Disclaimer: Author owns only the OC characters, Christopher McGee - and the medical situation depicted in this story - taken from her own experience when her daughter was four months old - over 22 years ago - so some minor details are fuzzy - but the experience is real.
Special Thanks to my BETA's on this - Gottahavemyncis & Shelbylou
May 7th, 2009
A child's heartbeat is as precious to a parent as the sound of their normal breath. When the sound of both is disrupted over the baby monitor in the middle of the night, Tim McGee can't get to his now eight month old son fast enough. From across the hall, a distance of all of ten feet, his own heart stops even while his feet fly, as his arm shoots out to flip the light switch on in the nursery as he passes it.
The sight that meets his eyes is beyond scary as his baby boy lays seizing, the likes of which the frightened father has never seen before since he doesn't personally know anyone that has epilepsy. Reaching out instinctively for the baby, Tim is startled at how hot the precious boy feels to the touch. Keeping one hand on his child, he digs his phone out with the other and voice calls 911, begging them to send an ambulance for his suddenly sick little boy.
He knows he has no choice but to wait until the seizure stops before he can scoop up his son. Tim stands by the crib, tears of fear and worry clouding his eyes until he's forcibly blinking them away, still keeping the dispatcher on the phone. He wants to call the one person he's learned to lean on recently- one father to another, but he has to stay on with the 911 person, as they continue to talk to him, words he isn't even clearly hearing as he watches his child suffer.
"Finally." Tim. practically cries with relief as the seizure stops and he's able to pick up his son. "Oh, Christopher, what's happening to you?"
"Alright, Sir. The paramedics are on their way inside. You can hang up the phone now."
Tim absently flips his phone closed, not even bothering with niceties, his mind completely wrapped around his son's health crisis. He hears the paramedics come in the room, feels them gently lift Christopher from his arms; is barely aware that familiar and comforting arms are holding him back from fighting to hold onto the baby.
"Easy, Tim. Let 'em take care of him."
Turning his head in shock, he literally sags into the hold the older man now has on him, not even noticing the older man's own expression of worry for both his honorary grandson and the young man he considers to be one of his kids. "Boss."
Gibbs hears the relief in his agent's voice but can still see the fear in his eyes. "Saw the lights on the bus, came right over. What happened, Tim? "
"I don't know. One minute he was sleeping just fine, like any other night and then he's missing a breath, it was the most awful sound I've ever heard over the baby monitor." Tim wipes at the stubborn moisture from his eyes. "He feels like he's on fire, he's so hot. He didn't have a temperature when he went to sleep, I swear!"
By now Tim's trembling with the emotional wave he can't focus on enough to fight.
"Easy, Tim. This wasn't anything you did or didn't do, son. Relax. Let them handle it." The Team Leader encourages him soothingly. "Christopher's in good hands right now."
"Mr. McGee. Your father's right, you didn't do anything wrong. Now, he's not seizing at the moment and isn't in any danger. But his temperature is high so we're giving him infant fever reducer and then we'll be transporting him to the hospital because it's the middle of the night and we don't want him to have another seizure before he's been seen by a doctor. in the event that it does happen again - he should be in a medically controlled environment at least until they've determined what's going on."
Tim is shocked, too upset to utter a word so his surrogate father rescues the situation, knowing they need to act quickly. "He's going with you. Tim, I'll meet you there."
Tim blinks as he nods and moves to follow the medics back through the house on out to the ambulance.
Thirty long and stress filled minutes later, Gibbs has driven safely to the hospital behind the ambulance, called Ducky with instructions to call Tony and gone with the still shell-shocked Tim on through to the examining room with the thankfully still sleeping Christopher.
Ducky arrives in the waiting room and is anxious to go on into the treating room to see for himself how his honorary grandson and young Timothy are faring. However, Jethro asked him to update Anthony before seeing the baby and his father, so he must wait for the arrival of the Senior Field Agent. Thankfully, the young man is only ten minutes behind the M.E. and it isn't long before the situation has been explained and Anthony is making phone calls while Ducky is on his way to see young Christopher.
He arrives in the room to find Christopher sleeping restlessly in the crib in which he's been placed while his father is adamantly shaking his head in refusal as Jethro stands by, looking quite upset himself, as he attempts to be the silent support Timothy needs. "No."
"Mr. McGee. It's the only way to know for sure."
"No. You just said it's not a fool-proof plan." Tim argues heatedly.
"Timothy?" Ducky quickly inserts himself into things, knowing both of his NCIS compatriots will appreciate his presence right about now.
"Ducky! They wanna do a spinal tap on an eight month old!" Tim is practically yelling, he's so angry and scared for his little boy.
