Heart of a Man (Chapter 1)

The morning had first appeared to be starting off like any other. Johnny came in whistling, Chet baited him into a silly argument, and Roy sat by taking it all in. The one difference to this morning was that Marco hadn't yet arrived…unusual for him.

When Marco did arrive, it was almost 8 AM…roll call would be starting in five minutes. His late arrival was not lost on his friends.

"Hey Marco, cuttin' it kinda close aren't you, buddy?" This was a remark that Chet had usually saved for Johnny.

"I guess." Came Marco's toneless reply, along with a soft but audible sigh.

As their friend walked around to his locker, the others looked at him with concern. Despite his natural laid-back personality, Marco was still able and willing to dish it out, as well as take it. When he responded to Chet's comment with only an 'I guess', the rest of the crew knew something wasn't quite right.

Captain Stanley made his way to the locker room and poked his head inside the door. "Guys…roll call…one minute."

Chet, Johnny, Mike, and Roy all looked at each other. They didn't want to be late for roll call, but at the same time they were concerned about Marco and the seeming funk that he was in.

Sensing that everyone's eyes were on him, Marco became a bit irritated. "You guys have a problem?"

No one answered him. Johnny especially knew what it was like to have everyone analyzing your every move. So, rather than to make a big production out of it, he did what he'd want the others to do if it had been him in Marco's place…he simply walked out.

Taking their cue from Johnny, Roy and Mike did the same, while a rather concerned Chet stayed in the locker room.

"Marco, you okay?" Chet asked worriedly, almost afraid of the response he would receive.

"I'm fine, Chet." After the words left his mouth, he started to cough.

Listening to the loud dry hacking cough that was coming from his best friend, Chet became even more concerned.

"You don't SOUND fine, Marco. Maybe you should let Roy and Johnny give you a quick once over."

Catching his breath, Marco stood almost defiantly and looked his friend in the eye.

"Chet…I told you…I'm fine. Why don't you just go out to roll call or you'll be late."

"What about you, Marco? YOU'RE going to be late."

"I guess you won't be assigned latrine duty today then. I'm okay. I'll be right out."

Marco practically shooed the Irishman out of the locker room.

Reluctantly Chet left the room to join the others for roll call.

Once he was alone in the locker room, Marco sat down on the bench in front of his locker and bent over, continuing trying to catch his breath.

Out in the equipment bay, Captain Stanley counted his men and noticed that one was missing. "Lopez?"

Chet spoke up. "He's in the locker room, Cap. He's running late today."

"No kidding. Is he alright?" Hank knew that it wasn't like Marco to be late for anything, let alone work.

Johnny wanted to say something, but he was all too aware of what it was like to be the center of unwanted attention.

Instead it was his partner who spoke up.

"Cap…Marco didn't seem to be doing too well. I can't quite put my finger on it though."

"Roy, if you think there's cause for concern…"

Johnny interrupted his Captain. "Wait a minute. Let's not jump to conclusions here. We all have a bad day every now and then. Maybe he's…he's just tired."

"Johnny…YOU may have a bad day, but in all the years that I've known Marco, I've never once seen him have a bad day."

Deep down, Johnny knew Chet was right.

In the middle of their discussion, Marco, as put together as he could manage, had arrived to join the rest of his crew for roll call, but it had become obvious to him by the concerned expressions that his friends' wore on their faces, that he perhaps did not do the best of jobs.

"Sorry I'm late, Cap." He said softly, as he addressed his boss.

"You okay, pal?" Hank asked in a tone tinged with worry.

"Yeah…I…I guess I'm just tired. I'll be fine." Marco knew by those same continued looks, that the others were not convinced he was okay, especially after the lifeless tone that he used to answer Hank's question.

Somehow though, Marco and the others got through roll call, and were now embarking on their morning chores…Marco, the latrine. The two paramedics were checking their supplies.

"Roy…you don't think there's anything really wrong with Marco, do you?" Johnny asked uncertainly.

"I don't know, Johnny. You saw him yourself in there…what do YOU think?"

"Maybe he IS just tired…we've all been there."

