Liz is assisting me with Nathan’s trach care. The stoma is healing well, but still a tender pink, with frothy secretions. Carefully, I swab around the collar, while Liz measures and cuts new ties to replace the old ones.
“It sounds like Nathan’s going to begin weaning from the ventilator soon,” I say, trying to sound cheerful. “He’s starting to do more breathing on his own since Dr. Polk had us lighten his sedation.”
“He opens his eyes every now and then too, that makes me so happy,” says Liz. “I swear he squeezed my hand when I was talking to him last night. Maybe he’ll regain some movement in his hands.”
“That would be great, Liz. I’ve known patients who were able to use a computer, and navigate their mobility chair independently, using a single hand. He’s strong, and young.”
“Should we wash Nathan’s hair this morning, Niki?”
Before I can answer, I sense in my peripheral vision a shadow standing in the doorway. It’s Frank. He grasps the side of the doorway with one hand, swaying a little. I can smell the alcohol he’s been drinking from across the room.
He’s staring at Nathan in the bed, but doesn’t step further into the room. Something about him blocking the doorway sets me on edge.
He doesn’t take his eyes off of Nathan.
Liz looks uneasy too, but ventures to speak to him, “We’re just finishing Nathan’s bath and trach care. He had a good night.”
Frank turns to Liz, fury in his voice. “You raised our boy to be a fucking pussy. How’s he going to learn to be a man and toughen up when you keep letting him be sensitive and all that shit? I told you time after time, and now look where he is. You made this happen, Liz. This is your fault!”
“Frank, that’s enough,” I say to him. I need you to calm down.”
“You’re a cruel asshole,” mumbles Liz, barely audible.
Frank takes a step forward into the room. “What did you just say?”
“Nothing, Frank. I didn’t say anything.”
Frank looks at Liz, and his shoulders relax. In a voice frighteningly calm, he says, “Oh, it was nothing.”
Then, with the speed, and precision of a striking rattlesnake, Frank grabs Liz by the throat, pulling her away from Nathan’s bed, and slams her head against the wall. He releases his grip, and she slides to the floor, unconscious.
I scream, “Call security! I need help!” from the room to the nurses’ desk.
And then Frank pulls out a handgun, and points it at my head.