"Ah, I see. Well, yes, dear boy, it is a valid method for determining the likelihood of meningitis in our beloved Christopher, I'm afraid. A possible culprit for symptoms such as what your son is experiencing."
But you can't anesthetize him to do it." Tim turns angry, accusing eyes to the doctor, as the thought of his baby in pain upsets and angers him.
"No, I'm afraid we can't. But we'll be as quick as possible."
"Which, I'm afraid, to be completely honest, if done correctly, will not be very quick at all. Timothy, Christopher will need to be held completely still during the procedure and they will need to be most careful with the needle as it extracts the fluid from his spine." Ducky intervenes with an angry glare at the doctor who dared to offer Tim false reassurances for a quick process.
A shudder ripples through Tim's own spine at that thought. "Oh, GOD!" He mutters in distress. "And they have to do this?" He asks the M.E.
"It is the best way, Timothy." Ducky admits sadly. "Meningitis can kill by the time it's run its course, I'm afraid. It's quite a devastating illness and if Christopher has it, we need to know immediately."
Tim struggles to keep his breathing normal. Finally, he pulls himself together and nods. "You'll stay? Both you? Please?"
"Not something you even have to ask, Tim." Gibbs tells him gruffly.
"Thanks, Boss, Ducky. At least my mom doesn't have to watch this. Thank God she and Sarah are out of town again!"
"Mr. McGee, are you consenting to the procedure for your son?" The still present doctor asks for the record as he steps to the side to allow the nurse to present Tim with the consent forms to sign.
"Yeah." Tim breathes out raggedly. "Just wish you didn't have to hurt him to do it."
"We hate to hurt them. Believe me." The long silent nurse in the room with them finally speaks up, her soft voice a soothing balm on Tim's frayed nerves.
Watching the team of medical professionals walk into his son's room a few minutes later sends a knot of dread to Tim's gut, making him feel like he'd swallowed a ball of lead. He knows poor little Christopher is in for a very rough night and he wishes like hell that he could take his little boy's place and save him whatever pain is coming. He feels the slap of failure as a father rise up when the voice in his head reminds him that it isn't fair that little Christopher has to go through something like this.
"Alright, Mr. McGee. We need you to sit here and hold him when we get him awake again." The nurse breaks into his thoughts.
"I'll wake him." Tim insists.
"I got him, Tim. You need to relax." Gibbs instructs quietly as he looks pointedly at his long-time friend, knowing the M.E. will not only agree, but also jump in and back him up.
"Timothy, let's take a stroll for a moment or two while Jethro wakes our little tyke, shall we?" Ducky glares at the doctor who appears to be prepared to argue. "We shall only be a moment or two."
Tim lets the M.E. propel him from the baby's hospital room, on out to the hallway and back out to the waiting room, where he is suddenly surrounded by the rest of the team. "Hey, Timmy. How's our baby?" Abby asks sadly as she wraps her best friend in a subdued version of an 'Abby' hug.
With tears beginning to escape, Tim extracts himself from Abby, looks at each of his teammates in turn. "Thanks, guys. I'm sorry you're..."
"Don't make us head slap you, Probie. What's goin' on?" Tony interrupts him with both firmness and compassion.
"Ducky, will you explain it to them please? I need to use the head and then we have to get back in there." Tim replies as he turns and heads to the nearest bathroom, his hands shaking as he cards them through his hair in aggravation.
Little Christopher babbles happily to see Tim when he and Ducky arrive back in the room a short time later, but as his father's sad expression and almost too tight hold on him alarms him when Tim scoops him up from the crib, he's soon crying. He's placed on a treatment table, his father's arms holding him still, slightly bent over, while Grandpa Gibbs also helps hold him. The needle is eased into his spine by the solemn doctor and the baby begins crying earnestly, in obvious pain.
As Tim holds his hurting little boy through the first few minutes of the agony of the spinal tap, his own tears begin to break through his resolve and he can no longer endure it. He's gone from the room quicker than anyone can stop him and he leaves his precious son in the hands of his trustworthy boss, his surrogate father, as the procedure continues. The tears course down his face as he walks away, the sounds of his son's pain-filled cries following him down the hall.
Some twenty minutes later finds Tim still pacing the emergency room while his teammates watch in sorrow, having watched him burst from the treating area earlier, tears streaming down his face, as they heard their beloved Christopher's cries. Their hearts bleed for both the McGee family members and although they hate it, they understand there is little to nothing they can do at the moment for either of them.
Suddenly, the door opens from the treating area and the nurse beckons to Tim, who is quick to rush over to her. Once he gets to her, she smiles timidly. "They're done. You can go back in. He's calm now."
Tim thanks her, wipes his face on his sleeve and heads back to his little boy. As he enters the room, he feels the weight in his gut turn to guilt for bailing on Gibbs and Ducky, but before he can say anything, both of the older men are shaking their heads as the M.E. speaks for them both. "Completely understandable, young man. Why don't you hold your son now?'