"Perhaps." Roy was not convinced. After years of being partners with Johnny, and seeing all of his moods, Roy considered himself well-versed not only in the many facets of John Gage, but in observing the moods of ALL his crew mates, as well. Something was telling him that Marco wasn't quite right.

After finishing with their supply check and their once over of the squad, Roy and John went into the kitchen for their ritual first cup of coffee.

Sitting down at the table, Roy was seemingly lost in thought as he held his coffee mug to his mouth, but did not take a drink from it. This observation was not lost on the junior paramedic.

"Roy…you alright over there?"

"Huh? Oh…yeah…I'm fine." replied Roy, as he distractedly took a sip from his mug.

"Let me guess…Marco?"

Looking down for a moment before nodding his head slightly, Roy sighed softly.

"Is it that obvious? Maybe I AM just over-reacting, Johnny."

"I don't think so, Roy. Chet's right…Marco DOESN'T have bad days. Besides, you're pretty good at picking up on other people's moods."

"Well…what do you propose we do about it?" He asked his partner with a questioning look.

"We'll just keep an eye on him. If we think there's a need to…we'll talk to Cap about it."

Cutting short their conversation, the alarms sounded, calling the paramedics out on a run.

"Squad 51, man down 1834 Brockton Boulevard, cross street Adamston, timeout 0915."

Captain Stanley got on the radio and responded. "LA, Squad 51 responding, kmg-365."

The two paramedics made their way to their squad, temporarily putting thoughts of their crewmate, out of their minds.

Pulling up to the well-kept two-story light blue house, they were met by a young man who looked to be in his mid to late teens, at the curb.

"Thanks for coming." The young man said somewhat excitedly.

Opening his door, Roy was closest and started to talk to the man about what kind of situation they had.

"That's our job. What seems to be the problem?"

"It's my brother Brett…he fell in the shower. My other brother Eddie is with him right now."

"Is he conscious?" Roy continued.

"Now he is. He was out cold a few minutes ago."

The two paramedics gathered their equipment and followed the young man up the brown cobblestone walkway.

"What's your name?" Roy asked.

"My name is Travis."

"Okay Travis, you mind carrying this board? We'll follow you to the bathroom."

Following Travis inside the house, and up to the second floor bathroom, the two paramedics were met by the sight of a man sprawled at the bottom of a tub, and the other brother who was kneeling next to the tub.

Johnny was glad that they thought enough to cover their older brother up with a towel.

Roy pushed the yellow shower curtain out of the way. "You fellas wanna back up. We got it from here."

The other two brothers did as they were asked, and moved away by the door.

"We didn't move him. I shut the water off…but I didn't move him." replied Eddie.

"That's good. Brett, can you hear me?" Roy called out to their victim.

In some moderate discomfort, Brett responded. "Yeah…I hear ya fine."

"Good. I'm Roy DeSoto and this is my partner John Gage…we're paramedics. We're gonna help you, but you have to relax. Just lie still, okay?"

"Yeah…no problem."Brett again replied.

"What happened?"

"I…I guess I got a little dizzy and fell."

"Did you hit your head?"

"Uh…yeah, I think so. I don't really remember too much else until Eddie was standing over me. Am I gonna be okay?"

"You'll be fine…just keep as relaxed as you can."

Johnny started to take some vitals, while Roy got Rampart on the phone.

While waiting for a response from the hospital, Roy turned to face Eddie and Travis.

"Your folks around?"

The two brothers shook their heads, and Eddie answered.

"No…mom and dad were in a car accident last year…they didn't make it…we're all we've got. Brett's the oldest…he's 23."

Roy was looking down, not knowing quite what to say to that bit of information…when the bio-phone came to life and Brackett's voice was on the other end.

"Unit calling in, please repeat."

"Rampart, this is Squad 51. We have a 23 year old male…he fell in the shower. He is currently conscious, but says that he was unconscious for an indeterminable amount of time. He says that he was dizzy before falling…and did say he hit his head. Stand by for vitals and additional information."

"Ten-four, 51."

After reporting Brett's vitals, the two paramedics set about determining if there were any other injuries involved.

"Brett, can you wiggle your toes and fingers for me?" Johnny requested.

Looking down, they were relieved to see Brett able to move his fingers and toes.

