She's breathing on her own again, and her heart seems to be okay now. Keep someone here 24/7 until she is stable and I have had a chance to see all the new tests and we can get her off life support. NO visitors, NO exceptions. Not even the family. Not yet, anyways.
-Legion*** Taylor ***Legion-
"Ms. Hebert, your father is here, he is filling out the discharge paperwork at the nurse's station, so that you can go home now."
I tried to focus on his face from where I was sitting next to the window, but I didn't have my glasses on, not that they did much good anymore. My left eye was still bandaged, or rather the eye socket was bandaged, and my right eye seemed even worse then it had been before the …
NO! I wouldn't think about it, just the thought of… was enough to trigger a panic attack. PTSD the shrink called it, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Flashbacks, emotional volatility, panic attacks, all sorts of fun things. And that was just some of my mental problems; my physical issues were even worse. My left eye gone, eaten right out of … NO! My right leg is missing almost 30 percent of its muscle tissue, surface scarring over 60 percent of my body, including my face, multiple infections, some of which they could not even identify, some sort of joint disorder similar to arthritis in most of my joints. And the doctors keep telling me how LUCKY I am, just to be alive. I wonder if they would be so cheerful and upbeat if this had happened to them.
They didn't get to wear a mask, just so the people around me don't get sick. They don't have to see a face that doesn't belong to me anymore; I know the doctors did the best they could, but my face makes the Phantom of Opera look pretty.
He had been babbling on about me needing to sign some papers before I could leave, but I just ignored him, even when he tried to hand me a clipboard and a pen so I could sign his stupid papers. Finally, I took the clipboard, just to shut him up. I looked at the papers, but as I had suspected, they were too out of focus for me to read. I dropped the clipboard in my lap and said, "I can't read them. I'll have my dad look at them for me."
At that he reached for the papers saying, "These are just some routine disclaimers for the hospital, nothing to worry about, I'll just explain them to you so you can sign them and go home."
"No, I think that I'll just have my dad read them for me." As I spoke, I grabbed the clipboard and hugged it to me. I was getting a very bad vibe from him and I was not nearly as trusting as I used to be. Especially now, when I could barely see well enough to walk around this room without tripping over things. Even though I could barely see the man, I could see well enough to know that I didn't trust him. I reached over to the controller on the table next to me and pushed the call button sending for a nurse. One of the few advantages of my injuries was that they didn't waste any time calling back to my room to see what I wanted, when I pushed the button, a nurse showed up immediately. In return, I didn't use it frivolously.
When the nurse showed up I simply said, "I don't know who this person is and he wants me to sign some papers that I can't read. Could you get him out of my room and send my dad to me," I looked over at the man who was edging towards the door, and said, "And maybe you should call security to check out just who this strange man is, since he never actually said who he was, and why he is in the room of a helpless, minor girl, without her or her father's permission."
After looking between the man and me, she grabbed her phone, pressed a couple of buttons and said, "Dr. Armstrong, room 622, stat." Then she called out behind her, "Mike, could you give me a hand here?"
At this the man bolted, pushing the nurse aside and taking off at a dead run. A few seconds later I could hear a scuffle and some muffled shouts, and then it got really quiet. After about 5 minutes the nurse came back and she brought my dad along.
"Hey, kiddo. I hear you had some excitement here? What's going on?"
I lifted the clipboard and waved it at him, "Some strange guy came in here, he never did say who he was, and tried to get me to sign these papers." I handed the clipboard over to him, "It's not like I can read them anyways, not until I can get some new glasses."
At that he jumped a little and pulled something out of his jacket pocket and handed it to me. It turned out to be an eyeglass case, and when I tried on the glasses, I found that I could actually see again. Not perfectly maybe, but at least I could see well enough to read and to see the nurse clearly enough that I could tell more than just a blurry shape that was light green in color.
