Here you go boys & girls, the final chapter in the Lights Out instalment. Thanks for tuning in and reading. Leave your thots & sentiments in the space below! Hopefully this is the start of many more such story endeavours!
“Good Morning…Neurosurgery, this is Phyllis. How can I help you?”
“Erm…Good Morning Phyllis, my name is Mia. Uh…I’d like to talk to erm Dr. Ashton, I think his name is? I received a call from him yesterday, and in the message this is the number he left.”
“I see. Usually Dr. Ashton is doing his rounds at this time. Let me see if I can get a hold of him for you. Are you a new patient? Or were you referred?”
“No…Neither I’m afraid. Like I said, I’m just returning his call.” Mia replied, slightly annoyed.
“Can you give me your full name and a contact number, just in case he is unable to talk to you right now, that way I can make sure he has a way of contacting you later.” Phyllis responded.
Mia proceeded to give her contact information to Phyllis.
“Alright Ms. Hamilton, can I put you on hold while I try to get a hold of Dr. Ashton?”
“Sure, go ahead. I hope he’s able to respond, because it will be hard to get a hold of me after today.” Mia responded.
“Alright. Please hold.”
Mia stays on the line, trying to figure out why a Neurosurgeon of all people would want to get in touch with her.
24 hours ago (In the ER amidst a sea of Doctors and Nurses.)
*What’s the patient’s status?*
*Patient is 32 year old male, fighter, unresponsive to visual and auditory stimuli on arrival. Drop in BP, multiple bruises and lacerations at varying stages of healing noted across thorax, particularly around ribs 9-12, and abdomen. Decreased breath sounds noted bilaterally. Swelling around eyes noted, there’s bruising around right eye. As per witnesses, patient suffered a blow to the head, patient was knocked out and lost consciousness immediately. Past history of LOC after being knocked out.*
*Alright, how is his airway and breathing doing now? Is he responding to the mask? If not get ready to intubate. I want updates on his BP, how has it looked since he got here? Take him down to imaging stat! I want a CT of his head, chest & abdomen. I want to make sure we aren’t missing any internal bleeding or damage of any sort. Then, let’s pump some fluids into our boy here and see if that will fix the BP issue. Go, go go.
A few hours after the frenzy in the ER
“Family of Maxmillan Hinterland?” questioned one of the many Doctors dressed in scrubs that headed out to the waiting room.
“Right here Doc.” Came the response from at least 5 people.
‘Hello, my name is Dr. Ashton. How are you related to the patient?”
“Well we are all the really old friends, we are as good as family.”
“Oh I’m sorry, I need to talk to his next of kin. Do you know who would be the best person to call? And maybe have any numbers for them?” the Doctor asked.
“Doc, we are the only family left. The family you’re looking for is no longer around; it’s just us.”
“I see. Well I understand, but I do have hospital protocol to follow as well. Does anyone know who his emergency contact is? Or who his primary care physician is?”
“Well Doc, this isn’t Max’s first trip to St. Mike’s. I mean he has been admitted here before. I would think one of us is his emergency contact, if not it should be something listed in one of his previous visits right?” one of the five replied.
“Oh shit! You guys! We didn’t even think to call Mack and tell her about Max! She’s going to kill us!” exclaimed another in the group of five.
“Mack? Is that a relative, spouse or friend?” interrupted the Doctor.
“Oh, Mack is his Doctor…his primary whatever you were asking for Doc. She’s been in charge of his health and stuff since he’s been in the ring full-time you know? She might be able to give you a better idea about his health history and the medical mumbo jumbo stuff.” Explains one of Max’s friends.
“Here let me give you her number. One of us will call her right now; I think it’s better if we tell her first before a complete stranger tells her. No offence Doc.”
“None taken. Tell you what, let me dig up Max’s old charts in the meantime and see if there’s an emergency contact listed on there and then I’ll go ahead and give Dr. Mack, was it? A call.” Responded the Doctor.
Approximately an hour later Mack arrives. She looks pale as a ghost, and doesn’t waste any time firing away questions the moment she sees the crew hovering in the waiting area. Her voice is tight and strained from all the effort she’s spent trying to maintain her composure, and it’s only a matter of time before she breaks down.