"Do you have any pain anywhere? Your arms, legs…back?"

"No…just my head."

Roy relayed the rest of their information to Rampart, and the two of them set about carrying out their treatment orders.

"Okay, Brett…just take it easy. We're going to put this collar on you and then get you onto the backboard then we'll start the IV."

Working carefully, Roy and Johnny were able to get the young man on the backboard and out of the tub…taking great pains to make sure he was well covered.

"Alright, now we'll get this IV started."

While Johnny started the IV, Roy turned to the other brothers.

"You guys wanna go downstairs and lead the ambulance attendants up here."

Once the ambulance attendants arrived up to the bathroom, Brett was carefully moved to the stretcher and strapped in.

"You guys okay to drive?" Johnny asked with concern.

Eddie nodded his head. "Yeah, we'll be fine."

"We'll be taking him to Rampart General Hospital. Drive carefully, fellas."

The two paramedics followed the stretcher out to the ambulance.

"I'm gonna go with him, Johnny."

"Okay…meet you at Rampart, Roy."

As the ambulance pulled away and Johnny was putting the equipment away, Eddie and Travis came over to him.

"Is Brett gonna be okay? He's…he's not paralyzed or anything?"

Johnny smiled warmly. "He was able to move his toes and fingers…he should be fine. The collar and backboard were for precautionary measures, he probably just has a mild concussion. Listen, if there's anything you guys need, or anything I can help with…call me at the station…Station 51. My name is John Gage."

"Thank you." replied Eddie, reassured by the paramedic's assessment of his brother's condition, and his generous offer to help if needed.

Johnny closed the compartment doors and got into the squad and drove off to Rampart.

Arriving at the ER, Johnny spotted Roy at the base station.

"Hey…how's Brett doing?" He asked concernedly.

"He should be fine. How are Eddie and Travis?"

"Worried…but I think they'll be okay. What do you say we head back now…see how Marco's doing?"

Approaching the paramedics and hearing Johnny's comment about Marco, Dr. Early grew concerned.

"Hi fellas. What's this I hear about Marco?"

Roy and Johnny looked at each other, before Roy answered. "Nothing really, Doc. Marco was just feeling tired this morning." Roy had hoped that his explanation was adequate for the doctor.

"Tired? How so?" Early pressed.

"I don't know…all he said was that he was feeling tired."

"If he's not feeling up to par, you two can always bring him in."

"Sure thing, Doc. We'll see you later."

Making their way out to the squad, Roy called them in as available.

When they returned to the station, they were greeted by Chet.

"Hey guys." Kelly greeted less than heartily.

"Hey Chet. How's Marco doing?" Johnny asked with concern.

"You guys are worried too, I see."

When the two paramedics nodded their heads, Chet was glad that he and Mike weren't alone in their worry.

"Follow me." He continued in a near whisper.

The two of them followed Chet into the squad room. Sitting up but asleep on the couch, was Marco.

"Now you tell me, when did you ever see Marco napping on the couch?"

Roy let out a small sigh. "Did Captain Stanley say anything?"

"No…he's been in his office all morning."

"Well Chet…there's really nothing we can do about it, unless he tells us that he's not feeling well, or he gets injured."

Chet looked at Johnny with disbelief. "Nothing?"

Roy shrugged his shoulders. "We'll keep an eye on him, Chet. Right now, napping on the job isn't against department regulations."

Over the remainder of the shift, the rest of the crew noticed that Marco's lethargy seemed much more pronounced.

While changing to go home, the guys tried to draw him out in conversation. The usually friendly Marco did not have too much to say.

"What are you doing on your days off, Marco?"

The firefighter shook his head. "Not a whole lot, Chet…catch up on some sleep, I guess. See you guys in three days."

The four men, watched as Marco made his way out of the room.

Chet turned anxiously to Roy and Johnny.

"Are you sure there isn't anything you guys can do? You can't talk to Cap or Brackett…or…"

"Easy, Chet. Johnny and I know how upset you are, but right now there isn't anything we can do about this situation. I'll call Marco later and see how he's doing."

"I will too, Chet."

Mike said the same thing as Roy and John.