Dad had brought me some clean clothes, so I could wear something more than hospital PJ's as well as a new jacket since it was snowing again. He left them on the bed, took the clipboard and left the room, closing the door behind him. The nurse, her nametag said Sally, helped me get dressed, since I couldn't bend over very far. She actually had some cool tools to let me pick things like my underwear and pants up and slip them over my legs while I was still sitting down. She even had a U-shaped piece of plastic with a long looped cord that I could use to put my socks on. My new shoes were slip-on's that I could simply step into with the help of a long shoehorn. Even with her help, it still took me almost ten minutes to get completely dressed and ready to go.
Once dressed, I used the walker next to my chair to pull myself to my feet, and shuffled around the bed to the wheel chair that an orderly or maybe a male nurse had brought to my room. Slowly and carefully turning myself around, I sat down in the wheelchair with a sigh of relief and tried to catch my breath. I had never been really athletic, even before, but now just about everything was exhausting. Not to mention painful. Physical and occupational therapy truly sucked, but an older patient, had given me some advice that was turning out to be very helpful, although I didn't think so at first.
I had been taken down to my first PT session since I woke up from my coma, and while I was sitting in this stupidly uncomfortable wheelchair, feeling sorry for myself, an old guy, I think he most have been at least 80 years old, kind of shuffled over next to me using this weird looking walker. It had a seat on the front, a couple of storage bags and what I would swear were hand brakes, which only became clear when he got right up next to me, since I didn't have any glasses yet.
The first thing he said was, "First time, huh?"
"What?" I replied, kind of surprised that someone was actually talking to me, since other than dad, only the doctors and this Red Cross lady who brought puzzles and books up to the wards ever spoke a word to me. Everyone else seemed to keep their distance, not that I blamed them, not after I had a chance to look in a mirror. The first time I saw my face in the mirror I nearly threw up, even now it was hard for me to look at myself.
"First time for PT. You got that look on your face that every fingie does when they show up here for the first time. Like, 'Oh shit! This is gonna hurt! I can't do it.' which it will, sweetie. It's gonna hurt a lot. The only thing you can do, is just focus on doing whatever exercises the therapist gives you. Try and ignore the pain, 'cause everyone here hurts, and finish every set, even if it hurts so bad that you just can't stop from cryin'"
I looked at him, really looked at him, as best that I could, and I started to see the scars on his neck and hands, and when I looked down at his legs, he just laughed and grabbed the cane that was hooked to his walker and banged it on his leg. CLANK!
"Yeah, got a prosthetic foot on the right and a BK on the left. Guess you could call it a final FU from the 'cong, since I was actually walking across the airfield to catch a plane back to the world when a mortar attack came in." He shrugged and said, "Kinda poetic justice since I was a mortar grunt, too."
"So why are you telling me this? I mean, it's not really a very good pep talk, you know. More like scaring me to be honest," I said nervously.
"Maybe so, but here's the important part: PT sucks, but it also works. And the sooner you start, and the harder you work at it, the better off you are in the end. I seen a bunch o' big, strong, macho men give up or blow off doing their PT exercises, and ever'one of 'em paid for it. Usually with more pain and less strength or range o' motion in the end. You're gonna think your therapist is a sadistic ass who gets off on how much pain they can cause their victims, I mean their poor, sufferin' patients. But they're not. Most o'them really want to help, but they know that the best way they can help you is gonna hurt you. No question about that, and no help for it either. You just gotta suck it up, an' keep going 'til you're done."
I looked around the room, not that I could really see anything, but I could hear, maybe even better than before… and it sure sounded like the people here were in pain, but also really struggling to do … whatever it was they were doing.
I looked back at the old man, whose name I didn't even know, and slowly nodded, "Okay. I'll try…"
He smacked his cane on the floor and said, "There is no try. Do or do not," in what was probably the worst imitation of Yoda that had ever been done.
With that I actually laughed, for the first time in months, since last summer probably. And when I was taken by the Physical Therapist and he started me doing a series of stretches and exercises, I kept the old man's words in mind and finished every exercise and stretch to the best of my ability and then pushed even harder to do just one more, to stretch just a little bit farther. No matter how much it hurt.
