Dr. Bando had called Asher, who was growing nervous from having already missed three days of work, to request that they meet at the hospital to discuss Mrs. Fishman’s condition.
* * *
Hindy was able to sit up and drink from a straw, but she was keeping the family at bay, ashamed to face them.
She felt the most relaxed with her parents, and Lena had not yet left the hospital despite everyone’s urging. “When my daughter leaves the ICU, then I leave the ICU. Not a minute before.” Lena came in every hour on the hour, using her five minutes to stroke Hindy’s forehead and assure her that everything would be all right.
“What have I done, Mommy?” Hindy asked. “I had no idea this would happen to me.”
“Work on getting well for now,” her mother would answer, “and we’ll discuss the other things later.” Hindy felt a palpable relief: letting a mother carry your worries for you was a gift at any age. If her mother said everything will be okay, she’d believe her. She had no other choice.
“Thank you very much for coming,” said Dr. Bando.
Asher stood up to greet the doctor. Dr. Bando was dressed in green scrubs with a white coat thrown over them. He looked busy and haggard, and Asher wondered how he managed to take care of all the patients adequately.
He led Asher over to a small office next to the ICU. There was barely room for a small desk and two chairs. Asher had to fold his long legs over a little bit as he sat.
“How is my wife?” said Asher.
Dr. Bando sighed. “I won’t lie to you. There’s been significant damage to the liver and kidneys. It may reverse itself, it may not. That is the job of Dr. Time, and we can never predict what he will do.”
“Okay, what kind of time frame are we looking at though, ballpark figure?”
“It’s hard to say. Addicts are very unpredictable. If she puts one pill too many into her mouth, her entire system may collapse. We just don’t know which pill that is.”
Asher rose, indignantly. “Are you calling my wife a drug addict?”
Dr. Bando was calm. “Yes, I am, and you need to also. Don’t delude yourself, Mr. Fishman. Your wife has been sustaining a full-blown addiction to pain killers for nearly a year. Your children told me she had some sort of accident around that time?”
Asher tried to push it aside. “She fell down a flight of stairs in the house. Her back hurt for a little while, but it was nothing.”
“What was nothing to you was obviously something to her. I need to tell you now, Mr. Fishman, that in order for your wife to recover, it is essential that she check into a rehab facility.”
Asher stood up now, his face flushed with rage. “Rehab? I’m not sending my wife to rehab. We’ll get her fixed up here and we’ll bring her home. She’ll be fine.”
Dr. Bando looked straight into Asher’s eyes, unmoved by his outburst. “Say what you want, but eventually you are going to have to face the truth. I know it’s painful to hear, but if your wife cannot break her habit she will die. No addict I’ve encountered has been able to kick their addiction on their own. In rehab, they can handle her withdrawal safely, and then work on getting her to accept the addiction. It’s a complicated process, Mr. Fishman, and it needs to be done with experts.
“You think that love and care will heal her, but as we now have her laying in the ICU, with her stomach pumped and her organs damaged, it was obviously not enough in the past, otherwise she wouldn’t be here.
“You’ll care for her tenderly for a week or so and then you’ll assume things are back to normal, but that will not be the case. Are you willing to take such a chance because of pride? That’s a big risk to take.”
“You don’t mince words, do you,” said Asher.
“I can’t afford to. I’ve seen too many people lose the fight.” Dr. Bando stood up, his complexion sallow beneath the harsh fluorescent light. The plain walls glared like sun bouncing off ice. He was a good head shorter than Asher, slightly balding on top, thick eyeglasses hooked over the neckline of his scrubs. “I’ll wish you a good day for now, and we’ll meet again. She can probably leave the ICU tomorrow if all goes well. She’ll be here for about another week after that. I strongly advise you to make arrangements for the rehab now, because once she goes home she will immediately fall back into her bad habits, and it will become twice as difficult.”
He put his hand on Asher’s arm, kindly. “Mr. Fishman, be smart. Give your wife a fighting chance, yes?”
To be continued . . .