"Between all of us…we'll all keep an eye on Marco. I gotta get going, Joanne's waiting for me to get home. I'll be in touch, guys."

Roy picked up his bag, closed his locker door, and left the room.

"I gotta get going , too. I'll see you guys on Saturday morning."

"Bye Mike," the remaining two firefighters called out.

After Mike left, Chet once again looked at Johnny, the concern very much evident on his face.

"Johnny…you know how worried Roy gets about you sometimes? Well…I might not have that very same kind of relationship with Marco, but he's still a good friend…and I'm worried about him."

"I know, Chet…believe me, we're ALL worried about him. It's just that…right now there's really nothing we can do. His job performance has been fine...and he hasn't come right out and said that he doesn't feel well. Roy and I will continue to watch out for him…you have my word. I need to get going too…I'm helping my friend Cal at his ranch today. I'll be in touch."

Johnny closed his locker door, picked up his duffel bag, and went out the door. As the door was closing, Chet stood watching it. He only hoped that the rest of the guys were right…and that Marco was and would be okay.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

When Saturday morning arrived, the men of 51's A-Shift once again reconvened.

Marco knew how worried about him the rest of his friends were, and so as not to arouse too much more worry…he arrived early, beating the rest of his crew mates to the station. Relaxing on the couch, he could hear as the others were getting ready for the start of the shift.

Each man had indeed kept in touch with Marco over the last few days, and each time was assured by the firefighter that he was fine…however, they all didn't necessarily buy it.

"Marco here, Roy?"

"Must be, Chet…his car is in the lot."

After getting dressed, the four men made their way to the squad room, where they spotted Marco sitting on the couch. Observing him quickly, he didn't seem to look too bad…a little pale, but seemingly better rested than he had been the previous shift.

"Hey Marco." Chet greeted enthusiastically.

"Hey Chet…guys." Marco returned warmly, hoping that he had enough life in his tone so as not to worry his friends too much more than they already were.

"You doing okay?" The quiet engineer asked.

"I'm fine, Mike. Don't I look fine?"

Before anything else could be said, the voice of their Captain called out.

"Roll call, fellas."

As the crew assembled for roll call, Hank observed Marco for a moment. While the firefighter did appear to be a bit on the pale side, he also did look more rested than he had the prior shift.

After roll call was over, the two paramedics went to check their supplies.

"How were your days off, Roy?"

"Huh? Oh…my days off were fine. Joanne had me doing some stuff around the house. How about you?"

"Good. I ran a few errands and did a few things for my landlady Mrs. Watkins. Roy…you're really concerned about Marco, aren't you?" Johnny asked his partner, changing the subject.

"Yeah, I am."

Interrupting their exchange, the tones sounded, and the station was called to a structure fire…a shopping plaza, that had included a rather large supermarket.

Arriving on scene, they were met by Captain Tracy of Station 46.

"What do we have, Lee?" 51's Captain asked his counterpart, as he jumped down from the engine.

"It's bad, Hank…the car repair shop had an explosion...the fire's spread to other buildings. I called in another alarm. Why don't you have your men get a hose into the supermarket…your paramedics can help get the customers out?"

Hank nodded his head and gave his crew directions. While Chet and Marco quickly donned their equipment, grabbed a hose and carefully made their way into the supermarket, Roy and Johnny were also putting on their equipment. As they prepared to follow their two friends into the store, a group of four people came towards them, coughing.

The two paramedics rushed over to them and helped them to sit down by the squad.

"Anyone hurt?" Roy asked the two men and two women.

They all shook their head, but continued to cough.

While the paramedics were tending to their four smoke inhalation victims, Chet and Marco were inside battling the flames that were threatening to take over the supermarket. Other firefighters had also joined them inside.

The two of them had been at it for a few minutes, when Chet, who was standing behind Marco on the hose, noticed his friend's awkward body language.

"Marco, you okay buddy?" Chet asked almost knowing that something bad was about to happen, and as his heart had started to make its way up to his throat.

Marco, who had started to feel dizzy and was suddenly having trouble catching his breath, never answered his longtime friend.

"Marco?" Chet called out again.

Anticipating what was about to happen, Chet came up behind his friend and caught him as he started to go down.

