Pain Relief Chapter 36


Asher realizes how much his family means to him.

*   *   *

When Hindy finally awoke, 14 hours after she’d fallen from the kitchen chair, she had no idea where she was. She felt dizzy and sick. She looked around with only her eyes, afraid to turn her head, and a quick survey confirmed her worst fears: She was in the ICU. Her father had been here a number of years ago when he had open heart-surgery;  she recognized the room immediately.

Hindy tried to recall the chain of events that had gotten her here, but it was still vague, like trying to see an oncoming car through deep fog. The last thing she remembered was sitting with Suri Klein at the table. How long ago had that happened? She was seized with panic. Was I unconscious? How long have I been here? Had it been days? weeks? months?

She tried to sit up, to catch someone’s attention but when she tried, the pain in her head knocked her back onto the pillow. A nurse had caught the movement though, and came bustling over to greet her.

“Hi Chaya,” she said, pronouncing the ch like in chocolate. “How are you feeling?”

Hindy smiled wanly, too weak to correct the nurse. “Is this the ICU? How long have I been here?” Her words were little more than a croak; her throat was raw and dry.

“Not so long,” said the nurse, whose name plate read Bernadette. “You came in yesterday afternoon and now it’s 8:15 a.m., so you’ve been here about 14 hours.”

“I was unconscious?” she asked.

“You sure were. We had to pump your stomach. You took an overdose.”

“What? No I didn’t. There must be some mistake.”

Bernadette eyed her with what appeared to be pity. She was no stranger to patients being in denial about their own behavior.

“No mistake,” she said. She was the  type who ripped the band-aid off in one clean pull. “Were you taking a lot of Tylenol? With codeine?”

Hindy shook her head. “Just the normal amounts.”

Bernadette smiled sympathetically. “What we found in your blood was not normal amounts. You nearly died.”

“You can’t die from Tylenol with codeine,” said Hindy, wondering why she was arguing with this nurse.

“Yes, you can. Now, do you want me to call your husband? He’s in the waiting area.” Hindy knew there was a space to wait behind the glass wall, but she couldn’t sit up enough to see Asher’s form. He was there, slumped over in a chair, struggling to keep his eyes open. They’d let him in for five minutes every hour, but he’d been sitting and waiting since he arrived in the middle of the night.

“Asher’s here?” There was both hope and dread in her voice.

“Right there,” said Bernadette, pointing towards the glass. “All night.”

Hindy was immediately flustered. “Excuse me,” she said, feeling her head. Her sheitel had been replaced by a snood.

“Your daughter brought that,” Bernadette volunteered.

“All the hair is tucked in?” said Hindy.

“Here, let me help you.” She tucked the hair in on all sides, but not without glancing strangely at Hindy. “I’ll go get your husband.”

She walked over and knocked briskly on the glass, getting Asher’s attention. He stood quickly, smoothing out his suit which had become thoroughly wrinkled. He ran his hand through his hair, nervous and unsure how to approach his wife. On the one hand he was grateful she was alive; on the other, he was furious. How could she be so stupid?

He approached Hindy’s bed warily, unsure of what or who he’d find. “Hello there,” he said quietly.

“Asher.” Her eyes were dry and empty.

“You gave us quite a scare,” he said. “What happened?”

Hindy shook her head. Her eyes filled with tears. “I don’t know.” Her voice broke.

Asher was torn, then realized now was not the time for discussion. “We’ll talk about it later,” he said. “You rest.”

She wanted Asher to stay, to not leave her alone, but she could see the exhaustion on his face.

“Where are the kids?” she asked.

“There were here most of the night. I sent them home. I practically had to drag Tzippy into the car.”

Hindy smiled. “Tzippy.”

“Yeah. Listen, I’m going to go home and clean up a bit. I’ll come back. They tell me your condition is stable now but we won’t know for sure until tomorrow.” He shook his head and wondered if he knew who his wife really was. Had she been doing this for  years, or was this just a one time fall?

“Did you call my parents?” Hindy asked.

“Not yet. I didn’t want them to worry.”

“Call them.” Hindy closed her eyes, and didn’t open them again. Asher realized there was nothing he could do. He didn’t relish the thought of calling his in-laws, but he knew it was unfair to keep them in the dark. Hindy had always been forthright with her parents. Whatever was happening, her mother’s tefillos would only help.

With shoulders uncharacteristically slumped, he nodded to the nurse and stepped out into the hallway.

Meanwhile, across town, Lena Shaeffer had awoken with a strange twinge at the back of her neck. It had never been wrong. She would immediately brace herself for whatever was coming, because she knew that something was indeed on the way.

So when the phone rang and she saw Asher’s cellphone number on the screen, she did not say hello.

“What is it?” she said. “What’s happened?”

To be continued . . .