The moment Mack hears Max was in a fight, she is beyond livid and glares at guys four times her size, demanding an explanation as to how they could even let Max into the ring, knowing his condition. Mack is met with an eerie and unsettling silence…and for good reason. The crew tells her that Max didn’t inform any of them about the fight, in fact, he had been avoiding them for the last few weeks and it wasn’t until a few days ago that he reached out. Max had suggested that they all meet up for lunch and do something as a group like they used to back in the good old days, something like paint-ball or laser tag, Go Karting or even rock-climbing.
Hearing Max’s suggestion shocked Mack; she should’ve seen this coming. She bit her lower lip in an attempt to stop herself from crying tears of anger and frustration. The signs were right there and she failed to pick up on them, and hell, act on them. Mack was furious with herself, but that would have to wait…it would all have to wait until the Doctor in charge of Max’s care updated her on his condition. Something was gnawing away deep within on her drive to the hospital, there was this unsettling feeling at the pit of her gut and a sinking feeling in her heart. Getting that call was not easy for Mack, not when she found out it was about Max after a fight. She knew she hadn’t cleared him to fight, in fact she knew for a fact that the moment he was up to standards she was going to send a letter recommending Max retire from the sport. He definitely had the heart to fight, however, his mind and body weren’t on the same page. What Mack couldn’t understand was how Max managed to get into the ring without her clearance?! That’s when another thought struck her. She was so focused on Max’s status and was so distracted by the panic, fear, anger and sadness that she completely forgot about all the other avenues leading up to this scenario. Given her profession, she couldn’t really say she hated hospitals, but this situation warranted her unfounded dislike for this space. It always hurts more when it’s one of your own in a situation you’ve handled countless times before.
She rounded on the crew again; surely they knew who the hell was responsible for clearing Max for this damn fight. If anything she was going to wring this person’s neck with her stethoscope for their absolute stupidity in letting this idiot into the ring.
“Hey! Who cleared Max for tonight’s fight?” she asked throwing a glare their way.
“Erm…Don’t know Doc, we weren’t there for the fight. We figured you cleared him.” One of them replied after clearing their throat.
Upon hearing what he said, Mack threw a withering look his way, causing the poor guy to shrink away further.
“Does it look like I’d do something as stupid as sending Max off to his own death?!” she almost squeaked out in sheer frustration.
“I was going to send in my recommendation for Max’s retirement to the federation. He came to see me about 2 weeks ago! And that was after his six-week regulation rest period following the last fight! I told him to come back in two weeks for a follow up, his state warranted more rest. How the hell is he here after a fight versus being a scheduled appointment for me to see this week?!” she continued in an exasperated tone of voice.
“Find out which idiot Doctor it is that he saw, and, gave him the damn clearance to fight!” she growled at the group.
After a few moments of tense silence, and the refusal to meet each other’s eyes, one of them mumbled.
“Hey Doc…Do you think he’ll make it?”
There it was…they finally addressed the elephant in the room.
“I…I honestly don’t know. It doesn’t look or sound good, but we have to hope for the best.” Mack responded in a shaky voice, a few tears finally breaking free, after being contained and restrained for so long.
She cleared her throat, gritted her teeth and crossed her arms across her stomach…it almost looked like she was physically holding herself together.
Just then Dr. Ashton appeared before the group. He looked around, acknowledging the familiar faces, and saw the latest addition to the group. He assumed that was the Doctor friend the group had referred to earlier. He started walking towards her; he could see she was trying to put on a brave face, her expression and stance said it all.
The approaching footsteps seemed to shock Mack out of the daze she was in, and her eyes locked on to the Doctor’s eyes. She could see the hesitation in his steps, and the kindness, and wait, was that sympathy in his eyes? That sinking feeling she felt on the drive here, only grew with every step the Doctor took towards her.
“Dr. Mackenzie I presume?” Dr. Ashton asked.
Mack could only nod her head. It took her a few moments to collect herself, but she shook her head and stuck her hand out to properly introduce herself.
“Yes that’s me, but you can call me Mack. Right now I’m here as family.”
Dr. Ashton nodded his head in understanding.
“Well Mack, I’m Dr. Ashton and Max is currently under my care.” He introduced himself.