Getting out his radio, as he continued to cradle Marco's head and back, Chet called for assistance.

"Engine 51, this is Chet…I need help…Marco's down."

All four men who were by 51's Engine, looked at each other at hearing Chet's voice and what he was saying, over the radio. They could hear the fear and worry in his voice.

Captain Stanley got on his radio. "Hang on, pal…help is on the way."

Johnny looked at Roy and then at his Captain. "I'll go, Cap."

Hank nodded his head and watched as his junior paramedic trotted away, making his way into the supermarket and to Marco and Chet. He then turned his attention to his senior paramedic.

"How are they doing, Roy?"

"They seem to be okay, Cap."

Hank knew how badly Roy wanted to go inside the supermarket and help his friends with Marco, but he also knew that someone with a medical background needed to stay with these smoke inhalation victims. He had heard enough stories about how quickly these types of cases could go south.

"That's good. Why don't you get everything set up for Marco, and get Rampart on the line, Roy. I'll call for a few ambulances."

Roy nodded his head in understanding. Getting the rest of the equipment out of the squad, he mentally prepared himself for what kind of condition Marco would be in when he came out of the burning building. He knew judging by how sickly his friend had looked and how lethargic he'd been acting over the last week or so that Marco was in serious condition.

Entering the smoke filled building, Johnny made his way to where Chet and their downed friend were. Seeing the still form of the firefighter, Johnny grew worried that something was seriously wrong with Marco.

Another team of firefighters came over to where Chet and Marco had been using their hose, and picking it up, continued to help in the effort of extinguishing the fire. Johnny quickly checked Marco's pulse. Finding it to be weak and rapid, he knew that getting the firefighter to Rampart quickly was important.

The two firefighters gently lifted Marco up, and carrying him, made their way out to safety and to where they knew Roy would be waiting with the equipment to help their downed friend.

Roy had just finished spreading a blanket pack on the ground, when he saw Johnny and Chet coming out of the building with Marco's limp body. Meeting them, Hank and Mike helped them carry Marco the rest of the way to where Roy was set up with the equipment.

Before laying him on the ground, several hands helped to take off Marco's air tank, breathing device, and helmet. Once he was on the ground, Roy took off the firefighter's turnout coat, opened his shirt, and started taking Marco's vitals. An oxygen mask was then placed over the firefighter's mouth.

Johnny picked up the bio-phone headset and contacted Rampart, who had been standing by.

"Rampart, this is Squad 51."

Dr. Early, who had been by the base station when Roy had made the initial contact, stayed and handled the call. "Go ahead 51."

Roy had handed Johnny the paper with Marco's vitals on it, who then reported them to Rampart. "Vitals are…"

When Dr. Early heard the firefighter's vitals, especially his high BP, he became extremely concerned. "51 please send a strip."

"Ten-four, Rampart."

Roy patched Marco in and the lead was sent.

Seeing the irregular heart rhythms on the monitor, both the paramedics and Dr. Early continued to be very worried.

As the treatment orders came through, Roy and Johnny prepared to carry them out, while the rest of their anxious crew were looking on.

Roy deftly started the IV and injected the requested medication, while Johnny retook Marco's vitals.

As other paramedics arrived on scene, the care of 51's four smoke inhalation victims were turned over to another squad, and Marco was readied for transport.

Once the firefighter was transferred to the stretcher, the two paramedics followed behind it, and Roy hopped into the ambulance. Johnny closed the doors, and gave them the customary two taps…and the ambulance pulled away.

As Johnny quickly put away the rest of the equipment, Hank, Mike, and Chet looked anxiously on.

"We'll keep you guys posted. Roy and I will call Marco's parents."

Hank nodded his head in appreciation.

The ambulance pulled away, and after hopping into the squad, Johnny followed behind.

As the ambulance started to make its way to Rampart, Roy continued to monitor Marco's condition. Looking down at his friend, he could clearly see the paleness of Marco's face despite the dark soot from the smoke covering him, and the perspiration that seemed to be dripping off of his head and neck. If nothing else, Roy was grateful that Marco was at least stable for the time being.