One of the nurses, that I had known for weeks, even if I had never really seen her, collected up my PT and OT equipment, bagged it up with the few toiletries and clothing that I had, and placed it in my lap and started pushing me down to the main entrance of the hospital, where my dad was already waiting with the car.
Before we left the room, I said, "Wait a moment, please," when she stopped the wheelchair, I carefully unstrapped and removed the mask, and put in my bag. "Okay, I'm ready now."
"Are you sure Taylor?" she asked very carefully.
"I'm sure. I didn't do this to myself, they did this to me, I have nothing to be ashamed of and I refuse to hide myself away or pretend it didn't happen," I explained.
She gripped my shoulder and said, "Good for you, Taylor. I'm proud of you. Just remember to wear it at night, it really will help with the scarring."
She finished taking me to the main entrance and handed my stuff to my dad and helped me get up and into the front seat of the car while he put all the stuff in the back seat. She wished me well and reminded me to call the hospital immediately if I started to run a fever or got ill in any way.
As dad drove home, I started thinking about what I was going to do next, what my choices and options were, especially concerning school. Dad and I hadn't really talked about the bullying before…I ended up in the hospital, but really, there was no way he didn't know by now, because there was no way the school could completely cover up a student being stuffed in her locker for days, and then in a coma at the hospital for weeks before she could be released. I just knew that I couldn't go back to Winslow, no matter what. And truthfully, given how weak I was, and in such constant pain, I couldn't really see me in any school. Maybe I could do online classes or homeschool instead. Anything but going back there.
We pulled into the driveway about 15 minutes later, and dad helped me out of car and got me my walker, but he let me work my way into the house at my own pace, which was slow, but steady, but by the time I got to the living room I was exhausted again, so I sat down on the sofa while he carried my things up to my room.
He came back down and sat in his chair across from the sofa and just looked at me, then said, "You are not going back to that school."
"When you're ready to talk about what happened to you, I will be ready to listen. But going back to that school is never going to happen. They were criminally negligent and based on the papers you gave me, they are well aware of it. I will never let you near them again. Not without me, and probably a cop for protection."
What the hell? What was he talking about?
"Dad, what are you talking about? What papers?"
"The clipboard you gave me had a bunch of legal papers that basically said that neither the school or anybody associated with it, staff or student, was responsible, that you had basically locked yourself in the locker as 'attention-seeking behavior' so only you were liable for any damages or injuries. There was also a form acknowledging that you agreed to accept all financial responsibility and could not sue anyone for damages."
"And they thought that I would agree to that?" I was stunned that the school could possibly think that I would ever sign papers like that. After a moment's thought I realized they were so used to stepping all over me, that they probably assumed they could keep doing it, even after everything they had condoned and covered up coming out so publicly.
"They probably knew that you were mostly blind and on a lot of drugs, and assumed that you would not realize what was going on. Which is just stupid, because you are a minor, and heavily medicated, you can't legally sign anything. No judge would accept those papers as legally binding, but maybe they just wanted to have them as a form of insurance or blackmail. I don't really know what they could have been thinking, to send someone after you like that." He leaned back and sighed. "Hopefully, the hospital will press charges against him. Trespassing or something." Changing the subject, he asked me, "How are you feeling, now that you're home?"
I lifted my hand, palm upward and said, "I don't know really, about the same as in the hospital, except more relaxed since it's home, you know? I'm pretty tired, which seems to be my new normal, but I'm not ready to go to bed. Maybe just watch some tv until dinner time, do my exercises, then get ready for bed. I have been sleeping a lot, and the doctors kept telling me that was a good thing, since it would help my body heal, but I still need to move and get stuff done."
Dad nodded in agreement and, changing the subject yet again, asked, "Spaghetti and meatballs sound okay?"
I smiled, "After having to eat bland hospital food, it sounds heavenly."
He got up, handed me the tv remote and headed into the kitchen to start dinner. It may have only been 4 o'clock in the afternoon, but an early dinner and bedtime sounded good to me.