“I understand you were trying to establish Max’s emergency contact? Since he has no family, I can get you the number for his lawyer as well. As part of the federation there is a lot of legality fighters have to go through before, during, and, after they enter that ring. From what I know he does have a will. I’m not sure though about healthcare proxies or anything of the sort, if he is unable to make decisions himself, that’s something the lawyer would be privy to.” Mack kept talking, not wanting to waste a single moment with minor details.
Dr. Ashton nodded his head again, and proceeded to speak.
“I was able to get a hold of his records here at the hospital, and his emergency contact listed on here is Mia Hamilton.”
A look of surprise flashed across Mack’s face on hearing Mia’s name. Dr. Ashton noticed the change in expression and faltered ever so slightly with what he was about to say.
“Erm, I haven’t seen any updates or changes in his charts since his last visit here approximately 2 months ago. Is there somebody else we should be contacting?” He questioned.
When all he received was a blank stare from Mack and no other response, he continued.
“Well, I tried the number listed on there, but I couldn’t get a hold of the person, so I left them a voice-mail. But now that you’re here, if you could come with me I’d like to discuss a few things about Max’s care.” Dr. Ashton said.
Mack nodded her head in acknowledgment and understanding. This was worse than her worst nightmare, and she swore to herself that when Max pulled through she was going to kick his sorry ass for putting her through this. The fact that there was even a scenario concerning Max pulling through broke her heart and flooded her mind with an overwhelming sense of shock, sadness, guilt and anger. She really really hoped that Max would pull through, despite how slim his chances seemed from the way Dr. Ashton was talking to her. She realized that she also needed to let the rest of the group know before she left to talk to Dr. Ashton. She asked Dr. Ashton to give her a few minutes so she could quickly explain things to the rest of the group.
Mack walked over to the anxious group of people. She told them what Dr. Ashton told her about who Max’s emergency contact was. Everyone had the same reaction she did, one of genuine surprise, when they realized that Mia was still his emergency contact. She also mentioned how the Doctor was unable to get a hold of her. At the mention of that, they all looked at each other…a look of understanding passed between the group.
The silence was broken when one of them said,
“Isn’t the wedding today? I think the rehearsal was last night right?”
Mack nods her head solemnly, before speaking.
“The wedding was this morning. I highly doubt Mia would’ve had any time to check her phone. The reception is going on right now. I was actually getting ready to go there when I got the call. I tried calling her, but couldn’t get a hold of her. I called her sister and told her I wouldn’t be able to make it as I got called in for an emergency at the hospital. She said she would pass on the message to her.”
“I’d prefer it be one of us that breaks the news to Mia, instead of the hospital. But listen guys; I have to go talk to Dr. Ashton. I’ll come back and update you on Max’s condition okay?”
Mack started walking away from the group, but paused halfway and turned around,
“Hey guys…pray for our Max, our fighter.” She pleaded softly.
She exhaled deeply and walked away to where Dr. Ashton was standing. It was definitely going to be a long night.
Back to Mia tapping away at her coffee mug while on hold
While waiting on hold, Mia was playing back the strange voice mail she received the previous day. Her phone had literally blown up with the amount of messages, notes, voice mails and emails she received congratulating her on her nuptials. It was such a weird feeling for her, she was married…she was someone’s wife now. It felt a little too surreal to her. In the midst of all those congratulatory messages was this odd message from a Dr. Ashton. She was convinced he dialed the wrong person. All the message said was that a Dr. Ashton from St. Michael’s Hospital was calling her because she was listed as an emergency contact for one of his patients who was admitted to the hospital earlier in the day. The Doctor left his number and asked her to call back as he wanted to talk to her about the patient. She couldn’t understand who would have her listed as an emergency contact, given that all the people who could possibly have her as one were at the wedding and reception…except for Mackenzie.
Her train of thought jolted her into a state of panic
‘Oh no, what if something happened to Mack? Shit! Why didn’t I have my phone on me? She wasn’t there at the reception! But wait…Maya said she spoke to Mack and that she couldn’t make it because of some emergency at the hospital. I mean if she were the one admitted, why on Earth would she call Maya right?’
Her train of thought was interrupted by a voice, well Phyllis’ voice.
“Miss Hamilton? You still there?” Phyllis asked.
“Yes I am.” She replied.