Back at Rampart, doctors Early and Brackett waited anxiously for Marco's arrival, wondering to themselves what kind of condition the firefighter would be in when he finally did arrive at the ER. Observing the two doctors, Dixie could see the worry on both of their faces. Searching her memory, she could only remember two times that Marco was brought into Rampart. One time was when the firefighter was nearly electrocuted at a gas station, and the second time was at a fire when he and Roy had fallen victim to an explosion…neither time was particularly serious.

"Kel, Treatment Room #5 is ready." Dixie said, trying to break the tension.

"Thanks, Dix."

Doctor Brackett looked at his watch. "Five minutes. What did Roy say his ETA was, Joe?"

"About 12 minutes."

The base station radio came to life, momentarily startling the two doctors.

"Unit calling in please repeat," requested Kel.

"Rampart, this is Squad 51 with an update on patient's vitals."

Kel, Joe, and Dixie looked at each other when they heard which squad was calling in, and Roy's voice.

"Go ahead, 51."

Roy went ahead and gave them Marco's vitals.

Brackett and Early were extremely worried when they heard what the firefighter's vitals were…Marco's bp continued to rise.

"Ten-four, 51. Continue monitoring patient's vitals. What's your ETA?"

Roy looked at his watch. "ETA is now four minutes, Rampart."

"Ten-four…we'll be waiting."

Dr. Brackett turned to face Dixie. "Who's on for cardiac today?"

"I believe it's Dr. Gibson."

"Call him…have him on stand-by…we're probably going to need him…or rather Marco Lopez will be the one who needs him."

Dixie nodded her head and left to make the call.

When the ambulance finally arrived, Brackett and his medical team met them at the ER entrance.

As Marco's stretcher was removed from the back of the ambulance, Roy hopped out beside it, holding the IV aloft.

"Any changes, Roy?" asked a very concerned Kel Brackett.

The paramedic shook his head. "No."

"Okay, let's get him inside…Treatment #5."

As Marco was wheeled through the ER doors, Johnny arrived with the squad. After backing it up and parking, he quickly got out and caught up to the others. Catching the intense look on his partner's face, Johnny knew that Marco was in serious condition.

Upon entering the treatment room, Roy hung up Marco's IV, as the firefighter was transferred to the exam bed. After the wires from his chest were taken off the squad's monitor and switched over to the ER's monitor, Brackett and Early started examining him.

Through all of this, Marco remained unconscious, a fact that worried everyone in the room. As Dixie helped to undress the firefighter, she stole a quick glance at the two paramedics and clearly saw the distress that was written all over their faces.

Stepping to the side, letting the other nurses take over, Dixie put her hand on Roy's shoulder.

"Come on fellas, why don't we go get ourselves a cup of coffee."

Knowing that Dixie wasn't just merely making a suggestion, but giving them a rather strong hint, the two paramedics nodded their heads in reluctant understanding. Before turning to head out of the room, they looked down one more time at Marco, the full magnitude of the situation becoming quite clear to them.

Out in the hallway, Roy leaned heavily against the wall and stood staring at the floor.

"What's the matter?" Johnny asked his friend.

Exhaling loudly, Roy looked up. "I gotta call Marco's parents…what do I tell them?"

Dixie looked sympathetically at the paramedic. "Would you like Dr. Brackett to do it?"

Roy shook his head. "No…it's MY responsibility…Captain Stanley is still at the fire. Do you think Dr. Brackett would mind if I used the phone in his office?"

"No, of course not…go ahead, Roy."

"You want me to go with you?" Johnny asked his partner, not envying the position that he was in.

"Yeah, I could use the support."

"You guys know that as soon as Dr. Brackett has anything to tell you…he will." Dixie offered.

Roy nodded his head. "Yeah we know, Dix…but it's little consolation right now."

"Come on, Johnny…let's get this over with."

The two paramedics made their way to Brackett's office. Opening the door, they let themselves in. Roy stood for a few moments eyeing the phone, dreading making this call.

Johnny stood quietly, relieved that it was his partner who was making the call to Marco's parents, and not himself.

"Roy?"

Roy exhaled loudly and repeated his earlier sentiments. "Let's get this over with."

Taking out his wallet from his back pocket, he opened it up and pulled out a piece of paper in which all of his friends' emergency contact numbers were written. He scanned down the paper until he came to Marco's contact number.

