My eyes are fixed on Frank and the gun, as I very slowly walk backwards towards the head of Nathan’s bed. Frank doesn’t say anything about hurrying up. The arm holding the gun has a bit of a tremor, which he tries to hide by bracing his wrist with the opposite hand.
For a minute, I consider he might not be fully committed to euthanizing Nathan. He’s drunk and out of control. Maybe he’s as terrified of himself as I am.
Peripherally, I take a quick inventory of what makeshift weapons are available to me. Next to me are the IV poles, supporting their multiple pumps. There’s the board at the foot of Nathan’s bed that OT has us using intermittently to prevent foot drop. On the bedside table is the bottle of hydrogen peroxide I used to clean Nathan’s trach. I’m afraid to get close enough to Frank while he’s holding a gun to use them though. I look again at the IV pumps on the pole, and get an idea.
“Frank, I utter softly, “Frank…”
“Dr. Polk started weaning Nathan’s sedation medication this morning, because his trach is healing.” I point to the mini infuser pump clamped to the IV pole, with its syringe of fentanyl. “That means Nathan is more awake now, and can breathe some on his own, without the ventilator. If I unplug the ventilator from the wall, Nathan will struggle to breathe. He won’t die quickly. Frank, he’ll suffer if we unplug the ventilator.”
Frank looks confused. “You’re lying! How can that be?”
“I told you, Frank, Nathan isn’t brain damaged. He’s paralyzed. The parts of his brain and spinal cord that control his breathing still work. He’ll suffocate slowly, gasping for air if I unplug the ventilator.”
“I don’t know if I believe you.”
“He’ll suffer, Frank. Is that what you want?”
“No! Goddamnit! I want to stop his suffering. That’s why I’m here. I don’t want my son to suffer like this!”
We stare at each other in silence. I’m afraid to push Frank further. He’s too volatile and unpredictable.
“Put the sedation back the way it was.”
“I said, put the sedation back the way it was. Make him sleepy so he doesn’t feel anything.”
That’s exactly what I hoped he would say.