“Well you’re in luck! Dr. Ashton just finished his rounds and is in his office. I’m going to transfer you to his office okay? So please stay on the line.”
“Sure. Thank you.” Replied Mia.
She started tapping the surface of the bar, a habit that showcased itself when she was nervous. She caught herself doing so and reached out for the cup of coffee sitting in front of her, thereby giving her mind and hands another distraction.
She heard the phone ring twice, and right after she took a sip of her brew she heard a voice on the other line pick up.
“This is Dr. Ashton.” A cheerful voice sounded over the phone.
She almost sputtered in response, not expecting the Doctor to answer this quickly.
“Uh…Hi Dr. Ashton. My name is Mia Hamilton. You left me a voice message yesterday with regards to a patient of yours? I mean, you said I was listed as an emergency contact for one of your patients.”
“Oh I see.” Dr. Ashton responded. His voice had switched from its cheerful disposition to a slightly grave tone.
Mia quickly stumbled along with her thoughts,
“You know, I think you may have the wrong person, because nobody I know, who, could potentially have me as an emergency contact has been ill or admitted to the hospital recently.”
“Well Ms. Hamilton, I called in regards to a patient by the name of Maxmillan Hinterland? Does the name sound familiar?” asked Dr. Ashton.
His question was answered with an audible gasp.
A gasp subsequently followed by a silence. The silence stretched on for a while and was broken when Dr. Ashton cleared his throat.
“Ms. Hamilton? Are you still there?”
“It’s Mia.” She whispered.
“Just call me Mia.”
“Okay Mia. So then, can I take that as a yes?” he asked.
“Yes Dr. Ashton. I know Max…I just didn’t think or even expect Max to still have me as his emergency contact.” She breathed the words into the phone…still dazed that Max had listed her as his emergency contact after all these years.
“Well I was trying to get in touch with his next of kin, but his friends said Max had no family to speak of, and his files had you listed as his emergency contact. So you were our next best shot; unfortunately, we were unable to get a hold of you.” Dr. Ashton stated.
He paused momentarily before continuing.
“Everything has been sorted and taken care of now though, so thank you for calling back.” He said slowly, followed by a sigh.
“Oh okay. Well I’m glad everything is resolved.” Mia answered hesitantly, before the Doctor’s words fully registered with her.
“Oh shit! Oh my God I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to swear, but I mean, I just meant to say, or ask rather…What is Max doing at the hospital? Is he better now? Is he still in the hospital?” Mia sputtered question after question.
“I see.” Dr. Ashton replied.
“Well Mia would you be able to come by the hospital today?” he asked.
“Sorry Doc, can’t do. I’m actually flying out later today.” Mia replied.
“Why? Is it an emergency? Do I need to be at the hospital to sign something or okay anything for Max?” she questioned.
“No no, that’s not necessary. It’s just easier for me to have this conversation face to face rather than over the phone.” He replied.
“Well before I proceed, are you currently sitting down?” he asked.
Mia looked at her phone with a strange expression.
“Yes?” she replied, though it sounded more like a question.
“Doctor Ashton, no offense, but these questions are getting me a little worried. Is everything okay with Max?” she asked while grabbing her coffee mug a little tighter.
“Well Mia, what I have to say is definitely not easy, and I want to make sure that wherever you are is relatively safe and comfortable. I do apologize for the manner in which this is being done.” He replied in as soothing a tone as he could muster.
This was always the hard part.
“Okay…now I’m definitely getting a little worked up. Please just get to the point already.” Mia snapped.
“Well Mia, I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell you this. Max was brought in by the EMS early yesterday because of severe head trauma as a result of his fight. He lost consciousness after being knocked out in a fight and slipped into a coma.”
Dr. Ashton pauses to allow the news to sink in and all he hears in response is a sharp intake of air.
When he realized she wasn’t going to say anything, Dr. Ashton continued.
“At the time of admission, he was unresponsive to any visual or auditory stimuli. What I mean is that he wasn’t responding to light or sound signals. We did everything we could Mia; he was even put on life support. He was declared brain dead and taken off life support earlier this morning, as per Max’s wishes. I’m really sorry you had to find out this way, and, I’m truly sorry for your loss. If there’s anything at all that I can do during this difficult period, please do let me know.”
And the only sound that escaped her mouth, following an audible gasp was,