Once again exhaling loudly, he glanced over at Johnny who gave him a nod of encouragement. Sitting on the edge of the desk, Roy slowly dialed the number. After hearing four rings, a voice answered the phone.

"Hola, Lopez residence."

Roy recognized the voice as belonging to Marco's mother.

"Mrs. Lopez, this is Roy DeSoto."

Hearing Roy's voice Mrs. Lopez knew in her heart of hearts that something was wrong, but did her best to stay positive.

"Si…si Roy. Is Marco okay? I know he hasn't been feeling very well lately."

"That's what I want to talk to you about. Marco…he collapsed at a fire this morning."

"Is…is my son okay?" She was worried, yet her voice remained calm.

"He's at Rampart now. The doctors are examining him. I…I really don't know many details yet. You and your husband need to come down here."

"Si." She again answered calmly.

"Are you okay to drive?"

"Si…my husband will drive."

"Okay. Come to the ER. Johnny and I will meet you there."

"Gracias, Roy. Eduardo and I will see you soon."

After Roy hung up the phone, he sat still, continuing to look down at the floor.

"Roy?" Called a concerned Johnny.

"His parents are coming…should be here within the next thirty minutes. I told them we'd meet them here in the ER."

While Roy and Johnny were making the phone call to Marco's parents, Dixie went back into the firefighter's treatment room.

"Kel, how's he doing?"

"He's stable for the moment…but he's in serious condition. I have a call out to Dr. Gibson…he should be arriving shortly. Roy called Marco's parents?"

"Yeah…they should be here soon, I guess."

Just then, a tall dark haired man, who looked to be in his early 50's entered the treatment room. "Kel."

"Hi, Kevin…thanks for coming down."

Brackett updated Dr. Gibson on Marco's condition. After talking it over, several tests were prescribed.

"We should get started on things pretty quickly, Kel. If this young man's going to have a chance…we need to get to the bottom of things right away."

Kel nodded his head in agreement.

"You say he's a firefighter?"

"Yeah…he collapsed at a fire this morning. He's a good friend of one of our top paramedic teams…a lot of people are really concerned about him."

Dr. Gibson smiled warmly at his counterpart. "We'll do our best to get to the bottom of what's going on with him. I'll get back to you as soon as I can."

"Thank you." The two doctors shook hands, and Dr. Gibson left the room to make the arrangements for the additional tests.

Meanwhile, after Roy had made the phone call to Marco's parents, he and Johnny were by the base station waiting for the Lopez's arrival.

Looking up at the sound of Treatment Room 5's door opening, they saw an unfamiliar doctor leaving the room.

"Who's that, Roy?" Johnny asked nervously, expecting his partner to know the answer.

"I don't know, Johnny…maybe it's a cardiac doctor. I'm sure Brackett had to call in a consult with someone."

With the minutes passing more like hours, Marco's parents had finally arrived. They were greeted warmly by the two paramedics.

"Mr. and Mrs. Lopez." Roy greeted them.

"How's our son?" Eduardo asked anxiously.

Roy shook his head. "I'm not really sure, Mr. Lopez. The doctors haven't been out to talk to us yet."

As if on cue, Dr. Brackett and Dixie came out to the hallway. Seeing the two paramedics talking to a couple, they both assumed that the Lopez's had arrived. The two of them walked over to where the foursome was talking.

"Mr. and Mrs. Lopez?" Kel asked hopefully.

The older man nodded his head. "Si. I'm Eduardo and this is my wife Estella. Are you Marco's doctor?"

"Yes, I'm Dr. Brackett. Why don't we talk in my office."

The couple nodded in agreement.

"Hey, Doc…Johnny and I need to get back in service…you'll keep us posted?"

"Of course."

Mrs. Lopez turned and hugged the two paramedics. "Muchos gracias, Roy and Johnny for taking care of Marco. We are very grateful to the both of you."

The two paramedics could only nod in appreciation.

Following the doctor to his office, the Lopez's were anxiously waiting to hear about their son's condition.

"Please, have a seat." Encouraged the doctor, motioning to the two chairs in front of his desk.

