’s hand with one hand while hugging him and resting his smooth cheek against Tommy’s rough one. Tommy lightly rubbed Josh’s back as they lay there waiting for the orderliness and nurses to come.

"Tom," nurse Mitchell said quietly from the hallway. "It’s time to go. Doctor Andrews and her team are ready for you."

Nurse Mitchell and 2 orderlies entered the room and began preparing the bed and various machines to be moved.

"I love you Josh. No matter what happens, always remember that." Tommy said as Josh gave him one last firm hug and climbed off. Josh kept his death grip on Tommy’s hand as the orderlies began to wheel the bed towards the door. Josh stayed with them all the way to the elevator, never letting go of his stricken dad’s hand. All too quickly, the elevator door slid open and the orderlies carefully pushed Tommy’s bed inside.

"This is as far as you can go," Nurse Mitchell said kindly to Josh.

Josh and Tommy looked each other in the eyes and gave each other’s hand a firm squeeze before reluctantly letting go. Josh stepped back into the corridor and Tommy had one last look back at him before the door shut. What he saw broke his heart.

The boy was standing facing the elevator door. His head was down and his arms were wrapped tightly around his chest. His face was red, his eyes were puffy and he wore a mask of utter despair. His shoulders were heaving and his body was trembling as his sobs wracked him. His tears were falling like rain and wetting the floor at his feet. His heart was aching and he had never felt so sad, helpless or scared before in his young life. To Tommy, the pain in his head was no longer as significant as the pain in his heart.

Susan walked quietly up behind Josh and placed an arm on his shoulder. Josh turned and buried his face in her chest. He stayed that way as she gently led him out of the treatment area and towards the elevator which would take them upstairs to await the outcome of Tommy’s operation.

Josh, Dianne, Andrew and Susan waited in a small, private waiting room. Just down the hall, Dr, Andrews was working to save Tommy’s life and to restore his health. Dianne and Andrew sat together chatting quietly. Susan was dozing lightly and Josh was pacing as he had done in the ER.

The operation had been going on for about 2 hours and there had been no word. Josh was restless so he decided to take a walk. He paused before a Coke machine and briefly considered purchasing a drink. He decided against it. He felt as though he was supposed to be somewhere or do something but he didn’t know what. He felt helpless and scared and he sought comfort.

He wandered own the hallway. The only people he saw were doctors, nurses and orderlies. There were no other visitors around at this time of night. He reached the end of the corridor and noticed that there was a door marked "Chapel"

He was pleasantly surprised when he turned the handle and the door opened. He hadn’t expected it to be open. He entered the small room and made his way between the rows of narrow pews.

Josh, like Tommy, was not a religious person. He had never really attended church and had never gone to Sunday school. He didn’t really know why he was there but it felt right. He was thinking about what Tommy had told him just before he was taken to the OR.

The boy took a seat on the front pew and collected his thoughts. There was nobody else in the dimly lit room. The front wall was adorned with a variety of religious symbols and Josh guessed that this was a multi-faith chapel of some sort. He hoped that it was also a place for people like him who didn’t really practice any religion. He didn’t know how to pray but he had seen enough people do it on TV to know that it didn’t look difficult.

He folded his hands together, placed his elbows on his knees and leaned forward. He sat there for a moment and then began to speak out loud.

"God, I don’t know if you can hear me, I don’t even know if I’m doing this right. I’ve never prayed before and I’ve never asked you for anything. Tonight I have to ask you for something important. I have to ask you to save my dad. I love Tommy with all my heart. He has had a rough life. He’s been through a lot. He’s a kind, loving man and he doesn’t do anyone any harm. He helps people. He has helped me more than he will probably ever know. I love him with all my heart and I would give anything or do anything to help him pull through. He has to live. I know you might need him with you in heaven, but I need him here with me even more. He deserves to live. He deserves to grow old. He doesn’t deserve to die just a couple of months before his 20th birthday. If Tommy dies, a bit of me will die with him. I don’t think I could ever be happy again if I lost him. Please make him well, God, please. Amen."

Josh was crying again as he opened his eyes. He didn’t know if God had heard him or would even listen to him, but he had to have faith. As he stood up and walked out of the chapel, he felt a little different. He couldn’t quite place the feeling, but he felt a sense of peace wash over him. It almost reminded him of the feeling he got when Tommy held him in his arms. He slowly made his way back to the waiting room.

Josh opened the door and froze immediately. He felt his blood run cold. Doctor Andrews was there, still dressed in her surgical scrubs. She was kneeling in front of Dianne and holding her hand. Dianne, Susan and even Andrew had tears in their eyes.

"How’s Tommy?" Josh demanded urgently as his heart pounded between his ribs.

Doctor Andrews stood up and turned around. She placed her arm tenderly on Josh’s shoulder and looked into his eyes. "Tommy’s going to be fine, Josh. The operation was a complete success."


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