Frank has a handgun aimed at my head.
Liz, still unconscious, lies motionless on the PICU room floor.
I didn’t sign for this when became a nurse.
Silently, I begin to cry, thinking about Maddie, and that I may never see her again. Did I kiss her before she went to school today? Probably not; she’s too old for that. What was the last thing I said to her? I hope she knows how much I love her.
Frank slides the PICU room door shut.
“Code Silver! Pediatric Intensive Care Unit! Code Silver! Pediatric Intensive Care Unit!” is called loudly on the hospital’s PA speakers.
Thank God. Someone saw the gun.
Frank and I stare at each other, the gun pointed at my head. Facing each other, we stand like this for what feels like hours. How long have we been standing here?
I need to calm down if I’m going to survive. I need to keep my wits about me. I begin counting my breaths, focusing on the exhale.
Frank starts sobbing. “My son, my only son. Nathan, my Nathan. How could your mom let this happen? I’m not going to let you be a vegetable, son. I’m going to let you die like a man.”
I feel sick to my stomach, and try not to retch. “Frank, Nathan’s not a vegetable. He doesn’t have brain damage. He can probably hear us talking about him. He can probably hear you talking about him.”
“You fucking nurses are all alike; all positive, and thinking you can change people and fix everything. You don’t see what’s real, what’s really happening even when it’s in your face. You think if you keep cleaning up the messes, they’ll stop happening.
My boy is damaged. What kind of man lives his life in a chair? That’s no life for my son. You should of let him die the night of the accident.”
“Frank, Nathan’s heart never stopped. He never tried to die. He’s strong. He can go to college, get an education. He can inspire others going through something similar. He still has a meaningful life. This is a challenge, yes, but it’s not the end.”
“I said shut up! Now, go over there, and pull the plugs.”
“I said, go over there, and pull the plugs to all the machinery out of the wall. Especially the plug to that breathing machine.”
“Frank, I can’t…”
The gun is still pointed at my head, and I hear it click.