Marco's parents sat down in the two chairs, while Dr. Brackett himself, sat on the edge of the desk facing them.

"I'm not quite sure what you were told, but apparently your son collapsed at a fire this morning. Roy and Johnny told me that Marco hadn't been feeling too well over these last couple weeks."

"Si. He's been very tired and pale…and his breathing has been bad. And…he's missed a lot of family gatherings because of the way he's been feeling." commented Mr. Lopez.

"What's wrong with Marco, Dr. Brackett?"

"Well…we still have some tests to run, but we think there's a serious heart issue. Your son may have an infection in his heart. This infection causes some serious symptoms, two of which are high blood pressure, which we are treating him for. The second thing are blood clots. We are in the process of scheduling him for the additional tests that will tell us if Marco does in fact have blood clots…or not. The condition is known as cardiomyopathy."

The couple looked at each other with concern, before Mr. Lopez asked the big question. "Is it serious, Dr. Brackett?"

"I'm afraid it is…it's very serious. We should know more about your son's condition sometime in the next few hours. That's all the information I have for you at the moment. Do you have any questions?"

Mrs. Lopez looked worriedly at the doctor. "Can we see our son now?"

"Yes, but he's been unconscious since his collapse. I'll have a nurse take you to him. I promise to get back to you as soon as I have any news. He'll be taken for the tests soon, so you'll only have a few minutes."

"Gracias."

Dr. Brackett walked Marco's parents out of the office. In the hallway, he met Dixie.

"Dix, these are Marco's parents. Would you please take them to see Marco."

Dixie smiled warmly. "Of course. Follow me."

The nurse led them to the treatment room. Pushing the door open, the three of them stepped into the room.

The Lopez's took in the sight of how lifeless their son appeared to be…their hearts falling on the floor. Marco was deathly pale, hooked up to several monitors, had two IV's in his arm, as well as a nasal cannula for oxygen.

Dixie sensed their apprehension. "It's okay to go over to him and touch him…let him know you're here."

They slowly approached Marco. Standing to his left, Mrs. Lopez took her son's hand in hers and brought it to her mouth to kiss it.

"He's so warm."

Dixie nodded her head. "Yes, he's running a fever. Go ahead, talk to him."

"Marco, it's Mama and Papa. We're here for you. Please wake up Quico."

Quico is Marco's nickname. When Marco was born, his older brother Alejandro couldn't pronounce Marco and started to call his newborn younger brother, Quico.

Sensing his parents' presence, Marco slowly opened his eyes. "Mama?" he asked softly.

"Si, Quico…Papa is here, too."

"What happened?" Marco was able to breathlessly ask.

"You don't remember, Marco?" Mr. Lopez asked with a mixture of surprise and worry.

"No…I…I don't." came their son's soft reply.

Dr. Brackett came back into the room. Seeing Marco awake gave him a sense of relief, although he knew that the young firefighter was still in serious condition.

Trying not to worry Marco or his parents further, he tried to keep his tone light and wore a smile on his face.

"Welcome back, Marco. How do you feel?"

Marco took a moment to think before responding. "Not so good. What happened to me…and why am I hooked up to all these machines?"

"You passed out at a fire this morning. Roy and Johnny brought you here…you're at Rampart. Does any of that sound familiar?"

Shaking his head, it became obvious that he had no recollection of anything that had happened that morning.

"It's okay, Marco. These machines are just monitoring your condition."

The firefighter was getting upset. "What's wrong with me…what's…what's going on?"

"We have to run some more tests, but we think that you have an infection in your heart."

Marco grew very quiet, but the doctor sensed that his agitation at hearing the news of what had happened to him would escalate, if he didn't try to keep the firefighter calm.

"I need you to relax, Marco…I know you're scared, but getting upset isn't going to help you. We'll know more in a few hours."

Carol entered the room. "Dr. Brackett, Dr. Gibson just called…he's ready upstairs."

"Okay…thanks Carol. Mr. and Mrs. Lopez, we need to get Marco ready."

"Si. Quico, Papa and I will be waiting for you. God is with you." She bent down and gave Marco a kiss on his forehead.

Once Marco's parents left the room, he was quickly readied for the additional tests and on his way upstairs.