"Thanks." Tim offers to both of them as he gently picks his baby up from where Gibbs has his own gentle hold on him.
Gibbs helps settle Christopher on Tim's shoulder and clasps the young man on his other shoulder. "That's what family's do, Tim. Really need to quit forgettin' that."
"Thanks, Boss." Tim offers almost reverently as he sits down in the chair while holding his completely worn out little boy.
As the doctor comes back into the room, he frowns in Tim's direction but death glares from both older men finds him schooling his own features once more before addressing the young father. "You can take him home and call for the results later today. His fever is gone. Until we get the results, we won't know what caused either the fever or the seizure, though seizures brought on by extreme spikes in temperature are not unknown. These febrile seizures can happen again, so I strongly suggest keeping a close eye on him today and keep the fever reducer on hand."
"Thanks, Doc." Gibbs offers as he gestures for them to head out. Thankful it hasn't turned out worse, Tim silently follows in the older man's wake, happy to let Ducky to follow behind him, closely as if still keeping an actual eye on Christopher while he sleeps on Tim's shoulder.
The rest of the day passes in a blur for Tim as Ducky takes the baby home with him for the day while the others trudge on into work, thankfully, not getting a call out during the course of the day. With cold cases keeping them at least occupied, it's the end of the day before they realize it and Tim is the first one gone, off to Ducky's to check on his son.
Surprisingly enough, Tony is right on Tim's heels and together they check on the baby, still sleeping in his playpen. Ducky reports that the day has been uneventful, as he's told Tim repeatedly over the phone throughout the day. Young Christopher has had very little appetite and has slept much of the day. Feeling slightly warm as he began to fall asleep just an hour before now, Ducky has given the baby another dose of fever reducer.
Tim nods as he lifts Christopher up out of the playpen and nestles him onto his shoulder. It's a heart-stopping moment when the baby goes into his second seizure, causing Tony to immediately help Tim lower the tyke to the nearby couch. "Oh, God! Ducky!" Tim worries aloud.
"Let's get him back to the emergency room, Timothy. Two seizures in less than 24 hours is most worrisome." The M.E. wastes no time in strongly urging the young father.
"He's burning up!" Tony announces in surprise. "How is it the medicine didn't do what it was supposed to?"
"That is something the doctors will have to determine, I'm afraid." Ducky admits. It's several stress-filled moments before the seizure stops and he is able to lead the way outside as soon as Tim has Christopher wrapped warmly. Tony has already headed outside to start the car and the heater to keep the baby warm.
It's been six hours at the hospital. Six hours of letting the baby sleep just long enough for the medical staff to come wake him for this small test or that one or worse, blood work to check for this or for that and Tim is as exhausted as his son. The others have gone home in preparation for the upcoming work day and he's alone with his son's medical crisis. By ten in the morning, Christopher is worn out enough he's finally able to sleep and at last Tim is able to lay his head against the chair back and rest his eyes, if not his mind.
"Mr. McGee? We need to wake Christopher to do a brainwave test on him."
"There a reason you didn't tell me that before he fell asleep?" Tim angrily grouses at the nurse whose arrival is most ill-timed.
"As soon as we get this done, you can take him home."
"That's it? No results on anything you've done on him all night? Just send him home?" The exhausted father's frustration is almost at its' limits.
"Yes. We'll send you home with some information and the name of a specialist to call and set up an appointment for preventative care - for the possibility we haven't been able to rule out."
"So then you're telling me he's got epilepsy?" Tim asks in resignation.
"No. I'm telling you it's uncertain. AND that the neurologist is the best person to diagnose and treat him."
Tim breathed out. "Yeah. Okay. Let me wake him up."
It's four in the afternoon and both Tim and Christopher are finally sleeping peacefully under the Team Leader's watchful eye and under his roof. It's been an emotionally trying twenty-four hours but Gibbs can't help but find gratitude that the medical crisis isn't more life-threatening than the possibility the doctors have presented.
He's just gotten off the phone with the neurologist's office. It has been determined by the test results that while he does not have meningitis, it's best to place Christopher on an anti-epileptic drug, a narcotic, Phenobarbital, in order to offset the possible development of epilepsy. A follow-up appointment has already been scheduled with them for early next week to get it started.
Gibbs knows Tim will be very upset about his son having to take the drug, but if it means the baby has a healthier, seizure- free childhood, it will become something they come to accept - eventually. After all, what's important is that Christopher is alive and well, and has his entire life ahead of him.
Together, the team; the family, will help the McGee men through whatever challenges lay ahead of them.
1. For The Love of Christopher
2. Exposed Roots
3. Learning The Hard Way